The blog for Mets fans
who like to read

ABOUT US

Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

Got something to say? Leave a comment, or email us at faithandfear@gmail.com.

Need our RSS feed? It's here.

Visit our Facebook page, or drop by the personal pages for Greg and Jason.

Or follow us on Twitter: Here's Greg, and here's Jason.

Run Al Run

Welcome to Flashback Friday: Tales From The Log, a final-season tribute to Shea Stadium as viewed primarily through the prism of what I have seen there for myself, namely 358 regular-season and 13 postseason games to date. The Log records the numbers. The Tales tell the stories.

8/31/01 F Florida 10-5 Leiter 27 130-97 W 6-1

Contrary to the evidence presented by the jerk sitting behind you, the putz in front of you and the moron a couple of seats over, Shea’s baseball IQ is usually quite impressive. As a group, we tend to get what’s going on. We understand the nuances of the game beyond liking home runs and abhorring strikeouts. When we see something extraordinary coming, we take note and we express our indigenous amazement.

Never more so than when Al Leiter would bat. Everybody knew Al Leiter couldn’t hit. Everybody knew Al Leiter was as likely to get a hit as Billy Crystal and that he was only slightly more qualified to take a turn in the order. Al Leiter didn’t know how to stand in the box, Al Leiter didn’t know how to hold his stick, Al Leiter was lucky not to fall down.

But when Al Leiter fought futility and futility didn’t win, everybody’s breath was taken away.

It happened once. I was there. For all the pitchers’ plate appearances I have seen at Shea Stadium, it will always be Al Leiter’s third time up on the night of August 31, 2001 that will stay with me. Should they ever foist the designated hitter on the National League, at least I will be able to say I’ve seen the one thing every Mets fan should be able to say he saw when it came to a pitcher batting.

I saw Al Leiter triple.

Watch Al Leiter as many times as I did, starting 37 regular-season games plus one in the playoffs, and you’re bound to see Al Leiter do everything. But triple?

Yeah. It happened. You don’t forget something like that. I imagine I saw Al do things with his bat other than swing like a barn door and hit nothing but air, but other than a well-timed single off Greg Maddux very late in 1999 (when six consecutive Mets singled off Greg Maddux as prelude to a John Olerud grand slam), I don’t remember. But I do remember the triple.

“John Franco told me that if I was running the whole time, I could’ve scored,” Al said after the game. “I don’t think so.”

I didn’t think so either. Then again I never would have thought we would see unfold what actually did.

It’s the seventh inning, the Mets have just gone up 3-1. Agbayani is on third. Ordoñez is on first (a rare enough occasion). Leiter’s preparing to get splinters on his hands. He tries to bunt once but it doesn’t work. He tries to bunt twice but it doesn’t work. Of course it doesn’t. This is Al Leiter we’re talking about, versus Brad Penny no less. He’s oh-and-two with two runners on base about to be rendered loiterers. Nothing left for Al to do but strike out.

Except Al connects. I mean really connects. Past the grasp of the catcher, far from the pitcher, clear over the infield, mightily into short left-center. Preston Wilson comes running and running and diving.

He doesn’t catch it! The ball rolls in the general direction of the World’s Fair Marina and now it is Al Leiter who is running and running, and all of us, 23,020 of us — including Jason and Emily and me on our Tuesday/Friday plan — are running with him in spirit. The Marlins send out a St. Bernard to find the ball. Benny scores. Rey-Rey scores. Al is still running. Or chugging. Maybe straggling. But he has not quit. He makes it to first. He touches second. He’s going to third. He lands there safely.

HE HAS A TRIPLE!

It is as if we are all out of breath. It is as if we have all raised our season average to .061. It is as if we have all surprised ourselves. Everybody exults. Nobody asks what the big deal is, why this three-bagger is different from all other three-baggers. Everybody understands what we have accomplished.

WE HAVE A TRIPLE!

This one belongs to Al Leiter and his Sheawide entourage, the 20,000-plus who have jogged and sprinted alongside him as best we can. Fans love it when their pitcher homers, but for a pitcher to triple…for this pitcher to triple…that’s beyond what Tim McCarver said about triples being better than sex. I don’t think you can print in a family blog the kind of ecstasy this feels like.

WOO!

It was the first triple of Al Leiter’s career. Also, the last triple of Al Leiter’s career. The two RBI that secured his win on that last night of August were his first two for the season. Almost a month later, he managed another, and the next year, two more. That would account for all five of the runs he batted in after the millennium was celebrated, even if Al Leiter did pitch clear into 2005 in the league where he was compelled to attempt to hit. He would wind up batting .065 in ’01, .084 as a Met, .085 overall.

The odds that you could buy a ticket to Shea Stadium and see Al Leiter pitch weren’t very long. Like I said, I saw him do that 38 separate times. Al and I were on the same cycle. You’d think we joined a convent together or something. But to pay your way in, sit yourself down and then jump yourself up and cheer him on a full 270 feet around the bases…successfully? That’s literally once-in-a-lifetime stuff.

18 comments to Run Al Run

  • Anonymous

    Weirdly, I was just thinking about that game, and the odd sound made by 20,000 or so people laughing happily at once.
    Reading this makes me realize: I've forgiven Al for all the … stuff. Feels good.
    Also: Brad Penny is a dick.

  • Anonymous

    I was at Shea for a Duque triple, and a Duque stolen base. Those were pretty special. But to see AL triple is HUGE. I remember going crazy listening to that on the radio.
    As far as your comment, “As a group, we tend to get what's going on,” the first thing I thought of was a game in 2004 with Piazza manning first base. It was a weeknight and I went to Shea alone, getting a walk-up Upper Res ticket presumably because there was a good pitching matchup that nobody else but me cared about. The ticket guy put me in a section with a bunch of other loners, so there wasn't to much conversation going on around me.
    Whoever it was that was pitching for us had a perfect game in the 4th inning, before a screamer down the first base line went through Piazza's legs. Sure enough, myself and the rest of the loners yelled out “AW, FUCK!” Every single one of us was thinking perfect game in the 4th inning, and every single one of us was furious at Piazza for ruining what we've been waiting out whole lives for. In the 4th inning. I thought, “man, we are one messed up fan base.”

  • Anonymous

    After being reminded of this, I'm with you on the forgiveness kick.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Greg,
    Just hard to imagine only 21,000 showing up for an August 31st game with the Mets still in the hunt for a post-season berth, even if it was against the Marlins.
    It was also eleven days before 9/11 and probably one of the last opportunities one had to enter Shea without the thorough search that has since become a necessary and routine precaution today.

  • Anonymous

    Joe,
    The Mets in-the-huntiness was just taking hold at that point of 2001, most of which was an utter disaster. Plus it was the Friday of Labor Day weekend, but 20,000 or so in the park for the defending N.L. champions was not great. It was the kind of attendance that would lead ownership to design a ballpark that holds no more than 45,000.
    Amen to the timing and the search business.

  • Anonymous

    I'm trying to imagine a Met constituting half a good pitching matchup in 2004, at least one in advance.

  • Anonymous

    when six consecutive Mets singled off Greg Maddux as prelude to a John Olerud grand slam
    Thanks for that, dude.
    Also: Brad Penny is a dick.
    Why, yes. Yes he most certainly is.

  • Anonymous

    Well, it was also a month after Steve Phillips traded half of the team away. That certainly didn't help fan morale (or ticket sales).

  • Anonymous

    I can't believe Laurie would allow such a flagrant Victor Zambrano dis to go unanswered.

  • Anonymous

    This is what makes the National League so awesome. This, Leiter's “bunting bat” in th World Series, Dae-Sung Koo's double. Just don't have that kind of stuff in the American League.
    Maybe Johann's got some once-in-a-life hitting to dish out. It's not long now…

  • Anonymous

    Different animal, Jacobs.
    Johann is more Hampton than Leiter at the dish.
    Dude actually swings the bat quite well.

  • Anonymous

    Greg,
    One of the worst hitting pitchers of all time was another former Met (albiet, only for a few days) Dean Chance. He swung (notice I didn't use the word “hit”) right handed and was so bad that in one game at the old Yankee Stadium Angels manager Bill Rigney had him step up to the plate as a lefty.
    Sandy Koufax was another southpaw who couldn't hit yet in 1965 he smacked two doubles against the Mets at Shea on a Saturday afternoon nationally televised game on ABC. After the second one the camera caught him standing on second and pleading with his Dodger team mates in the dugout to stop laughing their heads off in disbelief.

  • Anonymous

    Laurie tunes it all out now. Same goes for Kaz disses.

  • Anonymous

    I'm not sure if I even went back until post-9/11, I was so hopping mad. To this day the sight or sound of Steve Phillips makes me violent. I'd say there's a pretty good reason that moron still doesn't have a front-office job. He's one of the people in the world I couldn't even pretend to be courteous to if I ran into them somewhere. I'd tell him right off.

  • Anonymous

    Laurie – if/when we ever meet in person, remind me to tell you my Steve Phillips story. You'll appreciate it.

  • Anonymous

    Especially if it ends with that worthless little crapweasel being in excruciating pain.

  • Anonymous

    No, I can't claim that. But you'd enjoy it nonetheless.

  • Anonymous

    How I remember that game. In all my times at Shea, I somehow never got to see Piazza hit a home run. But I was there the day Al Leiter tripled.
    Thanks for the memories.