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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.

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Flags and Cats and Jets and Balks

We sure know how to stage a circus, don’t we?

Everything was right about the inaugural game of Citi Field except whatever it was exactly that happened down there on the field. The Mets have done a bang-up job with the food and get higher-than-expected marks for the architecture, but now they need to do something about the scriptwriter.

It’s not just that the bad guys didn’t win, though obviously that’s the primary objection in these parts. It’s the head-scratching way they lost it. The big flag was cool and the return of Piazza and Seaver made for a fairly obvious but nonetheless satisfying bookend to the end of Shea (Tom Terrific threw a strike this time), but once the current players took the field this one was a farce. Sitting next to Joshua on our couch (Emily was representing us at the main event, up below the BOS-OAK section of the out-of-town scoreboard), I told him that Mike Pelfrey should throw a strike for the first pitch because there was no way Jody Gerut would swing at it amid the camera flashes and the sense of the moment. He didn’t, and the ball was carted off for posterity — but Gerut did club the third pitch in the history of Citi Field into the right-field stands. Joshua didn’t quite understand my astonishment — you can’t explain to a six-year-old that there’s no way the first home run is also the first hit and proceeds the first out, because he has no idea that violates all the generally agreed-upon rules of drama. (Jody Gerut ought to know better, damn him.) But that’s what happened nonetheless.

The Mets certainly didn’t look comfortable in their new home, not with Carlos Beltran skidding around on the grass and Ryan Church letting a fly ball clank off his normally sound glove and Mike Pelfrey, well, falling off the mound — though once he was OK the sight of the infielders sputtering with laughter behind their gloves was pretty funny. (As was the fans’ sarcastic applause for Daniel Murphy’s first put-out, a good-natured jab Murphy accepted with a grin. He’s going to do just fine in New York.)

Walter Silva didn’t like the script either — not after David Wright proved the new apple does indeed also rise, and road-tested how Citi Field does delirium. Sitting at home, I found myself fretting like a worried mother hen, wondering if the VIP crowd and smaller house and new configuration and obstructed views would combine to mute Citi’s first big moment. When Wright’s drive settled safely into the outstretched arms above Casey’s number, the place seemed properly loud and joyous — but I had to fire off a quick SMS to Emily for reassurance.

J: Seemed loud. Was it loud?

E: O yes

But let’s get back to screenwriting and how to properly build drama and weave a plot. How sadistic a writer do you have to be to follow Wright’s blast with a leadoff three-base error from the Heroic Right Fielder Who Should Never Be Replaced On Defense by Gary Sheffield? How much of a tease do you have to be to then follow that up with not one but two infield grounders that pin the runner on third and leave the Mets with their collective head all but out of the lion’s mouth? And then, after all that, for it all to come to naught on a balk? Where’s the drama? Where’s the justice? Where’s the Valium?

The West Kamchatka roster seems to consist entirely of players you never heard of, guys you thought had maybe retired, and disgruntled ex-Mets. Can we say for certain that Edward Mujica and Edwin Moreno aren’t the same person? David Eckstein and Brian Giles are still around? Someone’s really named Chase Headley? There’s a Nick Hundley? (I know — they’ve never heard of me either.) And then Duaner Sanchez, whom Carlos Beltran let off the hook by being too aggressive on 3-1, and Heath Bell, still just as funny-looking but a lot more effective. (By the way, I can’t say as I really blame Heath for being bitter, seeing how the Mets’ genius doctors once failed to discover that he had a broken bone in his forearm.)

Very well, vengeance is Heath’s. The park’s open. The mayor got a ball. One poor fan got to wear a Padre catcher for an unwanted hat. The feral cats have decamped from Shea’s ruins and snuck Felix Heredia into their new, more spacious catacombs. The Padres are 6-2 and we’re 3-4, and with Oliver Perez and Jake Peavy slotted in 8-2 and 3-6 doesn’t seem impossible.

It was the first night. We have to get comfortable with the new place. Even more importantly, so do the Mets.

Faith and Fear in Flushing: An Intense Personal History of the New York Mets is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or a bookstore near you. Keep in touch and join the discussion on Facebook.

29 comments to Flags and Cats and Jets and Balks

  • Anonymous

    I don't know how I feel about CitiField's first game being decided by the most annoying balk call in MLB history. Feliciano is left handed, there was no one on first, his movement was practically imperceptible, and to make it all more annoying by a factor of 50, friggin' David Eckstein was jumping and yelling and pointing at him from the batter's box.
    Disgusting.
    Wright's homerun was awesome, though. That dude most definitely deserves an early piece of the new place's history.

  • Anonymous

    Loved the scenes in the stands as the Wright HR went flying into the crowd!
    But how else could the first night at the new stadium go for the Mets? Between the bizarre choice of the West Side Story crew to sing the anthem (why not just keep it simple?), the F-18s that were late for the flyover (held up by the LGA control tower while the shuttle to DC departed no doubt), not wearing the blue and white stripe shirt with blue caps, Pelfrey's cringe-worthy performance, the hope with the Wright HR, the cat, the balk… oh, how else could it possibly go for the New York Mets?

  • Anonymous

    A little too much nervous energy behind the plate, but overall, I'd say he demonstrated a lot of athleticism out there.

  • Anonymous

    I think the cat showed up for Greg's benefit…

  • Anonymous

    Hi Jason,
    April 13, 2009 – the New York Mets play their first home game at a park they never played at before.*
    April 13, 1962 – the New York Mets play their first home game at a park they never played at before (Polo Grounds).
    April 13, 2009 – the New York Mets lose their first home game at a park they never played at before by one run.*
    April 13, 1962 – the New York Mets lose their first home game at a park they never played at before by one run (4-3).
    April 13, 2009 – the New York Mets give the game away on a fly ball muffed by the right fielder.
    April 13, 1962 – the New York Mets give the game away on a fly ball muffed by the right fielder (Bell calls off Ashburn and then lets the ball drop in between them).
    April 13, 2009 – the New York Mets pitcher allows a runner on third to score without the aid of a batted ball.
    April 13, 1962 – the New York Mets pitcher allows a runner on third to score without the aid of a batted ball (wild pitch).
    April 13, 2009 – the New York Mets are three games behind in the loss column.
    April 13, 1962 – the New York Mets are three games behind in the standings.
    April 13, 2009 – the New York Mets lose to a team whose name begins with the letter “p”.
    April 13, 1962 – the New York Mets lose to a team whose name begins with the letter “p” (Pirates).
    Only 12,000 showed up in 1962 and the ticket prices were a lot cheaper. Let's just hope there are more differences than similarities the rest of the 2009 season.
    * Exhibition games do not count.

  • Anonymous

    I'm still dying to know what the flag situation is. All I've seen are 2 flags, presumably for 69 and 86. If that's the case, if that's really the only history we're showing, Wilpon should be fucking ashamed of himself.
    I have to be honest, and it's probably just losing-4-out-of-5-in-early-April syndrome, but Citi Field has made me question my faith in this team. Not that I'm leaning towards anyone else, but it really stings to go “home” and see none of the history that I love. Pretty much the only thing at Citi that screams “Mets” is the team on the field, filled with faces that have broken my heart the past 2 Septembers (sure, there's also the apples and the skyline–but they're hidden away). Not to mention it's open season on our beloved Shea Stadium for EVERYBODY these days.
    It hurts. It really hurts. I'll say it again: if the Wilpons don't care, why should I? You can't even make the FREAKIN WALLS BLUE?!?!?

  • Anonymous

    I think I just realized why only 2 flags were flying last night, crammed all the way on the right. Gary had said during one of the exhibition games that they are going to shorten all the poles, because the flying flags would obscure the Pepsi sign (god forbid). They haven't gotten around to shortening the poles yet, so they took our 2 most important flags and shoved them off to the side in order to make Pepsi happy.
    I'll bet I'm right about this. If I am, it's the only story you need to know about Citi Field. That wraps it up perfectly.

  • Anonymous

    I totally missed that the first hit in Shea was also an enemy homer. Ah, baseball. You can't make this stuff up.

  • Anonymous

    Making sponsors happy is part of modern stadium life — particularly when they've made what has to be a significant commitment. I wouldn't blame Pepsi for being miffed if the sign they bought (which I find nicely old-timey — a 2009-style Pepsi sign out there would look terrible) was obscured by flags during the initial round of telecasts in which every part of the new stadium gets shown and discussed. And I wouldn't blame the Mets for accommodating them, even if the results are painfully awkward right now.
    I'm inclined to give the team time regarding stuff like that. If the flags are still shoved to one side when Memorial Day is nigh, however, I'll be beside you at the barricades.
    Re the large point of a lack of history inside the park, I agree — but I look back at what's changed in the last couple of months (the Swoboda and Endy outlines, the banners on the stadiums and poles, the old apple) and see things going in the right direction. Though there's still a ways to go.

  • Anonymous

    Kevin, thank you– you've just articulated the turmoil I've been experiencing since last night. For the life of me, I cannot understand why everything seems to be green and red in that place. Perky orange seats would have been so difficult? Vibrant blue rafters would have so destroyed the ambiance? This is a silly thing to get so hung up on, I know, but the structure and color scheme so strongly reminded of the “concourses” (hate that word) of wherever it is they play in Philly, it made me a little sick.
    Of course, more telling perhaps was the fact that they were selling Brooklyn Dodger paraphernalia in the Majestic store. It's been fifty years, Mr. Wilpon; it's time to move on.

  • Anonymous

    The Pepsi sign is designed to look like the waterfront sign in Long Island City (seen here). I agree it's a nice touch to the park, and if you're gonna have a giant sponsor logo, it was the right move.
    Don't listen to me and my negativity. I'm just moody at how the Mets are playing (I just wish they'd LOSE if they were going to lose, the close games drive me crazy). If they go on a streak–in either direction–I'll feel a bit more stable. Right now I'm just sour grapes.

  • Anonymous

    The black and orange walls are a nod to the NY Giants (I'm hoping). One of the things that struck me is that there's no BLUE!!

  • Anonymous

    Another thing..I was out in Promenade section so I heard some idiots in CF start doing the Yankee bleacher creature thing where they yell the players' names. God I hope that doesn't take hold. What happened to “I'm a Believer”. the crowd booed “Sweet caroline”.
    At least “Lazy Mary” made the trip across the parking lot.

  • Anonymous

    I didn't know it was designed to evoke the LIC sign. That's a nice touch. (On a similar note, I was wrong a couple of weeks back to reflexively doubt the Met line that the center-field bridge is meant to evoke the Hell Gate Bridge.)
    I always go through a honeymoon period at the beginning of the season when I'm so happy that baseball's back that I don't notice little niceties like whether the team's actually winning games. If you and I split the difference, we'll probably be in the right place.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Jason,
    Some more connections:
    The Mets also lost their Shea inaguaral by one run (4-3) and both the '62 and '64 home openers were beaten by future Met pitchers (Tom Sturdivant and Bob Friend) wheras last night's opener was held and saved by former Met pitchers (Sanchez and Bell)

  • Anonymous

    I wonder if we can sign that cat up? Seemed to have great speed and wiling to make a play in the stands!
    I was relieved to see Wright hit that homerun because it's a big park and I had passing fancy that we might want to rebuild the team to resemble the 80's cardinals.
    Citi Field need a real Mets sign and the return of the pennant flags as previously displayed at Shea. We need to know we are in the home of the Mets. My first game is Wednesday, I will work up a list of demands by the time I get home!
    Ed

  • Anonymous

    One thing I am extremely grateful though is the absence of that awful pumped in music from Shea. In particular, “everybody clap your hands! duh duh duh duh duh duh etc.” Please let this be the case permanently. So much more pleasant to enjoy the game without all that “encouragement.”

  • Anonymous

    I'm so thrilled the crowd booed Caroline. If they want to give us something all our own, give us “We're Not Gonna Take It”. The crowd would DEVOUR that.
    The sad thing is I'm not convinced that song wouldn't lead to violence someday.

  • Anonymous

    Duaner Sanchez throws a 1-2-3 8th inning. Really? If that pustule had thrown a SINGLE 1-2-3 inning in 2008, Shea would have lived at least a little longer. Let me call you a cab, Duaner.

  • Anonymous

    Duaner threw at least one 1-2-3 inning in 2008, this one. Not a glorious evening otherwise.

  • Anonymous

    I was there last night, and the place had a much better (ie. baseball) feel to it than during the first exhibition game. In the 5th inning, the stadium came to life as a baseball stadium for the first time. The “Let's Go Mets” chants started building, and right BEFORE Wright's homerun, the crowd spontaneously rose and screamed; when Wright then connected, it was an electric moment, the first true baseball moment at Citi to my thinking. And yes, Jason, it was most definitely loud.
    The griping about the game afterward (ie. Joel Sherman in the Post) is misguided. To already lump this season in with the past two and dismiss it as same-old, same old is ridiculous. The bullpen is so much better, and if you can't feel good about this team even after a few early losses, then why even bother with the game?

  • Anonymous

    I humbly stand corrected. Still, if he had thrown one MORE 1-2-3 inning…well, who knows?

  • Anonymous

    Choosing a 10-4 blowout for his moment in the sun…your original point stands.

  • Anonymous

    Joel's just PO'd 'casue his heroes lost, too, and are also 3-4.

  • Anonymous

    Kevin: What exactly what you like in the park for more 'Mets stuff'? The only argument I hear is the color of the stands/walls. I kinda like that they modeled the seats/walls after the Polo Grounds and the Rotunda after Ebbetts field, but the park still feels Mets to me. It's like it was built on top of those two places, as the Mets were.
    I like that they went with a City theme in City. (The Pepsi sign as you mentioned, the bridges, etc etc. ) I dunno. I wish the skyline was a little more visible from some part of the stadium. I like the Let's Go Mets on the scoreboard (over/under years before they sell that space to advertisers?)
    To me, you can't flood the stadium with all the old banners and knick knacks. I want the stadium to grow along with us with special days and tributes. When/if they retire Piazza's number, that'll be another excuse to add more stuff, If they retire 17 (which seems unlikely if they've given out his number, but he continues to contribute to the franchise, so why not?) there is another excuse.
    And I agree, I need this team to get on a little roll. I've seen good signs and some bad ones, but can we shake off the April/March cobwebs already and get going?

  • Anonymous

    I agree there is a big NYC feel, which I love (one of my odd favorite places in the park is coming out of the JRR on the field level, that little walkway that feels like a subway station). But as far as more Mets goes, a simple suggestion: PUTTING THE DAMN METS HALL OF FAME SOMEWHERE OPEN TO THE PUBLIC!
    Has anyone looked into this? Do all the busts live at Citi somewhere? If so, where? (for that matter, are the radio/tv booths at Citi still named after Murph and Ralph?) Hey, maybe we can induct someone else into the frikkin HOF, how's that for a novel idea?! There's a laundry list of guys that can go in! Even if it's Cashen, I don't care! Just get that thing going again! We haven't heard a peep about it since 2002!
    2002, coincidentally, is when Wilpon bought out Doubleday. Hmmm….
    If that's asking too much, then the simple solution is to make the outfield walls blue. I understand the Giants scheming, but again… please pay attention to YOUR team, Fred.
    I'm not yelling at you Ceetar, I'm just yelling. I'll be back at Citi on Sunday, and if we win, I'll probably be calm for a bit.

  • Anonymous

    I know, and better yelling then silence in many cases.
    I'll be there thursday and sunday this week. fun times.

  • Anonymous

    What are we suppose to do? Pack up and root for the Astros? It's April 14th. Ya gotta Believe!

  • Anonymous

    It was pretty awesome. The only thing that made me sad was that the place didn't shake like Shea used to shake. When Shea had a full house, and the crowd went nuts, you could actually feel the stadium move. I guess Citi has too much concrete.