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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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A Rotunda & Then Some

There was a lovely ceremony this afternoon to dedicate the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, featuring Rachel Robinson, Governor Paterson, Senator Schumer, Fred Wilpon and other dignitaries. It was more moving than you’d expect. Shea Stadium became the home office of Jackie Robinson’s legacy on this date in 1997, thus it’s right and fitting that his place in this sport, this city and this nation is preserved and embellished at Citi Field. The Mets have done a great job here.

I also want to compliment the Mets on rededicating the area outside the Rotunda as the new Casey Stengel Plaza, which was necessary once the original got lost in the shuffle of construction. No single personality represents New York baseball in all its major league forms than Casey Stengel. No individual was more responsible for creating the Mets Mystique than Casey Stengel. He made us an entity rather than a commodity. I’m so pleased the Mets haven’t forgotten to honor Casey Stengel.

As long as we’re handing out kudos, how about that Joan Payson Pavilion they’ve built? What a great way to remember the woman who set the tone for the franchise, who didn’t just finance it but loved it. She imbued the organization with a sense of fun and family from the get-go and it’s wonderful that the Mets have remembered her in the new place.

And what about Gil Hodges Hall? Could anything be more inspirational than the way the Mets have paid tribute to the manager who molded a roster of youngsters and journeymen into champions? Gil is remembered universally as one of the great leaders the game ever produced and it’s reassuring that generations who attend Mets games will be reminded of his influence every time they roam down his Hall. (It’s touching that Tom Seaver requested his statue appear there rather than out front as planned.)

You’ve got to love the William Shea Club. Not every organization would have the presence of mind to maintain a promient reminder of someone whose role in its creation is not easily explained but was absolutely essential. I also like the cheeky decor of blue and orange speckles, but that’s an aesthetic choice.

The Polo Lounge, upstairs from the Ebbets Club, is a nice nod to the team’s heritage. Great pictures from the Polo Grounds and fine displays devoted to the New York Giants and Original Mets. Nice to see New York’s National League club hasn’t forgotten any of its forebears.

Oh, and what about what they’ve done beyond center field? The salute to Negro League teams that played in New York and the semi-pro circuit that thrived in Queens and Brooklyn, the players who were born and/or grew up in the five boroughs…Koufax, Greenberg, Carew, Palmer, Frisch, Lou Gehrig even. It’s about time somebody captured all that. Certainly gives us something to talk about should we stop at Murph’s next door for a quick one before heading back to our seats (though I hate to leave it since they have that great montage of Mets play-by-play calls serving as the bar’s soundtrack; the waiters wearing plaid vests in homage to Lindsey is priceless).

Tell me this club doesn’t know how to honor its own self, which is really a way of honoring the fans. I get chills from the Walk of Distinction on the left field side, where they’ve reproduced plaques for every Met who’s in Cooperstown, with a few more arriving soon (Henderson this summer, Piazza eventually…yeah, I’ll even suck up Gl@v!ne being included when the time comes). The Mets Hall of Fame is coalescing so nicely in the administration building, too, with all the trophies and memorabilia. Plus the Seasons for the Ages permanent exhibit in right, commemorating each of our seven playoff clubs — funny that some of us worried the Mets would forget about stuff like that.

No, you have to hand it to the Mets. They got it right. They didn’t stop at Jackie Robinson and the Ebbets Club. They gave all of us a reason to feel a surge of pride in our team every time we enter Citi Field.

Doesn’t that sort of thing make you feel good all over? Isn’t this your ballpark like it oughta be?

Turn the sound down on the Mets game tonight at 9 and tune into SportstalkNY when I join host Mark Rosenman to discuss Faith and Fear in Flushing: An Intense Personal History of the New York Mets. Read about its cinematic qualities at Sport and Cinema, find out who else will be appearing at Metstradamus and, if you haven’t ordered one for yourself or a Mets fan you like, get the book from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or a bookstore near you. Keep in touch and join the discussion on Facebook.

32 comments to A Rotunda & Then Some

  • Anonymous

    You're 2 weeks late with this one, compadre.
    You had me going up until Gil Hodges Hall…

  • Anonymous

    Not a gag, amigo. Just Citi Field Like It Oughta Be.

  • Anonymous

    Oh, OK. Gotcha. In that case, I wholeheartedly (or holeheadedly) agree…

  • Anonymous

    Why aren't you sitting in the post-Jackie cocktail party and backslapping extravaganza nodding at some empty suit? The Mets need someone to represent what Mets fans want, no need. I'm sure you'd cost less than Madoff or even Luis Castillo. At this point it's clear that the Wilpons will never get it. Fred and Jeffy probably got a note from Bob DuPuy explaining why they couldn't wear Brooklyn Dodger uniforms tonight (and every night).

  • Anonymous

    Inspired in part by the answer Dave Howard gave on FAN yesterday regarding Mets history not being in evidence.
    We’re extraordinarily proud of our history … We’re still sort of doing the refinement here. We’ll have appropriate … oh, uh, we’ll roll out additional elements … we’ll recognize that, celebrate that … “
    Mets Today went to the trouble of transcribing all his responses here, and I appreciate Joe Janish's efforts. I also appreciate the effort that went into this new ballpark, which by any objective standard is quite fetching, and hope, over time, everybody's concerns will be addressed.

  • Anonymous

    I hear MeiGray has some nice pieces available…

  • Anonymous

    Hi Greg,
    I'm surprised Wilpon didn't have the new park built in Brooklyn and brought in Happy Felton to host a pre-game Knothole Gang show instead of Chris Carlon and Bob Ojieda. In fact, I'm surprised it isn't Vin Scully and Ralph Branca (who did host a pre-game show on channel 9 in 1963 “Branca's Bullpen”).

  • Anonymous

    What, no acknowledgement of the giant Tim Teufel statue?

  • Anonymous

    People tell me It Will Take Time. I am told that parks I like who pay tribute to their past didn't do it instantly.
    I am not so sure.
    I kind of like what's brewing on the Crane Pool Forum.

  • Anonymous

    I understand what you're saying, but I don't think it's sensible to suggest that hypothetical monuments to various Mets/Giants icons are somehow similar in kind to the non-hypothetical one to Jackie Robinson. Nor does it make sense to lump him in with “Ebbets Club” as a mere tribute to the legacy of the Dodgers. The new stadium sounds like it needs more homage to Mets legacy, but that's because it needs more homage to Mets legacy, not because we need to somehow balance out the fitting and proper memorial to Jackie. The point is better made without comparison to him, because when it comes to him, there is no comparison.

  • Anonymous

    What's more likely is they'll hire a group of stiffs to be the new Sym-phony in the left field 100 seats, then politely tell Cow Bell Man he is obsolete and should leave his percussion at home.
    There's no reason they couldn't litter Mets history in the other entrances to the park. Lining the walls with blue and orange speckles is a wonderful idea, and to have it accented with neon men would be marvelous (I know the neon guys live in the clubhouse, but forgive me if I think the players and the press couldn't care less about it). I'll bet anything the fence separating us from the visitors bullpen will be bricked up by next season, leaving plenty of room for more memorabiliaad space. The problem is, does that make the JRR more of an insult to Mets fans? That the Dodgers get the big hall and we get a small area? And Dave Howard, please, stop lying to us. The focus in the rotunda is Jackie, but there are plenty of photos featuring his Dodger teammates. The damn thing is making me bitter towards Jackie, and I hate the Mets for that.
    Here's where the Mets royally screwed up: they promised far too much. If they had just said, “we're building a new park, we hope you like it,” complaints would be way down. The people out in Section 537 would be saying, “eh, the view's lousy, but it's left field, what are you gonna do?” It's the fact that the Mets said–even after we saw the place and called them out on it–“no obstructed views, every seat has a great view of the field,” that makes us angry.
    Just the fact that I'm even wondering if the Wilpons are worse than Dolan is a horrible insult to our ownership.

  • Anonymous

    Greg, brilliant, as always. The plaid jacketed waitresses was my favorite touch. Unfortunately, in the real world, we couldn't see foul pops to the catcher from section 510 and almost got suffocated in the bottleneck getting to the staircases (and why couldn't they at least paint the stairwell orange and blue, how much effort would that take)
    I also think that because there are fewer fans and we are pushed back from the action and spread out into the outfield more, the noise from fans is so reduced that Citi will never intimidate opponents as Shea did when it was rocking.

  • Anonymous

    By the way, I don't know if this is common knowledge to Mets fans or just to people who ride the bus in Flushing, but the bus depot across from Citi is the “Casey Stengel Bus Depot”. No shit.
    I guess what I'm saying is that requesting a Plaza might be too much to ask, considering what how much Casey has already.

  • Anonymous

    Greg… Inspired by your column, which I passed around to my fellow ticket plan holders, we have come up with a bunch of alternate stadium names for the wonderful fantasy place you have conjured. All, we believe, conjure up the plight of life as a diehard Mets fan. Take your pick, Stuart
    Sadecki's Sandlot
    Boisclair Ballpark
    Youngblood Yards
    Searage Stadium
    Fregosi Field
    Kranepool Kingdom

  • Anonymous

    Love 'em! May I suggest…
    Randle's Island (lights go out once a night)
    Gorman's Garage (fits in with what's across the street)
    The Haus of Mets (middle relievers a specialty)
    The Foster Home (parking for stretch limos)
    Pacella's Boutique (caps custom-made a size too small)
    Pecota Park (New York's gonna love it!)
    Lenny's Ham Bar (with every hit, a curtain call)

  • Anonymous

    Tonight was my first night at the ballpark as part of the so-called “Weekend Package” (Fred Coupon's “Weekend Package” meaning 6 weekend games and 9 weekday games). I was pleasantly surprised by the accommodating disposition of the staff at Citi Field.
    Being a mere mortals, our seats are in the upper deck (Section 522 closer to the top than the bottom). So we scoped out the area. The food court and tables above the rotunda are a real nice touch. In light of some of the reported horror stories about the tight quarters exiting the park through the stairwells, we made sure to locate the ramp located towards the left field corner (this definitely was a plus when it came to exit tonight).
    The seats and leg room seemed to be pretty much the same as could be had at Shea (again this is for the Promenade Level). Though the seats were more comfortable and the cup holders are a nice touch. No restricted views (spare for the deepest part of the left field corner)where we were. I just wish some folks would get the protocol down of not coming up or going down for concessions/bathroom until at least between pitches. Again a very minor complaint.
    Aesthetically, the park is beautiful, but there was one thing eating at me the whole time I was there at tonight's game. The folks who enjoy this team, have made it part of their family experience and their daily lives for decades are refugees from their once prime seats and now with us in the Promenade Level. The number of empty seats along the lower deck was disgraceful and a monument to the Wilpons' greed. I know it is wishful thinking, but I wish those who had at least 10, 20 years of season tickets at Shea were given a break on the pricing for something approximating their former seats, because without those heart and soul fans, the lower level at Citi Field is dull and lifeless. We had a ball in the Promenade. The “Wave”, the spontaneous cheers, the knowing drum beat of hands clapping together as Ollie P got two strikes on someone. The Promenade Level was wear it was at. A genuine baseball experience.
    I just wish there were more people who had seats that matched their value as genuine fans. Citi Field (and in all likelyhood, the New Yankee Stadium) is in danger of becoming a splendid achievement in baseball architecture while at the same time, a listless example of what happens when you price your best fans out your arena.

  • Anonymous

    As Keith said the other night, “Promenade is French for Upper Tank”. Good to hear the old Red Seat Spirit lives on.

  • Anonymous

    As a Mets fan who has spent all winter wondering about Citi Field and missing Shea, my first game at the new place was definitely an experience that I have eagerly anticipated.
    It really is a gorgeous park, and I am excited that my team gets to play there. The wide concourses, the rotunda, access to the game wherever I roamed, and the overall beauty of the place were all really impressive. The friendliness of all stadium staff was what made the most positive impact on me. Every customer service department and retail store should train their staff the way the Mets trained theirs. Each worker had a smile on their face and every person I made eye-contact with said hello and told me to enjoy the game. My seat was right above third base in section 521 and there were none of the infamous obstructed views people speak of.
    Despite all of those positive marks, there is one aspect that really worries me about our new stadium. It was REALLY, REALLY quiet. I don't know the reason for this. I thought the intimacy and closeness of the place would serve to juice up the crowd and make it an intimidating place for opposing teams to play. There were no impromptu Let's Go Mets chants and the ones prompted by the scoreboard didn't last and were more like a whimper. Very few fans were clapping up two-strike counts; the place didn't even stir when the Mets got runners on base or during the later innings as our bullpen was closing the game down in our favor. I loved the noise that Shea made. Even on a cold April night in a half-empty section, Shea had am electricity that Citi lacked; at least it did last night. I really hope this is a result of the newness of the place and everyone being more concerned with looking/walking around and discussing our brand new toy. I hope the lack of energy was not a result of stadium design, lower capacity and/or the pricing-out of the fans who cannot afford the new higher ticket prices.
    I live in NJ; it takes me about 90 minutes and it costs me $20 to get out to Shea (I mean Nu-Shea). I have no problem with this because the money and time spent are well worth it for me to join my fellow Met fans in creating an intimidating and raucous atmosphere for my team. I love screaming my head off, starting chants and hearing other fan’s passion for the Mets. I sincerely hope that we fans can inject some energy into this beautiful building. In my opinion, this is what my experience tonight lacked; more than orange and blue paint or Mets pictures in the corridors.

  • Anonymous

    Well we have a new park- but unfortunately we have this 'new breed' of fan to fill the seats..Remember all those strangers that showed up in the 80's?
    Now your sitting next to there children…
    Keep it real.
    Rich P.

  • Anonymous

    It sounded loud on TV, and Jason posted earlier that it was loud.. I'll check it out tonight. I think the natural of everything being 'closer' will help with the noise, and also the angles.
    I think people wandering around and taking in the park is part of the problem right now. Also it's a chilly April night and many people still seem to be negative and bitter about getting happy and cheering for the Mets.
    Some of it probably ahs to do with the 'new breed' of fan, but that's not a Citi thing, more of a 21st century thing across the game.
    I don't know. I like it so far, I'm certainly not disappointed and staging rallys and throwing false accusations about coupons or the dodgers (Once people prove that ignorant, they're not worth reading anymore)

  • Anonymous

    Weird Met thinking found inside this Tim Smith column in the News (which itself implies that you shortsighted Mets fans who like the Jackie Robinson Rotunda are bastards for also wanting a little team history on the premises).
    “We have some banners that will go up. We have some plaques that will go up,” Jeff Wilpon said. “We have some retired numbers. We don't have room to do busts like we did before, but we're going to do some Hall of Fame plaques. We have some other things that we're going to do.”
    How do you spend three years building a new ballpark and not leave room for busts (besides Luis Castillo)? What's with the vague promises of we'll get around to the plaques and banners? How is it the freaking Washington Nationals managed to open a new ballpark last April with loads of historical tributes to Washington baseball in place inside the concourses? If the JRR was top priority, which is fine since it's out front, why wasn't Mets history a very close second?
    Why are they like this?

  • Anonymous

    That's what you get out of business people unfortunately. I don't understand how they didn't build in plenty of room for anything. What if the Mets rattle off 7 championships in a row right now? They'll find room if it's warranted, could always build another level on top of the admin building in Center/Right field and make the concourse level a museum.
    I haven't been to nationals park, but I closed out RFK with them, and 95% of the tribute was to the Senators, so I'm sure that's not a fair comparison, as the people get all pissy here when we talk about “New York baseball” and include the Dodgers or Giants in a tribute.
    I'm willing to give them this year. (For one, they never are great about vocalizing ideas or plans to the public) I'm hoping when they say they'll 'get around to' plaques and banners and the like, they mean they're working on making it into a day at the park, having guests, making it a ceremony. Making a special moment of adding those things.
    Maybe they do plan to have something commemorating 2000, and/or Piazza via a special day. Have him back at the park, etc etc.
    I'm hoping, that just like how the place isn't home until the Mets make it into one, the place needs to grow and expand with the fans, not be all set up as a 'museum' when we walk(ed) in for the first time.
    It may be wishful thinking, maybe they'll drop the ball, and continue to. Maybe the Mets just need to erase all doubt of 'history' and start making some more. But what's better, knowing there is a plaque for Seaver (etc etc) on a wall somewhere, or remembering the day we honored him and he hung it there himself during a ceremony in June? (Preferably with Pelfrey pitching a Seaver-esque game right after?)

  • Anonymous

    I just finished that article a few minutes ago and was also blown away. Not having room for the busts is just a colossally stupid statement to make. Seriously, in a gigantic building with dozens of clubs, restaurants, lounges and other areas, there's not 20 square feet for them to display 15 or so statues? If not in a swanky club, how about down by the Old Apple? Perish forbid, defile the Dodger Memorial Rotunda with a bit of Met history? In a concourse? Jeez, stick 'em next to the beer hut!

  • Anonymous

    I haven't been to nationals park, but I closed out RFK with them, and 95% of the tribute was to the Senators, so I'm sure that's not a fair comparison, as the people get all pissy here when we talk about “New York baseball” and include the Dodgers or Giants in a tribute.
    Crossed my mind, Cee, but I cut the Nats some slack given that they were only beginning their fourth season. I saw Nationals Park in its eighth game of existence; they didn't save that kind of stuff for “next year,” they decided it was important to plant the seeds early.
    I'm still willing to give the Citi Field physical space and what adorns it the benefit of the doubt a Work In Progress rates, but it's just so disappointing that the people who own this team treat its history as an afterthought. “Yeah, we'll get to it eventually” and only when asked about it is a poor stance. Why didn't it occur to them at any point to put out a release that specified, “In 2010, we will be opening…” or even just a nod in that direction? (All of the pre-CF propaganda never gave more than a sentence's acknowledgment to the concept.) It's disgraceful that this isn't part of their thinking. And none of it would detract from the Rotunda, which is a lovely and fitting tribute to a great American.
    As I think I've made clear over the years in this space, I'm all for New York National League baseball getting its due — not just Brooklyn baseball. But we have 47 seasons of our own in our portfolio as we open a new park. The Nats had three. Yet they did that aspect better. (Painful as it is to say, from what I've seen in the pregame on YES, so did another team opening a ballpark at this hour.)
    Yes, of course, let's add some history to the ledger in the way of great feats yet to be seen. Let's create fantastic new memories starting tonight. But baseball consists of past, present and future. The Mets have a weird way of expressing that equation.

  • Anonymous

    You know, it's weird. They're very bad about telling us anything about what they're planning, but then they also seem very reactionary on other fronts.
    Sometimes it seems like the get stubborn when they see people clamoring for things that they may have already started working on and purposely delay the announcement because they don't want to seem reactionary.
    Like the Citi Field patch. They let everyone scream and yell for a couple of days (maybe they feel any press is good press? Grab the back headlines for whatever reason?) about the Citi patch, and then a couple of days later, in way too short a time to think that it hadn't been already designed and planned prior to the Citi patch release, they release the Mets one.
    The apple is another. They'd drawn in the apple into the Citi Field Experience Tour very early. But they didn't officially announce that they were building one until months after the Save the Apple thing. Are they just trying to look like they're giving in to public opinion?
    Part of it's arrogance. The Nats need that stuff to be perfect, or no one would go see them. We're going to see the Mets anyway so they get lazy with this kind of thing. The Yankees drive it home so much that it's arrogant. (And they've got so many ads on the walls it looks like you can't even tell what color they are.) At least we've got the Orange poles, the apple, and the Lets Go Mets.
    If it was up to me, I'd name everything, down to the bathrooms, staircases, concession stands, after an ex-Met.
    (first pitch at Yankee stadium is a ball..at least Pelfrey one-ups them there)

  • Anonymous

    If it was up to me, I'd name everything, down to the bathrooms, staircases, concession stands, after an ex-Met.
    Let's hope no current Mets earn that particular honor via their play at Citi Field.

  • Anonymous

    Well, maybe not _everything_ heh..Maybe we can name the urinals, and change them every year, after the Philles (or Braves, or Yankees..) roster?
    I should stop critiquing the place and go get ready to go to the place.

  • Anonymous

    Hey now, what about pictures in the urinals?! A picture of Chipper, Rollins, etc. Would make for some interesting bathroom conversation, wouldn't it?
    “Come on dude, Reyes is coming up, can't you just use that empty urinal right there?”
    “Nah, I got 5 budweisers in me and they're all getting unloaded on Jeter's face.”

  • Anonymous

    Imagine the lines then.

  • Anonymous

    I don't know. Considering the commissh hisself has actually dressed his non-Braves team in Milwaukee Braves jerseys — while they were playing Atlanta, no less — I'm thinking this thinking is shared at top MLB levels.

  • Anonymous

    You had me going again Greg! The Casey/Payson/Gil tributes just too good to be true. But no 'bobble' this time – I checked my calendar, and April Fools doesn't come around again for quite a while!
    I'm in total agreement that it is unfathomable how the Mets could have spent 3 years constructing a stadium…er ballpark, and never considered the history of its host franchise. Here 's a blurb from my first Mets game experience at Citi Field:
    I attended my first Mets home game at Citi Field last night. This was my second visit to Citi, as I had attended a workout 2 Sunday's ago. But this was the first night I was to experience how Citi would host a Mets game. Gotta say I had a great time. Coming down the LIRR boardwalk and not seeing Shea on my left was hard though. I had been planning that moment for a long time now, and so it wasn't quite as emotional – just a sense of finality.
    I ignored the pleas of the security people directing me right to the Citi Field entrance, and instead proceeded to detour left to cross Roosevelt Avenue and visit the remains of Shea. I walked around the construction site and paid my respects. Then with anticipation rather than gloom headed over to our new home, Citi Field.
    It's easy to admire the architecture of this retro stadium – I mean ball park. Mr. Wilpon gives demerits to anyone using the word 'stadium', I gotta watch my step! It does have that classic ball park feeling – less the cold corporate Citi signs. I
    Our seats are in Left field, section 434 – smack dab in Daniel Murphy territory! The ceremonies dedicating the Jackie Robinson Rotunda were respectful, and Rachel Robinson made a nice speech, even wishing the Mets good luck!
    From my view, I was high up, but didn't feel far away from the players. I got confused trying to discern the players until it dawned on me that all the players were wearing 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson. I can be a little slow. So it was 42 at first, 42 at 3rd, 42 pitching, 42 in left. It was sort of like the old Bugs Bunny cartoon where Bugs plays every position!
    I do have an obstructed view from my seats in Sect 434. I can't see plays along the left field line, nor plays against the LF wall or Left center. I am somewhat vision challenged, and normally will listen to the WFAN on my walkman so i know what is happening. Otherwise, I'm prone to jerk abound – what happened? Where did that go? bothering all my Shea (oops Citi) neighbors. So who am I to complain about obstructed seats?
    Some fans will go nuts about the amenities of the ball park, bathrooms, eateries, whiffle ball field and such. We have all summer to get to know Citi. But I look for more subtle things. I was pleased as punch -er pepsi when I bought my pepsi and was able to retain my cap! I always found it annoying that it would be removed by the cashier at Shea or Nassau Colliseum.
    The new “Citi Vision” (gag) scoreboard graphic resembles the one at Shea – so that felt kind of 'homey' for me! I actually felt like at home staring at that video screen! They also kept much of the same music including “Take me out the ballgame”, “Lazy Mary”, and are playing “Sweet Caroline” in the eighth inning.
    I hope Fred and Junior WIlpon will get their acts together and find an approriate way to celebrate the Mets and all of NY National league baseball history at Citi field. As Karen Carpenter once saing, We've only just begun. If they are looking for assistance, they can't do any better than coming to FAFIF.
    Ed
    P.S: After enjoying FAFIF, please come visit Mets blog: http://takethe7train.com/ We need readers and commenters! Thanks!