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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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Wallworthy

Welcome to Flashback Friday: I Saw The Decade End, a milestone-anniversary salute to the New York Mets of 1969, 1979, 1989 and 1999. Each week, we immerse ourselves in or at least touch upon something that transpired within the Metsian realm 40, 30, 20 or 10 years ago. Amazin’ or not, here it comes.

Whatever comes of the Mets’ latent attempts to commemorate their nearly half-century of operation as New York’s National League franchise, they need to remember one non-obvious detail above all others.

Mark 1999 on a wall somewhere.

I’ve seen the World Series and pennant flags fly, framing the Pepsi Porch. It’s a good start, and if you’re going to have a pecking order, you start with the world championships you’ve won in 1969 and 1986 and then you make room for the league championships from 1973 and 2000.

Then you get to the three other playoff teams. And let’s be clear: all of them, for the purposes of commemoration, are equal.

Though one of them was more equal than others, technicality that one somehow seems lesser aside.

When a wise guy, perhaps one hosting a sports talk radio show, would want to find an eighteenth or nineteenth reason to put down the Mets when the team called Shea Stadium home, he might eventually get to “and they have a banner up for winning the Wild Card! because somehow making the postseason but not making all of its hay could be considered undignified.

I loved the 1999 season as no other, so it should be no surprise that I want it marked. But I loved that banner, too. I loved that it changed its wording once or twice. The Mets weren’t shy about posting something for 1999 in 2000. There was no flag to run up a pole, but a banner they could do (the Mets were always big on banners, you might remember). If memory serves — and, contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t always — they gave themselves credit first for just the Wild Card. Then they realized, no, wait a sec, we did more than that. Not that winning the Wild Card wasn’t something, considering how they had to get there. But the banner morphed into a celebration of the playoff victory over Arizona: NLDS Champs.

A little unwieldy, but accurate, even if I don’t remember once thinking, on the heels of Todd Pratt’s home run, “We’re champions of the division series!” Yet the real beauty of that 1999 team wasn’t a specific title — and without a division in its pocket, it was hard to identify one anyway — but the spirit it represented. The ’99 Mets’ shiningest moments may have glittered most strongly in their final two games, known in Amazin’ shorthand as the Grand Slam Single Game and the Kenny Rogers Game (except, of course, for the Kenny Rogers part). Yet “SPLIT LAST TWO NLCS GAMES” wouldn’t have looked quite right in right field, so the eventual compromise that became the 1999 banner…

1999

WILD CARD

& NLDS

WINNERS

…fit just fine. If it couldn’t be briefly explained, all the better. Baseball is about passing on stories. If someone ever wanted to know, “What’s the deal with Wild Card & NLDS winners sign?” you could pass a good half-inning nailing the nomenclature for the uninitiated.

The other two markers pasted over right field at Shea, one for the 1988 N.L. EAST DIVISION CHAMPIONS and one for the 2006 N.L. EAST & NLDS CHAMPIONS…bring those back, too, in some form. Like 1999, neither of those years was quite poleworthy, but they ought to be good enough to be scrawled on a wall and never erased. There’s nothing more you can do in the course of 162 games (or 163, if you’re 1999) then get to the playoffs. You can win a division title, and that can be an awful lot of fun, but it doesn’t guarantee you a trip up the flagpole. That’s why the three non-pennant playoff teams are equal…even if one, because of the magnificent hell they put themselves and us through, will always be a little more equal than the others, certainly in my heart.

The ’99 Mets were in stone contention for the division title most of that season, incidentally. They were alone in first as late as August 19 and within one game of the top entering the rollercoaster that the year became starting with a frightening plunge into Turner Field on September 21. From there, it was a freefall, but then — unlike what you might have noticed the last couple of Septembers — there was a rise, culminating in three consecutive wins at the end of the schedule, thereby necessitating a fourth game and a fourth win…which was won, on October 4, 1999. That pushed the Mets into the playoffs, which is the reason there was any kind of banner to script at all.

The Mets winning a few games when they absolutely needed them…shoot, that should be worthy of a wall unto itself.

Relive 1999 and all the other Mets season as you never have before in Faith and Fear in Flushing: An Intense Personal History of the New York Mets, available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or a bookstore near you. Keep in touch and join the discussion on Facebook. And for a touch of modest populist outrage at the disappearance of affordable middle-tier seats where the Mets play ball, check out, of all things, Variety.

10 comments to Wallworthy

  • Anonymous

    I don't care what it says. I don't care if it lives with the other flags. I'd be perfectly fine with a pole on some random corner of the ballpark showcasing a flag emblazoned with simply “1999″. Even if it's a flagpole in the parking lot where the grand slam single landed.
    Because, above all other years, '99 was different.

  • Anonymous

    the 1999 season was a lot of fun. I remember going to a lot of games that year, going early for BP, and chatting it up with Bobby V and Al Leiter and getting tons of good autographs. Things that lost their luster years ago.
    I realized when I was at the new ballpark a few weeks ago for the Red Sox series that the championship banners from on/above the outfield wall at Shea were all missing. Those, along with the championship flags and retired numbers are the most basic forms of Mets history there is.
    They need to bring that entire wall back (I don't remember it being put up for sale).

  • Anonymous

    For a cool $3,500 in here, it could have been yours.

  • Anonymous

    A piece of me would like a 1985 flag up there, too, but I'll have to stare hard at 1986 and remember that the near-miss of '85 is already stitched intricately within.

  • Anonymous

    you're the second person today to link to that page on loge13.com. I forgot they put those signs up for sale. I had that spreadsheet too and remember spending a lot of time trying to figure out what to buy, but I think I had a filter on the price capping it at $1,000. I got a photograph of part of one of the retired numbers from the warehouse (here), but it was a different style number.

  • Anonymous

    I loved that 1999 team – they were an incredible group of guys.

  • Anonymous

    Hate to be a party pooper, but yeah, the wise guy on the sports radio is right though. It is a bit much to celebrate the non-championship years.
    Yeah, it was a fun year, but you don't see the 1980, 1995, 1997, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006 Yankee years commemorated at Yankee Stadium? In fact, I don't think they've ever commemorated the times the Yankees lost the World Series.
    And if you say, yeah but it would be overkill there in the Bronx, the Red Sox only have banners spotlighting the WS winning years as well.
    I'm sorry, but 1988, 1999 and 2006 in terms of banners can stay in storage.
    Now, getting the 1969 and 1986 WS Trophies OUT of storage, that's I agree with!

  • Anonymous

    Let me check…nope, don't care about what other teams do.
    Long live 1999.

  • Anonymous

    I agree completely about 1999. Your wording sets it straight and there is no reason not to have a banner to commemorate it. You could make an argument that 1999 was the single most exciting Mets season and it contains several moments that are among the most thrilling in Mets history (Melvin Mora, Al Leiter, Todd Pratt, and of course Robin Ventura and the Grand Slam Single). And then there's the fact that that was one of the most fun and cool Mets teams of all time. We ought not to choose banners according to what anybody says is or isn't a triumph worth celebrating. We ought to celebrate what we think the Mets achieved and what we remember experiencing.

  • Anonymous

    Good Lord Greg, I think I'm starting to turn into you!
    From Baseball-Fever.com:
    >Originally Posted by A Yankee Fan View Post
    >I'm not saying that we have never won a wild card. But to put a >banner up says “HEY GUESS WHAT WE CAME IN SECOND >PLACE!”
    No it says,
    “Hey, remember 1999?
    That dramatic final month push to get into October baseball?
    Remember Melvin Mora racing home to score the winning run in Game 162?
    Remember Al Leiter's performance in Game 163 in Cincy?
    Remember Edgardo Alfonzo becoming Senor Octobre?
    Remember Todd Pratt's series winning shot that shook Shea?
    Remember beating the unbeatable Jon Smoltz to avoid getting swept at Shea?
    Remember one of the most classic NLCS, hell, Postseason Games in history with Game 5?
    Remember The Grand Slam Single?
    And remember Piazza's shot that kept hope alive during Game 6?”
    THAT is what a 1999 banner would say.
    EVERY OCTOBER COUNTS!
    Now, lets also bring up the other missing two banners:
    1988
    Hey, remember 1988?
    Remember the 100 wins?
    Remember the almost MVP like seasons out of Strawberry and McReynolds?
    Remember Hojo following up his breakout year of 1987 with another good one?
    Remember Carter's run at 300 homers?
    Remember Jefferies hot start after his September callup?
    Remember going up 2-1 against the Dodgers?
    And Remember that was the year the Mets retired Tom Seaver's number?
    2006
    Hey, remember 2006?
    Remember a strong start to the season, the Mets could do no wrong?
    Remember that clinching night at Shea?
    Remember Game 1 when LoDuca tagged two runners back-to-back?
    Remember finishing off the Dodgers in three games?
    Remember Game 6 against the Cardinals?
    Remember Perez's performance in the postseason?
    Remember “The Catch?” Why, its even memorialized here in Citi Field's Left Field Gate!
    The banners may tell of “Un-Happy endings” but the stories of good times are still in them.
    =;)