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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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Rites of Passage

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.

They checked Nolan Ryan’s schedule. They didn’t check mine.

Go figure.

Normally, I’d applaud the Mets’ diligence regarding Ryan and not giving him any excuses to avoid the Mets the way the Mets avoided having him on their roster after 1971. I’d attended two previous 1969 reunions at Shea Stadium and they both felt lacking from the absence of their flamethrowing swingman (which sounds a bit randy, but it means he had an explosive fastball whether starting or relieving). He was also missed a little on the Final Day at Shea last year. Everybody but 43 players were missed on September 28, 2008, but that’s another story. The story this time was the Mets accommodated Nolan Ryan, according to Newsday — via Mets Police — going so far as to make sure their version of Old Timers Night didn’t take place on a weekend when the Texas Rangers were home. Nolan Ryan is president of the Rangers and presumably they can’t make a move without him.

Me, they can do without on occasion, apparently. Nobody called or e-mailed wanting to know if August 22, 2009 would work for me. If they had, I would have told them, no, it doesn’t. I would have mentioned that events in which former Mets are introduced to current Mets fans are my favorite dates of any season. I would have mentioned that the first time I got to choose a game to go to, I chose Old Timers Day 1974. Then I chose Old Timers Day 1975 and Old Timers Day 1976. I’ve always chosen Old Timers Day in whatever guise it’s taken, right up to the Shea Goodbye triasco (triumph crossed with fiasco) on September 28, 2008. I would have mentioned that I would love to join Nolan and however many 1969 Mets they were rounding up for their fortieth anniversary, that the 1969 Mets were not only our first champions, but they were my first team.

But they didn’t ask. And even if they had, I doubt they would have budged on my account. Then again, I wasn’t going to budge on their account. My August 22, 2009 had been spoken for well in advance of their plans. Nolan Ryan may have pitched seven brilliant innings of relief to clinch the 1969 NLCS. He may have saved Gary Gentry’s bacon (after Tommie Agee saved his) in Game Three of the World Series. He may have 29 regular-season Met wins, 493 regular-season Met strikeouts and some random accomplishments of note from when he stopped being a Met and started being a Hall of Famer, but Nolan Ryan was missing one thing last Saturday the way he used to miss the strike zone quite a bit.

Nolan Ryan wasn’t being Bar Mitzvahed. But Ross Chapman was. So I went with Ross Chapman.

It wasn’t much of a decision, actually. Ross’s people were better organized, more thoughtful and got to me long before the Mets scheduled their shindig. Besides, if it was a Saturday full of Mets spirituality I was looking for, Ross Chapman’s Bar Mitzvah was as good a place for it as any — and that includes Citi Field.

Ross has turned 13. The ’69 Mets have turned 40. Both ages represent milestones in their respective lives, to be sure. My experiences with both of their celebrations — one directly on the heels of the other, one in person, one via the magic of broadcast — were each Amazin’ in their own way. I consider myself lucky to have gotten a piece of each.

***

If you glance on occasion to where we post our photos, you have made Ross Chapman’s acquaintance. He has been kind enough to show off the Faith and Fear t-shirt on all kinds of family trips, everywhere from the Alps to Vegas and just about all points in between. Yes, Ross gets around, but he also gets it. Y’know what I mean? Some people just display a sense of what to do and how to be, even if these people are young enough to not be held altogether responsible for their actions. Ross’s Bar Mitzvah signifies, in Judaism, that he has become a man. My encounters with him these past few years demonstrate he was well on his way before last Saturday.

Of course if a 13-year-old gets it, he probably got a good bit of it from his parents. This I don’t sense. This I know, certainly in the case of this young man. It’s been my honor, really, to have spent copious quality time with the folks I refer to as the first family of Mets fandom, the Chapmans of Central Jersey. Many people can make you feel welcome. The Chapmans actually welcome you, and they make you stay welcome. And when you’re welcomed by the Chapmans, you’re welcomed for life, it seems. One minute, somebody mentions a Bar Mitzvah. The next minute, you’re on the guest list more than two years out.

That’s standard behavior from Sharon and Kevin Chapman, people I’m privileged to call my friends. So yeah, when they let me know Ross was going for the big One-Three on 8/22/09, my plans were set. Nolan Ryan could have swung by on his way from LaGuardia to pick me up and I would have had to have turned him away.

Though I imagine he would have been welcomed at the Bar Mitzvah, too. This is the first family of Mets fandom. Think they wouldn’t have wanted the strikeout king on hand? Well, even without Mr. Ryan (or Mr. Met — Sharon invited him, too, but learned he doesn’t do parties when the Mets are at home because Mr. Met, naturally, can’t be in two places at one time), this event lived up to its billing as a Bar Metsvah.

I could refer you to the team-color yarmulkes we wore in temple. I could refer you to the NY skullcap that Ross wore as he read his haftorah. I could refer you to the color scheme the mother of the newly minted man was radiant in (Sadecki Blue accented by Le Grand Orange). I could point out Stephanie and I sat at Table 37, which was Table 37 not because there were 36 other tables but because every table was designated by landmark Mets uniform number and indicated by a gorgeous Mets uniform centerpiece. I could mention that one of the candles (either blue or orange, I forget which) was reserved for lighting by the Mets fans at the reception, and when we were called, at least two dozen of us strode to the front of the hall as “Meet the Mets” played us on.

Mr. Met would have fit in well here, but we didn’t miss him. Lest you get the impression this was over the top (à la the movie Keeping Up With The Steins in which Jeremy Piven wants to book Dodger Stadium for his son’s affair and feature Shawn Green instead of an ice sculpture), it really wasn’t. It was, in Yiddish terms, hamish or homey. The Chapmans were being who they were for this most sacred of milestones in their life as a family. They were being Mets fans…great Mets fans.

***

I was left with two overriding impressions from Ross’s Bar Mitzvah:

1) Ross continues to get it. He shared his synagogue’s bima or stage with another about-to-be man. I don’t know anything about the other 13-year-old, who seemed like a decent sort, but I couldn’t help but feel he was standard-issue Bar Mitzvah boy. Ross, on the other hand, had a twinkle in his eye the whole time. He understood what this day was about, what it meant to his parents, why all of us wanted to share it with him. He was straddling that line of being a good kid and growing into a fine young man. It was really impressive to watch, and I’ve never been much on 13-year-olds, not even when I was one of them.

2) I wondered if the Mets get it. The part of a Bar Mitzvah that’s a party gives the imaginative mom plenty of latitude, thus the Casey Stengel table and all that good Met fun. But the rite of passage part, the section of the day that takes place at the temple, is a fairly holy act. Yet there was Ross, as respectful a young man as I’ve come across, in the sacrosanct setting of a synagogue sanctuary, wearing a blue yarmulke with an orange NY on it. And here were all the men and boys in the pews, our heads topped by those same colors. I wonder if the Mets, through the fog of their dismissive attitude toward their fans’ yearning for a permanent and prominent presentation of team tradition, get what the Mets mean to us. Here was a family (their home more of a Mets shrine than the Mets ballpark is) mingling their twinned faiths with equal helpings of reverence. And I know they’re not the only Mets fans who think in those terms. I wish the Mets would understand, whether winning or losing, what they mean to us on a going basis — and how they transcend entertainment or distraction in our tribe.

Saturday night was certainly a good sign that somebody in Flushing has begun to get a handle on our hearts. I would have loved to have participated in the 1969 reunion up close. I wanted to cheer every Miracle Met who materialized on the edge of what used to be Shea Stadium to let the lot of them know that they are where my own brand of faith comes from. I also wanted to give lie to the anonymous Met functionary who griped to Matt Cerrone before August 22:

“Fans want an Old Timers Day, they want a statue of Seaver…well, here he is, the real person, here they are, and nobody seems to care.”

In the midst of as bad a Met season as Ross Chapman has lived through (at 13 he’s already earned hash marks) and amid forecasts that strongly hinted Hurricane Bill’s aftereffects would blow through our region, the Mets sold more than 38,000 of their not quite 42,000 seats for Saturday night. They would have sold at least one more had Ross been born a little sooner or a little later. I think this fortieth anniversary celebration inspired plenty of interest and plenty of passion. So yes, hold more nights like these, at least once a year. And don’t act inconvenienced or mystified that we’d like as many enduring reminders of our greatest player as physically feasible. Constructing a Mets ballpark without a Tom Seaver statue was akin to opening a synagogue without a Torah. Atone!

Sermon over. On to the second half of Saturday’s harmonic convergence of Metsian proportions, wherein we transitioned from saying Mazel Tov! to Ross Chapman to kvelling from Rod Gaspar as best we could.

***

Stephanie and I found ourselves on an NJ Transit platform a little after 4:30, some 70-odd minutes from Penn Station. I passed algebra, so I could do the math. Theoretically, we’d arrive in Manhattan with just enough time to hop a train that would take us to the Miracle meeting. I carry around a Mets-Willets Point schedule as well as an LIRR ticket to the very same station wherever I travel. You never know when an Old Timers Night is going to break out.

I’d be lying if I said this occurred to me via an epiphany on August 22. I knew it wasn’t out of the realm of temporal possibility that I could make Saturday a doubleheader: Ross in the morning and afternoon, Nolan, Tom, Rod and everybody else at night. I would have had to have worn a suit to the ballpark, but I was wearing a Mets tie (if not at a Bar Metsvah, then when?). Theoretically I could have done it, except for something somebody close to me advised when I first floated the idea.

“I’m going to give you the same advice I give my drunken, womanizing friend: your wife puts up with a lot from you already. Don’t do this.”

Food for thought, I supposed. Stephanie was with me every step of the way on our journey south (she likes Ross, too) and allowed she’d have no problem with my veering off on my own at Penn Station to follow my Met muse — after 22 years of exposure to me, she understands the significance of 1969. She could even be persuaded, potentially, to come with if Caesars Club seats were part of the deal. My wife’s an eternally good sport that way, but even I have a moral compass. She was exhausted from a very long day of traveling — as was I, frankly. The thought of redirecting our schlep to Queens before going home…no, it was too much.

Except for this: While waiting on that platform in New Jersey, I noticed a number of people wearing red. Phillies red. Phillies shirts and Phillies caps, too. For a moment I thought we were on the wrong side of the station, in danger of stepping on a train heading toward Pennsylvania. Then I remembered who the Mets’ opponent was that night.

Phillies fans would be in my ballpark watching my championship reunion? They’d be there and I wouldn’t? This seemed wrong. The M-WP schedule came out again, particularly when I overheard one of them refer to their destination as “enemy territory”. It took a couple of northbound stops, with Mets fans trickling on board, to convince me Citi Field wouldn’t morph into Chase Stadium and that Cleon Jones wouldn’t go overly underappreciated. But I swear, right to the moment we stepped into the LIRR concourse at Penn at 5:50, with the track for the 5:59 to beautiful Flushing Meadows just announced, I had to practice severe impulse control.

I let the 5:59 go and we got on our 6:10 home. Gil forgive me.

Of course I had a radio with me and of course I was recording the ceremony that was supposed to start around 6:45, so really I wasn’t going to miss any of it. I rationalized that this was the way I heard or saw plenty of Old Timers Days when I was a kid and sometimes later. I was at Shea in ’94 and ’99 for 1969 anniversaries 25 and 30, but TV was how I experienced the first ’69 reunion, in 1979. And I don’t even remember the second one, in ’89. Despite being dedicated to these types of days and nights for the past decade, it’s not like I had a lifetime streak on the line.

So the 1969 Mets would gather with me not on the scene — but with me very much there in spirit.

On another big night in the past year, Matt Mendelsohn asked in the The Times, “What is it about people gathered around a transistor radio?” I don’t know what it is, but it still transmits great things and it can still work magic. Around 6:40 I pulled mine out of my bag on our Babylon train. We were about ten minutes short of our stop and I didn’t want to miss any more of the ceremony than I had to. I had a pair of earbuds. It made me very happy that Stephanie took one bud and listened along with me.

This seemed not an altogether inappropriate choice of media. It was in the back of a Chrysler where I heard the 1969 World Series get underway (Tom Seaver pitching, Don Buford homering). Radio goes back with me as long as the Mets do. Technology soars ahead, yet there remains something eternal about a transistor radio.

That and 1969.

***

I heard Howie Rose emcee. I heard the crowd roar (if not Les Rohr). I didn’t have to worry anymore that Phillies fans or, worse, apathetic Mets fans, were draining the evening of occasion. I didn’t have to feel I somehow wasn’t doing my part to keep 1969 alive and relevant. The 1969 Mets are a 5/95 proposition for me: About 95% of what I know about them comes from reading and hearing about them. But that 5% or so that I experienced first-hand…that introduced me to baseball, that sent me on this lifetime journey of mine, which not coincidentally also commemorates its fortieth anniversary this year…that’s where I began and that’s where I continue. The 1969 Mets are a phenomenon that in some small, maybe indirect way I’ve commemorated every day since it happened.

Ultimately I didn’t need to be at Citi Field to join in. But I did have to join in. I did it with that transistor radio on the train. I did it on the car radio on the short hop home from our station. I did it on the radio again in the time it took us to get to our living room. And then, finally, I turned on the television and watched, in living color, the men who so enraptured me in black and white forty years before.

When they finished, I was exhausted — literally. It had been, as Stephanie projected, a long day. I was dangerously close to nodding off a few times on the LIRR before Howie’s voice shook me awake. Then my eyes remained wide open right through the moment three Met legends threw first pitches to three more Met legends (of course everybody connected to 1969 is a Met legend). By the time the obligatory 122nd game of this season reached its second inning, I conked out completely. Except for a few scattered eyelid openings, I was as out of it as the 2009 Mets ’til about three o’clock Sunday morning.

But I did catch about all of it as unfolded, and I would watch again. At about 3:01 AM, I rewatched the ceremony. A couple of nights later, I watched everything, including the in-game interviews with the ’69ers, on disc. There’s something about one person’s solitude with a DVR every bit as much as there’s something about people gathered around a transistor radio.

***

So what was so all-fired essential to my being that I had to hear it, see it and see it again?

Well…

• When you’re gone, you’re gone. Maybe Gil Hodges was looking out for his boys, as Howie suggested, keeping the rain at bay just as his strategy held off Leo Durocher’s Cubs. Maybe he was joined Up There by Tug and Tommie and Cal and the rest of those 1969 Mets who didn’t make it to 2009. But the sad truth is they weren’t at Citi Field. It’s beautiful to have invited their surviving relatives and to invoke their names, yet there is something a little disconcerting about how they are sort of gotten out of the way first, even if they were a bigger deal in their time than those who outlasted them. Only through the technicality of no longer being alive at the present time would Donn Clendenon not be introduced after Bobby Pfeil. Not to pick on Bobby Pfeil, but Clendenon was the World Series MVP and Pfeil didn’t make the postseason roster.

• Bobby Pfeil didn’t make the postseason roster but he made Old Timers Night. That’s nice. He’s always had a dispensation as the 26th man. I’ve always been a big believer in the more the merrier. Would have the ’86 reunion suffered if, say, Rick Anderson slipped in through the side door? Same principle here. Good for the Mets for remembering Pfeil. Good for them for finding a spot for Al Jackson who was and is an Original Met first and foremost, but was part of this team in the first half of that championship season which means he’s a 1969 Met. (He wore No. 15 for Shea Goodbye, No. 38 for ’69 Night — outstanding attention to detail.) No doubt Jackson’s continued employment by the organization won him a place on the field Saturday night. I assumed it was decency that brought Mrs. Danny Frisella to the ’79 event even though her late husband — who enjoyed a great ’71 — made only three appearances for the ’69 Mets (he died in a dune buggy accident on New Years Day 1977). Frisella wasn’t mentioned this time around. Nor were 1969 cameo Mets Jim Gosger, Bobby Heise, Kevin Collins, Amos Otis, Bob Johnson, Jesse Hudson and Les Rohr. They have been now.

• I’ve never in my life heard so much concern for Ken Boswell as I did in the aftermath of it being noticed that Howie inexplicably skipped over Boswell as he acknowledged four full-fledged Mets who couldn’t make it Saturday and then named only three — J.C. Martin, Jack DiLauro and Art Shamsky — before paying homage to genius pitching coach Rube Walker. The omission was taken in some quarters as the Mets being the Mets per usual. That’s not fair. I’m certain Howie just slipped, and he later apologized (as did Gary Cohen on TV). I don’t know why Boswell, Shamsky, DiLauro and Martin weren’t there. Maybe they had Bar Mitzvahs, too.

• When I was a kid, Mets coaches were Mets coaches forever. Rube handled the pitchers from 1968 to 1981, nurturing two Hall of Famers in Seaver and Ryan and a battalion of standouts that spanned Koosman to Swan. Joe Pignatano served the same fourteen years in the bullpen. Eddie Yost coached third from ’68 through ’75. All three came to the Mets with Hodges from Washington. Yogi had been coaching at Shea since 1965 and put in seven seasons before he was promoted to manager upon Gil’s passing. They were total staples, season after season. That, as opposed to their varying levels of non-Mets, non-coaching fame, is probably why I lit up at the introductions of Eddie Yost, Joe Pignatano and first base coach Yogi Berra. Coaches are generally as exciting as checklist cards, but these were more than coaches when I was a kid. They were security blankets.

• The music used to usher the old Mets to the field was presumably chosen because it was around in 1969. But I’d like to imagine the songs (their instrumental breaks, actually) were chosen with some insight. It almost seems as if they were. Could the Mets be that on top of things? “Get back to where you once belonged” for the coaches who were supposed to signal to the players whether they should stay or go; “No time left for you” as Hodges’ way of breaking it to Pfeil that he wouldn’t be joining the team in Atlanta; “Time Is Tight” so call the pen and tell Taylor to get warm; “Let The Sunshine In,” a message to the grumpy Grote; “Grazing In The Grass” a tribute to how Bud Harrelson ate up balls in the middle of Shea’s infield; some “Classical Gas” because that’s what Mets pitchers generally threw; and a little “Soulful Strut” to accompany Jerry Koosman. I’m not sure if they played the Young-Holt Unlimited version, but in those days, the Mets could have billed themselves as Young Arms Unlimited and nobody would have argued. Whatever the tune, it was great that everybody got together and succeeded at loving one another right then.

• Three cheers for hamming it up. Yost gave signs when he came out. Gentry applauded the audience that applauded him. Swoboda went into his Game Four dive. And Cleon, as he did last September 28, pantomimed his Series-ending catch.

• This whole thing was so much lighter than Shea Goodbye. We had a heavy heart that Sunday, every one of us who stayed after the Mets were eliminated and our stadium was next. This was a looser affair and, after the year we’ve had, we needed it that way.

• Did Citi Field look its best because it was welcoming the ’69 Mets or did the ’69 Mets give it that extra dash of panache? I was never as blown away by the angles and architecture as seen on TV as I was Saturday night. My favorite words uttered by Howie were “Let’s welcome the World Champion 1969 New York Mets players to Citi Field,” as if we’d been waiting for their kind to show up and consecrate this heretofore soulless bowl. Everybody getting together probably should have come sooner in the life of this nascent structure, but this was an enormous step in the right direction.

• I’ve taken a liking to Bobby Parnell all year because by throwing hard from the right side and wearing 39 he puts me in mind of Gary Gentry. That’s about the only thing 2009 had in common with 1969 until this reunion. It gave me extra satisfaction to see the first 39 (the first one I remember, at any rate) since I’ve been thinking about him so often with the emergence of the new 39.

• In real time, I doubt you’d introduce the ’69 Mets in ascending order of importance and have Gary Gentry come before Nolan Ryan. Yes, they were all equally important in the ultimate team success story, but Gentry was the third starter and Ryan was that flamethrowing swingman before there was any glory in coming out of the pen. Koosman, Jones, Harrelson…let’s just say the pecking order in its prime would have been different. But we all understood Nolan Ryan wouldn’t be treated as the sixth starter from 1969 in 2009. And I think we’d all agree he shouldn’t be.

• It must have been shocking to “you kids out there,” as Keith would say, to see Nolan emerge in Mets No. 30. I was a little taken aback, but mostly I was taken back, which I guess is the idea of these things. Nolan Ryan as No. 30 for the New York Mets didn’t look alien to me. It looked familiar, almost correct. I liked Howie emphasizing that he was “a product of the Mets’ farm system,” just in case everybody listening was thinking the Mets have never done anything right as regards player development.

• I have to confess I was a little worried Ryan would upstage Seaver the real person in terms of fan reaction. They’re both from the distant past to a lot of fans, and Ryan’s definitely the more exotic of the two. Seaver has spent the past decade not being a stranger (thank goodness), and I wondered if the familiarity would curb the crowd’s enthusiasm for their Franchise. I am relieved to have observed it did not. Tom Seaver shows up just enough so as not to seem in a snit and stays away tending grapes long enough so as not to get on anybody’s nerves by doing anything we don’t need him to do, like broadcast. Tom will always be the grand finale to every Met ceremony he’s a part of and he’ll always deserve the grandest ovation. He got it Saturday night.

• Following the pattern set by the Shea Goodbye sacrament, once Seaver took his place, there was a video to appreciate the Mets of honor from when they were accomplishing their great feats. From television, I could tell the predictable but apropos “Summer of ’69″ was scoring it. But I only heard two or three notes of Bryan Adams, because on SNY, the song was replaced by some generic production music. How cheap are the Mets or their network anyway? How onerous are rights fees? It’s a small detail, but deals like these hinge on every detail being just so.

• And, as with Shea Goodbye (which, incidentally, I found to be a relentlessly hokey name for last year’s farewell, particularly when Howie explained that each player would now “Shea Goodbye” by stepping on home plate…he sounded like Peter Brady promising those “shwell” pork chops and applesauce), there was a delectable ceremonial cherry saved as a topper. First pitch would be three first pitches, each thrown “by three of the greatest pitchers in the history of the game”. If you missed Jerry Koosman’s heyday, I assure you Howie Rose wasn’t indulging in hyperbolic homerism by grouping him with Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan. It was truly breathtaking watching those 857 victories and 11,910 strikeouts line up in front of the Citi Field mound and fire (OK, toss — they are, after all, approximately 194 years old) baseballs to three catchers who seemed their ideal recipients. On the left, as viewed from the centerfield camera, Kooz to Duffy, two Met survivors who defined 1974 for me as much as they did 1969. On the right, Ryan and Berra, back from unfriendly precincts to where they once belonged (Ryan’s aim was, characteristic of who he used to be, wild high). And in the middle, at the heart of these festivities, just as they were at the heart of what we mean when we say those Mets were built on pitching and defense, Tom Seaver and Jerry Grote.

This detail, this tableau…it was just so. It was just so perfect.

***

The only other detail from the field vis-à-vis 1969 was the old guys standing for “The Star-Spangled Banner”. I don’t remember any of the alums’ pregame poses from their playing days, but they all seemed thrilled to stand for the national anthem again. Ballplayers stand for more national anthems than any United States citizen, but when they’re retired, that particular piece of music stops calling them to attention. I’ll bet they miss it. The Swobodas and Kranepools and all their Miracle mates stood like it mattered. Daniel Murphy and the newer breed over by the dugout looked bored by this nightly routine. I’m not saying they’re wrong to have been. But I’ll bet they’ll miss it someday, too.

I hope Daniel Murphy is invited back to an Old Timers Night someday. Same for Jeff Francoeur and Anderson Hernandez and whoever else constitutes what’s left of the 2009 Mets. I have no reason to think any will be part of a Met champion anytime immediately, but I’d come back to see them. I’d come back to see any Met who is given a replica jersey from when he played. The Mets could hold 1978 Reunion Night next year and, barring a Bar Mitzvah, I’d beat down the doors of Citi Field to be there. I’d stand and cheer for Dan Norman and Dwight Bernard and Dale Murray and the entire D-List that went 66-96 in near total obscurity (there was a newspaper strike that rendered the Mets a rumor from the second week of August on). What do I care if they weren’t any good? They were the Mets for a year. I love all my Mets teams, even the ones I can’t stand.

But I really love the team that reunited Saturday night, the one whose summer seems to last forever. I love that those who lived through 1969 in proportions greater than 5/95 got to commune with them once more. I hope that those who weren’t around for any of it felt a bit of what all the excitement was about. I sincerely hope those who didn’t witness 1969 or 1986 get something very much like it as soon as possible. Your baseball team being on top of the world…there is nothing like it. I want to share that with every Mets fan there is, young, old, Bar Mitzvahed or otherwise.

2009 is, sadly, nothing like 1969, but at least we had the coincidence of the calendar to bring us a little Met magic last Saturday night, so that’s something. I kept watching my disc, fast-forwarding past the mundane Mets-Phillies parts and hitting “play” when there was a ’69 icon interviewed. As Cleon and Kooz and Grote and Dr. Ron Taylor reminisced, details got muddied, memories got revised and legends grew suitably larger. In other words, baseball like it oughta be. I think my favorite chat was Joe Pignatano talking with Kevin Burkhardt. Kevin asked Piggy if there was someone he was especially delighted to see at this reunion. Oh, Joe said, he was happy to see all of them, but it was really good to visit with the guys he hadn’t seen in a really long time. Bobby Pfeil, for instance — “He’s a great kid.”

Bobby Pfeil will turn 66 years old this November. And every ’69 Met will always be a great kid.

***

Three outstanding on-the-scene reports from the Mets bloggerhood helped me absorb the reunion experience every bit as much as WFAN and SNY did. Do yourself a favor and check out these Saturday night dispatches from Jason, from Ray of Metphistopheles, and from Metstradamus.

Starting next Friday and for several Fridays to come, we turn the Flashback clock ahead as far as we can and take up residence in my and maybe your favorite Met year of them all, 1999.

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.

8 comments to Rites of Passage

  • Anonymous

    Ross's Bar Mitzvah signifies, in Judaism, that he has become a man. My encounters with him these past few years demonstrate he was well on his way before last Saturday.

    I second that emotion, Greg: as I told him on Facebook, Ross is the collest kid I know.
    The Ceremony was great, but on the whole, I'd rather have been at the Bar Mitzvah…

  • Anonymous

    Actually, Ross isn't the collest kid I know, but he definitely is the coolest.

  • Anonymous

    You'll have to hang out for us at a game one day Charlie :)

  • Anonymous

    Um, I meant to say you'll have to hang out with us at a game….

  • Anonymous

    Absolutely!

  • Anonymous

    Whoever the collest kid is you know, he's gonna need his vaccinations in order before he can start school with that. Collest is nothing to screw around with.

  • Anonymous

    Too funny. I had two op-ed pieces in the New York Times last year and you quote from the one that DOESN”T mention both my bar mitzvah and Tom Seaver in the same paragraph! Go read the other one and you'll get a kick out of it, I think.
    It's here:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/07/opinion/07mendelsohn.html
    Fun reading your post. Here's another transistor radio story, and this one has nothing to do with Barack Obama. Back in 1986, during the epic 16-inning game against the Astros, i was working for the Binghamton Press as a photographer. We were on what should have been a four-day trip down the Susquehanna River. It was going to be a special report on the glory of the river, or something like that. Well, on day 2 we hit a low hanging branch and capsized. I lost all my camera equipment in the river. And, since it was October, we were freezing our asses off.
    A friendly farmer gave us some warm clothes and let us pitch tents in his cow pasture. As we sat by a campfire drying off, I listened to that famous game on a transistor radio. Cows mooing, fire crackling, reception going in and out. I'll never forget that night as long as I live.
    Matt Mendelsohn
    Arlington, VA