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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.

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The 83-79 Way

Rarely has anything I’ve anticipated surpassed my expectations the way SNY’s Mets Yearbook did Thursday night. The 1971 highlight film immediately became the second-best thing ever aired on the channel, behind only the 2006 division clincher.

The film was titled The Winning Way, which in itself is beautiful given that the 83-79 Mets were as mediocre as all get-out in 1971. But the first installment in this series of vintage propaganda pieces is a victory in SNY programming. It’s like they took a can opener to my subconscious and emptied the contents into the TV. By the time it was over I was looking forward more to 1972 than I am to 2010 (and that’s despite being enticed by the Mets’ acquisition of that wonderful American League infielder Jim Fregosi).

We see Ralph Kiner coaching Ken Singleton in the Florida Instructional League. We see a candid and relaxed Bud Harrelson star in what looks like a hostage tape. We see toddlers bobbling on Family Day and Gil Hodges doubling on Old Timers Day. We see fans proving Lindsey Nelson’s assertion that Shea is Where It’s At. We see Ed Kranepool mobile. We see a ton, so for goodness sake don’t miss this thing when it reairs, or when the next edition (1984) debuts this coming Thursday night at 7:30.

One thing missing from the panoply of ’71 highlights, however, was a spate of Met home runs. The Mets came up short of a spate that year. They did most years, actually. Only if you listen closely do you glean how power-deprived the Mets were as they pursued their Winning Way. The team lead was a three-pronged affair among Kranepool, Cleon Jones and Tommie Agee, with 14 apiece. Singleton, in far fewer plate appearances than his more established teammates, had 13. The only other Met in double-digits was Donn Clendenon with 11, but he’s not mentioned (Clendenon was released shortly after the season ended and highlight films generally turned those guys into nonentities as fast as those crazy Mets fans could create banners). The Mets of the early ’70s seemed comfortable emphasizing pitching, defense and a vague sense of “excitement” on the basepaths. At one point in the narration, Bob Murphy tells us Don Hahn is not known for hitting home runs and manages to make it sound like a compliment.

As I watched the 1971 Mets get known for not hitting home runs, the undercurrent of underproduction made sense to me — and not just because I got used to Mets not going deep in 2009. The Mets never hit home runs when I was a kid. And by never, I mean I never expected them. Thus, each of the 98 home runs they belted 38 years ago each seemed quite exotic. I grew up thinking only the Pirates and Reds were permitted to collect four bags with one swing.

Somewhere along the way, the Mets got in on home runs. They have, in their 48 seasons, socked more than 6,000 of those once-rare specimens over the wall in regular-season competition. Ever since Anderson Hernandez made it a nice round number in September, Mets Walkoffs has been celebrating the cream of the crop, or the leading 1%, counting down the Top 60 regular-season home runs in Mets history. It’s more like Top 60 Home Run Episodes, since Mark of MW takes some liberties and makes some groupings. But it’s his list and he’s pretty thorough, so we’ll allow it. He just posted his Top 10, which you can check out here.

His No. 10 and No. 9 choices, incidentally, are probably my No. 1 and No. 2 regular-season favorites ever, though sometimes they’re my No. 2 and No. 1 depending on my mood and perspective, with his No. 11 and No. 25 also holding great personal resonance for me. Then again, I’ve yet to meet a Met home run I didn’t like.

8 comments to The 83-79 Way

  • Anonymous

    We see a candid and relaxed Bud Harrelson star in what looks like a hostage tape.

    ROFL! (And it's funny because it's true….)

  • Anonymous

    The Satchel Paige sighting along with Thomson pitching to Branca was quite a sight. Too bad old timers games are no longer important, according to the geniuses in the front office.

  • Anonymous

    This type of Mets archival footage is fantastic… It's about time the Mets own network acted like there have some stake in the team… I know they don't want to become YES but still…

  • Anonymous

    Since the promo film highlighted the 1971 season it was obviously released early in 1972, so it didn't show the Old Timer's Night of which I was at in 1970. But it did show someone wearing the straw hat with the Met logo given out to all us men attending the Father's Day doubleheader and even though it was against the hapless Phillies before we got to the parking lot someone came over and said unless we had a ticket not to enter for every seat was sold out (meaning general admission tickets were already gone an hour before game-time).
    Great memories. I treated my Dad and we sat in the field level boxes all the way out in left, that small section angled inward so we didn't have to strain our necks. It was a beautiful sight with every seat filled for a beautiful sunny and warm Sunday afternoon double-header (nobody thought Shea was a dump back then). We were also able to hear the Phillie bullpen ribbing Dave Marshall and one inning saw Dave come out to his position with his glove in his mouth.
    Nolan Ryan struck out the side in the first inning after loading the bases with nobody out on a bunt single and two walks. In 5-2/3 innings he struck out seven but also blew a 4-0 lead, giving up six runs on seven walks and seven hits (which no doubt helped lead to Jim Fregosi appearing in the promo film instead). The Mets staged one of their greatest comebacks scoring three times in the bottom of the ninth on five consecutive singles without ever recording an out, Dave Marshall, scoring the winning run but without the glove in his mouth.

  • Anonymous

    This was so, so, so awesome. Big thumbs up to SNY. Can't wait for the '84 film.
    Though watching this, I started thinking about what could have been if the Mets had made Whitey Herzog manager after Gil instead of a certain idiot gnome.

  • Anonymous

    And just think-with “The 83-79 Way” title we could relive 1970 and 2005!
    Loved the footage of the original Shea.
    Why no highlights of Ray Sadecki (complete game 4-0 win over Braves on May 23 with 50,999 including me in attendance-you could look it up!)or Danny Frisella?

  • Anonymous

    We did see them going into their windups. Just hearing their names was a pretty big thrill.

  • [...] second installment of the highly acclaimed SNY series Mets Yearbook debuts tonight, Thursday, at 7:30 with a return to 1984. Be sure to catch [...]