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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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Davis! Save Us!

Ike Davis: I am NOT the Messiah!
Mets Fans: We say you are, Ike, and we should know — we’ve followed a few.

Apologies to Life of Brian, but that what’s it’s been like over the last 24 hours: Ike Davis was hastily recalled from some hazy, happier future to the troubled present, and after thinking about the prospects of halfheartedly cheering for Gary Matthews Jr. to not strike out or John Maine to reach the sixth inning, we decided that yes, we do like Ike and would like him front and center as soon as possible. Ike is up, having spent just long enough enjoying Buffalo to ensure he’ll enjoy whatever city we tell him to enjoy through 2016, and life is better.

I’ve always had a weakness for the possibilities of rookies and the ceremony of their debuts.

When I was living in Washington D.C. in the summer of 1993 I drove to Philadelphia to see Bobby Jones’s debut, which now strikes me as a preposterous thing to do. Jones was victimized by typical 1993 Met defense, but won because Tim Bogar went 4-for-5 with two home runs. The second was an inside-the-park job keyed by Lenny Dykstra diving for the ball and missing. Bogar slid safely into home, but tore a ligament in his hand, was out for the year and never the same player. I spent the game in front of Veterans Stadium’s gigantic videoscreen. It made unpleasant, vaguely organic wheezing noises while it operated, like a failing organ, and I could feel a pulse of heat when pixels behind me lit up.

On Opening Day of 1996 my new friend Greg Prince and I sat in the right-field mezzanine (I paid $13 to sit in section 33, row G, seat 5) to watch shortstop Rey Ordonez ply his trade against the Cardinals on a misty day. The Mets fell behind 6-0, but cut the deficit in half thanks to home runs from Todd Hundley and Bernard Gilkey. In the seventh, with two outs and Royce Clayton on first, Ray Lankford hit a double to left off Jerry DiPoto. Ordonez took the throw behind third base and hurled it home from his knees with an oddly fluid motion, somehow simultaneously collapsing, rolling over his shoulder and imputing all the energy of his body into the throw. Clayton was out at the plate, and I heard a sound I’d never heard before at a ballpark — the sound 21,000 people make turning to the person next to them and asking if they saw that. The Mets won, 7-6. I assume Tony LaRussa overmanaged.

In the summer of 2004 I dragged my friend Tim to Shea for a meaningless game against the Expos, because young David Wright was making his major-league debut. I paid $23 to sit in section 3 of the upper deck, the 711B box, seat 2. Wright, hitting seventh, was retired by Montreal’s Brian Schneider on a deft catch over the dugout rail in the second inning and went hitless on the day. But the Mets won, 5-4, on an error by Nick Johnson, overcoming a three-run homer by Montreal’s Endy Chavez.

My presence at Ike’s debut was sheer luck — I had a ticket thanks to the kindness of Sharon Chapman, runner extraordinaire and all-around Good People. I came to the game from a meeting in midtown with a backpack full of layers and Mets gear; when the V train dipped below the East River I stripped off my Responsible Adult button-down and blazer, leaving a t-shirt foundation, then donned a long-sleeved shirt, hoodie, Mets replica jersey with the wrong Tug McGraw number and Cyclones cap. By the time we emerged in Queens my transformation into Met Man was complete.

At Citi Field the night held a foreboding chill but the crowd was cheerful enough, politely applauding Rachel Robinson and various college students wearing 42 jerseys with can-do qualities stitched in the place of names while trying to figure out which Met wearing 42 was the new guy. Rachel Robinson is a treasure, but I’m willing to stick my chin out and say that having home-and-away Jackie Robinson Nights is a mistake that threatens to cheapen a moving gesture.

But soon enough it was game time, and so Greg, Sharon, David and I settled in to see if Ike Davis could indeed save us from all that has gone so depressingly wrong of late. The fans cheered Ike’s every move, with a good third of the crowd rising to its feet for his first at-bat. (That struck Greg and I as a bit much; we cheered with behinds firmly affixed to our seats.)

Ike did the job, reaching out his long arms to muscle a Randy Wells changeup into right in the second and adding an RBI single under second baseman Jeff Baker’s glove in the seventh. At home in the land of Wi-Fi (an amenity that would make a great addition to Citi Field), I watched the replay avidly, loving that you could see the moment when Ike realized the ball he’d struck was ticketed for the outfield grass, and treasuring the first-hit pageantry: the rookie trying and failing to look like it’s business as usual, followed by the momentary worry that someone might forget to ask the opposing team to surrender the ball or that it might accidentally get tossed into the stands. (An hour or so ago, you can bet, some teammate handed Davis a battered decoy ball with all the information scribbled down wrong and something crossed out, just to see if he’d panic or blow his stack. Though since his father was a big-leaguer himself, maybe he knew this initiation was coming.)

The rest of the game was pretty good too: Jon Niese pitched gamely, though his inefficiency made you remember the Maine, Angel Pagan clubbed a two-run homer into the left-field seats to break a tie, and Jenrry Mejia closed things out. Between them and Ike, you could consider it a preview of a brighter Mets future. And who knows? Maybe it’s not as far off as we fear.

21 comments to Davis! Save Us!

  • [...] night’s win, read posts from the Brooklyn Met Fan, Mets Today, the Daily Stache, Ted Berg, Faith and Fear in Flushing, the Ropolitans, Amazin Avenue, and Fonzie [...]

  • Inside Pitcher

    It was great being able to witness Ike’s debut with you guys – thanks for joining me (and, as always, for your kind words).

  • Joe D.

    Hi Jason,

    On TV one could tell the crowd got more alive as the game progressed. And according to the 5.1 audio I was listening to, more of them sat along the third base side rather than first. Was it that way or do I need to balance my surround speakers better?

  • Jackabite

    I met Ike at Duffy’s this past spring – he reminded me of when I met a very young Todd Hundley in FL a few centuries back. Hundley played for the St. Lucie’s back then and hung around with a coulda/shoulda/woulda pitcher named Steve Newton. I brought them a pitcher in RJ Gators in Stuart, which they promptly inhaled. When Hundley got the call, I asked Newt if he had heard from him (these were pre-text days thankfully). “Hell yeah!”, shouted Newt, “he sent me some new shoes!”
    Ike’s handshake was like that of Hundley’s – huge hands, ballplayers hands. Ike was super polite (owing to my age perhaps – drat!) and I wished him Good Luck this season.
    Someone’s getting shoes today.

  • March'62

    Great win!!! Never has a broken bat bloop and a seeing-eye grounder up the middle been more beautiful.

    You’re right Jason. The J.R. tributes are even worse than the Jets dressing like Titans for a number of their games. I’m all for celebrating Jackie’s accomplishments but everyone wearing the same uniform number with no names on the back? How dumb is that? I made a list of all the ideas for the tribute that were rejected before the #42athon was selected as the best idea:

    42. All players must wear Jackie Robinson masks while playing
    42. Play the game in Brooklyn
    42. Charge 1947 prices
    42. The public address announcer introduces each player as Jackie Robinson.
    42. At least once during the game the shortstop has to walk over to the second baseman and embrace him.
    42. All the fans get to scream racial epithets at the players
    42. Each player stays at a different hotel so they know how it feels to be separated from their teammates.
    42. Each baserunner that reaches third base must attempt to steal home.

  • oogieball

    For the first time this season, I actually *enjoyed* watching a game this season. And it wasn’t because of the win (although that was nice and we need as many as we can get). But between the debut of Ike and Niese pitching with some guts, and some actual *hitting*, it gives one hope that the team this year may not be a complete washout.

  • Gio

    Here’s hoping, guys. Ike may or may not be overhyped, but that’s what we need – some excitement and some hope. I can’t wait for tonight’s game!

  • “In a clubhouse meeting, our manager, Charlie Dressen, got up and read the letter to us about how if Jackie took the field, he’ll be shot,” Carl Erskine, a Dodger right-hander of that era, recalled over the telephone. “There was complete silence.” Erskine then mentioned the Dodgers’ left fielder at the time, saying: “But then Gene Hermanski piped up: ‘Hey, Skip, I’ve got an idea. If we all wore 42 out there, they won’t know who to shoot.’ ”

    I’m fine with everyone wearing 42 at home and away. We should be proud that Rachel Robinson comes every year. There are very few famous people on this planet I want to meet, and she is one of them.

    Let’s get over ourselves. Ohhh, the inconvenience! Seriously?

  • I gotta wonder how many rooks are fooled by the decoy ball. Since we all know about it, then they must know too, y’know?

  • Joe D.

    Even though this is 2010 and we have elected an African-American as President, we are already starting to see the trivialization of racial prejudice and Jim Crow. One good example is “Confederate History Month” with celebrations that ignore the little historical facts that the “genteel society” they celebrate existed due to whip on the backs of slaves and that the Confederate flag represented white supremecy.

    So even though it’s been 63 years since Jackie Robinson was the first to break the color barrier, the cross he and others like him had to endure for decades that followed must remain engrained in our social consciousness. The annual wearing of his number 42 is one small way of doing that beyond just a pre-game ceremonies. Don’t know if other clubs repeated the tribute at home on the road April 15th but I think it would be more appropriate for MLB to insure that the Mets are playing at Citi Field each April 15th

  • Daktari

    42
    And all the stats generated that day, go to JR posthumously

  • March'62

    Don’t get me wrong. I have a complete awareness of all that Jackie Robinson went through. I just think that everyone wearing his number at the same time seems ridiculous. Honor him by showing highlights before the game of his abilities; make speeches; have Mrs. Robinson and his children on hand to throw out the first pitch; contribute the day’s gate to his charity; hand out mini biographies to all the fans at the game, etc. But to wear his uniform number? MLB already retired his number for all teams as a lasting tribute. I’m sorry but when I see a Mets #42 uniform I just think of Ron Hodges not Jackie Robinson

  • cropseymonster

    They should do it during a single game of inter-league play, rotated yearly, beginning with a Dodgers-Indians game, with the NL club wearing #42 and the AL club wearing #14

  • I know the feeling, Jason. Also in 1993, I went to New York to see a much-heralded rookie make his big-league debut, and like Ike Davis he wore Number 42 in his debut. He was a pitcher, and he won the game. His name? Domingo Jean. The real reason I went was that the Yankees were retiring Reggie Jackson’s Number 44 that day. Jean flamed out, and the next Yankee to wear 42 turned out to be a bit better, Mariano Rivera.

    In 1947, the Phillies treated Jackie Robinson like dirt. Maybe the Mets and their fans could celebrate Jackie’s memory by hating the Phillies… oh, wait, you already do hate them. At least they now have black players, really good ones like Howard and Rollins. The Mets? At this point, I think they’d take a purple Buddhist from Mars in an open marriage, as long as he could hit .270, properly field a position, and stay healthy.

    But you’re doing better than the Red Sox!

  • Kiner's Coroner

    When I saw them all wearing 42 a second time, I wondered aloud if they were honoring Butch Huskey.

  • Guy Kipp

    A game started by 23-year-old Jon Niese, who gave up no earned runs, finished by 20-year-old Mejia, who pitched 2 scoreless innings, and highlighted by 2 hits and an RBI from 23-year-old Ike Davis, all three of them homegrown, is the kind of trend that warms the heart of a Wilpon-jaded skeptic like myself.

  • Ray

    I’m just glad Pedro is off the team now that we’ve called this guy up.

    Otherwise, I would’ve been rooting against there ever being a double play involving the starter and first baseman, which would’ve resulted in a Post back page headline the next day of

    IKE AND ‘TINEZ
    TURN ONE

    (I know. Don’t quit my day job. Funny thing about that, though….)

  • March'62

    Oh man Ray. Clearly the better line would have had the Mets signing Tino Martinez as the backup first baseman (Ike and Tino). Or re-sign Trot Nixon in order to pair up Ike with Nixon. Well, better luck on your other job front.