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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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Blink and You Missed It

One of the pleasures of this up-and-down season has been the work of Jon Niese. Like everybody else, his 2009 was wrecked by injuries — in his case a horrifying tear of a hamstring clean off the bone. Niese went down like he’d been shot, and it was probably June of this year before I stopped wincing every time he had to run hard or jump for a ball. But he’s been just fine, knock wood, and over the course of the year he’s ascended from young pitcher who might be lights-out and might get his brains beat in to pitcher you generally trust, and occasionally have to remember is still learning.

The standout sequence of the night came against opposing starter James McDonald, who could be pretty good himself one day, except he’s a Pirate and so you assume something awful will happen to him. Niese started McDonald off with a fastball for strike one, followed that with a sharp curve for strike two, then erased him with a change-up for strike three, using each piece of his repertoire perfectly and in calm succession.

In saying something awful will undoubtedly happen to McDonald, I speak without condescension or malice. I grew up admiring the We Are Family Pirates, and respected and feared the formidable Pirate squads that ran neck and neck with the Mets in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The first great game I ever attended at Shea was this late 1990 showdown with the Pirates, with Dwight Gooden beating Doug Drabek and Darryl Strawberry throwing out Barry Bonds at the plate and hitting a three-run homer — if not Darryl’s last hurrah as a Met, pretty close to it. I was a bandwagon Braves fan in 1991 and 1992 (recall then they weren’t yet Road Runner to our Wile E. Coyote — they weren’t even in our division), and was jubilant when Sid Bream beat Bonds’ throw by a micron to end the Bucs’ 1992 season. But minutes later I watched Andy Van Slyke sitting on the outfield grass and felt my happiness leak away. Van Slyke seemed paralyzed, physically unable to get up and cross the field and go into the clubhouse and take off his uniform. I felt like something awful had happened, and it had. Bonds — who’d told Van Slyke to fuck himself when the centerfielder suggested he move in a bit against Francisco Cabrera — would leave over the winter, as would Drabek, and the Pirates would collapse. They haven’t had a winning season since Bream was safe — the Mets’ victory on Friday night guaranteed their 18th straight losing campaign. Think about that: The last time Pirates fans rooted for a winning team was three Bush administrations ago.

The Pirates are approaching 150 years of tradition, have good fans and a great park. They deserve better than this. Frankly, every franchise except the Yankees deserves better than this, the longest string of futility in the history of North American pro sports. We’ve had our agonies, sure, but they don’t compare to any of that. Or just consider tonight: The Pirates faithful showed up for the first game after being assured of another sub-.500 season, sat in the rain surrounded by yowling Mets fans, watched their team get pulled off the field in the top of the sixth and then were told that they’d lost. Pirates fans are tough hombres.

One more vignette from tonight: At one point Emily and I were giggling over Keith’s opinion of the replica Pittsburgh Crawfords uniforms, which if memory serves was delivered via an inimitable Keith construction: “I don’t believe I care for that collar.” I remarked that if Keith had his own reality-TV show, I would watch it every night. And then I realized that he does, and I do.

Oh, and I still hate Roger Clemens.

6 comments to Blink and You Missed It

  • dgwphotography

    October 14, 1992. I remember the date of the Sid Bream game because I was watching it in a hospital room next to my wife a few hours after our oldest daughter was born. So, The Pirates haven’t had a winning season during her lifetime.

    Wow.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    ( grew up admiring the We Are Family Pirates)

    I wasn’t a fan of the “We Are Family” Pirates, except for Pops, of course.

    Too many shots of those bubblehead baseball wives in thier mink coats singing and dancing in the aisles. Ruined it for me.

  • oldtimebaseball

    I feel for Pirates fans as well. Other franchises with long and storied histories in the same town (St. Louis, Cincinnati) have had their ups and downs but usually can be counted on to be in the running for post season at least as often as not. (I really don’t much care about places like Houston and Arizona, at least in baseball terms). But the Pirates! Not just the “We are Family” bunch, but the Ralph Kiner Pirates that I remember and, going back even farther, legendary players like Honus Wagner. What a great history for a franchise! It would be a shame if they eventually had to move.

  • Eric B.

    On the other hand, Pittsburghers can use their dose of misery—Since the Steelers win the Super Bowl every other year–and the Penguins are frequent holders of the Stanley Cup. Dealing with that kind of success among ones family members (most of wife’s siblings and spouses live in Pittsburgh) is annoying when you’re a Mets fan and a Knicks fan (I know). At least I don’t have to hear about it in the summer.

  • [...] full recaps from last night’s 5-1 win over the Pirates, be sure to check out Faith and Fear in Flushing, Mets News Now, Brooklyn Met Fan, and Mets [...]

  • JerseyJack

    Does Niese remind anyone else of Jerry Koosman ? …