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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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Remember When?

Update: Audio! Now you can say TLDL instead of TLDR!

Thought I’d post what I read at Varsity Letters’ fifth-anniversary shindig last week, for posterity but mostly because it’s a reflection on a Mets game we’d be better off to recall more often, particularly in these trying days. Odds are you’ll recognize it at once — and as you might imagine, we’ve written about it before. And no doubt we will do so again.

The 500th Time I Realized Baseball Is Mankind’s Greatest Achievement

My phone rings. It’s my friend Megan, calling from somewhere in the vast reaches of Shea’s upper deck.

“Your team sucks,” she says

She isn’t being mean. It’s true. It’s June 30, 2000. The night before, John Rocker returned to Shea for the first time after his inventory of the denizens of the 7 train for SI. We booed him and the Mets lost. Now it’s the middle of the eighth and the Mets are down 8-1. Those are the Braves. They’re only three games up in the East, but it feels like 30. I’m in the mezzanine next to my wife Emily and my friends Greg and Danielle. I’ve stopped booing. Greg has stopped complaining. Emily has stopped fuming. Danielle is reading the New Yorker, turning each page with angry little flips to demonstrate that she is not watching. All we want, given the apparent absence of other possibilities, is for it to be over.

Derek Bell singles, but Edgardo Alfonzo flies out. Mike Piazza singles. Robin Ventura grounds out to score a run. It’s cosmetic and we all know it – one of those too little, too late runs you almost resent. Todd Zeile singles and it’s 8-3. Still cosmetic. Jay Payton singles. Benny Agbayani walks. Bases loaded. We begin to stir.

We begin to stir — but we’re Mets fans. We are hurt and haunted and not falling for it this time. We know if we dare to believe, something bad will happen. Kenny Rogers will throw ball four. Bobby Bonilla will appear. Whatever it is, it will be awful and we will kick ourselves because we knew better.

But we’re Mets fans. We can’t help ourselves. Danielle is trying to burrow into her New Yorker. Emily is alternately urging on and berating our team. Greg is … yes, Greg is methodically chewing a Pepsi cup. I don’t know what I’m doing. I keep getting out of my seat and flopping back into it. I’m making noises. I don’t know what they are, exactly. But still – a grand slam here and we’d be … almost tied.

Mark Johnson doesn’t hit a grand slam. But he walks. It’s 8-4. Now a grand slam really would tie it. Melvin Mora doesn’t hit one either. He walks. It’s 8-5. Derek Bell is up again. And he … walks. It’s 8-6.

On the obvious, Team That Scores More Runs Wins hand, this is encouraging. On the other hand, this is the slowest of slow-motion rallies ever seen. It’s taking us 10 or 11 pitches to inch closer to a destination we probably won’t reach.

I find myself on my feet, denying everything at the top of my lungs. As Alfonzo comes to the plate, I confide in Greg that of course he understands they won’t actually do this, that everything will come to naught. I don’t mean it — I’m just trying the reverse-jinx, looking to stay the hands of the baseball gods. Greg fixes me with a look of betrayal, of real fury, and I realize too late that he’s struck his own cosmic bargain, the terms of which I’ve just violated.

Alfonzo singles through the hole. One run scores. Two runs score. It’s 8-8, two men on and two men out, with Mike Piazza beginning his dinosaur trudge to the plate.

Now, for once, all of us scarred, despairing Mets fans live up to our ancient credo. Ya gotta believe, and we do. Forty thousand of us are standing and screaming as Piazza goes through his routine, almost gingerly drawing the bat up and cocking it at the shoulder.

On one level, what happens next lacks all drama. There is no agonizingly extended at bat with close pitches and foul tips and just staying alive and finally squaring one up. Piazza hits the first pitch thrown by Terry Mulholland over the fence. It’s a line drive, instantly and obviously gone.

On every other level, it’s quite dramatic. All the accumulated tension of the last 20 minutes is released in a second. We are screaming and hugging each other and screaming and hugging the people next to us who are screaming and hugging the people next to them. I feel my stomach dip and look around to see Shea itself is flexing, the decks rising and falling as we leap up and down on top of them. Given Shea, I know this is a bad thing. Then I go back to screaming and hugging, even though I can’t breathe. It’s entirely possible that the old stadium will fall down. It’s entirely possible that I will have a heart attack. But now I know other things are possible, too — like the Mets cold-cocking the Braves with a 10-run eighth inning. I may be having a heart attack, and the stadium may fall down, but right now I’m so happy that I don’t care.

11 comments to Remember When?

  • You reminded me of an Orioles game I attended as a young man at Memorial Stadium. The O’s fell behind 9-0 to the White Sox, and then exploded for 8 runs. Carlton Fisk was ejected and the crowd was going absolutely nuts.

    Final score: 10-8, White Sox.

    Yes, you gotta believe.

  • I simply cannot believe that was 11 years ago. Thanks for posting this.

    True story: later that night I ran into a friend who lived SEVEN houses down from me. He said, “everything allright? I heard you screaming before.”

  • To top it off (you can’t, obviously)..
    I was at the game, and since it was fireworks night we didn’t get into the car until after Mets Extra. It was one of my first introductions to Steve Somers. I didn’t even know his name, but that monologue was what made me a fan. I’d love to hear it again.

    “And then there was the eight inning.”

    • Flip D.

      IMHO, Steve Somers would be a national treasure if he weren’t a Mets-Jets-Rangers-Knicks-but-mostly-Mets-and-Rangers-fan. But I’m soooo glad he is.

      P.S. I remember being blown away by his monologue after that game, too. I wonder… does The FAN keeps records/transcripts of stuff like that?

  • Rich

    What a great memory. Thanks for sharing. When Steve Henderson beat The Giants back in 1980, at the time it was one of the most dramatic homeruns I had ever seen. Probably because it wasn’t expected. The Ventura grand single and this Piazza homerun, it’s what makes being a Mets fan so great. What fun would it be if we always won? As frustrating as it can be at times, I would not trade my team’s trials and tribulations with those of any other franchise.
    PS..When Endy made the catch against The Cards…I really thought the upper deck was going to drop!

  • Rob D.

    I was at this game!!! It was almost surreal.

  • Lenny65

    By that point I was absentmindedly flipping channels. I passed the Mets channel and thought “wait, why is Shea rocking so hard?” and noticed it was 8-5. The rest was easily one of the most insane, improbable innings ever. There was no doubt…whatsoever…that Piazza was going to hit one out and to this day I’ve never seen anyone unscrew a home run like that one.

  • The department of taking things literally is compelled to report Bobby Bonilla did appear — he started at third for the Braves that night.

    Kenny Rogers, however, did not.

  • Patrick O'Hern

    Great story. Miss the drama that was Mike Piazza.

  • waltera98

    I am thinking of making Port St. Lucie my retirement destination just to be able to take in Mets Spring Training action until the day The Almighty calls me to his side (or Lucifer, the No. 1 Yankee Fan to his).

  • Jared

    I was there that night, it was amazing. The fireworks capping it off were simply stunning. The most interesting is the members of the team you detail. Few superstars, but tremendous chemistry. It’s not the $$$ that makes a great team, it’s a purposeful assessment of chemistry. The Yankees did it ’96-’00, and look what happened when they really started going after high priced talent, no Championship till ’09. I have a good feeling about this year, but as you say, these are still the Mets.