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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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Say Hey! Get a Cup!

Willie Mays is celebrating his 80th birthday today.

The Mets are having another Collector’s Cup Night tonight.

Willie Mays began his Hall of Fame career at the age of 20 with the New York Giants, baseball ancestors of the New York Mets.

The cup is orange.

Willie Mays hit his first home run 60 years ago this month off future Hall of Famer and New York Met Warren Spahn at the Polo Grounds, which would become the first home of the New York Mets.

The cup says “Mets”.

Willie Mays would win the National League Rookie of the Year award in 1951.

The cup also has a picture of Mr. Met.

Willie Mays was on deck when the greatest home run in baseball history ended the greatest game in baseball history to complete the greatest pennant race in baseball history, a duel that involved two teams based in the city of New York, the Giants and the other baseball ancestor of the New York Mets, the Brooklyn Dodgers. That pennant race, which culminated in Bobby Thomson‘s “Shot Heard ‘Round The World” off Ralph Branca, was the signature episode of the signature era of National League baseball in New York, a period that loomed so large in the collective consciousness that it was agreed National League baseball simply had to return to New York a few short years after it was mistakenly allowed to physically disappear. Spiritually, it remained. The Mets exist because the Giants and Dodgers did…because players like Willie Mays did…especially because players like Willie Mays did. Then again, there was no player quite like Willie Mays.

The cup also has a sponsor’s logo.

Willie Mays once turned around, ran like there was no tomorrow, tracked a fly ball to deepest center field in the outer expanses of the Polo Grounds and caught a ball that was destined to be at least a triple. In doing so, he turned around an entire World Series and helped send the New York National League franchise to the 1954 world championship.

The cup holds about 20 ounces of liquid.

Willie Mays and his basket catch, as caught by Daily News cartoonist Bruce Stark in 1973.

Willie Mays did so much so thrillingly as a New York Giant in the 1950s that Joan Payson, the owner of the New York Mets, made every effort to bring him back as a New York Met in the 1960s. She didn’t succeed until the 1970s, but when she did, Willie Mays put on a New York Mets uniform and captivated an entire city when he homered to win his first game as a Met, against the Giants no less, in 1972.

The cup is the kind of cup you used to be able to get with a large soda.

Willie Mays at his peak could hit, hit with power, run, field and throw like no other player before him or after him. He showed that as a New York Giant. He gave only hints of it as an aging New York Met, but he was a New York Met. The greatest player baseball ever saw last saw him as a New York Met helping his team to a pennant in 1973, just as he helped his New York Giant team to a pennant in 1951 and a world championship in 1954.

The cup can also hold pencils.

Willie Mays was honored by the New York Mets when they played at the Polo Grounds and he was a visitor from San Francisco. He was honored again by the New York Mets when they played at Shea Stadium and he had announced his imminent retirement. His “Willie, say goodbye to America” speech made for one of Shea’s most emotional moments.

The cup can hold any number of items, one supposes.

Willie Mays turns 80 today, just after the only two franchises for which he ever played, the Mets and the Giants, took part in a three-game series at Citi Field, where Willie Mays has yet to be acknowledged in any serious way.

The cup is plastic.

Happy 80th birthday to the Say Hey Kid. And enjoy Collector’s Cup Night tonight.

12 comments to Say Hey! Get a Cup!

  • RM

    Wouldn’t it have been more appropriate (if slightly premature) to have issued this grand gift cup during the Giants series, and perhaps reserved Jackie Robinson Tote-Bag Night for some future series against the Dodgers? And while we’re at it, while there is a definite link between the Mets and Robinson, is it really enough to warrant the extent to which Citi Field has drawn the connection? Granted, his legacy is deserving – but really, if you were going to link with any ex New York team and their ballpark, aren’t the Giants and the Polo Grounds more appropriate? Jackie Robinson rotunda is more suited for Chavez Ravine, where it could be used as shelter for ailing Giants fans awaiting transport to USC Hospital emergency room.

    • If I wasn’t clear, the three-game series with the Giants was definitely the time to salute Willie (though it was used for planning Cup Night — the stupidest promotion the Mets have come up with in recent years). I can’t speak for Thursday afternoon, but on Tuesday and Wednesday night, there wasn’t so much as a CitiVision announcement to the effect of, “Ladies and gentlemen, this weekend, one of New York’s greatest baseball legends will be celebrating a milestone birthday, and the Mets would like to join the Giants in wishing…” Willie Mays Night would have been most appropriate this past week, but I would have been modestly satisfied if they had at least made a little thing out of it while SF was here.

  • RM

    Sorry .. you did make that clear just before wrapping up the entry. As a Giants fan with tickets to the games, I’m used to Mays and his legacy being acknowledged with some regularity in San Francisco. But his baseball roots are unquestionably in New York, and the Mets have failed miserably in acknowledging this. It seems Public School 46 has a hand-up on the Mets when it comes to competence in this regard: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinions/2011/01/22/2011-01-22_a_giant_at_home.html

  • Guy Kipp

    I was there as a kid the Friday night that Mays wore a Mets uniform (against the Giants) for the 1st time in May of 1972, although it would be two more days before he got into a game and debuted with a home run in the rain on Mother’s Day.
    Was just thinking about his “Willie, say goodbye to America” speech in Sept. 1973 the other day. It is appalling, but predictably shortsighted and myopic, that Willie’s 80th goes unacknowledged.

  • dmg

    that’s a neat daily news story RM links to. talked about a school assembly mays attended in january near the polo grounds. here’s one of the sweetest highlights:

    After the school’s color guard played and the children recited the Pledge of Allegiance and sang “The Star-Spangled Banner,” he told the assembly: “This is my neighborhood. I used to have maybe 10 kids come to my window. Every morning, they’d knock on my window, get me up. They’d give me a chance to eat breakfast.

    “But I had to be out there at 9:30, because that’s when they wanted to play. So I played with them for about maybe an hour.”

    He recalled a drug store on the corner – a drug store with a fountain, another sweet wonder that now kids know nothing about.

    There, Mays said, he would buy ice cream for his young stickball playmates.

  • Will in Central NJ

    Plant me firmly among the minority, but I would not be disappointed to see on the wall at Citi Field:
    “14 24 37 41 42″.

    • Plant me firmly in front of my seat where I’d be standing and applauding if that ever happened.

      As I’ve written before, if the Mets had retired 24 in the aftermath of his retirement from baseball, while he was a coach, it would have been taken as a sweet gesture reflective of Mays’s meaning to New York baseball fans. It wouldn’t fly today. The pseudoretirement of it is the next best thing.

      Though if Art Shamsky wants to make a comeback, I think he should be graciously accommodated.

  • Dave

    Nice job. My Dad grew up a Giants fan and Willie was his favorite player ever. The 2nd Mets game he ever took me to, in 1970, was against the Giants specifically so he could make sure I saw Willie, although he was disappointed when we got to Shea and found that Willie wasn’t playing center that day, he was playing 1B. And although he was little more than a historical recreation of himself by the time he became a Met, it was still a thrill, and his presence at the last day at Shea was truly one of the highlights of that event.

  • RM

    As point of reference, the Giants are giving away a free replica of the statue of Mays in Willie Mays Plaza for the first 20,000 fans in attendance on Mays’ birthday tonight against the Rockies. Not a bad perk to go along with watching Matt Cain battle Ubaldo Jimenez.

  • Rob D.

    Oh right, kind of like the statue of Tom Seaver in front of CitiField..oh wait….

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