Howard Johnson could hit home runs and steal bases in tandem (if not simultaneously; the rules don’t allow that) like no Met before him and no Met after him. Only Darryl Strawberry could do it — 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in the same season — like HoJo at approximately same time as him, and Darryl did it “only” once, in 1987. Johnson did it that year, two years later and two years after that. You don’t see 30/30 much anymore, and since he was eased out from his role as Mets hitting coach, we haven’t seen HoJo at all lately.
But we do see HoJo here, posing alongside the official Faith and Fear t-shirt, making him the third 1986 Met to take in the retired numbers (even though no 1986 Met has had his number retired…which is another story for another day). For bringing Mr. Johnson into the FAFIF fold — alongside Mr. Strawberry and Mr. Knight — we have our buddy Ryder Chasin to thank. Ryder and his dad Rob recently met up with the man of steal/power not at a Ramada Inn or a Hyatt, but at a sports memorabilia shop in Connecticut where Howard Johnson was briefly lodging (or at least appearing).
Ryder, longtime readers might remember, was the young man who invited Stephanie and me to join him at his Bar Mitzvah two Novembers ago at the Acela Club after reading the book version of Faith and Fear in Flushing. We’ve stayed in touch since, returning to Citi Field with Ryder and Rob on the second Tuesday night in August twice, each occasion resulting in a rousing one-run victory and a lot of fun for all.
Aside from graciously introducing our line of apparel to another Mets great, Ryder’s kept busy editing his high school paper’s sports section; throwing a nasty, tailing fastball — it certainly took care of the “Padre” at the Hershey’s Dunk Tank; figuring out what had been plaguing Jon Niese; and growing tall enough so that Mike Pelfrey might soon be going eyeball to eyeball with him (at which point I hope Ryder can straighten out the relatively Big Pelf).
Oh, and Ryder’s also been checking out 1986 World Series rings. The one he’s holding here is HoJo’s. Howard’s a great guy for trusting a 14-year-old with such a valuable piece of jewelry…or, perhaps, given his exploits of 1987, 1989 and 1991, HoJo knew that if Ryder tried to make off with it, he could always steal it back.
That’s purely hypothetical, of course. People who wear the FAFIF t-shirt are honorable folk.