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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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Shea (The First Time)

Today is the 40th anniversary of my first appearance in a major league box score. There I am…look closely. See the part where it says the attendance was 18,776? I’m one of the 18,776. Without me, it’s 18,775.

I was just one fan in one seat at Shea Stadium on the afternoon of July 11, 1973. The Mets scored just one run in nine innings on the afternoon of July 11, 1973, or six fewer than did the visiting Houston Astros. The Mets’ record fell to 36-47 for the season. Mine dropped to 0-1 lifetime. We’d each bounce back.

I’m sometimes asked how I remember dates so precisely, a question that still surprises me even though I politely pretend to understand that not everybody’s mind works like mine. Even my mind doesn’t always work like mine. We all need a little Baseball-Reference to help us sometimes. But as for July 11, 1973, of course I remember July 11, 1973. It was my first ballgame, my first Mets game. How do you forget something like that?

The date was communicated to me in the weeks prior to the big event. We from Camp Avnet in Long Beach would be going to the Mets game on Wednesday, July 11. It was the second week of camp. I didn’t really want to go to day camp that summer, yet it was paying dividends immediately.

July 11. I was 10 years old. What else did I have to look forward to besides my first Mets game? The date imprinted itself on my brain before July 11 and stayed there forever after. Simple, to me, how I remembered it.

Save for the Diamond Club, there was little exclusivity to Shea Stadium in 1973. Our tickets were in the Upper Deck, yet otherwise all 18,776 in attendance were in this thing together. Us; the broadcasters; the players on both sides; whoever sold me my Official Yearbook; whomever I couldn’t buy an ice cream from because Camp Avnet kept kosher (even if I didn’t), thus I was confined to the salami box lunch that didn’t keep very well on the bus, as I would learn to my gastric sorrow later that evening.

This was Shea Stadium. This was the Mets game. This was where the action was. This was the thing that was on Channel 9 unless it was only on WHN, but it was always on WHN even if it wasn’t necessarily on Channel 9. This would be in the papers the next day. This was news. I, by extension, was a component of instant history. They couldn’t print 18,776 without me.

Though I could see the action much better on the portable black & white Sony in my room, I loved being a part of the box score, being a part of the crowd, being a part of the game. Jerry Koosman was tiny down there on the field. He threw to a tiny Duffy Dyer. This place was huge. You never saw these seats on TV. There was no camera angle directed toward them. But I was inside the same physical space as my beloved New York Mets. I’d been watching the Mets, listening to the Mets, reading about the Mets since I was six. My identity was the Mets. If you asked me who I was, it wouldn’t be long before I would tell you I was a Mets fan. The only thing I had yet to do was meet the Mets. Or wave to them from a theoretically manageable distance. On July 11, 1973, they welcomed me fully into their world.

I’ve yet to leave it.

44 comments to Shea (The First Time)

  • Inside Pitcher

    It was my first ballgame, my first Mets game. How do you forget something like that?

    LOL – don’t ask me that. I thought my first game was in 1970 until the First Base volume of The Happy Recap listed it as happening in 1971.

  • March'62

    My first Met game had Tommie Agee stealing home plate to win the game (as you so ably recounted to me (and others) in First Base). I have yet to hear that same crowd noise that was made as Agee made his dash to the plate.

    I remember walking through the gate and seeing all that green, green grass for the first time. And then climbing and climbing and climbing clear up to the sky to find our seats. And my biggest thrill was just sitting in our seats after the game was over and watching everyone joyously piling out of the stadium which was followed by all of the big stadium lights being turned off. It was completely dark and you could see the planes and the stars. What a night for a 7 year old boy. But darned if I could remember the date even with the heads up from your book.

  • Steve D

    I don’t know my first game for sure…I was taken at a very young age and nobody noted it for me. I do remember sitting on concrete steps in the Upper Deck during a night game where the crowd kept cheering and I just cheered along…I was told years later that game was July 9, 1969, Tom Seaver’s near perfect game. I decided to adopt that as my first official Met game ever. Not a bad one.

  • dak442

    I asked my parents when my first Met game was and got shrugs. The first time I remember being at Shea, my cop neighbor brought me and my Dad along with his son for some sort of NYPD appreciation night. Before the game we met Ed Kranepool, who talked to us for a couple of minutes. The only other things I remember was a foul ball rolling three feet from me that some other guy got, and that the Mets lost. Otherwise, no idea.

  • Dave

    A few weeks after Steve D but same pitcher, albeit a game of much less historical significance…July 26, 1969 against the Reds, Seaver beat them 4-2 and hit a double. And it was Player Family Day, which I probably would have thought was more cute had I been an adult instead of a 10 year old. And of course I kept the ticket stubs and hours before the 9/28/08 game, I returned to the same seats to try to remember the feeling of that first game.

  • Ljcmets

    My first Mets game was Auguat 17, 1969, and it was also Koosman to Dyer. It was the first half of the Banner Day doubleheader that year. My dad scored the tickets as part of his company’s “Father-Son” Day, which quickly became “Father-Child” Day when he insisted on bringing me. (Nothing turns a man into a feminist faster than a daughter who wants to do something nontraditional LOL).

    The final score was 3-2 good guys over the Padres. My dad insisted that we leave after Game 1 (so as to drive back to Albany before dark) but I think the second game was also a 3-2 Mets victory. I also believe that the four games that weekend at Shea against the Padres were the start of the Mets final push towards eventual glory. Perhaps someone with a better memory than mine can confirm those details.

    Happy Anniversaryt Greg!

    • You’re quite right about that weekend. It was written up in this highly indispensable volume, which I can’t help but recommend.

    • Steve D

      Please tell me you listened to game 2 on the radio on the way home.

      • Ljcmets

        For as long as we had a signal….somewhere north of Westchester we lost the radio until we picked it up again about 30 miles out of Albany. We did, however, get a great look at the traffic jam of cars heading into Bethel, and if I’m not mistaken a lot of helicopters above. I do remember that my mother did not want us to go…she was very concerned about the Thruway passage, as it had been closed the day before. I was 11, and I would have been heartbroken if we hadn’t been able to attend…but my Dad wasn’t concerned at all. We were home before dark and I had a brand new Mets hat, which I proudly wore to day camp the next day.

  • My first Mets game was June 19th, 1971. My seventh birthday. Seaver started. The game went fifteen innings, we did not stay the whole game. A guy in the seat in front of me caught a sizzling line drive foul ball in his bare hand. I can still hear it. Saw Rick Wise hit a triple.

    Last Mets game I saw in person was in Cincinnati in 1992 or 3. Saw Sid Fernandez leg out a triple.

    Tomorrow night I will be in Pittsburgh for my first major league game in 19 years. I’m really looking forward to seeing Hefner pitch.

  • My first Met game was at Candlestick Park! May 1987, not sure of the specific day. I was ten years old and just becoming a sports fan. I grew up in Syracuse and so had no borough-based allegiance; the state of New York baseball in the mid-80s is undoubtedly why I chose the Mets over the Yankees. But our semi-annual trips to NYC for family gatherings rarely took place during baseball season (Thanksgiving & Easter). So I had not yet had a chance to bug my folks into taking me to Shea.

    That May, my father took the family on his business trip to SF. Lo and behold the Mets were playing a day game. My mother took me and my brothers while Dad was working. I too have that “first sight of green” memory. I also remember not being able to tell that pop flies were not home runs. (Our seats were way up high, halfway down the 3rd base line.) But my best memory is that Carter and Straw hit back to back 9th inning homers and the Mets won 4-3.

    • I was also at the back to back HR’s in the ninth game, May 27, 1987. My 1st game was Sept 7 1971 also at Candlestick vs the Dodgers. I too, remember the “first sight of green” vividly from that night game. My first Mets game was August 20th 1983 on Willie Mays Day at the ‘stick. Although I was 24 (how ironic) years old, it was the first of nearly a hundred Mets games in San Francisco (and 1 in LA, 3 in Oakland) attended over the last 30 years, including the three this week. SWEEP!

      Here’s to another 40 Greg!

  • You are part of the team’s nonobservance of the 40th anniversary of 1973! Just like you’re in the boxscore, you’re being ignored by the organization as is Yogi Berra, Willie Mays, Tom Seaver, Jon Matlack, Jerry Koosman, George Stone, Jerry Grote, John Milner, Felix Millan, Bud Harrelson, Wayne Garrett, Cleon Jones, Rusty Staub, the aformentioned Duffy Dyer, the spirit of Tug McGraw, and the rest. Congratulations, you’re officially one of the team! Overripe salami for everyone!!

  • Lenny65

    August 9th, 1975: Hooton bests Koosman as the hated Dodgers down the Mets 2-0. Saturday Game Of The Week. I was nine and as awestricken by that place as you were. I still really miss it sometimes, too.

    • Steve D

      I miss it a lot too…at least you can stand on where the bases and mound were now. If Jeffy has his way, home plate may be in the middle of Walmart in a few years.

    • My first game was one week later on that August 1975 homestand, the Saturday game vs. the Giants. Swan over Falcone–little did I know that would be the top of the flimsy rotation in three years’ time.

  • Shawn Butler

    My first game was April 11, 1976 against the Expos. Good ol’ Mickey Lolich made his Metropolitan debut against – wait for it – Dan Warthen. Neither made it past the second inning. I went with my Cub Scout troop. Mets lost, 7-6.

    After the sixth inning, the den mother told us to wrap it up and start heading down the escalators and out to the bus. Are you for real, Mrs. Celenza? This eight-year-old threw his cup of hot chocolate and then a tantrum that would make Wally Backman blush.

    I turned in my uniform the next day.

    By the way, Greg, I am halfway through Volume I of The Happiest Recap – a lovely birthday gift from my lovely wife. (After about a dozen Post-it notes, she got the hint.) For those of you who have yet to pick up a copy, do yourself a Frank Howard-sized favor, stop what you’re doing right now, and order one. It’s simply captivating. And best of all – reading it just makes you feel good.

    I cannot wait for Volume II, which begins in 1974 – the year I first became addicted to the orange and blue. I’m so looking forward to reliving Hendu’s homer, Mookie’s mad dashes, the K Korner, and The Kid taking our old friend Neil Allen deep on a brutally cold day.

    Please hurry!

  • Harvey Poris

    My first Mets game was at the Polo Grounds, May 12, 1962. It was actually a doubleheader against the Braves and amazingly the Mets won both games with Walkoff HRs. The first was a two-run shot in the bottom of the ninth by Hobie Landrith off Warren Spahn with two out that gave the Mets a 3-2 victory. The second game was won by a ninth inning HR by Gil Hodges giving the Mets an 8-7 win. That day Craig Anderson won both games in relief pitching a total of 3 innings. I was so excited I bought the Yearbook, a picture pack and the Meet the Mets theme song on a 45 rpm disc. All that stuff together cost less than a Citifield hot dog. Those wins made me a Mets fan for life.

  • Aug. 14, 1976. Mets beat the Big Red Machine, 2-1. Niño Espinosa, not Seaver, Koosman or Matlack.

  • open the gates

    Hey, OK, I’ll meme.

    My first game was actually my first two games. Banner Day doubleheader, 1983, vs. the Pirates.

    The day started with Walt Terrell giving up back-to-back-to-back walks, immediately followed by a grand slam. (Meet the Mets.) The Mets came all the way back to win it. In the second game, Jose DeLeon no-hit the Mets for 8+ innings, and Mike Torrez pitched 10 (!) shutout innings. Mookie won it for us in the 12th with his legs. (IIRC, he beat out an infield single, stole second, then went second-to-home on a groundout. Something like that.) Orosco won both games in relief.

    Needless to say,I was hooked.

    The only other things to add – we went with our parents, and we stayed for every pitch of both games plus the banner parade. We’re talking 8-9 hours at the ballpark with three kids, and neither of my parents were particularly baseball fans. Major kudos there. And the banners were awesome.

    • metsfaninparadise

      Do you know the date? I carried a banner that day but can’t locate any reference to it. As I recall, the 1st game was also extra innings and the parade had to wait outside or in the bowels of the stadium for well over an hour. We all got tickets to a future game. At THAT game I rode the press elevator with Tim McCarver and Ralph Kiner (who were both ENORMOUS) and got autographs.

      • July 31, 1983. Featured in forthcoming second volume of this fine series.

        • metsfaninparadise

          Thank you-it was hard to spot on BR because the margin of victory was the same in each game. I’ll never forget Mookie scoring from second on a double play to end the second game. That wasn’t the only time he scored from second on a ground ball. Of course, I missed the end of the first game, standing in the banner parade stretching halfway around the stadium. Mine read, “From Throneberry to Strawberry, the Mets are NATURALLY great!”

  • Greg,

    Your first game was 6 days after mine. We both saw Koosman pitch in our debuts. We both bought yearbooks — though my father howled at the outrageous price: $0.75

    See? We were destined to be friends…

  • Kevin From Flushing

    Congratulations! On August 4th it’ll be my 25th anniversary. That day in 1988, 7-year-old me saw Sid Fernandez get bested 4-3 by Calvin Schiraldi (HUH?!?!?) and the Cubs. But hey, the first batter pitched to that day was Shawon Dunston, a guy I’m destined to by a beer for if I ever see him later in life.

  • Art

    April 16, 1971 Mets 1 Pirates 0 Only run on a Clendennon homer. Seaver 3 hit shutout with 14 K’s. What I remember most is how cold it was. People were going into the heated bathrooms at Shea just to keep warm.

  • My first game was in that magical fall of 1986. 8 1/2 years old, my dad pulled me out of school in mid-September to see the Mets play the Cubs at Shea. You remember when the Mets played the Cubs at Shea in September of 1986, don’t you? Doc Gooden pitched one night, went the distance, they won a ballgame, and the fans went crazy on the field after the game. I’m there the next afternoon, not really aware of anything that has gone on with the 1986 Mets season or Mets history at all. It could have been Tom Seaver pitching against the Mets that afternoon and not rookie Greg Maddux, and I wouldn’t have known the difference.

    Rick Anderson pitched for New York that day, it certainly wasn’t the star-studded lineup on the field. Howard Johnson hit a HR. And the Mets won 5-0. It would take a little bit more near the end of the next month to get me hooked though.

  • John B

    Mine is a little later than most… May 26, 1996, a 1-0 Bobby Jones masterpiece against San Diego. Bernard Gilkey homer in the first for the only run. I vividly remember the dark, drab colors of the sky that day (it was chilly and overcast), and the only two bright things I remember were the bright, perfect green grass and the blue of the outfield fence. I’ll never forget that brightness hitting me as I walked through the tunnel into Mezzanine section 13, nor will I forget my mother threatening John Franco when he loaded the bases in the 9th. But even at 6 years old, I was hooked for life.

    Great post, Greg, and happy anniversary!

  • August 5, 1975. I was 5. Mets lost a twilight doubleheader to the Expos, 7-0 and 7-0. Mets fired Yogi Berra that night. Wasn’t my fault. I don’t think. But I probably should have quit then.

  • KennyS

    May 7, 1970. 7-4 loss to Dodgers in 10 innings. Missed Seaver by one night, so we got Sadecki. Wes Parker hit for the cycle. Mets tied it when Von Joshua dropped a fly ball in right field. Dad (miss you) had to be up early for work the next day (game was 8:05 start) but we stayed until final out and didn’t get home until midnight. Knicks won NBA title a night later.

  • RobertH

    Saturday afternoon Sept. 19, 1970 vs. Pittsburgh. High up in leftfield upper deck with Cub Scout troop… Clemente, Stargell, etc. about to end Mets one year reign as champs. Looked up the game on Baseballreference and even umps were classic – Shag Crawford, Doug Harvey, Bob Engel and Harry Wendelstedt. Can still hear Lindsey Nelson reading off those names.

  • metsfaninparadise

    On July 11, 1973, they welcomed me fully into their world.

    I’ve yet to leave it.
    That’s the exact way I feel about my “fanhood,” though it wasn’t the result of attending a game-I don’t remember exactly when my 1st game was, though I do recall a Yankees bat day a couple of years earlier at which my brother received a (fullsize!) Bobby Murcer autographed bat, but mine was Curt Blefary. Who the hell was Curt Blefary to a 9-year-old? Everyone knew Bobby Murcer. Anyway, the day the Mets became a central part of my daily existence was Aug 31, 1973, when they began their upward climb to the pennant.

  • mikeski

    4/5/83.

    Return of Tom Terrific.

    • metsfaninparadise

      I was there too! Came all the way from college in Pa. in my 1970 Plymouth Fury that BARELY made it over the Poconos, bought a ticket from a scalper.

  • eric b

    I think my first game was 1983…I know I scored all the games I went to (1 a year…we lived about 2 1/2 hours away from Shea), and kept the programs so that I could remember them. I don’t…and I don’t have the programs anymore either.

  • […] I don’t know how many thousands of kids were getting their first live exposure to Mets baseball the way I did 40 years ago this month on my Camp Day. Given that these outings cast a dragnet over the lot of a camp’s participants and […]