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66 Ways to Leave Your Flagship

The Mets aired their games on WMCA, 570 on your AM dial, for five seasons. They weren’t much good then, and the sound quality might have left something to be desired, but they and we survived. From 1967 through 1971, the Mets called WJRZ-AM home. As the call letters imply, ’JRZ was a Jersey-based station, in Hackensack. That was the first station on which I listened to Mets games, even if I was on Long Island. It came in OK, apparently. And its geographic location didn’t prevent 1969 from transpiring. The miracle was all right there at 970.

I listened to the Mets on WNEW-AM when they weren’t playing Frank Sinatra or Ella Fitzgerald. I listened to the Mets on WRVR-FM when they weren’t playing Miles Davis or Herbie Mann. I listened to the Mets on WNYC-AM when they weren’t airing city council hearings. I listened to the Mets on WHN before and after they went country. I listened to the Mets on a Pittsfield, Mass., affiliate when I was driving home from Boston one Sunday afternoon when I was young and daring enough to take spur-of-the-moment road trips.

Mostly, though, I’ve listened to the Mets on WFAN, which has been a four-letter acronym synonymous with my team (and there are lots of them) since July 1, 1987. Starting with the NLCS pregame Mets Extra of October 7, 1988, WFAN, formerly at WHN’s ancient 1050 slot, could be found at 660 AM. It rained that Friday night, but the Mets were back on the air at their new home on Saturday afternoon and, seemingly, forever after. With the exception of a handful of season or playoff conflicts when you’d suddenly have to rely on a WEVD or a WBBR, you could count on the Mets residing at Sportsradio 66, WFAN.

Count no more.

Word has spread [1] that the Mets will be airing elsewhere in 2014. No more WFAN-AM. No more surpassingly handy WFAN-FM (101.9 comes in beautifully on the 7 train; who knew?). The ’FAN has opted to shift to the dark side. We don’t know yet where the Mets will land. WEPN-FM, 98.7 FM — better known as ESPN Radio — seems a logical fit. Grand old WOR-AM, 710, has been mentioned as well. Other frequencies are out there. How many are a fit for baseball remains to be heard.

This is unfortunate for all the reasons you can conjure. The WFAN brand, despite the presence of objectionable afternoon drive time hosts, is still powerful, and if you’re a sports franchise, you’d probably rather share your air with compatible programming than Rambling with Gambling (or Eye-Rolling with Michael Kay). The WFAN signal is unquestionably powerful on the East Coast, and that’s no small concern if you suddenly find yourself deprived of easy access to it. Habit may be the most powerful pull of all. You flipped to 660 without thinking for a Mets game (just as you tune out your better judgment if you decide to listen to Mike Francesa). It was simple, comfortable and an intrinsic element of the baseball season for a quarter-century.

But so were WHN and WNEW and WJRZ and the rest of the alphabet soup that informs our AM heritage. Mets games will be broadcast (by Howie Rose and Josh Lewin — the team determines the announcers, and the team does that well, at least) and somebody will plug in their microphones so they can be heard reasonably far and wide. Maybe not as clearly or as at great a distance from the originating signal as before or by quite as many people as usual, but the bulk of Mets fans will be served. And of course there’s the MLB At Bat app and SiriusXM and, as I’m sure my tech-savvy partner could rhapsodize over, emerging iFork technology all combining to make the humble radio ever more obsolete minute by minute.

We’ll survive. We always do.