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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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Don’t Be Screwin’ With Lewin

The best radio promotion I ever heard for the Mets aired the morning after they won the 1986 World Series. It consisted of every station in New York dwelling long and lovingly on the championship achieved in Queens the night before. There was no all-sports radio then, so the conversation was wholly organic, of the moment and impossible to affix a price tag upon. The formats didn’t matter. The hosts didn’t matter. All that mattered was the Mets were the biggest story in town, they had accomplished the biggest thing they could and, because they were on everybody’s mind, there was no way they weren’t going to be on everybody’s air.

So when the Mets in 2013 put out a press release to make official not just that their games will be heard on WOR, 710 on your AM dial, but that they and WOR parent Clear Channel will reinvent the wheel in terms of a “five-year landmark multimedia marketing partnership,” excuse me if I turn down the volume.

Clear Channel is a behemoth that owns a zillion radio stations, including more outlets in New York than the Mets have barely plausible first basemen. Games aren’t going to be broadcast on Z100 or Q104.3 or these other frequencies, but I guess when you hear some non-automated DJ suddenly launch into spontaneous praise of Jonathon Niese’s breaking ball from last evening out at rockin’ Citi Field, we’ll know it was bought and paid for. If this process somehow serves to ultimately ratchet up the excitement over the Met product, Met brand or the Met lifestyle and thus sells some additional tickets or merchandise or whatever allows our team to compete more effectively, well, go for it.

Mostly, though, I get the feeling the Mets had to issue a hype-laden press release, and it wasn’t enough to say, “Adjust your radio a few notches, see you in late February.”

Nowhere in the Mets’ missive touting their “multifaceted strategic alliance” with Clear Channel are Mets announcers specified, which kind of designates the lede for assignment. Besides knowing where the games can be found, all the Mets’ core constituency cares about vis-à-vis radio at the moment is who will be speaking into those WOR mics. Adam Rubin and others have been reporting Howie Rose is a lock to return but Josh Lewin’s status is unresolved.

The first half of that is great news. Howie is as much a part of Mets baseball as the skyline logo. After more than a quarter-century as a near-daily presence in our lives, he’s the aural equivalent of the Woolworth Building, at the very least.

The second half is unnecessarily murky and, from the perspective of the plain old Mets fan, stupidly mystifying. Josh has spent two years working his way up to Williamsburg Savings Bank status, logowise, and he’s done a damn fine job of it. I had my reservations when he was brought on board primarily because I identified him with Fox’s handling of baseball. I now realize holding a Fox microphone during a televised baseball game tends to lower an announcer’s IQ as if by corporate decree (with occasional Burkhardtian exceptions factored in, of course). Josh stopped being a Fox guy the second he sat down next to Howie. By the same turn, Howie’s creeping crankiness —a condition we all contracted via prolonged exposure to Wayne Hagin — commenced to receding when he partnered with Josh.

The team whose losing ways Howie and Josh have communicated may not have been much to listen for across 2012 and 2013, but the team Howie and Josh have formed has been worth tuning into, no matter Met fortunes on a given day or night. They know their stuff, which is no small statement after four years of Hagin sounding as if he just arrived from nowhere in particular. They maintain a terrific pace, which is also not a perfunctory compliment considering there’s an inside-the-park homer from 2007 that Tom McCarthy hasn’t yet finished describing. Best of all, they are splendid company to keep. When you get right down to it, that’s what a baseball listener wants and needs: voices with whom you want to spend the season, pitch by pitch, inning by inning, game by game.

I want Howie and Josh on that call. I need Howie and Josh on that call. I also want and need various morning menageries, whether Clear Channel’s or some other conglomerate’s, playing “We Are The Champions” on behalf of the Mets some future autumn a.m. (AM or FM) not because they are contractually obligated to but because it will be as accurate as the time and temperature they issue every four minutes.

There’s no better multimedia marketing promotion than winning. You don’t need the 105th caller to tell you that.

30 comments to Don’t Be Screwin’ With Lewin

  • 9th string catcher

    Totally.

  • March'62

    100% agree! Lewin should stay. Rose & Lewin form a great team – interesting, intelligent, funny, and Met fans to boot. I only hope that WOR finds an FM station to put the games on as well. It makes for easier listening. I can’t wait for pitchers & catchers.

  • Inside Pitcher

    Are there any petitions to keep Josh on the air?

  • Josh is a good guy and a good announcer. And while whether a manager was a Met or grew up a fan makes no difference, it makes all the difference in an announcer. You can get by with mediocre TV guys–though that is one of the few problems the Mets DON’T have–but radio guys have to be good or listening to games becomes a chore. That I can’t get 710 on my radio is another matter, but when the westerly wind blows favorably, I hope it is Josh and Howie telling me about the Mets wasting a bases-loaded, no-out situation.

  • JPB

    Agreed. There’s definitely a great chemistry between Josh and Howie. I do hope they keep the team together. Josh’s quirky sense of humor brings a certain Keith Hernandez quality to the broadcast. It’s great fun to listen to, especially his post game “What have we learned today?” thing.

    PS – The title on your post should be on a billboard somewhere on the Grand Central Parkway or Northern Blv. facing Citifield.

  • 5w30

    WOR ‘s demos are age 65 to in the ground, so it’s expected that the lead sponsor next spring will be Metamucil. Also high on cash for gold, catheterization, AARP ads. Other changes? Depends (also potential sponsor). As for the sidekick to Howie … Remember Howie has Fishsticks engagements all of March and maybe into May or June,k so the #2 guy needs to be the play by play backup, with an Ed Coleman type waiting in the wings as #3 man. Hopefully Lewin returns. he gets it. Coleman – bet stays w WFAN as beat reporter, but then again Eddie throws softballs and is perfectly Wilpon-ic. As long as that fraud Andy Martino isn’t allowed near a radio mic, Mets fans are fine.

    • Will in Central NJ

      Your assessment of the WOR demographics are tongue-in-cheek, but the alignment with Met fans on the street (above ground and vertical) seem close to accurate in real life. I posted earlier this year that I seem to see very few young fans wearing Mets gear in Central NJ or Manhattan. Most Met caps and gear were seen on heads/ bodies of folks over age 40. Just my observation.

      Maybe allying with Clear Channel and the likes of Z100 (my teen offsprings’ favorite station) will help rejuvenate the fanbase.

    • open the gates

      Hey, at least we won’t have to listen to those “Kars-4-Kids” commercials anymore.

      • Will in Central NJ

        I wouldn’t be surprised to hear the Kars-4-Kids promos follow wherever the Mets land. I will, however, be pleased NOT to hear Carton’s voice on commercials anymore.

  • Am I the only one who’s agnostic (at best) on Josh Lewin? I don’t mind listening to him on occasion, but there are times when his style gets on my nerves. I listen more than watch the Mets. Maybe that’s the source of my … discomfort?

    One example – Lewin uses about 6,000 different words to describe a thrown pitch. I know broadcasting probably gets repetitive and maybe he feels a need to mix it up, but to me it often just sounds so forced.

    Having said all that, I much prefer Lewin to Eddie C behind the mic. Good God, when he’s doing play-by-play it’s worse than major dental work. Wayne Hagin was not a very good announcer, but I didn’t mind Tom McCarthy.

    Regardless, the key is Howie. He has to return.

    • otb

      I don’t hear the radio broadcasts that much, mostly in the car. But Wayne Hagin did manage to annoy me, and Josh hasn’t, so that’s a point in his favor. I never noticed the “creeping crankiness” on Howie’s part that Greg mentions, but I am glad that it seems to have diminished with Josh as Howie’s partner. So yes, keep Josh and, certainly, Howie.

      The main point of my reply, however, is to resoundingly agree with your assessment of Ed Coleman. He just tries too hard to be one of the boys in the locker room, never failing to use the “in” nickname for a player. When he’s backing the play by play, he seems to feel obligated to comment on each play whether he has anything meaningful to say or not. When he goes to an interview on the pre-game show, he adopts a tone of reverence, more appropriate to a cathedral. I won’t miss Coleman at all if he doesn’t come along as part of the deal.

  • XYZ

    must every broadcast have a Star Wars and Seinfeld reference? Sorry, I’m just not crazy about Lewin.

    • March'62

      Actually, yes!!!! Every broadcast MUST have a Star Wars or Seinfeld reference. Not that there’s anything wrong with it.

  • Metzfan

    Howie is the best but truthfully he and Josh together spend way too much time on hokey Seinfeld references (Love Seinfeld BTW)and puns. Josh has a RADIO voice at times as well. LOVE Ed Coleman and Kevin Burkhardt though. That said, it’s a shame that you have such a jaded opinion of the Clear Channel deal. This is a huge boon to the team and the stadium and the area billboards and perhaps they will finally get the publicity and backing they sorely need. It is irrelevant how many stations CC owns as things are run locally. No different than CBS which had the Mets and Yankees and promoted both on their sister stations. If you want to be top dog you align yourself with the top dog for marketing and branding and reach.

  • ToBeDetermined

    I understand that they needed to finalize the Mets/WOR agreement before they could contract for and announce the broadcast team, but the tone of the reporting makes it sound like there’s somebody in authority who doesn’t want to bring Lewin back. Which would be a shame – Howie and Josh form the best non-Scully radio booth heard in baseball since Gary and Howie nearly a decade ago.

    Still… there’s something about having the Mets on WOR which just sounds right. Granted, it’s supposed to be WOR-TV, but that doesn’t even exist anymore.

  • Metzfan

    Actually WOR TV is still Channel 9 in NY. During prime time it CARRIES the CW network but it’s WOR all other times. News, morning shows, etc

    • ToBeDetermined

      Nope… Channel 9 is now WWOR-TV. They added the extra W sometime back in the 80′s when the TV station was sold — back then, they didn’t allow reuse of call letters across the AM/FM/TV bands unless they had the same ownership.

      I can still remember hearing Steve Zabriskie doing the game intro on the first day. I wondered if he was developing a stutter.

      • Metzfan

        Gotcha. I thought you meant that they were now the CW . Zabriskie was the worst. I remember one game, the Mets hadn’t hit a HR ina few games and they hit 2. He yelled “Yes! The Mets Power Shortage Has Been Turned Back On!” Fail.

  • metsfaninparadise

    I was curious to see whether the comments would be heavily pro-Josh; they seem to have been at first, but the loyal opposition seems to be making themselves heard, and I’m grateful. As I catch all my action online, I generally only listen to the radio broadcast when the TV feed is blacked out, usually by FOX. I. too, have felt that Josh makes too many pop-culture references; not only the “biggies,” such as Star Wars and Seinfeld, but Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, broadcast TV that I’ve never seen, and who-know-what else? Rap songs? Howie’s necessity goes without saying, Ed Coleman is an old pro and I hope he comes along, but I the best I can say of Josh is that at least he’s not Wayne Hagin (or Tom Bodette, as I liked to call him) or Tom McCarthy (whose heart clearly never left Philly).

  • Penacious H

    Actually, my recall from hearing an interview of Tom, is that McCarthy grew up a Mets fan in Central NJ; when the opportunity arose (after Harry Kalas’ death) to be the top TV guy, Tom must have thought this was a shot at a great, career-lasting position. Can’t blame him for that (by the way, pre-Phillies/Mets, McCarthy was the voice of the Trenton Thunder (waaay back when they were the Red Sox AA team)…so much so that when I listened to the Thunder/B-Mets playoff series this past September on the radio, the current php guy announced they were “broadcasting from the Tom McCarthy broadcast booth” at the Thunder home field (no Peerless boilers, there…).

    I commuted home to Howie and Josh on the radio this past Summer; I really enjoyed Josh’s patter, and actually find Howie to be the one who struggles more with overwrought vocabulary… I really hope Josh is invited back.

    Does anyone have the sense of the reason Josh might NOT be back? Was his contract simply two years and they’ll be meeting at some time soon? Or are there performance concerns on the Mets’ part? Or is Josh looking into other options? In any event, I will also be delighted if he’s back. Eddie C., “to be honest with you,” as he always says, I would enjoy more if he stayed a beat reporter for FAN. Let’s Go Mets!

  • Rob D.

    “no question”
    “At this point in time”

    Coleman-isms

  • Joe D.

    It comes down to not how many stations Clear Channel owns and will carry and/or promote the Mets or what the demographics of their current listening audience is but rather how many want to tune in and listen to the Mets.

    It wasn’t as if there were many unable to tune in WFAN due to it’s weak signal…. :)

    I think what might hurt keeping radio listeners focused on the Mets will be the absence of listening to callers coming on after the post-game wrap up. Don’t know how many will switch stations to listen to the FAN immediately after the game to discuss it there, or even if they would be able to since the former flagship station will quite often still be airing a Yankee game and after that will be inundated with Yankee callers following their own post-game show – just like it used to be with the Mets beforehand.

    Whatever promotion the Mets might get with Clear Channel I think will be offset with the promotion they will lose no longer being on FAN. Besides the vital post-game callers which kept the subject of the Mets on the airwaves way past the end of the game, so many of us who tuned into FAN early before the game because it was a sports station might now catch up with the game after it begins.

  • That Adam Smith

    By the middle of year 2, I was absolutely convinced that Howie could no longer stand the sound of Hagin’s voice. Which put him about a full season behind me. I live on the west coast, and so I mostly listen to the games on radio. I wasn’t sure about Josh at first, but his knowledge of the team’s history and his quirky sense of humor quickly grew on me. Plus, for the first time in years, it sounded like Howie was enjoying doing the games again.

    I don’t know if there’s a petition to keep him, but there ought to be.

  • vin

    Lewin is unlistenable…I know several people who shut the radio off after 3 minutes of his nonsense..the Mets can and should do much better…I think powers that be realize this and are dragging their feet…can they promote Kevin Burkhardt who is outstanding and likable if they can reauire him from that dasterly NFL/FOX complex?

    McCarver on occasion? Unlikely…Interested in more of your comments on FOX’ handling of MLB broadcasts because I think ratings would go up drastically if on a regular network (except CBS who really screwd MLB in 1990s) so NBC/ABC..baseball was best on NBC but somehow that relationship was alienated by a long fired “smartest guy in the room” sports and programming director who wished the 1997 WS would not go 7 so he could show Seinfeld (which simply could have been aired at a special time on Friday or delayed annual reruns by a week. Also heard Lewin on Fox and MLB and could never listen to him! Maybe an ex player like Mazz or the like would be a nice fit to draw listeners and appeal to broader base?

    • 9th string catcher

      Wait – you think Mazzilli is an improvement over Lewin? Between the heavy brooklyn accent and the sportslunk mentality, I’d be throwing the radio (or other handy digital device) out the window. Yuck. I agree that Burkhardt would do an excellent job, and I think he’s completely under utilized as a sideline guy. Hey, he’s no Gary Cohen, but then, who is?

      • Penacious H

        Agreed on Maz: he’s quite good when he subs (subbed?) for Bobby O. As far as KB, I wonder if a move to radio (unless it’s for a ton of cash) would appeal to someone whose career is taking off.

        I mean, Howie must’ve been disappointed when Gary took the TV lead and he was relegated to radio. I think he’s TERRIFIC, but I gotta think being sent to radio is perceived in the industry as less prestigious, no?

        Maybe being in Lewin’s age range helps one enjoy him…he is way ahead of so many past Mets radio guys–the nice but misplaced Wayne, Lorne Brown, even Steve Albert (as in, whatever became of…) didn’t get it done…and then there was Murph, whose skills no doubt eroded (and voice…damn cigarettes) but with Cohen by his side, was phenomenal! I hope to hear Josh back in March…when maybe the new end of inning jingle will be “Let’s Go Mets–seven-ten!”…or not

  • Tristram Shandy

    I join those who are not so crazy about Lewin. I think he dumbs down the broadcasts with pop references for kids and too-frequent, middle-school-worthy comments about Chris Majkowski (sp?). I want to come away from a broadcast having learned something, and Lewin doesn’t teach me anything. McCarver always does, and I’d welcome him back in a minute. I’d also welcome back Gary Thorne. I suspect that’s not very likely, though.

  • sturock

    Does anyone realize this team has barely played a meaningful games in at least five years? Considering the circumstances, both Howie and Josh are great. They have a nice generational rapport and their sensibilities seem to blend well. Should the Mets actually play a string of exciting games, I think you’ll notice a distinct lack of pop culture references. I hope Josh makes the move to WOR along with Howie. He’ll do just fine.

    I mean…just allow yourselves to imagine for a second that the Mets’ announcers are John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman. Imagine what that would be like. Think of how bad it could really be.

    Our radio (and TV) guys are good!

  • TJHinNYC

    Josh Lewin is a good listen. Period.