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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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Making Met Things Perfect

Whatever scale of tribute they pursue, I trust the Mets to do right by Ralph Kiner in death. They did just fine by him in life.

Ralph Kiner was inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame, alongside Bob Murphy and Lindsey Nelson, in 1984, nine years after the team heartily toasted his induction as a (non-Met) player into Cooperstown. A plaque portraying his likeness has been hung in the Mets museum since it opened in 2010. In that same exhibit space, there is an interactive kiosk devoted to Mets announcers, with Lindsey, Bob and Ralph featured prominently.

The television broadcast booth at Shea Stadium was named for Ralph Kiner in 2002 and the designation was seamlessly transferred to the Citi Field press level. In 2003, Ralph and Murph were the subjects of a shared bobblehead that more or less resembled the men in question. The Mets threw a stupendous Ralph Kiner Night in 2007, attended by 51,742 and appreciated by the vast majority who witnessed it. Over the past decade-and-a-half, as his everyday presence diminished, Ralph was invited to throw out first pitches on outsize occasions, was given special on-field introductions and remained part of the Mets announcing corps on whatever basis he could contribute. It was good for the Mets, it was good for the last of the three original Mets announcers, it was fantastic for us.

The Mets clearly recognized the gem they had in Ralph Kiner and the 14-karat connection he forged with multiple generations of Mets fans. Management treated him as an heirloom rather than a relic and allowed him to shine to the very end. I doubt they’d do anything to dismantle his legacy now that he’s gone, and of course I hope they take every step possible to not just preserve it but embellish it.

Most importantly, though, they did right by him in life.

Since Ralph’s passing Thursday, I’ve seen the outpouring of affection and emotion encompass an impulse that has become common when a beloved figure leaves us, particularly in sports. The news barely sinks in before it is wondered what will be done to honor the individual we lost. Perhaps it’s a reflection of how we reflexively wish to keep the spirit of the departed alive for as many extra innings as we can that we are almost instantly moved to want to name, erect, emblazon, display and enshrine. Quiet remembrance amongst ourselves just never seems sufficient when public sadness overtakes us.

In the case of the Mets, the wondering tends to be laced with wariness. This is the Mets, the organization that generally has to be badgered into celebrating or sometimes simply acknowledging what they represent to the people who love them most — the Mets who seem to take perverse pride in not getting what their lore means to their fans. To put it kindly, when it comes to reveling in Metsiana, the Mets veer to the suffocatingly subtle.

Will the Mets wear a patch honoring the memory of Ralph Kiner in 2014? I’d book it. Will there be a ceremony to mark the totality of his 52 seasons as a Mets icon? On Opening Day, I’d assume. Will some segment of left field be officially dubbed Kiner’s Korner, as has been suggested by several bright people? I don’t know. I’d like that. You probably would, too. Will the Mets break their persistent boycott of statuary for, ideally, a substantial work of art that portrays Messrs. Kiner, Murphy and Nelson occupying the airwaves they made theirs forever more in 1962? Based on the Mets’ track record in such matters, I wouldn’t bet on it.

The Mets will probably be the Mets about it. Whatever they do will inevitably be tasteful, classy, heartfelt and somehow not quite perfect enough. That, I’ve come to realize, is how it can’t help but be.

But isn’t it the Mets’ job to make Met things perfect? Yes it is — which is why they will never come close to achieving and maintaining Met perfection. What is their job is our passion. We are going to care more than they do. It’s unavoidable. The caringest Met employee will not care about hundreds of Met details as much as tens of thousands of the caringest Mets fans care. They can only think about so many Met things in the course of a day. We never stop dwelling on Met things. When they get a Met thing right, they can take satisfaction in a job well done. We are never satisfied, because we know Met things can always be done better. They are paid to take care of Met things. It is our mission to perfect every Met thing that crosses our collective mind and it never occurs to us that there’s a reward beyond the perfection itself.

Not that we’d ever achieve perfection, because our process doesn’t allow it. We’d always have one more idea to put into action, one more flourish with which to adorn the tableau, one more “wouldn’t it be great if…?” morsel to make complete our feast of expression. I’ve rarely been in a conversation with fellow Mets fans that ends with one person putting forth a thought and everybody else concurring that the issue at hand has been solved. We’re not about solutions. We’re about taking issues to the next level.

Nevertheless, Metsopotamia’s insatiable appetite to achieve a state of Marvana should not be taken by the Mets as license to squirm out of their responsibility as tenders of the family jewels (so to speak). They can’t say, “ah, these fans, they’ll never be satisfied, just play ‘Sweet Caroline’ really loud and shoot a few more t-shirts at ’em.” They have to absorb our passion and our energy and spin it back to us in a manner that will take our breath away. They may not be able to do it this year with a proven major league shortstop — and they don’t necessarily have to do it with a statue of Ralph Kiner — but they’d be well-served to recognize what makes our souls hum and our pulses pound.

They should notice at times like these, when each and every one of us takes the death of someone most of us never met absolutely personally, that the Mets are more than a “brand” or a “product” to us…and we’re more than an “audience” or “customers” for what we continue to invest in from them. They should realize, if they haven’t already (and they probably haven’t), that we interpret Mets history as our history. It’s the history of the people who wear the team on their sleeve and in their heart as much as it’s any nine players who’ve taken the field on our behalf.

We — that is us and what the Mets mean to us — are no less intertwined than Ralph, Bob and Lindsey. Nobody’s building a statue to Mets fandom, either, but it ought to be evident how monumental it really is.

19 comments to Making Met Things Perfect

  • Art Pesner

    Well said and so very true.

  • Dave

    You know that sometime this week, some putz with an MBA is going to sit down at his desk somewhere behind an “authorized personnel only” door at CitiField and do a cost benefit analysis of different Ralph Kiner tributes and almost tasteful memorial products. Because that’s how the Mets operate. There’s a reason the Times folded the Sports section into the Business section.

    • Jim

      There is a reason why no one realized the Times folded the Sports section into the business section…no one buys the paper edition, its been like a decade now

  • dak442

    This may be the vestigial thinking of a 12-year-old sorehead in 1979, but I don’t put Nelson anywhere near the same level as Murph and Kiner. Lindsey left us for another team. Bob and Ralph are eternal; Lindsey broadcast games for a couple of years.

  • 5w30

    Lindsey Nelson was a Mets broadcaster from 1962 through 1978. More than a couple years. Nelson was the broadcaster with national experience and a stellar reputation.

    • dak442

      I was only a sentient baseball fan for his last 7 or 8, hence my lesser appreciation for him. Plus I was agog that someone would actually choose to leave the Mets, regardless their level of play at that point.

      • NickD

        I’m with you. Lindsey’s betrayal was painful and disgusting. But also – he seemed somehow like the best announcer of the three, which made it even worse. I ADORED Bob Murphy, his voice was truly glorious and wonderful – but I always got the sense that somehow Lindsey was a slightly more polished and professional announcer, even as I preferred Murphy. And while we’re at it — I’m all for the outpouring of love and affection that we’re raining down on Ralph the last few days, but he was was essentially just a cranky old guy sitting in the booth with the other two, though his presence was sometimes redeemed by his inadvertent malaprops and poor grammar, and of course the immortal aphorism “Two thirds of the world is covered by water, the other third by Garry Maddox.” I loved them all, but I never got the sense they were actually, you know, a great team. But, like the Mets, they were ours. Lindsey broke that up.

  • Noreen

    Beautifully written. Goes right to the heart and soul of every true Mets fan.

  • Chris F

    ‘We interpret Mets history as our history. It’s the history of the people who wear the team on their sleeve and in their heart as much as it’s any nine players who’ve taken the field on our behalf.’-Greg Prince

    I’ve read a lot of your words over the years whether online or in your books but those might have been your best. You nailed it , As usual.

  • Ed

    I think it is our responsibility to remember Ralph in our own way. I doubt the Mets will do much more than give Ralph a nice page in the yearbook and commemorate his passing on opening day, though it would be nice to bring back ‘old timers day’ and give Ralph a tribute that day. I’m sure that Gary Cohen, Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez will commemorate him all year similar to when Gary Carter passed away. Wouldn’t it be nice if SNY was able to locate KINERS KORNER videos and put them into a series like “Mets Yearbook”? Old games too but I digress.

    As for putting something on the wall, I’d put a Microphone next to the retired numbers in honor of Nelson, Murphy and Kiner. I don’t think it would be fair to salute one without the other. Even though Lindsey left us after ’78, he played a huge role in the early days of our franchise. I believe the Mets will do right by Kiner’s memory but each fan has it in his own heart what would be an appropriate farewell.

  • oldbat

    One of my most treasured Mets memories was that interview with Gary Cooper. In my memory Carter just looked bemused as Ralph went on to say that he welcomed him to the Mets. I don’t even why I watched it except that Carter seemed such a great addition to the team. And I’ll miss the Liz Taylor date story as well. And most of all I’ll miss those wonderful times when he visited the broadcasting booth and spun out all the stories of his years in baseball and his inexhaustible memories that meant so much to baseball fans.

  • Rob D.

    This sounds way out of left field, but it would be very cool if no Met wore number 4 this year.

  • […] In either case, Greg Prince of Faith and Fear in Flushing says, no matter what the Mets do, it will be tasteful, classy, heartfelt and somehow not quite perfect enough >> Read More […]

  • John G

    Statue – Citifield has no statues – Yea Seaver should have one in full wind-up…but statue of all three announcers – Seen plenty of announcer statues around – Harwell, Carey…should have one for sure…

  • […] In either case, Greg Prince of Faith and Fear in Flushing says, no matter what the Mets do, it will be tasteful, classy, heartfelt and somehow not quite perfect enough >> Read More […]

  • Kevin from Flushing

    I’ve thrown this out there before and I’ll do it again: the TV and Radio booths should have the names Ralph Kiner and Bob Murphy posted on the outside, facing the field, so that the fans could see the names. It’s an incredibly small effort that would mean so much. If you’re not going to put them up alongside 37, 14, 41, 42, and Shea, they should at LEAST be by the booths of their namesakes.

  • Jack Selma

    I think the Kiner’s Korner idea is just about perfect…and, of course, a patch on the uniform.

    I have great affection for Ralph (and Murph; though I agree with the commenter above that Lindsay went down a notch in my Mets book when he took his blazers to SF), but no statues until Seaver gets his.

  • Guy Fein

    My wife and I met in 1957 when her team (the Dogers) and my team (the Giants) moved to the west coast. We married in 1961 and in 1962 went to the first home game the Mets played against Pittsburgh. We were hooked. In 1986 we celebrated our 25th anniversary on a Mets cruise to the Carribean which featured Mets players (Carter, Strawberry, Orosco, and others) as well as Ralph Kiner and Bob Murphy. At a “party” for Mets fans on the cruise, the fans crowded around the players, but I had the opportunity to speak with Ralph Kiner for almost an hour, belly up to the bar. It was great! I had remembered Kiner as player so we could reminisce about his playing days as well as enjoying the euphoria of a great World Series win. Greg Prince is 100% correct: the Mets ownership (and management such as Mr. Alderson) really don’t realize how much the real Mets fans love the team, no matter what. Yes, the Mets should honor Ralph Kiner with a dedicated “Korner” in left field as well as a patch, and they should honor Kiner, Murphy and Nelson with a statue in the rotunda. Both the Dodgers and the Giants are long gone: honor THIS TEAM!!!

  • David Keating

    The Mets should 100% wear a patch this season to honor Ralph. It would be a shame if they overlook this. The question should really be what the patch will look like? Any suggestions?

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