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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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A Football Fan Salutes Baseball

On Super Bowl Sunday, we like to take our cue from the singular WNYC radio host Jonathan Schwartz and present A Salute To Baseball, though to be fair, we present A Salute To Baseball most every day. We’re a baseball blog. What else are we going to salute? It’s what we do. But it’s not what one of the more authentic football fans I’ve ever known normally does, so I thought I’d yield the floor this Super Bowl Sunday to him…and let him salute baseball.

Our special guest baseball-saluter’s name is Mark Mehler, and he’s a New York Football Giants fan like I’m a New York Mets fan, except maybe more so. He’s certainly been at it longer. You know how, in pre-PSL days (that’s personal seat license, not Port St. Lucie), you used to hear about the Season Ticket Waiting List for Giants games and how you couldn’t hope to move up because Giants fans never gave up their seats? You can blame Mark for that phenomenon. He’s been holding his season tickets since 1964. He’s not giving them up, except maybe to catch the bus back to the Port Authority if he judges the game’s been decided beyond of a shadow of a doubt early enough.

Mark was well into his season-ticketitude when I first discovered the Giants, which was on the heels of discovering the Mets and the Knicks in 1969, except the Giants weren’t nearly as good. I was lucky enough to go to Knicks games when I was a kid (the last time being a Knicks fan felt like a stroke of good fortune) and you know I’ve made it to my share of Mets games since 1973, but as regards my favorite football team, do you know when I got to my first Giants home game?

2014, that’s when. It never really occurred to me I could go, what with that long and legendary list of people who got there in front of me, including Mark — whom I didn’t know until 2013 but who’d been going to Giants games since they were ensconced at the first Yankee Stadium, then the Yale Bowl, then Shea for a year, then Giants Stadium and finally MetLife, where a Giants game ain’t quite what it used to be, according to my source, which is Mark, who finds the new place cold and corporate and laments, “Something special’s been lost, forever.” Yet he returns most every Sunday there is a Giants game there because he likes to, “in the poet’s words, live in the along. And I find new friends to join me on a fan’s journey.”

Young Mark Mehler (artist's approximation).

Young Mark Mehler (artist’s approximation).

I got to be that new friend early in the 2014 football season, so early that a Mets game was going on in sync with the Giants game. That, of course, is why the good lord made transistor radios (yes, there are now apps for that, but I’m old-timey that way). The NFL was looking bad last September — Mark wrote a heartfelt protest to John Mara over how the league was handling its domestic-abuse policy and boycotted the season-opener — but since this was an invite 45 or so years in the making, I wasn’t declining. I donned my freshly purchased for the occasion MANNING 10 tee, shoved my radio in my pocket, hoped WOR would come in loud and clear in the swamp and took a seat next to Mark in Section 144 of Cold & Corporate Stadium, the rough equivalent of a nice third base-side view from Field Level.

Got a good look at the game (it sure is violent from up close) and had a great time with a Giants fan who is quicker to invoke the barren years between 1964 and 1980 (0 playoff appearances) as a badge of honor than the bounty of periodic Super Bowl jubilation that followed, though he made clear he’ll always appreciate that shimmering quartet of Lombardi Trophies. Fans are like that, letting you know what’s been tough before getting around to mentioning what’s been beautiful. We who usually take our seats in Queens are like that. One could argue, given the general tenor of Met results from 1987 forward, that we’d be delusional if we weren’t.

The Giants beat the Texans that day in September, just as the Mets, over surprisingly reliable 710 AM, were definitively takin’ care of Braveness. I represented good luck, Mark told me as he dashed for a beat-the-crowds bus. I was deemed such good luck that I rated a second invite in December, which I approached with a measure of trepidation only because it was December and I maintain a strong aversion to freezing. But it wasn’t a terribly cold Sunday and it wasn’t like the Mets presented a conflict.

Glad I returned so soon. Odell Beckham, Jr., put on a show; the refs did the Giants a solid at the end of the first half when they disallowed a Washington touchdown on the other side of the field from us; and Big Blue pulled away convincingly enough in the fourth quarter that Mark could grab another early bus back to the city. My good-luckishness was apparently certified in advance of 2015. Without me, the Giants went 4-10, which is more or less what they always went between 1964 and 1980. With me on hand twice, they went 2-0. If I’d been on hand for all 16 games, home and away, they’d be preparing to beat the Patriots in yet another Super Bowl today.

If that were the case, Mark’s mind would likely be squarely focused on football. But since it’s not, he graciously decided he could put aside his primary passion for a bit and offer his very own, completely inimitable Salute to Baseball. In the spirit of former Mets pregame radio co-host (with Ralph Branca) Howard Cosell on The Odd Couple, after Howard shoved a play-by-play microphone in antagonist Oscar Madison’s face and Oscar completely froze, he refers to the following as…

EVERYTHING MARK MEHLER KNOWS ABOUT THE NEW YORK METS
Okay, here it is, in no particular order, my all-time live (non TV) Met memories (not necessarily in order of their magnitude). Your memory of these events, even those that took place before you were born, is likely more accurate than mine. But here goes.

1) 9/21/01 — Memory No. 1 with a bullet. I’m still sorting out all my emotions from that night. Doubt I ever will complete that task. Piazza so belongs in HOF.

2) 1963 — Doubleheader vs. Phils. Carl Willey and Tracy Stallard, of all people, pitched masterful complete games and Jimmy Piersall rounded bases backwards on a HR to commemorate his birthday 100th homer. Simply Amazin’.

3) Home Opener ’63. Razzed Howard Cosell who was trying to interview Duke Snider before game. Ernie Broglio two-hit Mets. About 10 of us cut school to attend. My mother was seriously pissed.

4) 1984 vs. Pirates. Doc struck out 16 in the most dominant pitching performance I’ve ever seen live. Even better than Righetti’s no-hitter on July 4, the year before.

5) 1973 World Series (Game 4 — Matlack beat A’s). The first WS game I ever attended. We got caught in horrendous traffic and I had to resort to public urination on the Whitestone Expressway. But we made it to our seats before first pitch.

6) 1962 — Mets vs. Houston Colt 45s. Mets won something like 13-1. Apart from their first win ever, this was arguably the highlight of their inaugural season.

7) 1964/65 — All those glorious summer days and nights, taking in World’s Fair and a ballgame. Usually sat out in right field and dialogued with Joe Christopher, a favorite of ours.

8) 1973 — Was living nearby in Woodside. Went to a lot of late-season games, which have sort of merged into one in my memory. I most remember being awed by the play of Cleon Jones and just everything falling beautifully into place down the stretch. It was easy to believe (check out Tug’s explanation of why he never got nervous throwing a pitch).

9) Coming back from Giants-Redskins MNF ’86, pulling into Times Square and hearing the wild cheers.

10) Marching against war in Oct ’69 in Boston, with a radio playing Game 4 glued to my ear, the Mets on the side of the angels. Your boy pitched great that day.

Mark opted to omit “the bad stuff — i.e. Oliver Perez melting down on last weekend of ’07, etc. Who wants to remember that?” But he did throw in a bonus recollection.

ONE MORE ALL-TIME MET MEMORY
Spring 1978 — taking my ex-wife to see her very first baseball game at Shea. It was like being in the middle of a Bob Newhart routine — the one where he’s Abner Doubleday trying to explain the intricate workings of baseball to a bunch of 19th-century businessmen. It was all quite beyond my ex, but I remember we laughed an awful lot and Mark Bruherd didn’t last through the fifth.

“Mark Bruherd” is actually Mike Bruhert, but he did warn me my memory of these events was likely more accurate than his. Then again, I never razzed Howard Cosell while he tried to interview Duke Snider.

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