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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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New York Mets: The Musical

You know how every winter of late Sandy Alderson goes to the New York Baseball Writers’ Dinner and makes a modestly clever remark about the financially deprived state of the New York Mets and you either chuckle knowingly or fume disgustedly or perhaps a bit of both? That Alderson’s quips draw as much attention as they do isn’t necessarily because the general manager of your favorite baseball team needs better material off and on the field.

Blame what the BBWAA dinner has become. I’ve never been to one, but I watched some of the most recent edition on MLB Network. Nobody ever thought to televise it before. I can see why. People in formalwear stand and give speeches and present plaques to other people who stand in formalwear and give their own speeches. It reminds me of my father’s annual take on the Oscars:

“It’s like watching a bunch of plumbers give each other awards.”

If you’re a fan of the plumbing industry, that might be mesmerizing, though I’m a fan of what some refer to as the baseball industry and this wasn’t. Only so many handshakes, thank-yous and winking acknowledgements that “oh dear, I forgot to procure a better shortstop” can go toward producing an hour of quality television. Maybe it’s better in person.

Now, the New York Baseball Writers’ dinner in the old days? That’s the stuff of legend. It has to be, in a certain sense, for it was never televised. Yet it strove to be entertaining and it regularly succeeded, a result I gather from having absorbed references through the years to the show the writers put on.

“Baseball writers put on a show?” you may find yourself asking. “You mean one longer than 140 characters?”

Absolutely they did. From reading Keepers Of The Game, Dennis D’Agostino’s wonderful oral history of the press box deans from a bygone (or at least rapidly bygoing) era, I was reminded what a big deal this was. Dave Anderson, in the book’s preface, gave the gist of how it worked.

“If you were a beat writer on a New York paper, you acted in the skits at the annual New York Baseball Writers’ Dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria, a theatrical rite of baseball’s offseason that eventually perished…”

Per the late Maury Allen, who covered the local teams for the Post, the production amounted to the social event of the cold-weather months.

“The writers show was Broadway quality. I’ve got to give credit to [Dick] Young — he wrote a lot of the great lyrics. [Leonard] Koppett was sort of the father of the dinner for a lot of years, and [Jack] Lang did the business end. Everyone performed and took it very seriously.”

Since video does not exist, it’s up for interpretation as to what “Broadway quality” meant. In D’Agostino’s book, Pepe remembers parodying “Bye Bye Birdie” in tribute to “Ron Blomberg not being able to hit lefthanders”. It went something like, “Vida Blue…makes such a schmuck of you…bye bye Blomberg.” Not bad in context, I imagine, and as long as Twitter had yet to exist, one assumes no harm, no foul — even if the record indicates Blomberg of the Yankees was a lifetime 0-for-1 hitter against Blue of the A’s.

The writers may have taken the process as seriously as Allen suggested, but, according to Maury, it wasn’t so serious that everybody wasn’t having a blast.

“[Y]ou got up, had your breakfast, and went to the Hotel Americana to work on the show. This went on for three weeks. The ultimate was that, every night after you rehearsed, you went to Shor’s and had free dinner and a few drinks. The night of the dinner was an all-nighter. Even a guy like me, who didn’t drink a lot, stayed there all night because the stories and the tales and the fraternity were so overwhelming you couldn’t walk away from it.”

So why did the writers walk away from the show? Times — and time demands — changed. No matter how wistful he was for it, Allen admitted today’s active BBWAA members “work just as much in January as they do in July.” The masters of the genre were beginning to recede from the scene (Young, Koppett and Lang are all gone and good luck tracking down Toots Shor) and the next generation didn’t pick up on it. Pepe told D’Agostino, “Guys today, for the most part, have no idea how big the dinner was. Sometimes guys with a real sense of history, like Marty Noble or Pete Caldera, will ask about the old dinners and shows. God, I wish I still had the scripts. For a while I was saving them, and then I threw them out!”

The chapter chairman who pulled the plug on the shows was J.G. Taylor Spink Award-winning killjoy Bill Madden in the early ’80s.

“They were very good, very clever, and people loved them. But by the time I took over as chairman, it was like pulling teeth to get anyone to come to the rehearsals. Young would walk in and say, ‘Ahhhh, I’m doing this song,’ hand you the music, and you had to fit it into the show somehow. A couple of the previous chairmen had arranged it so that they would sing the signature song at the end of the show, and it was awful. It just wasn’t working. I made up my mind that we weren’t going to have a show anymore.”

So on some level, blame Dick Young. Mets fans know how to do that.

Madden replaced the show by hiring a standup comedian. I’m not sure if they still bring one in or they decided Alderson’s jokes serve the same purpose. Either way, at least in the retelling, the idea that baseball writers would rewrite musical numbers to lampoon what was going on in baseball sounds like it was a grand tradition.

Did somebody say “TRADITION”?

***

Without further commercial interruption, we are about to bring you the postmodern revival of the New York Baseball Writers Show, set to the tune of selected musical numbers from Fiddler On The Roof, the long-running 1964 Broadway musical that portrayed so memorably how hard life was in the small Russian village of Anatevka during the time of the czar. Apologies and gratitude to composer Jerry Bock, original lyricist Sheldon Harnick, author Joseph Stein and producer Harold Prince, a gentleman for whom my father — no relation to Hal — occasionally received misdirected phone calls when Fiddler was a smash and Dad had an office in Manhattan. Thanks as well, then, to Charles and Sandra Prince for taking my sister and me to see it when I was eight. David Lipton starred as Tevye; he was no Zero Mostel, I suppose, but I didn’t know the difference.

Also, hat tip to standup extraordinaire Jeff Hysen, as ever, an essential element of the process.

Ladies and gentlemen, Franchise In The Hole.

***

[SPOKEN]

A franchise in the hole.
Sounds crazy, no?
But here, in our little village of Flushing Meadows,
You might say everyone has put our franchise in the hole.

Trying to scratch out an encouraging 81 or more wins
Without breaking the bank…
It isn’t easy.

You may ask,
Why do we stay down here
If it’s so unfulfilling?

Well, we stay because Flushing Meadows is our home.

And what do we strive for?
That I can tell you in one word:
Contention!

[SUNG]

Contention, contention!
Contention!

Contention, contention!
Contention!

[SPOKEN]

Because of our desire for contention,
We’ve maintained our faith for many, many years.
Here in Flushing Meadows,
We dream constantly of contention.

When we sleep.
When we eat.
When we work.
When we wear clothes.

For instance,
We often keep our heads covered
And sometimes wave a little hit towel.
This shows our eternal devotion to contending.

You may ask,
When were we last in contention?
I’ll tell you…

I don’t know.

But we still hope for contention.

And because we so crave contention
Every one of us knows who he is
And what it is we are expected to do.

[SUNG]

Contention, contention!
Contention!
Contention, contention!
Contention!

Since Two-Thousand Nine, they’ve finished near the bottom
Stayed under five-hundred, haven’t had a prayer
And yet every night, he ladles out quotations
Never, ever griping; doesn’t even swear

The Captain, the Captain!
Contention!
The Captain, the Captain!
Contention!

Who must know the way to fill a lineup card
Effective bats
And all the stats?
Who must communicate with everyone
So his players won’t complain?

The Skipper, the Skipper!
Contention!
The Skipper, the Skipper!
Contention!

His background stems from legal school
He rarely makes a trade
He’s running a small-market shop
Here in New York City!

The GM, the GM!
Contention!
The GM, the GM!
Contention!

And who’s responsible
For getting us in this fix?
Where when Spring Training starts
Our team no expert picks?

The owners, the owners!
Contention!
The owners, the owners!
Contention!

***

[SPOKEN]
Terry, Terry!
Sandy the Metmaker is coming…
Maybe he’s finally found a good Met for us!

From your mouth to Fred’s ears.
Why is he here now? It’s almost March.

Well, somebody has to make the Mets…

[SUNG]
Metmaker, Metmaker
Improve our team
Lower our odds
So we all might beam

Metmaker, Metmaker
Make a few calls
We want to do more than dream

Metmaker, Metmaker
No more Mike Vail
We’ve seen prospects shine
Yet more prospects fail

Text your counterparts who are ready to deal
We want a contender for real

Get Tulo
For cents on the dollar

Get Desmond
So we can win rings

Someone who
Won’t make us holler
That we’re stuck again
With Triple-A things

Metmaker, Metmaker
Find a shortstop
One who can lunge
And field a short hop

Every September I’m sitting alone
You’re dormant too long…
Please atone!

***

[SPOKEN]
Oh, dear Lord!
You made many, many bad ballclubs.

I realize, of course
It’s no shame to be out of contention.
But it’s no great honor, either.

So would it be so terrible
If someone else
Owned our favorite club?

[SUNG]
If I were a Wilpon
Oh, I wouldn’t trust a Madoff with my very tidy sum
I wouldn’t obsess upon those Brooklyn Bums
If I owned the New York Mets

I wouldn’t plan my next mall
Or install as my successor my not so charming son
All day long I’d eschew real estate
If I owned the New York Mets

I’d open luxury boxes to kids by the dozen
Invite them to occupy my suite
Promenaders welcome to move to the seats below

Ample escalators to ferry you up
And ramps like at Shea winding down
And Bobby O still on the postgame show

I’d fill our yard with the best and the brightest talent
For our crowds to see and cheer
Playing just as splendidly as they can

Each line drive and strikeout, stolen base and homer
Would knock our opponents on their rear
I’d do it all for every true Mets fan

If I were a Wilpon
I would talk to reporters and not always keep mum
Instead of having lawsuits, we’d be having fun
If I owned the New York Mets

If I were a Wilpon
I wouldn’t stop at Duda, d’Arnaud and deGrom
My customers would not be served the crumbs
October we would no longer shun
You can BET we’d be in contention
If I owned…the New York Mets!

***

[SPOKEN]

Here’s to our rotation!
Here’s to its depth and youth!
And most important…

[SUNG]

He’s back, he’s back!
Matt Harvey!

The Dark Knight, the Real Deal
The ace!

He won’t be at Ranger games
Canoodling his latest flames
The great Matt Harvey
Is back!

He’ll win, he’ll win!
Matt Harvey!

He’ll make like
It’s Twenty Thirteen!

Prepare fifth-day liturgy
Dismiss his surgery
Harvey Day’s coming…
Tonight!

***

[SPOKEN]

Quiet down! Quiet down!
Quiet down!

[SUNG]

Is this the Virginia kid we drafted?
The Gold Glove who made that barehand play?

He was gonna win five World Series
With Jose…

When did he get to be a veteran?
How did his tenure reach the moon?

Wasn’t it yesterday he’d get here soon?

Dave Wright, one Met
Dave Wright, one Met
Too rarely in first place
Phenoms age overnight past thirty
And no longer slug the other way

Dave Wright, one Met
Dave Wright, one Met
Suddenly a dozen years
One season following another
Laden with devastating tears

He’s still the face of our doomed franchise
He’s signed for the rest of this decade

I hope the right field fence is close enough
By Opening Day

I hope his shoulder holds together
Come autumn, I pray he sprays champagne
It feels his whole career’s been delayed by rain

Dave Wright, one Met
Dave Wright, one Met
Here he goes again
Ever stoic and determined
No wonder they named him Captain

***

[SPOKEN]

Hmm…
They’re beginning to look like a contender.

On the other hand,
What kind of contender can they be with such a small budget?

On the other hand,
They do have pitching and some defense.

But on the other hand,
They haven’t gone all the way in ages.

On the other hand,
They can only get better.

I think I’m gonna believe.

I’m sorry already.

[SUNG]

Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles
Teufel shuffled Daniel once again
Shoved him in a shift and miracle of miracles —
Murph caught a ball hit right at him!

Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles
They pulled the walls in twenty feet
Granderson swung and miracle of miracles —
The ball he hit went plenty deep!

When McGraw told Grant “you gotta believe”
That was a miracle

When Buckner couldn’t bend to tie his shoe
That was a miracle, too!

But of all Met miracles large and small
The most miraculous one of all
Is despite little having gone our way
We still shout “Let’s Go Mets” today!

Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles
Collins brought Lagares off the pine
Sent him to center and miracle of miracles —
Terry figured out Juan would be fine!

When Swoboda robbed Brooks Robinson
That was a miracle

When Melvin Mor’appeared from out of the blue
That was a miracle, too!

But of all Met miracles large and small
The most miraculous one of all
Is the one that we so wanna believe:
The Mets contending in
Twenty…
Fifteen!

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