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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
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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The 31 And Only

On October 2, 2005, Mike Piazza entered the home clubhouse at Shea Stadium, removed No. 31 from his person and left the building. No. 31 didn’t go anywhere.

But now it will.

No. 31 heads for the esplanade above the left field wall at Citi Field, right where it’s belonged (give or take some architectural adjustments) since there was a left field wall at Citi Field. Mike Piazza announced his retirement in 2008. Citi Field opened in 2009. Ceremoniously revealing No. 31 out there amid the handful of other officially decirculated numerals would have been a fine way to welcome the New York Mets and their fans to their new home. It also would have represented walking while chewing gum to a franchise brain trust that was preoccupied with reminding us that another team once played ball in an adjacent borough.

So No. 31 waited quietly to make its big appearance. It waited seven Citi Field seasons. It won’t have to wait out an eighth.

On Monday, the Mets announced Mike Piazza’s No. 31 has been granted the same exalted status extended Casey Stengel’s No. 37, Gil Hodges’s No. 14 and Tom Seaver’s No. 41. For the first time in 28 years, the Mets will retire the uniform number of a Met.

Ain’t that Thirty-Onederful news?

It never seemed unlikely, but with the Mets, you couldn’t tell. Mike Piazza was their main man for eight seasons, almost all of which were spectacular for the player, two of which were stupendous for the team. He was singularly to 1999 and 2000 what Seaver was to 1969 and 1973. He was as good as there was in his era in a Mets uniform, a uniform in which the Mets won, in great part, because of him. In many places, that gets your number retired. Here it got your number set aside. We figured the day would come when it would get its proper due.

The day will be Saturday, July 30. The Mets will dedicate an entire weekend to Mike Piazza one week after the sluggingest catcher ever is inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The timing doesn’t seem coincidental. The Mets took their honoring cue from Cooperstown, as if No. 31 couldn’t be hallowed in the Mets’ midst until somebody else vouched for its transcendence.

Seemed an unnecessarily drawn-out formality (just like Mike’s election to the Hall), but if that’s what it took, then consider No. 31’s passport to the uppermost echelon of Met magnificence stamped. It doesn’t get any more elevated than the space above the left field wall. That’s where your number goes when there are no words left to say.

Mike Piazza’s Met deeds often left us speechless. No. 31 will now and forever speak volumes.

12 comments to The 31 And Only

  • dmg

    as my son says, the mets are doing everything right this week. can i get an amen?

    they did miss a bit of poetry by setting the formal retirement of the number for saturday, july 30. it should have been the sunday — the 31st.

    no points off. and let me be the first to put in an advance order for the new, happily revised version of fafif’s signature t-shirt.

    • NostraDennis

      First thing I thought of too, dmg.

      Next two on Mets’ bucket list ought to be #8 and #17.

      I look forward to ordering another generation of FAFIF shirts with each successive addition to this list.

  • Dave

    Well for starters, congrats to Mike. This is quite an honor, very well deserved, and we all know that he holds Mets fans and the organization very close to his heart, and obviously, the feeling is mutual.

    The Mets are sometimes a bit clumsy with this kind of thing, not so much the retired numbers as much as those they’ve placed in mothballs. To me, either a number is retired or it isn’t. It’s pretty obvious that 8 and 17 are out of circulation, but not until all kinds of Desi Relafords and Dave Gallaghers and Mike Bordicks and David Newhans have worn them. Hard to tell Keith, “well, we love you so much that once Jason Anderson and Jose Lima were done wearing #17, we’re not giving it out to anyone.” And the #24 thing for Mays is borderline silly…not like we had him for his best years.

    But of course far sillier is the team in the Bronx, where “well, he had that great at-bat in the 1996 World Series” is grounds for retiring a number, and someday they’ll be forced to go alpha-numeric and/or use triple digits.

  • Dennis

    Congrats again to Mike and are updated FAFIF t-shirts coming?

  • Kevin From Flushing

    I love that I’m not the only one asking about updated FAFIF shirts.

    Finally–there’s no more anxiety as it pertains to Mike Piazza’s legacy (knock wood). No more griping about Cooperstown. No more staring and wondering at the Great Wall of Flushing (the Flushing Wall of Greats?). Mike Piazza finally has all the accolades he deserves…

    …until it’s time to start yelling about statues again.

    In all seriousness this makes me SO happy. I’m part of the post-Seaver generation of Met fans, and it’s always tugged at me to not have a personal connection to any of our retired numbers. This is meaningful.

    Now, will Mike get a VIP entrance named after him to follow suit?

  • We will make updated shirts. Bless you all for asking.

    Does anyone have a shirt from a print-on-demand company that they thought was really good quality at a reasonable price? We’re shopping around for a new vendor.

    • Matthew

      Maybe Darren from the 7 line? His shirts are pretty comfy and I imagine he would be interested in the subject matter

  • argman

    Congratulations to Mike. I love these ceremonies, but particularly when they are for players who really deserve them. The Mets have been maybe overly selective, but as Dave mentions this is to be preferred to the practice of our neighbors in the Bronx.
    The Seaver ceremony was one of my all-time favorite moments at Shea, I think really only topped by Game 6 of the ’86 World Series.
    I’m going to Martin Brodeur’s ceremony next month, and will plan on being in Flushing come July 30.

    • DAK442

      Good luck with that. I intended to be there 7/30 (as I was for Seaver’s ceremony), but the Mets ticket site says the game is “sold out or appears to have limited availability”. I imagine they’re holding them back for ticket plan packages, as they are doing for Opening Day.

      I guess this is the price we pay for Met success. They hadn’t sold out Opening Day in years, now I can’t go unless I buy a 20-game plan. Ugh.