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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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Via Wrigley With Love

The Cubs and my father are enmeshed in my oft-told Mets fan origin story. It was my dad who’d bring home the Post — when it was an afternoon paper — that featured the recurring cartoon that I credit for sucking me into the ongoing storyline of the 1969 season: the Mets duck doing battle with the Cubs bear. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say I would’ve found my way to the Mets by some other means had John Pierotti not drawn and personified those wonderfully representative creatures, but I can’t deny that the cartoon didn’t offer me a way in when I was six. The illustrations provided enough impetus for me to read the headlines and flip the paper back a few pages to start making sense of standings and box scores.

The Mets were pursuing, catching and passing the Cubs. The duck was triumphing over the bear. The first championship I would vicariously celebrate, that of the National League Eastern Division, was arriving.

Yay Mets. Boo Cubs. Thanks Dad.

Charles Prince’s role in making me a Mets fan was understated. As I always feel obligated to point out, lest anybody lean on an inaccurate script, he was not a baseball fan. He did not pass down to me some great fondness for the game let alone a particular allegiance. Truth be told, he couldn’t stand baseball most of the time, periodic exceptions notwithstanding.

But let’s retrace my steps. Dad supplied the Post, so he has to receive some of the credit. He let me pull it out of the outer pocket of his briefcase before he was necessarily done reading it. He let me spend time with the sports section and anything else that caught my fancy (this was the Post of Dorothy Schiff, before Rupert Murdoch, so it was written for adults, yet suitable for children). One of his habits was to read to us during dinner. Not in some formalized children, gather round, your father is educating you way, but to share something he read on the train. “I read a really fascinating/funny story today,” he’d start telling my mother, and before I knew it, he’d grab the Times or the Journal or commandeer back from me the Post.

My dad valued reading. I valued reading.

He had already instilled in me that as New Yorkers we rooted for New York teams. My first exposure to any kind of team sport came earlier in 1969, when we rooted (without success) for the Knicks to topple the Celtics in the NBA playoffs. There was no weird predilection to side with Boston in that series, so I was certainly never going to choose Chicago when my eyes opened to baseball. Dad’s example was clear: we root for the home team. Our home was New York.

Oh, he also provided the home in which we watched TV and read the paper. That’s pretty important, too. He gave me a slight allowance, much of it going to local merchants of Topps baseball cards. When I got a somewhat more substantial amount, magazines featuring stories about baseball players were my investment. It paid off mostly in dust (I kept a messy room) and personal intellectual capital. Except maybe once or twice when perhaps something else was frustrating him did he suggest it wasn’t the best use of my funds.

Dad didn’t cultivate my Mets fandom as much as he passively indulged it. He certainly never threw up any obstacles. He bought the tickets to what was going to be my first Mets game. OK, so my pediatrician put the kibosh on it, and I’m bitter to this day we didn’t go, but the thought was present and the thought continues to count. The whole family tried again a few years later. It was a great game to me. It was a burden to him, my mother and my sister. Still, we went. A couple of years after that, once I’d suggested it strongly enough for it to be taken seriously, we took a trip to Cooperstown. It was a long schlep, but he actually seemed to enjoy it.

Growing up in New York in the 1930s and 1940s, it’s not like Charles Prince never encountered baseball. It was ingrained as the National Pastime, unquestionably the city game. He liked the Dodgers. His father liked the Yankees. My dad was keenly aware of all three teams, even if he told me he didn’t know too many Giants fans. The tipping point that left him lacking a passion for the game that would draw me in and never let me go was a Memorial Day doubleheader at Yankee Stadium in 1945. Too many innings. Too many people. Too much shvitzing. Too much sarsaparilla (he never much cared for root beer, either). Maybe my grandfather and great uncle who took him enjoyed themselves as much as they could, considering the Bombers only split with the Tigers, but my father had had enough baseball to last him a lifetime.

Most indelible image ever.

Scene from a divisional duckfight.

Then came 1969, when I took the Post out of his briefcase and was charmed by Pierotti’s duck and lost myself in the agate type and never stopped loving baseball or the Mets. To the extent that he thought of it all, I’m guessing he viewed both of them — baseball and the Mets — as my friends who came over after school and stayed for dinner. He was mostly polite toward them. Now and then he’d dip into an old story, throw an old name into conversation, recall that when he and my mother were living in Brooklyn in 1955, it was quite exciting watching everybody celebrate the Dodgers’ first and only world championship. If I began to reminisce (and I commenced reminiscing at a tender age) about 1969, he’d recall coming out of Penn Station just after the Mets won the World Series and how all of Midtown was one big party, sort of like Brooklyn in 1955.

That brings up two points:

1) My father was a bit of a frontrunner when it came to baseball. The ’55 Dodgers. The ’69 Mets. Circa 1978 he gave me the impression he liked the Yankees, partly to bedevil me, partly because sometimes bandwagons grab a person’s attention. By the mid-1980s, he was every bit the Mets fan most New Yorkers were. I accepted his rather rapid conversion to the cause as something I assumed resided deep within him the whole time.

2) My father was coming out of Penn Station just after the Mets won the World Series. Why was a man who commuted dutifully early every morning from Long Island emerging onto Seventh Avenue as the Post was entering its prime PM sales window? On October 16, 1969 — and this is the capper to my origin story — he took the morning off from work to take me to the eye doctor in Brooklyn. We lived in Long Beach. Our doctors were all in Brooklyn. It occurs to me now that whenever I’ve moved, I’ve been slow to transfer loyalties to new establishments and have unnecessarily traveled an extra few miles to get my hair cut or my tires checked. It finally dawns on me where I get this from.

Anyway, he took me to the eye doctor because I poorly expressed some vision situation to my mother and she interpreted it as something being terribly awry, Chuckie, you gotta take him to the eye doctor. The date of the appointment coincided with Game Five of the World Series. In Those Days, to invoke a phrase men spiritually rooted in another era enjoy employing, the World Series was played in daylight. The deal couldn’t have been sweeter. I got out of school legitimately. All I had to do was put up with the eye doctor, get back in the car and plant myself in front of the television.

Doctor, my eyes have seen the Mets. Now let me see if they can win it all. Except I did not enjoy the sensation of drops in my eyes. I still don’t, but at the age of six, I hadn’t yet learned to remotely tolerate that which I could not stand. I yelped and I moaned and I shuddered. I did not want those goddamn drops in my goddamn eyes.

If I wanted to use my eyes to see the World Series later that afternoon, my father warmly but sternly informed me, I’d sit still and take the drops.

I took the drops. My eyes were fine. I watched the Mets win the World Series.

Yay Mets. Thanks again, Dad.

So, as my oft-told origin story always concludes, I was hooked, and here I am [FILL IN NUMBER OF YEARS DEPENDING ON WHAT YEAR THIS IS THAT I AM TELLING THIS STORY] later, still hooked. In 1970, with the hook well in me, the Post was still publishing in the afternoon, my dad was still bringing it home and the Cubs were still lingering on the periphery of my vision. They were in another divisional duckfight with the Mets, so much so that when the two 1969 rivals gathered at Wrigley Field for a five-game series in late June, and I was available to watch an entire doubleheader on Channel 9, I clearly remember being extra delighted to greet my father when he came home from work that night.

I assaulted him with the bulletin he hadn’t been waiting to hear: the Mets had swept the Cubs that day, won four straight, were in first place, and if they won tomorrow, they will have won all five…which they did the next day (the only five-game road series the Mets have swept, by the way). My father feigned enthusiasm, permitting me to have at the Post so I could examine the line score from the first game of the twinbill. That was one of the beauties of the afternoon paper. If a day game ended early enough, you’d see the score. Never mind that I already knew the score. Validation was on the back page. The Post printed not only final line scores of early games (and late West Coast games from the night before the morning’s News probably missed), they printed partial line scores. If there was, for example, a businessman’s special in St. Louis or Cincinnati, you might see the first couple of zeroes that had put on the board before the Post had to go to press. Or you might see the probable pitchers listed for a 4:05 game just getting underway in San Francisco as you were just getting ready to board your train. No score at all, but the sense that something was happening while you were riding the LIRR.

Charles Prince, in his extensive prime.

Charles Prince, in his extensive prime.

Today you’d just click refresh. Or you’d set your app so you didn’t have to do anything but stare. In 1969 and 1970, you’d light up another Newport and maybe plan to call your bookie from a pay phone once you got off the train. Damned if I know the value of a blank line score, but I loved staring at it.

The Cubs couldn’t help but be central to partial line scores on the back page of an afternoon paper. They played nothing but day games at home. They no doubt logged more column inches in New York than they deserved based solely on a refusal to install lights at Wrigley Field. Throw in the duck, the bear and those two years when their games against the Mets made all the difference between first and second place (permanently in 1969, fleetingly in 1970), and it’s no wonder I think of the Cubs when I think of my dad bringing home the Post and me plucking it from his briefcase for Metsian purposes.

You couldn’t miss the Cubs on the Mets’ schedule In Those Days, which were days that extended well into the 1990s. We played five N.L. East teams eighteen times a year. Along with the French-Canadian novelty of the Expos, it was the Cubs who stuck out as a distinct Met opponent no matter what was going on in the standings. The Pirates and Phillies each played in the same stadium, more or less. The Cardinals were a vague presence in our lives until 1985. The Cubs were Wrigley Field nine afternoon games every season through 1987. Then came lights. Then came realignment. Then went the Cubs off to all-other land.

It took me ages to get over the derelevantization of the Cubs, particularly the lack of regularly slated weekday Mets games from Chicago. We get one now and again, but mostly, at least when we play them, they’re a night kind of town. Wrigley remains apart from everywhere else, yet many of their games start when more or less everybody else’s do. They have lately retrofitted in not just lights, but the modern accoutrement every ballpark has. Pac Bell, PNC and so many others were inspired by Wrigley, yet Wrigley concerned itself with jamming a Jumbotron onto its premises. In the spirit of In Those Days, I will add It’s Just Not The Same Anymore.

But you roll with the flow. The Mets weren’t in fierce competition with the Cubs? We lathered up for other opponents. The Mets didn’t receive an afternoon oasis in their routine? We tuned in later. The Mets were going for a pennant against the Cubs?

The Mets were going for a pennant against the Cubs? This was, on some level, my dream come true. I’d claimed to have hated…sports-hated, mind you…the Cubs long past the Mets-Cubs rivalry’s expiration date. A little piece of me was always watching in 1969 and 1970, the duck feuding with the bear on the back page of the Post and all that. The parameters worked if I wanted them to. We clinched a division at Wrigley on the day after the final day of 1973 (eliminating the remnants of the formerly fearsome Cubs the day before) We were at each other’s throats, or perhaps ankles, in the late ’70s and early ’80s, as the Mets and Cubs seemed to be trading off fifth and sixth places annually. Then came a genuine divisional race in 1984 that didn’t turn out as desired; then another semi-showdown in 1989 with another displeasing result. The Cubs padded off to the Central, yet we viewed each other with disdain from afar amid the 1998 Wild Card stakes (which also wound up sucking). Chicago rarely made its New York presence felt thereafter, though there were a couple of moments worth preserving in Flushing: the Victor Diaz/Craig Brazell spoiling of 2004, the five-run ninth of 2007, the final Shea walkoff win of 2008.

What we got in 2015 was something that would have been impossible to have experienced in 1969. We got a Mets-Cubs NLCS. They had to layer in extra playoffs to make it happen, but it came to pass. If the Post was still on its natural publication schedule, it would have called for extra editions.

Funny thing about last October was after all the years I salivated for a Mets-Cubs playoff, I could gin up no additional venom for the opponent of the hour. I wanted the Mets to prevail. I wanted whoever they were playing to succumb. That was all I wanted. I took no particular fervor from Chicago, home of the cartoon bear, trying to block the path of New York, home of the cartoon duck.

Nor, I imagine, did my father. I’ll also go so far as to imagine that if a Mets-Cubs NLCS had come to pass in any previous season in which three-division play made it theoretically possible, between 1995 and 2014, my father wouldn’t have cared whatsoever. He was on a long baseball hiatus. His deep-down Mets fandom that emerged in the mid-1980s evaporated in the early 1990s. He got caught up in the Teamwork Dreamwork Mets, just like my mother did. My mother died in 1990. His interest in baseball passed fairly soon after. It took me a spell to catch on. I still tried to talk baseball with him, tried to watch baseball with him, tried to express to him how much baseball meant to me and I thought it sort of, kind of meant to him.

It never took. At most, I got a “that’s nice” from him. The Mets went to a World Series in 2000. Dad shrugged. I started writing about the Mets in earnest in 2005. Dad didn’t get it. I told Dad I was writing a book about being a Mets fan in 2008. He told me there were probably better things I could be writing about.

I didn’t talk to him for two-and-a-half months after that.

We made up. Of course we did. We were father and son. I didn’t care that he didn’t love baseball. I was a little put off that he had no use for what I was doing, but he came around when the book came out in 2009. He told me he read it and liked it…though he confided to my sister that he didn’t necessarily agree with every aspect of my portrayal of certain family events — “Rashomon,” he reasoned, invoking the movie in which everybody tells the same story but with his own set of details.

My relationship with my father as my father grew older was mostly small talk. We honed it to a fine art, I believe. We talked about sports, global and national headlines, weather, maybe a human interest or pet story and a TV or movie review. We were essentially a weekly version of News 12 Long Island. His life had meandered in one direction, mine in another. We weren’t extraordinarily close to begin with. I loved him. More importantly, I liked him; I liked him like Sally Field reveled in being liked. That’s why I wished we had been closer. My attempts to forge a tighter bond — with baseball, without baseball — never went anywhere. Eventually, I shrugged. Good small talk was better than no talk at all.

You know he took ill in 2015 and I’ve described at length how we latched onto baseball together as the Mets tore through the National League last August and September. I’ve mentioned how much it meant to him and me to watch the World Series together. I’ve told you he died last week. So I’m not going to revisit all of that again. If anything, I want to get past his illness and remember him more like I knew him in his remarkably extensive prime — with baseball, without baseball. Mostly without, to be honest.

But I do have one strand of the Mets part of our story I don’t think I’ve ever delved into. It’s from last October. He was in the nursing home where he was administered palliative care, so his condition had already crossed over. His memory, so rich in detail, was growing spottier (particularly disconcerting for a son who is alleged to remember everything). His ability to conduct a conversation sputtered, which frustrated him when he was aware of it. I was missing our small talk. When one of us would call the other for twenty years, I took large delight in staying on the phone a little longer than usual. Maybe something was really good on TV that week. Maybe I hit on a nostalgic button that got him going. Any chat that wasn’t dominated by lingering pauses was a personal victory.

When we spoke on the phone in the fall of 2015, it was because he was insisting the nurse hadn’t come around when he rang for one. These calls came late at night. He didn’t know it was late at night. Sometimes his first question was “is it night or morning?” He’d call at 1 AM and want to know why lunch hadn’t come. The only thing he seemed to have no problem remembering was my phone number.

That was the Dad I was dealing with in the fall of 2015 when he wasn’t getting stirred up over the Mets. The Mets were playing for the pennant. That stuck with him. If the Mets were playing big games, he knew I’d come over and watch. I came over and watched other things with him; it wasn’t the same. We had truncated chats about other things; they didn’t click. He conflated the Mets and me. I suppose he always had. For the first time, it meant something to him.

We watched the Mets clinch the NLDS against the Dodgers together. He was pleased, but I don’t think he quite got the magnitude of it. It was just another playoff series. Basketball had playoffs. Football had playoffs. Not every victory is outsize. But a pennant is something else. If you’re from the 1930s and 1940s like he was, you got the significance of a league championship. There’s a reason Russ Hodges screamed like a lunatic on behalf of the Giants in 1951. Pennants were something else In Those Days.

We watched the Mets win Game Three of the NLCS against the Cubs together, a night game at Wrigley Field. He was pleased again. It meant the Mets were one win from the World Series. The World Series was what I promised him in August, when the Mets were more than one game away. Somehow we landed on its lip. I don’t know how I arranged it, but it happened.

Game Four we didn’t watch together. It was a conscious decision on my part. Game Four was my turn to recap here. If the Mets won the pennant for the first time in the history of Faith and Fear in Flushing, I wanted to be at my computer not too many minutes after the final out to capture the moment. If I was gonna do that, I couldn’t be with my father. So I wasn’t.

And y’know what? I’m glad I wasn’t. Because a few minutes after Jeurys Familia struck out Dexter Fowler and the Mets became National League champions for the first time in fifteen years, my phone rang. It was my father.

He wasn’t asking where the nurse was. He wasn’t asking where lunch was. He wasn’t wondering if it was day or night. He knew exactly what time it was.

It was time to call me and tell me, “Congratulations. They won the pennant. That’s really something.” My dad was as coherent as I’d heard him since he returned to being a full-time patient in August. I didn’t think I was talking to a man who had only so many months left. I was talking to a man who’d seen plenty and understood what he was looking at on television and realized it was a big enough moment in the life of a baseball team that he had to share it with the biggest baseball fan he knew.

Frontrunning has its privileges.

If we’d watched the Mets clinch the pennant together, I have a pretty good idea of how it would have gone. By watching separately, I received perhaps the greatest unexpected phone call of my life, from my father to me, via Wrigley Field. There would never be another phone call quite like that in the nine months he had left. Given that our relationship had been mostly phone calls for so long, it felt perfect, just like that pennant won against the Cubs in Wrigley Field under the lights.

I assured Dad I’d be up to see him in the following days, and I was. It wasn’t as good as the phone call, maybe because there was no Mets game on. Then came the World Series, which was better in theory than in actuality, at least our two games together, One and Five. We tried. The Mets tried. No dice. I know it meant something to him, though. He brought it up on and off during our subsequent visits — how he still had it in for the Royals, how he looked forward to our watching the Mets in the World Series together next year (he said it with such certainty that I began to believe he, I and they couldn’t possibly not make it that far again). He kept referencing it until he was incapable of referencing much of anything. My favorite moment in this regard came when we had the Chiefs-Texans AFC playoff game on in January. He repeatedly asked who was playing, who was winning. When it finally sunk in who one of the combatants was, he perked up:

“Boo hiss! I HATE Kansas City!”

Yes, Dad, I said. So do I.

***

We formally said goodbye to Charles Prince on Wednesday afternoon, July 20, 2016, in a rather simple service at the National Cemetery, part of the vast cemetery complex at Pinelawn. Dad was a veteran (defending the shores of San Francisco during the Korean conflict), so we availed ourselves of the outdoor military ceremony the VA said he’d earned. His only request was to be cremated; he didn’t care to know what would happen next.

A two-man honor guard participated. One of the servicemen blew “Taps”. Then the pair rigorously unfolded and folded an American flag, presenting it to my sister and me jointly, acknowledging Dad’s service to our country. When they completed discharging their duties quite honorably, Suzan read aloud a brief biography she penned, explaining who Dad was, where he was born and how he came to the life he lived. After leading us in the 23rd psalm, she turned the program over to me and I read a remembrance that I am sharing with you below, so you get an idea of what it was like, Mets aside, for me to have grown up the son of this man. There followed some heartfelt remarks from Florence, his “significant other” of nearly 25 years, and then a few more from her lovely granddaughters, Charles’s de facto granddaughters. When the speaking was done, Suzan and I were led to the wall in which the urns of loved ones are stored for what we on earth laughably refer to as eternity.

Suzan and I placed my father’s remains in his little locker together. That part was scripted. The next part was my own touch. I reached into my suit jacket pocket and removed the orange rally towel that I had hung, with Dad’s permission, on his nursing home bulletin board when I came over to watch Game Five of the Dodger series. It was from Game Three at Citi Field. It said, of course, Let’s Go Mets. It stayed up through the rest of the postseason, then the offseason, then into this, the next season. It probably explained why Dad managed to keep the Mets top of mind all those months. “Let’s Go Mets” stared at him every day. The Mets reminded him of me. A picture of me and the rest of the family was at the side of his bed, but after a while, he couldn’t turn his head. When the nursing home swept up his possessions and packed them into several Hefty bags in the hours after his passing, I asked Suzan, who was picking up his belongings, to make sure to return the towel to me. She presumably thought I wanted to re-add it to my amorphous blob of Metsiana.

Peering into the abyss of the eternal cubby (seriously, that’s what those urn compartments look like without their ornate doors), I took out the orange towel, which was folded as carefully and diligently as any flag, and placed it atop the urn. When my mother was prepared for burial 26 years before, I requested a button commemorating the 1986 World Champions, one I had given her after that World Series, be attached to her dress.

I have one move, I suppose. As my father would say when he didn’t want to dig any deeper for an explanation of his motives, what can I tell ya? Or was it, what can I say? Suzan and I remember it differently…à la Rashomon.

I didn’t want to make a fuss about what I had done — you don’t always want to be seen as the walking embodiment of the logo of your favorite professional sports team — but when we returned to our makeshift congregation under the canopy the cemetery provided, Suzan announced softy to all, “I just want you to know he went with a Mets rally towel.” After my brother-in-law Mark led us in the Mourner’s Kaddish and pressed play on his phone so the theme to “The Milkman’s Matinee” could send Charles off to the music he enjoyed, I had at least one attendee come up to me to compare notes. “When my father died,” he said, “I put a Mets cap in there with him.”

Mark had found something online about an Israeli folk tale and jelly doughnuts and maybe funerals. I didn’t quite process the note-for-note significance (he admitted it had no basis in scripture), but the idea that all the mourners who weren’t averse to sugar consumption should partake of something sweet was a nice one, so Munchkins were handed out, giving everybody an excuse to stand around a little longer and chat amiably under the canopy about the departed. After a fashion, we all got going. Stephanie and I walked into our living room at exactly 2:20 PM, first-pitch time for the Mets and Cubs from Wrigley Field. They were playing a day game at that venue on this day of all days, almost as if assembling a second honor guard, an LGM for PFC Charles Henry Prince. Given the gift of such beautiful if coincidental scheduling, I doubt I can ever pretend to hate the Cubs again (until the next time we see them, at least).

As if that weren’t enough, it was a throwback uniform game. The Mets dressed like it was 1986, the Cubs 1988. My dad and I watched them play each other in both of those seasons, years when the Mets went to the playoffs, years when we watched the Mets together quite a bit. We watched them play the first night game that counted at Wrigley in 1988. At the time, I considered it an affront to nature — a National League game in Chicago under anything but natural light was simply wrong.

In light of our telephone conversation from late in the evening of Wednesday, October 21, 2015, when the Mets won the pennant on the road from the Cubs and my dad sounded better than he ever would again, I stand corrected.

Long may it wave.

Long may it wave.

***

The following is what I wrote for and read at my dad’s service.

Today is Wednesday, and there was a time in this country that, if you watched enough television, you were reminded constantly that Wednesday was Prince Spaghetti Day. The commercial that established it as fact was very big when I was a kid. Don’t think my contemporaries on the school bus didn’t latch onto it.

When you have a name like Prince, people are going to make what they are certain are original, amusing remarks to you. They want to know how the spaghetti was last night. They want to know how much you made off your album, “Purple Rain”. In the days when you had to drop your film off somewhere to be developed, I can recall a several-minute dialogue regarding “prints for Prince”. It comes with the territory. It’s all intended in good fun, I’m sure, but after a while, you’ve heard it enough.

Mostly, the allusions are in the royal family. “Oh, you must be a real Prince!” or something like that. I’ve heard it a few thousand times, and I have a fairly innocuous first name.

Now imagine you’re Charles Prince, or as it usually winds up on a last-name-first form, “Prince, Charles.” It’s too good for people to pass up. “Oh, you’re Prince Charles!” he was told repeatedly. He always took it in good humor, as if he was hearing it for the very first time…which he wasn’t.

I don’t know what the famous Prince Charles with whom my father shared an accidental moniker is like around the castle, but whatever qualities are ideally attributed to a lower-case “prince,” my father, Charles Prince, had them in spades.

He was never less than cordial. He was ceaselessly gracious. He treated every single person he encountered with genuine respect. He acted as if nobody was beneath him.

Would you expect anything less from a prince?

I can tell you first-hand that the phrase “prince of a guy” absolutely fit this man. Which is not to say his regal bearing didn’t have a few wrinkles to it.

I knew the Prince of Absurdity, the guy who said of a vanity license plate that identified its bearer as HARRY, “Look, Greg, they turned Uncle Harry into a car.” Mind you, Uncle Harry had passed away a few weeks before, and my dad loved his Uncle Harry, and he immediately berated himself for such impertinence, but I could tell he thought it was pretty funny. And so did I.

I knew the Prince of A Lost World, the guy from a time before my own who loved to tell stories of his grandmother making him soup; of FDR talking to him and the rest of the nation on the radio; of the gentlemen who worked in the back at Prince Valet Dry Cleaning on 82nd Street in Jackson Heights and how they were so nice to him; of the wonders of the 1939 World’s Fair; of a semi-pro baseball team he referred to as the “old Bushwicks,” who played at Dexter Park; of the easily riled track coach at Newtown High who didn’t like what was written about him in the school paper; and of his buddy who wrote the critical article hiding in the closet so the coach wouldn’t find him. Dad made all these long gone personalities and places come alive for me over and over again.

I knew the Prince of Saturday Afternoons, the guy who would take me along on necessary errands. The guy who would take me to “take a haircut,” not “get a haircut” like everybody else said. The guy who put up with me screaming at the sight of the buzzer the barber used to clean up my sideburns. “No machine and no pinch on cheek,” he liked to tell me I told my first barber when I was two…he liked to tell me that a lot. The guy who explained, after I asked, why cabs where we lived didn’t cruise around like they did in the city (it was because it wasn’t economical, he said). The guy who told me to get in the front seat with him because he wasn’t a cab driver. This was mundane stuff, but I loved doing it with him. I learned a little more about the world every Saturday through his eyes when I was at my most impressionable.

I knew the Prince who watched TV in his boxer shorts and undershirt. The Prince who stacked newspapers practically to the ceiling because he planned to read them all eventually. The Prince who could be buttoned-up as any executive could possibly be as he spoke in hushed tones on the telephone with a candidate for a position he was attempting to fill. The Prince who would laugh uproariously if so provoked by friends or relatives or Archie Bunker or Mary Richards or even me. The Prince who prized the conceptual over the anecdotal. The Prince who used words like “conceptual” and “anecdotal” at the dinner table. The Prince who was rarely judgmental but informed me quite seriously that only an idiot would wear white socks with black shoes, go upstairs and change them. The Prince who insisted there was a wartime baseball player named Frenchy Bordagaray, which I somehow didn’t believe, but it turned out to be true. Imagine that — a kid finding out something useful from his dad.

I also came to know, in his final fourteen months, the Prince who fought a valiant fight against an insidious disease until he could fight no longer. I felt I got to know my father all over again, starting with the Wednesday, May 20, 2015, that he entered the hospital for the first time for what was diagnosed as a brain tumor; and I got to know him even more when — after he had worked so hard to regain his strength all summer — he was back in the hospital on Wednesday, August 19, 2015, with the pneumonia that sent him on his ultimate downward spiral.

The old nursery rhyme declares Wednesday’s child is full of woe. My dad was born on a Wednesday. We know he died last week on a Wednesday. We are standing here on a Wednesday saying goodbye to him. It’s not much of an advertisement for Prince Spaghetti Day, I suppose.

But my father lived 4,565 Wednesdays in total, 31,949 days in all across his approximately 87½ years. I wouldn’t call the totality of his life woeful whatsoever. He made countless lives better just for having touched them. None was better for his having been among us than mine, and I want to thank him for that.

He was truly a Prince of a Guy, and very much a helluva dad.

40 comments to Via Wrigley With Love

  • Mike

    Very moving piece. Reminds me of my mother. She passed in 2014, so didn’t get to see last year’s run, which she would’ve loved.

    Her birthday is October 16. Mine is October 27. So we get a nice claim on both championships.

    She’s also in Pinelawn, along with a Daryl baseball card I snuck in.

    My condolences, Greg.

  • Roy Trakin

    A dad memorialized. The New York Post remembered. In Those Days. Just beautiful Greg. Your dad would be proud. Let’s Go Mets.

  • APV

    Wow! What a wonderful story! Having lost a grandfather in his late 60s and knowing that my parents are around 70 it’s easy to start thinking about the end. Reading this will help me better appreciate the time I have left with them.

    I don’t know you Greg but from this story I can tell how moved you were by your Dad and the life he lived. My condolences to you and the rest of the family on his passing, but know your list of people who think you did him proud with this eulogy just increased.

  • DAK442

    A great story, thanks for sharing.

  • Will in Central NJ

    Thanks for sharing, Greg. I often feel I’m there in your travels in spirit; your writing today makes me feel I was there in those places in person.

    (Reminder to myself: give parents in Southern NJ a phone call today.)

  • Dave

    Wow. Your writing certainly transcends baseball, Greg. This was just beautiful, as was everything you wrote about your Dad during his illness. I probably speak for many regular FAFIF readers when I say you’ve made us feel like part of your family. Many of us in the same general age group have many similar memories, fond and quirky and heart-warming, which helped make us who we are.

  • Roger Tusiani-Eng

    Just an amazing tribute to your Dad, and all the wonderful memories. Paints such a great picture of you with your Dad. My Dad was buried with a Mets hat as well. I can still vividly remember those days watching them play on a small B&W TV with an antenna. Best times of my life. Thank you for sharing.

  • Left Coast Jerry

    Greg, thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I know that talking about the life of a loved one helps with the grieving process. I wish I was half as eloquent as you when I eulogized my dad in 1986 and my brother in 2013.

    However, Charles Prince wasn’t the only one to use the expression take a haircut. My mom, who is still with us at age 91, uses the expression all the time.

  • Dennis

    Nothing more to say than just an absolutely beautiful tribute. Both of my parents are still with me (80 years young), and my Dad (he a Yankees fan……but a kind and decent one) and I talk baseball on a weekly basis and I cherish it more than ever. Thanks for sharing and my condolences.

  • Matt in Richmond

    Thank you for sharing this with us Greg. My deepest gratitude and sympathy for your loss. I know exactly what you mean about the difficulty in adjusting to the Cubs no longer being a chief rival of the Mets. I grew up on baseball in Virginia in the late 1980s – early 90s. Virtually the only time I could watch the Mets on TV was when they played the Cubs and the games were on WGN. When the Mets were playing the Cubs I would race home from school and go over to my friend Mike’s house (he was a Mets fan who had cable). It would usually be the 2nd or 3rd inning by then, and we’d listen to Harry Caray sputter his way through the next 6-7 innings. Then we’d go outside and play wiffle ball, pretending to be our favorite Mets.

    All the best to you and your family, and thanks again.

  • eric1973

    An Amazin’ piece, Greg.

    I loved and miss the Cubs rivalry, and have referenced that here before.

    My dad (both parents still with us) lived in Brooklyn, and he would see some Dodgers walking in the streets sometimes, and it was never a big deal.

    He never was, and still is not a baseball fan, but he would play ball with me every chance he got.

    He taught me how to bunt, play pepper, ‘a walk is as good as a hit,’ all the little things that have become a lost art to help win ballgames.

    You are so very lucky. I wouldn’t change a thing, and I hope you feel the same way.

  • Steve K

    Greg,

    What a beautiful tribute to an incredible man who was lucky to have you as his son! Having lost my Dad when I was almost 20, I can relate to Charles Prince’s passing. You were fortunate to have him for as long as you did.

    Your NY Post recollections struck a chord with me. You and I are a few years apart, and I, too, would eagerly ask my Dad for the Post when he came home from work. I suspect it was for the sports section, and I, too, remember those partial line scores.

    Because he had not been an active fan (although he certainly understood the game), it took me until I was 11 to acquire an interest in the baseball. Once I did, it rubbed off on him, and we attended a few games a year at Shea and at Yankee Stadium. (Back then, I was misguided enough to be a Yankee fan as well. :) )

    He would also pitch the softball to me at our summer home; then, we would trade places and I’d throw to him.

    Let the memories of Charles Prince comfort you and bring a smile to your heart.

  • Kevin from Flushing

    Really wonderful piece and a touching, heartfelt tribute. We need more people like him in this world.

  • Fernie Ruano Jr

    Greg, This is beautiful writing, very moving. I am a huge baseball fan in Miami and watch the Mets all the time because I enjoy their TV broadcasts very much.. Stay strong. Fernie

  • Beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it here.

  • Paul Schwartz

    It’s a,beautifully hot Saturday afternoon in Jersey and I’m sitting by the pool getting ready to go back in with tears in my eyes and a,smile on my face.
    Greg you always,write with such vision and passion.
    It’s little more than 2 years ago that I fell upon this blog after falling upon your first Mets book through my Nook.
    Through the last 2,years I’ve enjoyed it (actually going back and reading all the entries in the past) and marvel at what you and Jason have done.
    I just turned 65 Tuesday and grew,up in Flushing with my first Mets game at the Polo Grounds in 1962. I was at the first game at Shea because my mom won tickets at our local supermarket and either walked to or took the 7 train one stop to at least 20 games a year until we moved to Jersey in 67.

    I even had the Tuesday Friday plan from 1984 to 1991 and have my ticket stub to prove I was at game 6.

    I don’t get to Citi that often anymore (although I’ll be there Monday ) but remain as big a fan of the Mets as ever.

    Your writing is amazing not only about the beloved blue and orange but especially recently about your late dad.

    Thanks for sharing everything with us,the way you do. We’ve never met but I consider you a friend and one who remarkably captures so much of our commonality in a time when so many try to divide us.
    Thanks Greg. Your writing means a lot to me and to many who follow you.

    May your memories comfort you the,way they comfort us.

  • StorkFan

    Beautiful piece, Greg. My father died 7 years ago this month (the yahrzeit is Monday night). He didn’t have the passion for any sports, and certainly not the Metsdom that my mother caught in 1962 and infused in my sister, my brother and me, but he dutifully took us to Shea. Even if he made us leave in the 9th to beat traffic, which we somehow never did. Dad’s birthday was in May. So when I got old enough I would take Mom & Dad to Shea in May for a combination Mother’s Day/Dad’s birthday gift. And I made sure we stayed to the end. Of course, I had also figured out how to get out to Northern Boulevard east instead of going on the Grand Central or the Van Wyck. I like to thin Dad was impressed. Not that he would let it show. And as for Mom, she died in 1990. She never saw Tom Seaver’s induction speech, never mind Mike Piazza’s career. But my sister was in Cooperstown today — early birthday gift from my nephew. The generations go on.

    • Lovely memories, StorkFan. Thank you for sharing them. My mother’s birthday, in July, became an excuse for my taking my parents every season in the mid-’80s. My father wasn’t averse to beating the traffic, either.

  • Michael

    Again, I’m late to the ceremony, but still I felt I had to write to you. My deepest and most heart felt condolences to you and your family

    I’ve written before, that I lost my dad last July. He also wasn’t a big baseball fan, but, in his last 20 years (he was also 87), he allowed me, my significant other, and a friend, close enough for him to consider him as a son, to take him to a number of games.

    There was one, in left field, the first year at Citi, when he met my (not legally, but certainly emotionally) step-son. He’d always laugh at me, that I’d avoided having children, and now I was “pops” to a young man who looked and acted enough like me to question the lack of shared DNA. My parents, had always wished that I’d have children like me, and now I did.

    More often, they were opening days in whatever building the Marlins called home. I was even able to get him on the video board, for his 80th. It included a stadium tour, and a gift bag (he kept the hat, but threw out the rest). He was mildly pleased. Then, the Marlinettes (or whatever the cheerleading ladies are called) showed up in the section, to sing “happy birthday.” After that he beamed – to the rest of the section’s men, he was a god amongst the baseball fans.

    I remember him that day, and that way. On our way out, Peggie (the aforementioned significant other) was smart enough to take a picture of the two of us. I was wearing a Mets’ jersey of course, and he was in his typical Florida-dad white shorts and plaid shirt. As she clicked, I leaned over and kissed him on his head. This is the picture on my side of the bed.

    I’ve saluted your dad, at my home, with my favorite drinking toast, as I do again, now…
    “To those who’ve gone before, and to those of us yet to go…”

    May our dads rest in peace.

  • Joseph Gulant

    Greg: As you often do (much to my amazement), you jogged a memory for me from the Summer and early Fall of 1969, with your reference to the NY Post/John Pierotti Cartoons. Those Post cartoons were also part of my entry pass to Mets baseball. The Venn Diagram of our Mets Fandom (at least in the early years) appears to have overlapped significantly — I too was an Elementary Schooler anxiously waiting daily at my L.I. South Shore home for my dad to arrive in the evening with the afternoon Post (from which the Sports section would be immediately extracted). However, I respectfully question the genus and species of your “Mets Duck” gallantly challenging the Cubs bear. Notwithstanding the curved beak, the fowl appeared to have the body habitus of a bird more in the nature of a canary than a duck, and I always thought of the character as such. I particularly remember the Mets bird/duck ascending the heavens in a space age appropriate rocket as the Mets meteoric rise was happening. In any event, thank you for all you do, and please keep the obscure Mets references coming!

  • Steve

    Greg,

    First of all, most sincere condolences on your loss…was offline for a couple of days and only learned of this now. Doubt that you’ll remember, but I lost my own dad two Julys ago, and by far our best and most connective times typically involved watching Mets games. I was at Game 5 in LA last fall, the game you watched with your dad, and your story then moved me to sharing with you and your readers how I felt my own dad’s presence while watching amidst 50,000 fans rooting for the other team. It was eerie, surreal and arguably grounds for insanity, but I know what I felt and I especially felt it when Murph got the hit and Noah came in from the bullpen. And I know I felt him when I remained in the stands to bask in the afterglow of the win while the rest of the stadium filed out in near-silence…felt it was safer to not parade around that crowd in Mets gear, too. This past Father’s Day I happened to be in NY, and my wife and I went to Flushing to watch the game. We have a brick right below the “F” in the Citi Field logo above the rotunda, and rather than schlep to New Jersey to visit his actual gravesite we felt it to be more appropriate to connect with him there, where it was far more likely to find his soul on a perfect June afternoon. We brought memorial stones that had been sent to us by the cemetery and placed it on the brick. The game, of course, was lousy but the connection was strong and we had a great afternoon nonetheless…when we came out, the stones were still there. As a final tribute, we ground them into the brick and they highlighted the inscription so that you could see the writing from several sections away. It actually glistened as we left the area and approached the subway ramp. So I’m convinced we had yet another afternoon “together” watching the Mets. Obviously, nothing can replace physical presence, and almost every time I watch a game since he passed I think of him–I strongly suspect that’s true for you too. But even as someone who is limited in his belief of afterlife and other worlds my experiences give me comfort that somehow, somewhere, our ability to share future victories (pennants?!?!?!) with the men who helped make us who we are. And, in your case, it’s a quality person whose wordsmithing transcends baseball and gives context to the passion and frustration. G-dspeed to you and yours and here’s hoping we can share a Shake Shack burger at Citi one day in the future, and that our dads are doing something similar somewhere as well.