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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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Best Guest Ever

“Hey, thanks for agreeing to do this on such short notice. We know you just got up here, but when Ralph heard you were in town, he really wanted to have you back on.”
“Sure.”
“Even better, we got sort of lucky with the game tonight. Welington Castillo had four hits, Travis d’Arnaud had three. We wanted to have a catcher on to talk about it.”
“Right.”
“We usually have Gary on when catchers are the star of the game, but Mr. Carter’s throat is bothering him a little. You wouldn’t think you could come down with that up here, but sometimes Kid gets carried away talking. We’re all prone to do that no matter where we are, especially after an exciting ballgame. You must know how that is.”
“Yup.”
“OK, you’ve got your mic on. I just need to get a level on you. Can you say something like you’d normally say so we can make sure you can be heard clearly?”
“Bub.”
“Uh…good, good. Oh, our host is here! You two know each other from the first season of the show, so I’ll let you two conduct your business. Cue music…Ralph, on three. One, two…three…”

“Welcome everybody to Kiner’s Korner, brought to you without commercial interruption by White Owl Cigars. White Owl Cigars, smoke ’em if you got ’em, they can’t do you any harm up here. I’m your host Ralph Kiner. The New York Mets lost tonight to the Arizona Diamondblacks, ten to six, and here to talk about it with us is a fella who was on his share of losing scores for the Mets back at the Polo Grounds, Choo Choo Coleman. Choo Choo, glad to have you on.”
“Thank you, Ralph. It’s an extraordinary pleasure to be on your television program again.”
“You know, Choo Choo, I’m pretty sure that’s the most you’ve ever said to me.”
“A pronounced reticence to speak publicly was one of my defining traits in my playing days, that is indeed an accurate assessment. But I’ve been enthusiastically anticipating a sequel of sorts to my initial appearance on your postgame broadcast. I have always regretted not providing you with a more extensive, let alone intricate series of responses to your thoughtful inquiries.”
“Wow, Choo Choo, did you pick up that cold Gary Cooper has, because you’re suddenly talking almost as much as him.”
“Carter.”
“Huh?”
Gary Carter. I believe that’s who you meant. Sometimes you err in stating his name.”
“I suppose I do.”
“And it’s Diamondbacks, not Diamondblacks, though with their dizzying array of uniform combinations, I agree their unfortunate apparel presents a confusing conundrum of colors.”
“Right. Why don’t we look at some highlights from tonight’s game?”
“Gladly.”

“Choo Choo, there’s Wellington Beef in his first at-bat…”
“Welington Castillo, Ralph.”
“Well, Choo Choo, he certainly has no beef with the pitches of Bartolo Colon as he drives in the second run in the first inning to put Arizona ahead. Choo Choo, you must have caught Colon, who worked out the very first walk of his professional career tonight, a few times.”
“Number Forty? I think we just missed each other, Ralph, but he’s certainly been plying his craft for multiple decades.”
“And here’s Luis Castillo again…”
“Welington, Ralph.”
“It’s a double in the third, and he’ll come around to score on another double here, putting the Mets in a four-one hole. Choo Choo, what do you remember about hitting?”
“That I probably didn’t do enough of it, or I might have joined you on Kiner’s Korner more often.”

“Now Choo Choo, you shouldn’t be too hard for yourself. It says here you batted .250 in your first year with the Mets, which was the first year of the Mets, 1962. That’s not a bad average for a catcher better known for his speed and defense.”
“You’re too kind, Ralph. I’m afraid Roger Angell may have portrayed my skill set fairly when he suggested my quickness on the basepaths ‘is an attribute […] about as essential for catchers as neat handwriting’. And wasn’t Angell the scribe who compared my handling of certain pitches behind the plate to that of ‘a man fighting bees’?”
“Roger also you called you ‘eager and combative,’ which is pretty good when you’re on a team losing way more than a hundred games every season, though I have to admit you didn’t seem terribly eager to be a guest on my show back then.”
“I hope you didn’t take that personally, Ralph. Larry Burright pretty much summed up my approach to dialogue when he told the author Bill Ryczek, ‘He’d carry on a conversation with you, but to keep it going, you had to do most of the talking.’”
“That was fine for him, Choo Choo, but Larry Burright wasn’t hosting a TV interview show.”
“As I mentioned before, it just wasn’t my inclination to be voluble when I was in New York.”

“Well, your teammates certainly liked you. Little Al Jackson once said of you, ‘They always teased him for not knowing anybody’s name, but if you gave him a number and the team he played on, he would tell you what the guy hit and what he couldn’t hit. He was one of the better catchers I’ve ever had.’”
“I tried Ralph. On that I can be succinct.”
“You did more than try, Choo Choo. Sometimes you downright succeeded. In the first game you started for the Mets, shortly after you were called up from Syracuse in July of 1962, you caught a one-nothing shutout victory from Jackson in St. Louis, and you scored the only run of that game when you led off the third inning with a bunt single to third off none other than Bob Gibson. Al bunted you to second and, after Richie Ashburn struck out, you came around on Julio Gotay’s error.”
“You remember all that, Ralph?”
“I remember 1962 better than what I had for breakfast this morning, but the wins really stick out. The Mets winning a ballgame in 1962 was rare, almost as rare as the Beef Wellington I once had at a hot stove banquet in Pittsburgh. I think it was undercooked. But Beef Wellington Castillo was really cooking in Arizona tonight with those four hits.”
“Number Seven? He had a great game, absolutely.”

“Meanwhile, on the Met side, Travis d’Arnaud had three hits, though he’s still having some problems catching the ball.”
“I’m sorry, Ralph, which one is d’Arnaud again?”
“Number Eighteen.”
“Oh, Number Eighteen! Yes, he’s changed his numerical identity quite a bit of late. Well, Ralph, I think we have to be patient with catchers. I didn’t have a very good second season by all objective measurement.”
“Since you brought it up, Choo Choo, you began the Mets’ second year, 1963, as Casey Stengel’s starting catcher on Opening Day, and the Mets commenced to lose their first eight games, which was an improvement on 1962, when they lost their first nine.”
“If you wish to label me a co-conspirator in our collective difficulties, I plead guilty, Ralph, as I batted a paltry .178 in 1963, which probably explains why I wasn’t with the Mets on Opening Day 1964.”
“Choo Choo, another of your teammates, Ted Schreiber, said you could pull the ball, which was a good thing in the Polo Grounds, but as Ted put it, ‘Choo Choo used to hit balls to right field, not just foul balls, but very foul balls.’”
“I guess they all counted the same in the box score, huh, Ralph?”
“In tonight’s box score, the Mets were ten-six losers in Arizona, with the DiamondBACKS stealing two more bases off one of your successors. Any advice for Number Eighteen, Choo Choo?”
“Just keep at it, I’d say. I kept at it.”
“One of your teammates from that first Spring Training in St. Petersburg, Clem Labine, told Ryczek, ‘Nobody could try any harder than this guy,’ referring to you. That’s quite a testimony coming from a pitcher who threw to Roy Campanella.”
“That was nice of Clem, though it didn’t do me much good, I suppose, since except for a handful of at-bats in 1966, I was done in the majors after 1963. Still, I kept playing. I was at Tidewater in 1969 and would have loved the chance like d’Arnaud had last year to play in a World Series, but never got back. I even kept playing in the Mexican League as late as 1972. Heck, I barnstormed with the Indianapolis Clowns in the ’50s. Who wouldn’t want to play baseball if given the opportunity?”

“You’re right about that, Choo Choo. I had to retire early because of a bad back. Maybe if I had been able to hang on, I could’ve played with you in New York. You know, I was only 39 in 1962. I might have fit right in with you fellas.”
“We could have used your bat, Ralph, though our left fielder did hit 34 home runs.”
“That, of course, was Frank Thomas, not the second one, but the other one, who was the first one before the other one came along. You had all kinds of fascinating personalities on that club, Choo Choo. Marvelous Marv Throneberry was there, along with Hot Rod Kanehl, Elio Chacon, Charlie Neal…”
“Who?”
“Number Four.”
“Oh, my old roomie! I hear he’s up here.”
“We had him on recently. Sadly, a lot of your old teammates are up here.”
“That’s life, Ralph.”

“You’re a pretty philosophical guy for a catcher of your size, Choo Choo.”
“You have to be, Ralph. We lost 120 games in 1962, another 111 in 1963, but not only am I a guest on your program up here, people still talk about us down there. We’ve lived on in memory long after you’d think anybody in their right mind would stop giving any thought to a bunch of old ballplayers who got their brains beat in on a regular basis. I know you had fun telling the story of what a taciturn interview subject I was, but really, Ralph, I should thank you. You gave me a longer run in the Mets fan consciousness than any catcher with a lifetime batting average of .197 deserved.”
“Well, Choo Choo, it seems your brain is in good shape and you should be ready to go for any and all challenges you meet up here. The Mets fans loved you and always will, especially since nobody will be stealing any bases off you from here on out.”
“It’s the pitcher’s job to keep them on, too, Ralph.”
“That’s true. Our guest tonight has been Mets catcher Choo Choo Coleman, and before we go, I have one final question: how’s your wife doing?”
“Mrs. Coleman? Why, splendidly! If you have time, Ralph, I can share the details with you and your viewers.”
“Choo Choo, that’s not going to be a problem for us. Tell Joe Franklin we’re going to be running long tonight.”

12 comments to Best Guest Ever

  • Wanda

    Absolutely loved this! You are truly a master at your craft, Princely Greg!

  • Matt in Richmond

    Reading that was a lot more fun than last night’s game. I’m consistently in awe of how you guys produce such quality columns every single bloody day. Thanks Greg!

  • Bob Kurpiel

    Greg,
    I remember being at a game and seeing Choo Choo hitting a ball completely out of the stadium, the Polo Grounds that is….foul. At least he never let a runner from second score on a passed ball like Jesse Gonder.
    Can you imagine playing for the Indianapolis team and someone yells from the stands; “you’re playing like a bunch of clowns!” And the response is; “We Are!”
    Bob

  • LeClerc

    Time for Curtis to sit down for 10+ games. Let’s see if someone else can get some clutch hits in the two hole.

  • Tad Richards

    I love this one.

  • Dave

    Best Guest Ever and another candidate for Best FAFIF Article Ever, Greg. Nice job about a guy who could have only been a Met. RIP, Bub.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Best Choo Choo obit ever. I was anticipating what you guys would come up with. Thanks!

    I’ve often wondered if the “She likes me Bub” interview ever actually happened more or less verbatim. I assume the story started with Kiner, but I don’t know when the story first got traction. Maybe he mentioned it during a game or something.

  • eric1973

    Great tribute, Greg.

    Knowing and remembering this kind of stuff our whole lives is what makes rooting for the Mets such a labor of love.

  • Bob

    Saw Choo Choo Coleman, Piersall…in 1963 @ Polo Grounds–swept DH from filthies and Piersall hit HR
    & ran around bases backwards…

    RIP “Bub”

    Met Fan since polo Grounds…

  • Tom

    Another loving tribute to the early history of the “Metsies.” It brings back a flood of smiles regarding the loveable losers of the Polo Grounds. I really enjoyed it. Thanks for conjuring up some great names and memories of why I love the Mets.

  • Great writing. You put a smile on my face the whole morning. And I’m not inclined to be voluble myself!