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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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Happy Piazzaversary!

Nineteen years ago today, the course of the Mets changed for good and for the better. On May 22, 1998, a trade was consummated between the New York Mets and Florida Marlins. Plainly stated, the Mets packaged an outfielder they’d recently called up, Preston Wilson, with two minor league lefty pitchers, Geoff Goetz and Ed Yarnall, and they received from the Marlins catcher Mike Piazza.

You know what the kicker is going to be in a sentence like that but it always lands like a walkoff home run. No matter how you try to undersell it like it’s no bigger deal than any other deal you’d have found in the transactions box of your newspaper of choice the next morning, the Mets acquired Mike Piazza. In the baseball sense, he became theirs. In the emotional sense, he became ours.

It was a very big deal.

So many trades, few as humungous in Mets history, none more mammoth for impact. Mike had been a Marlin for a week and a megastar for half a decade. It was crazy that he was now a Met. It was crazy that he was at all a Marlin, but that was how the business of baseball played out in the spring of 1998 — essential Dodger to provisional Marlin to sudden Met in a veritable blink. Los Angeles had new owners who wanted to send a message about sizable contracts. Florida had a reluctant owner who didn’t want to be stuck with sizable contracts. New York, over here on the National League side of town, had owners who came to concur that they wanted and needed a marquee attraction, with cost not necessarily no object, but also not a deterrent to action.

Steve Phillips, under the auspices of Nelson Doubleday and Fred Wilpon, made hay. What remained of Mike Piazza’s $8 million salary for 1998 became the Mets’ responsibility. For their four-month investment, the Mets were able to insert within their lineup the National League’s perennial All-Star and Silver Slugger catcher. Whereas they’d been attempting to get by with backstops named Castillo and Spehr and Pratt and Tatum and Wilkins — all because they were deprived of the services of their heretofore offensive anchor Todd Hundley — they now had a state-of-the-art model. Mike was a catcher who could hit better than all of his peers and a hitter whose catching would do just fine. Upgrade was an understatement. The Mets got themselves all the difference in the world.

What would the Mets do with Hundley once he fully recovered from the surgery that had kept him out since the prior September? How would the Mets convince Piazza to stay beyond the expiration of his current pact? Would the intensity of New York agree with a player who appeared to be the quintessence of laid-back Californian? Could the Mets pick up games on the Braves and take back pages from the Yankees? Might there be playoffs in our relatively immediate future?

Nineteen years a Met and counting.

All of that would be figured out in the summer ahead. Right now, on May 22, 1998, the Mets had Mike Piazza. It was crazy, but it was true, it was tremendous, and it sent us, as Mets fans, on an incredible journey, one I set out to capture in the pages of Piazza: Catcher, Slugger, Icon, Star.

My book about the Met who changed how we remember an entire decade traces the parallel paths of Mike and the team he was destined to join, starting in the late summer of 1992 and leading up to this date in 1998 when their roads merged. From there, he, they and we became one, like something out of a Spice Girls ballad. We had Mike Piazza of the Mets on the field through 2005 and Mike Piazza of the Mets in our hearts and minds forever after. His election to the Hall of Fame in 2016, along with his subsequent induction into Cooperstown and the retirement of his number at Citi Field, marked the final steps of the journey. Conveniently, that’s where the book winds up.

When I wrote Piazza, I wrote a lot. When I was done, I had to condense some portions and extract some others to fit the agreed-upon parameters of publication. This is to say I wrote a lot that didn’t make it into what was published. What follows, then, is some bonus material I thought I’d share on this happy Piazzaversary. Below is an introduction I had to slice for space, one of the sections I was rather sorry to see go. The chapter was titled “Dual Identity,” and it strove to explain to the reader, so there was no mistake about it, that the book in your hands was written by a not-so-dispassionate observer of the Metsian condition, do with that information what you will.

Here’s how the book would have begun had length been no object.


Late on a Saturday afternoon, a writer sitting in on what is called a media availability had a question for a retired baseball player of significant renown: “Mike, you said in your [Hall of Fame induction] speech that it felt like the eight years here flew by. Did it always feel like that, especially in the second half of your stay when you weren’t contending as much, and maybe you had to play another position, things like that?”

The baseball player offered an answer: “That’s a good question. Well, I think, maybe when you get into the minutiae of the season, and you go through those tough parts like the team is going through now, it may not seem like it’s as quick. But, generally, I heard a great expression, that the days are long, but the years are short, and that’s what I would describe it as. Thinking and feeling like it did go by that quickly, you miss it. You miss the pressure of it and you miss the doubt. You’re never going to appreciate victory until you go through defeat.”

Not much later, on that same Saturday, early evening, the player was taking a ride in a golf cart around the track of the stadium where he’d answered that question. It was less a victory lap than a chance to say thank you a section at a time, if with no more than a wave or a nod of acknowledgement. When his vehicle rolled by a section that was literally at field level, this one fan, realizing he was close enough to make eye contact with the player whose name and old uniform number he was wearing on his own person, did what felt appropriate to the moment. He doffed his baseball cap in appreciation for all the seasons of joy the player had given him. The player might have nodded back to him in gratitude, or perhaps it was the fan next to him who caught his eye.

Given the sensory overload of the occasion and the thousands of faces vying for his attention, it’s unlikely that the old ballplayer who answered the question for that writer a couple of hours before recognized the fan doffing the cap was, in fact, the same guy.

Both of them were me.


Many with whom I discussed this book when it languished in its extended larval stage asked if I was going to talk to Mike Piazza. I told them I hadn’t planned to, yet I guess did…for that one “good” question and one thoughtful answer. So there ya go.

I’m a writer who roots for the Mets and a Mets fan who writes. When issued a media credential by the baseball team I “cover” mainly as a blogger, professional decorum will prevail. I will button my shirt and make dispassionate inquiries of interview subjects as I have for several decades, dating back to my days asking our high school’s soccer coach, “How do you think the team looks this year?” (I know almost as much about soccer now as I did then.)

On July 30, 2016, the night the Mets retired No. 31 and effectively ended the journey toward immortality I planned to write about — that of how a franchise went from claiming one certified icon to two — I could be that detached pro for only so many minutes. Once the availability broke up, I removed the media credential from around my neck, slipped into a nearby men’s room, unbuttoned the shirt I’d been wearing since setting out for Citi Field and pulled on my PIAZZA 31, the same black tee I’d owned since 1999. After adding a black cap of the same vintage to the ensemble, I strolled down the right field line to my seat in the Honda Club, formerly known as the Mo’s Zone, eventually known as something else when the next sponsor comes along.

Given that this book was already a work in progress, the night the Mets retired Mike Piazza’s number demanded I show up as a writer. But I had to stay as a fan. I had to be somewhere where cheering — verboten in the press box — was not only allowed, but encouraged. My entire experience with Piazza, dating back to the electric Friday afternoon in May of 1998 when word went forth that the best-hitting catcher in baseball was suddenly ours, had been conducted as a fan. The advent of blogging, specifically the blog Faith and Fear in Flushing, which I write with my friend Jason Fry, had allowed my writing and my fandom to coexist snugly. Now and then over the years, mainly when a media credential was in play, I had to act like someone for whom the Mets winning or losing didn’t much matter. Not only “no cheering,” but no “we” and no “our.”

Such dispassion would not do for long on a night when Mike Piazza was going to speak to more than 40,000 Mets fans. I was one of them. A Mets fan who writes, but a Mets fan first where Mike and what he did as a Met were concerned.

Just to be clear, this book was written by that Mets fan; its subject matter processed by that Mets fan who remembered how dismal it was a few short years before Piazza arrived; how intensely compelling it became while Piazza reigned; and how vital it seemed that everything Piazza accomplished and represented was properly validated and codified for history’s sake.

Having experienced Mike Piazza as a Mets fan is what made me want to write at length about Mike Piazza as a Met within the context of the life and times of the sport that surrounded him. The writer wrote it. The fan lived it. The writer decided to write it the way the fan recalled it, relying on a host of contemporary accounts to confirm or correct memory, and augmenting those with relevant thoughts that had been recorded since. But overall, this is the convergence of Piazza, the Mets and baseball, 1992 through 2016, the way it happened, recreated for your reading and reliving pleasure.

So, no, I didn’t go out of my way to talk to Mike Piazza, besides that one question I got in before the Mets retired his number. Being one more journalist going through channels and vying for time seemed beside the point. I paid attention to all the interviews he gave once his election to the Hall of Fame was announced and made note of all the answers he provided, but I wasn’t necessarily looking all that much for how Piazza remembered things in 2016. I wanted to remember Piazza through the prism of his era, the way it happened for me and so many Mets fans.


Like the day the Mets traded for him and I made or received at least three OHMIGOD! phone calls in a ten-minute span.

Like the pennant race night he took Billy Wagner deep in the Astrodome and I blurted out in my living room to nobody but my cats, “MIKE PIAZZA IS THE GREATEST MAN WHO EVER LIVED!”

Like the Subway Series afternoon my mouth dropped open when Mike blasted a Ramiro Mendoza pitch onto the picnic tent roof somewhere below where I stood in Row T of Shea’s Upper Deck, and once I was able to speak, I couldn’t form words, just sounds.

Like the time I refused to shout a syllable of encouragement from Mezzanine when Piazza was up against the Braves in a tie game, because I had kept quiet as the Mets had made their way back from seven runs down, and why jinx him before he could swing for the fences…which he did quite nicely.

Like on September 21, 2001, when Mike hit what instantly became his signature home run. Jason and I turned to and looked at each other in silence while others roared and shook miniature American flags. Neither of us had any advance clue that what had happened would happen, yet both of us knew there was no way it wasn’t going to happen exactly how it happened.

Mike Piazza made things happen. He made an era happen. He made a franchise happen. He made all of us happen. I was a Mets fan long before Mike came to the Mets and I’ve been a Mets fan since he left. But to be a Mets fan in the Age of Piazza was to be more alive as a Mets fan than at any time since there have been Mets.

The games were long. The years were sublime. I hope this book gets that across.


My thanks to Skip Clayton and Charlotte Reese of WBCB 1490-AM in Levittown, Pa., for having me on to discuss Piazza in Mike’s boyhood backyard. Skip’s been watching baseball since before the Phillies were Whiz Kids, so I really enjoyed hearing his thoughts as much as I enjoyed the chance to share mine.

I also wish to express gratitude to Matthew Cerrone who interviewed me for his MetsBlog podcast, which you can listen to here. Matt told me the Piazza trade coincided with the first kiss he gave his future wife. Mike always did have outstanding timing.

On Thursday evening, June 15 (ironically the anniversary of another Mets trade whose date lives on in memory not to mention infamy), I will have the honor of appearing at the beautiful Bergino Baseball Clubhouse, 67 E. 11th St., in Manhattan, hosted by the warm and insightful Jay Goldberg and signing copies of Piazza. I look forward to seeing you there.

6 comments to Happy Piazzaversary!

  • Matt in Richmond

    I’ve been meaning to pick this up since I first heard about it. Glad you posted this as it reminded me. Just ordered online and can’t wait to read it. Thanks!

  • Burbank Jake

    Great stuff as always Greg. Sad the Mets never won a title with Piazza but he sure made a bunch of great memories.

    I was at the comeback against the Braves and as the Mets were rallying my buddy Chris kept looking at me and I kept telling him not to say anything as the runs started piling up. When Piazza homered I thought the upper deck we were standing in was going to crash as it was shaking from everybody jumping up and down.

    I was at Chris’ house when Piazza faced Smoltz in Game 6 of the NLCS when the Mets were again rallying. I told Chris is Piazza goes with the pitch he’ll homer to right center and sure enough he did. I’ve blocked out what Kenny Rogers did later (although I did curse at him while he was warming up to start against Baltimore when I went to Camden Yards a few years later).

    So many fabulous moments. Can’t wait to read all about them.

  • Dave

    The book is real good Greg, it was nice to be reminded of a time when the guy who was arguably the best player in baseball wore a Mets uniform. You don’t see that every decade. You captured it both analytically and emotionally…for me, especially the latter.