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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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The Seasons Go On

Don’t trust what you see in September, they say. What I saw in September 2002 was a sign that life went on. It went on for almost another fifteen years. So maybe trust a little what you see in September.

Hozzie the Cat, fifteen years a champ.

Hosmer Mountain Beverage Cat Prince — known popularly as Hozzie the Cat — was our September callup, our glimpse of the future, our augmentation to the team that you hope positions you for the seasons ahead. Hozzie was given the opportunity to break in because there was a void in the Prince family lineup. We had been a two-cat family for nearly a decade. We had Bernie, and then we had Casey, which is to say we had Bernie & Casey. They were separately adopted brothers in arms. Or front legs, if you want to get technical about it. God, we loved them together.

In June of 2002, Casey’s time was up, the end of a long, heartbreaking goodbye. Bernie was left to solo. Not that he couldn’t handle it. Not that he couldn’t carry the load. But our emotional quota was two cats. Nobody could ever replace Casey. Someone would be called on to succeed him.

Enter Hozzie the Cat on September 24, 2002, the 33rd anniversary of the night the Mets clinched their first division title, apropos in that Hozzie was a miracle unto himself. You have to understand that the first stab we took at installing a Casey successor, two days before, went awry. Somebody tipped us off to “a cat in need of a good home”. We bit. So did the cat. That cat didn’t need a good home. That cat was fine being feral where he was, which we figured out after he couldn’t stand being inside our home. He wasn’t a bad cat, but he was definitely a bad fit.

Desperate for answers for what to do with a cat who didn’t want any part of his new people (or his would-be brother; Bernie was spooked by the interloper and hid under the bed for two days), Stephanie visited our local pet store. Instead of coming home with advice, she came home with a kitten who was up for adoption. She grabbed him under the “best athlete available” principle of drafting.

We didn’t need a third cat. We needed that cat.

I discovered the kitten’s presence when I came home that night, opened the bathroom door and saw him atop the throne — lid down, eyes up. This little gray tabby my wife found looked at me like I was joining him in the waiting room for whatever it was that lay ahead. It was the stuff of President Bartlet on The West Wing: What’s next?

Hozzie was next. We arranged an unconditional release for the miscast feral interloper and recalibrated who we were. Us, featuring Bernie & Hozzie. It wasn’t necessarily destined to click. Bernie was the established veteran, a ten-and-five man, to say the very least. I’d heard of older cats who wanted nothing to do with fresh kittens. But Bernie, who had once welcomed Casey into his lair, did the same for young Hozzie. Hozzie was an eager protégé, Bernie a patient mentor, us ebullient to have it confirmed that life went on. We lost Casey. We gained Hozzie. We gained Bernie & Hozzie. We loved them together.

Three years later, nature’s cycle essentially repeated. We lost Bernie in May of 2005. The goodbye was sudden, though no less cruel. Again, we were down one cat. Another September arrived after another summer of mourning. This time we got our furry miracle on the first try: Avery the Cat, little brother to Hozzie. Hozzie & Avery. The dynamics were distinct from those that informed the previous collaborations. Avery as a kitten was a pistol, a pioneer in interactivity. Laps and chests and heads were his furniture. Hozzie, meanwhile, had matured into an adult who mostly wanted to be left alone. Eventually they forged a cordial working relationship despite their creative differences. We loved them together, too.

Avery has never stopped being a kitten. Hozzie, more than any of the four cats I’ve known, seemed born to grow old. That he did. He grew to be fifteen years old. That’s as far as he got. Hozzie’s journey ended on July 27, 2017, the day Chris Flexen made his major league debut to little avail in a park named Petco, the day the Mets traded Lucas Duda — another September callup with a quietly pleasant disposition — to Tampa Bay for pitching prospect Drew Smith. Hozzie’s goodbye wasn’t as drawn out as Casey’s, nor quite as sudden as Bernie’s. We knew something like it was coming, as he’d been dealing with issues for a while. We just didn’t know it was coming all at once when it did.

On Thursday afternoon, I found Hozzie in the hallway outside my office, all stretched out. Barely any movement, barely any breathing. This, I deduced, was no standard upstairs midday nap. I rushed him to the vet across the street. They said he’d suffered a seizure when I’d had my back turned and, oh by the way, he has a mass “the size of his fist” in his abdomen. It never occurred to me a cat could make a fist, but it also never occurred to me cats could get tumors until they kept finding them inside Casey.

You live and you learn. We lived through Casey’s cancer fight. We learned you can’t fight feline cancer for very long nor very effectively. We lived through Hozzie’s feline diabetes and various infections. He battled. We facilitated. He somehow set all the Prince Cat longevity records, but he could go on only so long. By Thursday evening, Stephanie and I were across the street at the vet with Hozzie, in the back where they had him hooked up to an I.V. We knew we’d be coming home without him. This was the first time we had to let go of a cat via euphemism (“a graceful farewell,” the vet called it, as we signed off on what needed to be done). The sensation was right down there with our previous experiences organically parting with Casey in 2002 and Bernie in 2005. You live and you learn. You learn that it’s always awful saying goodbye to the ones you’ve lived with and loved so much.

Yet oh how happy you were to have said hello and to have said so much else and experienced so much else for having said hello fifteen years before. Hozzie could drive me crazy, particularly amid my twilight slumbers, especially when he discerned scratching at my leg jarred me awake and goaded me to the kitchen. He ran on his schedule, not ours. When he decided a certain spot was ideal to perform certain necessary bodily functions, well, good luck convincing him there was a box set up for that sort of thing, go use that, Hozzie. Let me not overly idealize my late, beloved cat. He often revealed himself a self-absorbed pain in the ass, sometimes because he couldn’t help it, sometimes because it worked quite nicely for him.

And I miss him anyway. It’s only been hours, but I miss the determined meowing; the pedestrian obstacle he doubled as in darkness; the recurring admonishments that he not do that nor that nor think about going there; and the mano a mano over the poultry on my plate that he decided was intended for him. I miss the entire Hozzie package. I miss Hozzie & Avery. I adore Avery. Avery, bless his sinewy soul, is still going strong. Avery is a people’s cat in a way that Hozzie never was. Avery can most assuredly carry the emotional load. But you get used to a duo, especially this duo, even the half you purported to have had it up to here with. You get used to hearing those cries, to looking into those eyes, to offering your knuckles for his pheromones. You remember the first time you met, him and you, and inferring that, yes, life would go on.

Which it did and I suppose it will some more.

12 comments to The Seasons Go On

  • eric1973

    Wonderful, Greg.

    Thank you for making me think of Sylvester, a bright eyed grey and white who looked a lot like yours.

    We met him on Thanksgiving Day, 1977. Every time we looked out our screen door, this little cat kept meowing. Finally, we fed him, and then eventually he ran inside the house. And so began our 30 year adventure with various cats, all different, of course.

    And how fitting, somehow, with the Mets at Petco.

  • mikeL

    so sorry greg, and wishing you lost of happy memories as (the very handsome) hozzie’s absense is fully realized.
    as a cat occupies, and yes, directs so much of our lives – it seems to take a while before the entire self gets the memo.

    on the day that the mets clinched the division in cincinatti in 2015 we put to rest our beloved keegan. he had come into my life as the mets were battling the braves for the ’99 NL pennant, both of us isolated in the room with the tv while my other cat had the run of the house.

    i’d thought he’d be around for the ’15 post season. instead the mets succss had to console my girlfriend and me on an otherwise beautiful day. As they had in the amazing summer of 99 when my mom died.

    during the postgame celebration i remember harvey’s very naked emotion as he professed his love for the team – and the floodgates opened. there would be much sadness and outpourings of emotion over keegan’s loss, but that moment was the big one.

    i’m sorry the mets won’t provide you the kind of consolation they offered me in ’99 and ’15…but do hope the coming last months of the season provide you a glimpse ahead of happier times ahead…and if one is in the cards for your home, that of a worthy successor to hozzie and new buddy (or at very least tolerated housemate) for avery.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Beautiful, just beautiful. One of my favorite cat pictures is the one you posted a while back of Hozzie the Cat turning his back on Hosmer the Batter.

    So sorry for you both and Hozzie.

    We have three, each one has a personality and a story. I like the friskiest one, always in trouble. Nominally named Smokey, but he seems to gather new nicknames on a regular basis. Currently he’s Covfefe.

  • Greg, I’ve visited your website a number of times and enjoyed your musings. I’m a 53-year-old man, and like you a life-long Mets fan. I grew up in a house that always had cats and am now on my fourth cat as an adult. My first one was hit by a car and found down the street, my second one escaped when the mailman didn’t close my storm door. My home is also a two feline household; we have a gentle, older cat and a sweetly obnoxious younger cat. I found myself laughing and crying as I read this article–it brought back many memories while reminding me of present habits and behaviors (the late night munchies visits, the desire for anything and everything from my dinner plate) and offering a glimpse of future reality. It’s funny that I came across this; I was contemplating this calendar year and this baseball season–the trade deadline is Monday and Tuesday is the beginning of August–the “dog days”. I also contemplated this being ANOTHER lost Mets season, where fate and destiny seem to conspire against us, somehow, some way–year after year. I wonder if I’ll ever see my favorite team win another world championship. Whenever I watch the Mets, my older cat finds a spot on the couch right next to me and gets as close as he can to me–even watching the game at points with me–and then usually the younger one visits us later on–to check up on us and to remind me that he’s getting hungry. I found myself lamenting my own aging process and both of my cats’ aging processes–wishing that I could freeze some of these wonderful precious moments in time–knowing that life goes on, whether or not I like it. Another year, another season–time waits for no man. Thanks so much for your wonderful heartfelt piece, Greg. I wish and pray for your healing and happiness and I hope that in your time of loss that the great memories of Hozzie sustain you. Be well, Greg.

  • Dave

    So sorry, Greg, but what a touching tribute. So much of it reminds me of the pairings of our girls over the years. At first, mother/daughter, Hairball and Kerouac. Eventually, Elfie joined Kerouac, then in Kerouac’s last year or so, Pandora made it a trio. Then while we were spending Xmas in London, my wife saw that she had a message from the cat sitter, and we got the shocking news that we were not coming home to two cats. Pandora was absolutely crushed…even though Elfie was a diva who would have much rather have been an only cat, Pandora always craved company. So not long afterwards, we got an absolutely insane tortie kitten and named her Pepper. While Pepper immediately became the dominant personality, Pandora loves her little sister, who a year and a half later has started to calm down ever so slightly. But thanks to Pepper’s insatiable love for playing fetch with a toy we creatively call Mr Mousey, I’ve developed a halfway decent left-handed slider throwing Mr Mousey down the hall into the living room. If the Mets have sent the likes of Adam Wilk and Tommy Milone to the mound this year, I can’t say with certainty that I couldn’t be next, but I would have to use a regulation baseball and not a cat toy.

    I know you will both always have loving memories of Hozzie and relate your life with him to Mets history, as you do so well with so many life events and those in your life. And Avery misses him too, even if he doesn’t catch on to the anniversary of the 1969 division clincher part.

  • Carol Callahan

    Thank you for sharing your tribute to Hozzie. After reading it, I feel like I knew him. Of course it makes me think back on the cats that I have lost over the past three decades and how the process never seems to get any easier as it shouldn’t. Hozzie sounds a lot like a cat that came into our home via my husband’s workplace. Scamp was probaby just dropped off at the rural setting where my husband office was located. A coworker who lived on a farm said she would take him home but the young kitten always seemed to hide when she attempted to find him at the end of the day. My husband was there after everyone had left one afternoon and out came the young feline. Stewart decided to bring him home to our house to keep him until his coworker could come and pick him up. Stewart was not a real cat lover but I was. When we met I had a cat named Jessie and I made it clear that we were a “packaged deal”. A week passed and the coworker had not yet come to pick up the kitten. She asked Stewart to bring the cat into work so she could take it home to her farm. I got up to say goodbye and was cuddling the little fur ball. Stewart took one look and said okay I can’t see you like that and then take away the cat. So Scamp, as he was later named, joined Jessie in our home. As it turned out Scamp probably had chosen Stewart for a reason because he managed to win his heart and make him a cat lover! He became our 4 legged alarm clock and loved to sit on the bathroom vanity and watch Stewart shave every morning. He scampered all over the house hence the name Scamp. We were blessed to have him with us for 18 years. Diabetes finally took its’ toll on old Scamp and he could ba rely walk. But Stewart who had brought him into our home 18 years earlier just could not bare to take him to the vet for that one last time. So as with Jessie four years earlier, that difficult task fell to me. Scamp had won his way into our home and Stewart’s heart. Stewart still talks about what a great cat he was!

  • So sorry Greg. I’m a dog person myself, though a previous version of me was a cat person I suppose. It’s never easy and it’s always a bit of a surprise even when you know it’s coming. We’re becoming a two dog family this winter and your story only underscores my thinking in why my wife and I should adopt the 2nd dog to be named later.

  • UpstateNYMetfan

    I’m so sorry-I adored Hozzie since I first became aware of him, I believe in 2015 when you mentioned that you had a gray tabby whose name was not unlike a certain Kansas City Royal’s surname. The reason why Hozzie resonated so much with me, besides your likeable description of him, was because my girlfriend and I also had a gray tabby, an affable, albeit, not-to-be-picked-up, wonderful little guy named Sammy. He was really my girlfriend’s, but had become mine too. When I saw a picture of your Hozzie, Erin and I were like “oh my, it looks like Sammy’s got a little bro down on the Island!” Sammy, very regrettably, passed away, March 11, 2017. We think he was between 16-17 (not sure because he was a hit-and-run rescue in 2003, and the vets assumed then that he may have been 3), but he had the look and size of a kitty adolescent. Yet he was still, somehow, an “old man” too. I guess his long, self-imposed solitary confinements to the closet or under the bed, mixed in with his equally frequent but shorter-lived endearing periods of “I’m going to sit on you (and look into your eyes on occasion) until I don’t want to anymore” created a weird, but I guess, admittedly cat-like streak of mature independence mixed with childlike neediness. Like Hozzie, he too succumbed to feline cancer. It’s been over four months, but we still miss and love him dearly. I can still hear his verbal reminders of “hey, I’m here, look out below!” when I’m walking through the dark on my way to the fridge for a glass of water. He’s still very much alive in my heart and mind. May both Sammy and Hozzie, rest in eternal peace-perhaps together-gray brothers from other mothers who came from opposite ends of the same home state of our mutually adored Mets.

  • Kevin from Flushing

    Your life is more full because of Hozzie, and Hozzie’s life was more full because of you. Well wishes from Kris & I.

  • […] have squinted all you liked and not seen a World Series there. On the other hand, in the wake of losing a cat last Thursday and attending a funeral Monday, I have reluctantly concluded it was just a cap. I […]