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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 Circle of Life

I’m not the type to carelessly leave a hat on a train, but on Sunday, I apparently carelessly left a hat on a train. I came home, realized I didn’t have it and inferred it rode the LIRR eastbound without me. If I wore hats regularly, I suppose I would have found it on my head. Outside of winter, I wear hats basically never, unless the hat is a baseball cap.

The hat on the train was indeed a baseball cap. A Mets cap, you won’t be surprised to learn. A Mets cap with a 2015 World Series patch on one side, to be specific. I wore it for a spell on Sunday while making a surprise visit to the observatory deck of the 86th floor of the Empire State Building. I hadn’t been up there in 47 years, so I’d definitely have to term the visit a surprise. Stephanie and I were meeting up with her cousin, who was in from Texas with a whole bunch of blended family. They were all really nice folks, and really nice folks from Texas like to do things like ascend to the high floors of tall buildings we New Yorkers don’t give second looks to lest we look like tourists. I brought the 2015 World Series cap along because a) it was sunny and b) knowing how tourists can be (I don’t mean my wife’s cousin and her crew — they know better), I wanted to make sure people from around the world got a look at what a real NY baseball cap looked like.

I don’t know if out-of-towners cared, but I got a couple of Let’s Go Metses from Empire State Building employees. One of them grumbled to me that you could barely make out Citi Field when you looked north and east from the 86th floor. You could if you squinted. It was vaguely visible adjacent to the gaudy white roof of Arthur Ashe Stadium. Finding New York’s other large ballpark, the one tourists have probably heard of, was a comparative breeze, at least once the Let’s Go Metsing ESB guy guided my gaze. I didn’t look at it for long. Didn’t want to turn into a pillar of yeech.

Fun fact: the Mets skyline logo is based on the New York skyline that one stands in the middle of when one is on the premises of the Empire State Building. The New York skyline is very impressive from 86 floors up, its lack of proper baseball perspective notwithstanding. I’m glad I interrupted my blasé approach to soaring architecture to go up so high; every New Yorker should do it every 47 or so years. I’m sorry I lost my Mets cap later that day, but I’m glad I wore it on the 86th floor. I’m sorry I forgot to take a picture of it next to the 86 sign. I’d had to have explained the connection to our Texan cousins and most everybody else there, but you and I would have gotten a kick out of it.

I miss that cap. It was the second Mets cap with a 2015 World Series patch I purchased, but the only one I liked. The first one was adjustable and unstructured, bought because it was readily available after the NLCS was captured. Adjustable is OK. Unstructured turned out to be a drag. It just kind of lays on my head. I wore it to the 2015 World Series, but I haven’t worn it since. The second one was fitted (7 7/8) with a crown that topped my noggin proudly like the antenna tops the Empire State. It was on sale at Modell’s after the Series was over. I grabbed it and had worn it as much as I’ve worn any cap since November of 2015. Unless it magically reappears, I guess I won’t anymore.

It was just a cap, but it communicated good things. I’d look at it and think about October of 2015, the unlikely run that got us to a World Series and me to Citi Field for that World Series. Any other October prior, you could have squinted all you liked and not seen a World Series there. I’d think about my father and how we watched two of the games together in the nursing home where he was living out what turned out to be his final months. 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 have the memories of the 2015 World Series inside my head and my heart. They will do.

Pictured: Chrysler Building.
Not pictured: Many 2015 Mets.
Coming into view: The future.

Similarly, I will remember the 2015 National League champions even if I’m unable to see them every day any longer. Time’s failure to consult with any of us has resulted in a current Mets roster from whence you can barely discern the outline of the Mets who won us a pennant, even from the vantage point of a well-situated observatory. Look over there…there’s deGrom, d’Arnaud, Cespedes, Conforto, Granderson, Matz, Flores, Robles…uh…can you tell if that’s Syndergaard or is that the Chrysler Building?

Twenty-five men constituted the 2015 Mets’ World Series roster and eighteen of those men will not be suited up and ready to go in Colorado tonight. The disabled list explains several absences, but mostly it’s time doing what time does. No baseball team, league champions or not, resists progress for better or for worse. Lucas Duda, 2015 Mets first baseman, was sent away just last week, same day I lost Hozzie. Addison Reed, the last eventual pennant-winner added to the roster (waiver-period trade at the end of August), is the latest to be dispatched. Addison went to Boston yesterday for three minor league pitchers who might be parts of headfilling, heartwarming memories of the future. Or not. Their names are Stephen Nogosek, Jamie Callahan and Gerson Bautista. Their ranking within the Red Sox farm system is no longer relevant, but they were ranked somewhere in there. They’re all righties, they all throw hard, they are all, until further notice, mysteries to us.

I mentioned I was at a funeral on Monday. I learned about the Reed trade on my way there. The service was for the mother of one of my oldest friends. He’s not particularly old, but our friendship is. When we became friends, I would have needed to have taken a picture on the 69th floor of the Empire State Building with a Mets cap to make the same point I meant to make the other day on the 86th. And I would’ve had to have brought a roll of film to my neighborhood drug store to have the picture developed. So it’s been a long time. His mother lived to be 95. Now that’s a long time, and, as I was reminded through her family’s beautiful eulogies, boy, did she fill it well. My friend made a stirring documentary about the glorious town in Greece she came from, the absolute evil unleashed on its people during World War II, and how she and her brother somehow survived the horror en route to starting new and blessed lives in America. I knew this woman for decades as my friend’s charming mother. We exchanged pleasantries. After that movie — and again after the warm remembrances offered by her sons, nieces, grandchildren, everybody on the sad occasion of her passing — I realized she was, no kidding, as close to a superhero as I’ll ever know.

I kind of forgot about caps and trades as I thought about my friend’s mother. But baseball has a way of finding me, especially on trade deadline day, often when awkward silences give way to small talk. Later in the afternoon, at the shiva for my friend’s mother, I fell into conversation with another friend, part of the same high school-era group with whom I’ve stayed reasonably close all these years. This friend went to college in Boston and eventually settled there. Not obviously affiliated in New York, he became a Red Sox fan. Natch, he wanted to know about Addison Reed. I told him that unless Terry Collins worked his arm off that they got themselves a dependable reliever who can set up or close or will do anything he is asked and probably do it well. Oh, he said with a tinge of excitement, I have to show you something. Up on his phone came an image of a framed 2013 World Championship banner. It is authentic, he said. Somebody connected to somebody he knows is the somebody who makes the flags and banners for Fenway Park (confirming Boston is still a town where everybody knows your name). This somebody made a slew of such banners for various presentation purposes the last time the Sox won the World Series and one was left over. My friend was asked if he wanted it.

He did. It’s in his living room. It’s a pretty good keepsake. Beats my unstructured cap with the 2015 patch, let alone the “86” at the Empire State Building.

Later at the shiva, I met a man from the Midwest (“I’m a Chicago Ashkenazi trying to fit in with a bunch of New York Sephardics”) who wanted to let me know, once somebody told him I write about baseball, that he’s a Cubs fan. He didn’t brag on their still-current title at all. He lived through too many of the 108 years between world championships to have developed a trace of cockiness. Anyway, as with my friend from Boston, we talked a little baseball as we eased from solemnity to something resembling normality. You do that at a shiva. Plus we noshed. You do that, too, at a shiva.

After I extended my best to my old friend in mourning and wished a safe trip home to my old friend from Boston, I walked down the block, returned to my car and learned Amed Rosario was going to be called up at last. There’s no first baseman on the roster, but some out-of-position infielder will handle it. There’s no closer, either, on the off chance we have late-inning leads. If coffee is for closers, closers are for contenders. Boston, a bona fide contender, has ours, and they already have Craig Kimbrel. They’re covered for closers. But at last we have our shortstop in view. The one who’s supposed to be able to do everything and exude a ton of joy while doing it. We won’t need to squint to see him from a distance. He’ll be up close in living color for many nights, the first of them tonight. I maintained patience during his elongated prospect phase. I shed it in an instant, probably faster than I shed my suit jacket in the parking lot outside the funeral chapel.

Duda’s gone. Reed’s gone. The 2015 National League Champion Mets melt away. No time for sorrow, though. Rosario’s here. I always look forward to the next Mets game. I really look forward to this one.

13 comments to The Circle of Life

  • Curt

    Eventful few days and not all of them positive. Sympathies on all of that. And sympathies on the cap too. As a long-time wearer of same I tend to develop an affinity for them for which I have no other clothing-related equal. Trousers, shoes, even t-shirts can all go away but I remember the caps, even the three boxes of them in the back closet, some dating to my mid-teens in the 70’s and many not close to wearable. Throwing away a cap is not in my nature.

    Looking forward to seeing The Next Great Met tonight. I hope he fares better than many prior NGMs. From a baseball side of things I’m having an, “OK, minus Reed but plus Ramos – despite Sunday maybe not a big drop. And Rosario at short while minus Duda . . . can it be that we’ll be as equally mediocre after as before the deadline?” moment. We shall see and hopefully Mr. Smith will soon go to NYC.

    Still confused by the Edgin DFA. Surely someone will pick him up – have to think he’s good and cheap enough not to come back to us.

    And in the way too early FA-I-want-us-to-get list I now have a name. Addison Reed.

  • Tom Clark

    Hey there- I believe I can put you in touch with the graphic designer behind the Mets Skyline logo (and many other recognizable trademarks I believe). Interested? Pls respond by email. Thanks. Fantastic blog. First read (once it appears) every morning.

  • Kevin From Flushing

    I’d recommend just buying another 2015 WS hat; but I know how it is… it’s not the same. You need to wait a few years to see if it’s still eating away at you. If it is, start cruising ebay.

    Sorry to hear about all the bad days. I hope Rosie makes us forget all about it.

    Not rooting for a HR though, you know me. Outside of Gary Carter, first-game Met homers rarely forecast a good future.

  • Johnny Gee

    It was truly somber and thoughtful circumstances at Mrs. Russo’s funeral, but even at such a sad event it was a pleasure seeing you and catching up. I agree that Mrs. Russo was as close to a super hero as any of us will ever get to meet. She set many examples that we can all aspire to. I think we all will miss her.
    To set the record straight, when I lived in NY all those years ago I was not unaffiliated. I always identified most closely with the Mets. I hate the Yankees (with the exception of Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter). I remember going to wait on line and meet some of the Mets when they came to the Laurel Theater on sort of a victory tour in the winter (?) of 1969. Also, as a newspaper boy for the Long Island Press, you would get baseball tickets if you signed up a certain number of customers – so I had been to Shea a few times. It wasn’t until that pivotal world series of 1986 when you and I had a friendly bet on the outcome that I started rooting for the Sox. Of course for the previous 5 years I had been living very literally in the shadow of Fenway – within 3 blocks for 4 of those years!. In Chicago my favored team was on the North-side. I even enjoy FaithandFear every once in a while, so you can see I have a thing for rooting for the underdogs!
    To set the record straight on another, older, score, I never played intramural softball at BU. It was after college, when I got contact lenses and could finally see the ball that I started playing. I ended up being a player (pitcher) and manager for a team in Division IV of the Boston Bureaucratic Softball League (“BBSL”). I was even commissioner of the division for 1 year! I loved going to the batting cages and would hit balls until my hands bled. I was never any good, but it was a lot of fun. Mike S. came to most of our games to help drink the beer and Andy and AnnMarie were on the team too.
    Let me know the next time you come to Boston and you can cash-in on your clam chowder from ’86 and you can see the banner in person!
    All the best.
    JG

  • Gil

    Incredible post. F&F just keeps delivering.