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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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Bad Game, Good Company

Emily and I spent yesterday getting Joshua settled in at boarding school, which was emotionally fraught, as expected, and also a lot of work. That second part was less expected — there were meetings and receptions, and I wound up assembling shelves and bookcases in a third-floor room in 88-degree heat.

I hadn’t bargained on that, but got it done and then we faced the daunting task of a 4+ hour drive back to New York. That’s a journey I’ve made many, many times — but not usually while quite that tired.

Fortunately, we knew the game would be on.

That’s also familiar territory for me — I’ve racked up thousands of miles with the Mets as my companion, on various radio stations. The At Bat era has changed that somewhat. I no longer feel compelled to extend an evening’s drive to get into the outer edge of radio range, or to cut a drive short to hear the end of a good game. And my time-honed skills at following a game through every third or fourth word and the pitch/pace of the announcers are admittedly less important in the digital age.

But At Bat isn’t a perfect replacement, at least not yet. Instead of the wow and flutter of distance, you get the dreaded message BUFFERING. Instead of storms drowning reception in static, you get the even more dreaded message AUTHORIZING. The difference is that there’s no picking out an occasional word of a radio feed when it’s supposedly doing one of those two things. You get silence. Absence. You get nothing.

Emily and I started the journey with a relatively short drive from Joshua’s new school to a diner we like outside of Worcester, where I paid vague attention to the first inning of the Red Sox-Blue Jays game. Then it was time for the big push. We tuned in just in time to hear Jacob deGrom give up a two-run single to his pitching counterpart Ben Lively. That was bad. On the other hand, the Mets were playing the Phillies, which is usually good.

Not tonight, though. Lively struck again, taking Jake deep for a two-run homer and an improbable four RBIs on the night. The rout was on, with Phillie after Phillie reaching base while deGrom trudged around the mound looking baffled and irritated. (I don’t know that for sure, as all I had was radio, but I can guess.)

A Phillies’ lead of more than a touchdown in the last month of a terrible season wouldn’t normally be a must-listen, but my wife and I were a captive audience. And the hours to come renewed my appreciation for the work of Howie Rose and Josh Lewin.

Last night’s game epitomized forgettable, and the WOR radio team had to know the audience had gone from small to imperceptible once deGrom had been sent to the showers. But Howie and Josh kept on plugging, chronicling events and chatting companionably as if Citi Field was the place you’d want to be.

They talked Al Luplow and Shane Victorino and Don Rose and Dillon Gee. They honored J.P. Crawford‘s first hit and used that as a jumping-off point to discuss the perils of rain and official games and whether Crawford’s milestone might be washed away, like Jay Bruce‘s home run against the Braves. (The rain never showed up at Citi, though we drove through buckets of it in Connecticut.) They talked about Mets’ injuries and next year, and Giancarlo Stanton and Roger Maris and Barry Bonds, and how Brandon Nimmo kind of looks like Maris (he does), and along the way they covered whatever it was the Mets were doing out there on the field with no discernable success.

In short, they did yeoman work, getting two weary travelers all the way to 684 above White Plains. With the storm having turned WOR into a sea of static (oh for the days of WFAN’s strong, clear signal) I’d switched back to At Bat, which decided it was time for some buffering as Matt Reynolds batted with two outs in the ninth and the Mets down eight. So we switched over to WOR, which was broadcasting a commercial.

“Reynolds hit a home run that went so far the Phillies were spooked into changing pitchers,” I told Emily.

Well, maybe not. The ballgame was over. But so was our drive, near enough. Howie and Josh had been given almost nothing to work with and spun that into three hours of entertainment. Thank you, gentlemen. And thank you, baseball — even the part where you get beat by eight runs.

Oh, as an addendum: an hour after we got home, I was dazedly scrolling through Twitter and discovered the Red Sox-Blue Jays game we’d seen the beginning of east of Worcester was in the 17th inning.

7 comments to Bad Game, Good Company

  • Pete In Iowa

    I’m with you on the technology front Jason. Many times I find myself frustrated I can’t tune a radio like I used to be able to. You know, barely turning the dial and being able to tune in a distant station between frequencies with a magical touch of finger work combined with pointing the radio in just the right way. It’s sadly become a lost art. Try that with these newfangled digital tuners. Good luck!!
    Sometimes, I’m not convinced progress has really moved us forward.

  • Jacobs27@yahoo.com

    deGrom had it working loud and clear in the 1st inning (a rarity for these Mets), but then seemed to steadily lose reception from the 2nd inning on. The elusive 3rd out in the 4th inning was the worst of technical difficulties, the signal all but gone.

    Don’t think it would’ve changed the outcome at all, but it would have been nice if Smoker could’ve not let all those runners score, if only for Jake’s ERA.

  • Seth

    Be happy you had the good company. That’s way more valuable than badly played baseball.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Thanks for taking me along for the ride. I still devote one or two optimum-reception Friday evenings each summer to twirling the dials while sitting on my back patio, cold beer at my side. Logging how many games (MLB & MILB) I can get on my trusty old Panasonic RF 2200 and/or Tecsun 350. Simple pleasures.

    PS: Re Nimmo, maybe Maris, but definitely Barry Pepper as Maris in 61*

  • Dave

    If you had been in front of a tv, you would’ve been treated to perhaps the best and most extended episode of Let’s Get Out the Baseball Cards yet. Yes, modern technology has its advantages at times, but give me the Mets announcers every time.

  • eric1973

    You guys take me back to the WCAU days of Harry Kalas screaming ‘Michael Jack Schmidt!’ And WTOP for the Baltimore games, some Cleveland games on 1100, and if I got really lucky, some Cardinal games on KMOX.

    And, oh yeah, trying to get the Mets on WGBB 1240 during some of the lean years. Loved the name Chip Cippola.

  • I miss Bob Murphy on the radio. Bob Murphy could make the most boring game exciting (even if his calls on the radio didn’t always match what was actually happening in the game…or perhaps because of that). For the period of time I lived in the New York media market, my favorite thing was putting the Mets game on the TV, turning the volume off, and turning up the game on the radio. Radio, its always seemed to me, is highly under-rated.