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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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It’s 4:37 Somewhere

Baseball’s League Division Series round is completing its 25th iteration today and tomorrow with winner-takes-some drama. St. Louis at Atlanta. Washington at Los Angeles. Tampa Bay at Houston. Lose and go home, win and go on. That’s not winner taking all, but it’s plenty of stakes. That’s stakes that — save for the 1981 postseason and its singular split-season asteriskery — didn’t exist prior to 1994 on paper or 1995 in action. It’s certainly different from what baseball fans who came of age prior to the mid-’90s are instinctually conditioned to accept as the way to go about getting to the World Series.

When the Mets and three other teams inaugurated the League Championship Series in 1969, a.k.a. “the playoffs,” they initiated a break with what might have been considered the Good Old Days of binary win-and-in pennant races. The LDS did the same to the four-division symmetry a later generation (mine) thought was perfect. Easts played Wests, the bests then dueled for every single marble in creation.

Since 1995, it’s not that simple. Three divisions. A Wild Card. Since 2012, two Wild Cards, but only one in the Division Series. Your 107 wins, if you’re the 2019 Astros, get you no more than a deciding game at home. You lose that, and you are home. We’re not necessarily past the hollow “if the Wild Card were around in the ’80s, the Mets would have gone to the playoffs every year” argument, because it makes us feel good to imagine a system in which Doc, Darryl, Keith, Kid, et al winning 90+ games was automatically rewarded, but we don’t seem to have a problem with the possible elimination of a juggernaut prior to the contemporary final four.

On Tuesday night, after tying their ALDS versus the Astros at two, the Rays were talking about shocking the world. A 96-win team doing anything outstanding shouldn’t seem shocking, though the Rays being the Rays carry an aura of shock and awe anytime they conquer an opponent in front of a multitude of their supporters. They inevitably carry an echo of the 100-win Mets of 1969 not having a chance against the 109-win Orioles. As 2019 has served as an excellent reminder of 1969, I find myself less and less shocked that the Mets won four of five games from Baltimore when it counted most. We had the pitching and we’d won a hundred games. Very good teams beat very good teams and vice-versa. The Orioles were no more than a very good team until they won that World Series.

Which they didn’t.

I have no complaints with the competitive implications of submitting very good teams to an extra hurdle of competition. Let the Astros prove themselves this one extra round. Or let the Rays surge. Just let one of them beat the Yankees, of course. In the National League…god, there has been nobody to root for since the Brewers were eliminated in the Wild Card Game. The Brewers were the ghost we chased through September so we could be in that game, but we hadn’t played them since May 5, so it was tough for me to gin up enmity for Milwaukee the way I’ve stockpiled animus over the years for the Braves, Cardinals, Nationals and Dodgers. I still had a little residual affection for the Brewers from last October when, if you’d hung out with me, you’d have sworn I was from Wisconsin. I listened to every one of Milwaukee’s LDS and LCS games over the WTMJ feed and rooted hard in a distinctively October fashion for the Crew. Bob Uecker! Sausage commercials! Craig Counsell slipping openers onto the scene like it was a Miller Park tailgate! The whole thing rolled out barrels of fun for a baseball-adoring soul otherwise unaffiliated.

Nothing of that nature in the NL at the moment. The Dodgers are the Dodgers. Their presence is oppressive, yet they haven’t achieved anything admirable from this perspective since 1981 (yeah, we haven’t forgotten 1988 — or Utley). The Cardinals we still resent for wrecking 1985 and 1987 let alone 2006. We were just playing and sweeping the Braves like five minutes ago. What are they doing sopping up a segment of the spotlight? Meanwhile, the tangible joy of pointing out the Nationals have never won a Division Series despite their participation in several of them hangs in the balance of tonight’s Game Five. No Sheadenfreude comes clean to us.

Nevertheless, two National League foes of ours will arise from their respective scraps, vanquishing two other National League foes of ours and thus leave us with a whole other series in which there’s nobody to root for. That’s October for ya.

October for me is also the probably unintended retro pleasure of the LDS, despite the LDS being a fairly modern invention, about as old as access to the Internet. I’ve liked that games of import suddenly materialize at 1:07 PM or 4:37 PM. Daytime baseball for which at least a few marbles are the prize. That’s a throwback worthy of a sitdown in front of Ken Burns’s cameras. On Monday afternoon, I flipped on the TV and left it on in the background, listening to Bob Costas call the Rays and Astros, and could have sworn it was a perfectly good afternoon from my youth or relatively early adulthood. I hop in the car to run errands around five o’clock and, after guessing which frequency ESPN Radio has leased time for what its local outlet deems spillover programming, find a national broadcast crackling with static and semi-informed voices. It’s Chris Berman and Rick Sutcliffe telling me what’s going on inside the red-clad heads of everybody filling seats at Busch Stadium, as if they know. If the temperature’s agreeable, I have the window rolled down and 970 AM or 1050 AM blaring and imagine that Game Two of the NLDS is gripping America’s imagination as it is gripping mine. The mostly inaudible signal is not audible from anybody else’s car where I am. It’s probably not of any great concern to anybody outside of St. Louis or Atlanta. But it’s October and it’s the playoffs and I’m all in.

And will continue to be, even as night falls on the first round.

17 comments to It’s 4:37 Somewhere

  • Ken K in NJ

    When I don’t have a specific rooting interest, i.e. when the Mets no longer count, it usually takes me several playoff games to decide who to root for. And then I find myself rooting for whatever team will cause the most consternation for “Major League Baseball”. So this year it’s the Tampa Bay Rays. Lousy Market, Lousy Stadium, Low Payroll, Players Nobody Ever Heard Of, Analytics on Steroids, They’re not the Yankees. They’ve got it all.

    That said, failing that, I will root for the Dodgers. I’m planning ahead. Taking it all this year will remove the stigma of “Seven Straight First Place Finishes With No World Championship”. And that will take that off the table for 2020, you know, just in case the Mets make the playoffs.

  • chuck

    I still can’t forgive Bud Selig for being Jerry Reinsdorf’s stooge, so there was no way I could root for the Brewers. You’re a better man than me, Greg.

    I’m just pretending the Gnats are still the Expos.

    • chuck

      And to make matters even sillier, I’ve given them an alternate name. In honor of the architect of DC, and to pay respect to the culture of the city that lost the team, I’m calling them the L’Enfants. At least it’s a little appropriate for Juan Soto.

      “Kranepool flies to right. Agnew resigns.”

  • Dave

    Go Team Not Called the Yankees…our usual October mode.

    And gee, poor Braves, boo f’ing hoo. Almost as though G|@^¡n€ was their non-devastated starting pitcher, huh?

  • Joeybaguhdonuts

    You know Greg, Sirius satellite radio (now SiriusXM Pandora & Ziggy) has every game played, both home and away radio feeds. Listening to the buffoonery of the St. Louis pair when the Mets visited makes me grateful for what we have.

  • Steve

    The Rays are pretty much the only underdog rooting interest in the divisions series, I suppose you can make an argument for the cardinals, but that’s insane

  • mikeL

    ha greg!
    your missing of baseball being central to american life reminds me of driving home from an old-man-by-day (law students by night) bar on the day off todd pratt’s famous homer to ultimately clinch a game 163.
    (i didn’t have cable at the time and the games weren’t broadcast in albany)
    i was ready to frive around town honking my horn, imagining hearing the post game celebrations coming from open windows and the like. alas i was alone in my celebration.

    i must say i wasn’t devastated to see the braves tomahawk-chopped into their off-season, nor did i feel too bad seeing kershaw get completely lit up – and help send the NL favorites home to endure TWO full series without them.
    roberts’ kershaw move was very mickey-like – and had been planned and made public earlier in the day. how’d that work out? and HE should have known better, having kept tje sox alive for that one last out required to trigger thd most epic of collapses for the yanks.

    yes, the nats are rivals, but they too dug themselves out deep funks, and are finally advancing without bry$$ harper. l like rendon, and it was good to see him and soro at the center of a dramatic comeback. i can’t begrudge the nats for having a young stud in soto…because the mets have a bunch of their own.

    the dodgers reek of excess the way the yankees so often have. the blue clad throng exiting before their team’s final at bat says it all. and for ex-dodger kendrick to inflict the fatal blow was lovely.

    tonite we may see travis and company send the other favorite home. must see tv.

    METS 2020!

    • You might enjoy the payoff to this Todd Pratt Game recollection (well, the whole thing, I hope, but the part toward the end about sharing in celebration).

      The first time I recognized the nation as a whole no longer got together to hang on every postseason pitch was on a drive from Dallas to Waco during the Pirates-Braves NLCS in 1991 where the usual MLB affiliates were clogged with Texas-Oklahoma football and it was all I could do to pull in the broadcast from Houston. I eventually settled for a Spanish-language call.

  • mikeL

    thanks greg will certainly check it out after work…it looks like a fun one!
    yea, that falling out certainly hadn’t taken hold in ’86.
    i remember watching the game 5 marathon v. houston in the rpi student union, and the place was abuzz with folks watching every pitch til the end. and bar-hopping on bleeker street soon thereafter WS game1 appeared to be a requirement for selling drinks that night.
    my first experience of this sort was on a weds afternoon in 1973 at catechism. a classmate with a transistor radio was providing a spirited play-by-play as the nun-teacher wrote on the blackboard. i believe this was the pete rose-bud harrelson brawl game. was my first year following baseball and the mets, and it was all getting very exciting.
    (that classmate was paul dottino, who still works in sports journalism and broadcasting)

    yea, WAY too much attention is paid imo to far-off college sports programs, when actually-paid professionals work and play in our collective midst. and of course who follows college baseball??

    but if *everyone* had discerning taste, it wouldn’t mean so much would it?

    i do believe the mets young and exciting core will help grow the sport in the ny metro and beyond in the years to come. winning breeds curiosity. or at least it *should*.

  • While it’s a pretty lame consolation prize, I was glad to see the Braves get clobbered in that last game. No more tomahawk chop nonsense for 5 months or so. Hallelujah!

  • eric1973

    All you guys and gals are amazing with your memories.

    1973 was my first season as a die-hard, and my mom scored the Mets-Reds game (in her own way) for a couple of innings until I got home from school. I still have the sheets.

    This year, I hate all 4 NL teams, so I am rooting for Houston, as I think they are the only ones who can knock off the Yanks.

    And Greg, last year I listened to the Spanish broadcast on 1050am, as you can pick up bits and pieces from the voices and the crowd. I thought I was the only one. This year, they had it on the same station in English.

    Nice to see the shadows on some of the day games. A reminder of a well-spent youth.

  • NostraDennis

    mikeL, it’s a small world. I worked with Paul Dottino at WNEW radio in the late 80’s. He did the Giants football pre-game show with Bob Papa. Real good guy.

  • Daniel Hall

    Was also hoping on the Brewers, the royal annoyance Yelich be damned, but … welp. I’m all Astros now.