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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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A Tide Receding

After a one-day respite, the Mets were back to doing nothing in particular, this time against the Dodgers. They showed little discipline at the plate, ran the bases poorly, and generally played the role of GENERIC OPPONENT, standing around looking poleaxed while the Dodgers bunched hits and played solid defense and loped off with the victory without breaking much of a sweat. The final score was just 4-1, but having been stupid enough to watch and/or listen to the whole thing, I can report that it felt like the Dodgers’ side of the equation was missing a zero, or possibly two.

If you can still bear to keep track, the Mets’ 13-game ride through Baseball Hell has started off 1-6. So if you’d like a silver lining, here it is: The stretch that will end the Mets’ season is more than half over. They’ll be beaten some more in L.A., fly across the country, have a guaranteed loss-free Monday (sucker — it’s an off-day!), and then be beaten by the Giants. After that, things will matter even less than they do now, and then it will be winter and a season that looked promising for a while, or at least diverting, will have curdled into another one you’re glad is over.

* * *

In times like this I turn for comfort to baseball cards, which have long sustained me when … wait, I’ve just been handed a report.

Oh. Oh no.

Baseball is parting ways with Topps after 2025 to strike an exclusive deal with Fanatics. Yeah, they’re giving the boot to the company that’s been synonymous with baseball cards, and with baseball, since the freaking Truman administration.

When I became a baseball fan in 1976, it was Topps cards that supercharged my fandom: Each of those little cardboard rectangles was a miniature baseball history lesson, filled with stats and personal information and intriguing facts about long-gone players and years and ballclubs. Now, all that will be gone — or at least it’s pretty seriously endangered right now. The best outcome might be hoping Fanatics buys whatever’s left of Topps and keeps the brand alive as a loss leader for retro fans like me. That thin sliver of hope — the scenario in which you’re thrown a bone by twentysomething MBAs who took a seminar in reputational capital — is the closest one can get to being a Pollyanna in these benighted days.

Here’s a strange, slightly ironic postscript: In 1976 Topps assigned the Mets the colors maize and sky blue, a palette more suitable to the University of Michigan than any outfit that played in Flushing. I knew those colors were inaccurate, but as a newcomer to baseball and baseball cards, they still imprinted themselves on my brain. Decades later, that color scheme yells out “Mets!” to me as loudly as the team’s actual one does.

Since then the flagship Topps set has become slick and shiny and crowned with foil instead of stained by gum, but Topps also honors its past with a nostalgic line. Topps Heritage began in 2001, with a look and feel that mimicked the 1952 design, and it’s advanced in sync with the company’s past ever since. That means this year’s Heritage cards channel the gleeful, faintly psychedelic Pop Art of the 1972 cards; next year the design will snap back to the staid, almost deliberately dull whiteness of ’73. When I read the Topps announcement, I did the math and needed a moment: 2025’s Heritage set, presumably the finale, will revisit the design from 1976. Barring some kind of corporate intervention, Topps will go out with a collector’s set mimicking the design from the year that I arrived and became a fan.

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry about that. Which is pretty much the way I feel about being a Mets fan these days.

7 comments to A Tide Receding

  • Paul

    As the Mets’ collective team batting slump continues, which I like to refer to as a “Quattlebaum Quagmire,” do you think former Mets batting instructor Chili Davis is experiencing, if not enjoying, a keen sense of schandenfreude?

  • Iowa Pete

    Just another example Jason — in a long, long line of examples — of baseball spitting on its traditions for a few bucks.
    It’s a double whammy really. One the one hand, the money grubbers running the business toss traditions and fans of a certain age to the curb, while the players on the field are playing something which becomes less and less familiar to us.
    And for the first time in my life, I have begun to consider regarding baseball as I have football and basketball. That is, as unwatchable non-entities in which I no longer have little (if any) interest in.
    What more can we say but “it’s a real shame.”?

  • Has there been an “official” reason why MLB has dumped Topps? Is the company struggling? Just more tradition dumped overboard.

  • Seth

    There’s the June Swoon, the July Fry, the August Bust, and potentially the September NOT to Remember. This team is killing me!

  • ljcmets

    The University of Michigan Maize and Blue is closer to a royal or navy blue than sky blue but I’d love to see a scan of one of those cards from 1976, the year before I attended U of M. Love to see any intersection of my two sports obsessions. Oh and for the record, Michigan 22, Ohio State 0 in the 1976 rendition of The Game. As for last night’s Mets game, I went to sleep when the score reached 4-1, and I saw this morning I missed nothing.

  • Eric

    Take heart. The Braves are playing the Orioles for their next 3, but starting on Monday Aug 23, the Braves’ next 8 are against the Yankees, Giants, and Dodgers. Then 4 in Colorado where the Rockies win like a top team. That stretch goes through Sep 5.

    The Mets’ tough stretch goes through Wednesday Aug 26. Then it’s 14 against the Marlins and Nationals through Sep 9, albeit the Marlins have a habit of not losing to the Mets when they should.

    The Mets are 5 out right now. The question is how many games can we reasonably expect the Mets to make up over the much-overlapping relatively easy Mets stretch and the tough Braves stretch? Of course, that’s setting aside the Phillies, who’ve slumped to 4 out since knocking the Mets out of 1st place.

  • Richard Porricelli

    The contemporary sports card scene has become so incomprehensible to me.Suprising Topps held on this long..Investors and speculators dominate the hobby now.MLPA and MLB cant say no to that money Bloody shame..