The blog for Mets fans
who like to read


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.

Got something to say? Leave a comment, or email us at (Sorry, but we have no interest in ads, sponsored content or guest posts.)

Need our RSS feed? It's here.

Visit our Facebook page, or drop by the personal pages for Greg and Jason.

Or follow us on Twitter: Here's Greg, and here's Jason.

Welcome to the Vestibule

David Ortiz is in the Hall of Fame, which is great for David Ortiz and, I believe, splendid for baseball. Big Papi was a big star with big numbers who came through in big situations. That’s a Hall of Famer in my mind. Everybody else on the just-revealed Baseball Writers Association of America ballot isn’t in the Hall of Fame, a result which is a matter for debate. I know it is because MLB Network filled hours with debate over their exclusion. I’m not that invested in any particular player’s absence, but at least the announcement gave those of us marooned on Lockout Island something to talk about. Kudos to Billy Wagner, Gary Sheffield, Jeff Kent and Bobby Abreu for logging check marks on more than 5% of votes cast. None came close to going in and none will “go in as a Met” should any of them go in at all, but it’s always nice to be reminded of good players who wore the Mets uniform.

Especially when the Mets uniform was new.

I’ve been thinking for a while now that what the New York Mets Hall of Fame really needs is a Casey Stengel Wing, though for a space that’s already physically compressed, a wing would have to be more figurative than literal. Instead, allow me to welcome one and all to The Casey Stengel Vestibule, an anteroom designed to lead us into our Hall with affection for and attention to a few of those who made the Mets the Mets in the first place…even if first place couldn’t have been further from where those first few sets of Mets finished. We could also dub it Casey’s foyer, which via British pronunciation rhymes with oy vey (my mother liked to say foy-ay), but in the United States rhymes with lawyer and thus might be mistaken for a player acquired in a trade that turns out even worse than the one that cost us Amos Otis. “Getting Joe Foy was a misstep, but this deal? It’s even Foyer.” So let’s go with vestibule. It’s a word classic enough to be compatible with a namesake who first drew breath in the Nineteenth Century.

What building material are we working with here? Let’s say The Casey Stengel Vestibule will be constructed from context. Our aim is to provide an opportunity to pay tangible tribute to Mets who came to prominence in the earliest days of the franchise; Mets who achieved some feats that live on in legend all these decades later; Mets who did the best they could under trying competitive circumstances; Mets who fomented a legacy and loyalty from which everything we as fans embrace stems; and Mets who the Mets Hall of Fame process has, to date, ignored.

The Mets Hall of Fame was founded in 1981. The first several classes of inductees mostly recognized figures associated with the beginnings of the Metropolitan Baseball Club of New York, yet skipped over the players who composed said ballclub. Once that first wave was properly recognized and our HOF commenced looking at the fellers on the field, it implicitly dismissed the first few Met years. Ed Kranepool, whose Met career began in 1962, is in, but he’s honored for his longevity in general and his contributions to 1969 and 1973 specifically. Cleon Jones, whose Met career began in 1963, is in, but the story his Hall plaque tells is similar. It’s understandable to a certain extent that when it came time to certify players as Met-immortal, the instinct was to put the losing years in the rearview mirror the way the ’69 Mets did under Gil Hodges.

Bud Harrelson and Rusty Staub were the first persons enshrined as players in 1986 (Hodges was inducted in 1982 for his managerial magic); Tom Seaver followed in 1988; Jerry Koosman had his day in 1989; then Kranepool in ’90, Jones in ’91, Jerry Grote in ’92 and Tug McGraw in ’93 before NYM HOF inductions came to focus mainly on later Met successes — after which HOF inductions tended to vanish. Yet 1969 wouldn’t be 1969 as we know it had 1962 not been 1962 as we know it. The distance scaled between 40-120 base camp and the 100-62 mountaintop represents an unforgettable journey. The individuals who traveled its first steps, despite the stumbles, ought not be forgotten.

Especially with that context we’re building with. It’s a vestibule to the Mets Hall of Fame I’m proposing, not the College of Cardinals. I’ll give you a “small Hall” for Cooperstown if you insist. I don’t understand being exclusionary for the one adjacent to the Jackie Robinson Rotunda. We decide what is sacred to us. The embryonic and infant Mets qualify. Their status transcends standings. They formed the mythic foundation of all we root for. Those who succeeded a little when succeeding at all was precious deserve to be treated as Met success stories.

Should the actuarial tables be on your side, return to this space or one similar to it in another sixty years and 1969 will likely appear chronologically indistinguishable from 1962. Should the Mets endure to a 120th anniversary (assuming MLB resolves its lockout by then), I’d guess everything that spans the 25th anniversary patch worn in 1986 will casually constitute “the early days” of the Mets. Maybe we don’t have to wait for 2082 for precision of perspective to diminish. Maybe anything that happened before you were born or became a fan is all one big garble of “Then” to you. But we are fortunate in 2022, as we commemorate the Mets’ 60th anniversary, to still be alive in a time when 1962 lingers on within the parameters of collective living memory. True, you have to go back a ways to claim you made your way to the Polo Grounds or tuned into WABC or Channel 9 for any of the frequent defeats or cherished victories, but as ancient history goes, it really wasn’t that long ago. Not as many Mets who played in Manhattan are with us as there used to be, but a bunch remain. The same can be said for the players who came along as Shea Stadium opened and the Mets began to tentatively find their Flushing footing.

From the vantage point of 2022, Casey’s days shimmer. Never mind the long-term basement rental. We who grew up on the tales of the ’62 Mets and the ’63 Mets and the ’64 Mets and the ’65 Mets — teams already in the past when we jumped on the bandwagon, yet ever-present in the Metsian conversation to which Lindsey, Ralph and Bob invited us regularly — relished grasping where we had come from. If we didn’t necessarily miss a world in which the Mets winning a World Series was unimaginable, we nevertheless knew we’d missed out on something special. We missed out on 452 losses in four years, but we also missed digging in our heels and determining not only were we gonna be fans of this loopy outfit, but we were gonna stay fans and become bigger fans.

Hail to the fans who took a look at what those first four seasons yielded and asked, “Where can I get more of this?” It was after the unused National League Town receipts generated by expired Giant or Dodger fealty had been cashed in. It was after the irony of pulling for the worst ballclub ever had run its course. By the end of 1965, it was after Casey himself had carried the Met Mystique has far as he personally could. Casey’s number was retired that September. Casey’s likeness was committed to a bust when the Mets Hall of Fame was inaugurated sixteen Septembers hence. Tales of Casey’s wizardry — with people, with baseball, with English — captivate us to this day. Despite the institutional amnesia that plagued the organization prior to the spasm of Cohen-instigated, Showalter-blessed historical awareness currently and delightfully permeating Seaver Way, the Casey Stengel aura has never been fully filed away in a drawer somewhere.

But he alone didn’t create the Met Mystique. Joan Payson, George Weiss, Bill Shea…they’re all in the Mets Hall of Fame, too, same as our first trio of announcers, and all were worthy picks, but what these most valuable non-players gave us was the infrastructure. It was the players who had to do the heavy lifting of filling it in, even if sometimes what got lifted also got dropped. There were myriad Mets who sent the New Breed scurrying to its bedsheets before a single banner fluttered within a mile of a pennant race. The absence of their ranks from the Mets Hall of Fame makes the joint feel like one has entered the Banner Day contest with a blank placard.

Thus, The Casey Stengel Vestibule, dedicated to the players who got our foot in the door and kept it there until all of us together, Mets and Mets fans, could grow formidable enough to kick it in.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame selected five players for its first class in 1936. We can humbly start with the same quantity. My five selections for the first class of The Casey Stengel Vestibule of the New York Mets Hall of Fame, ideally inducted amid the franchise’s 60th-anniversary celebration during Old Timers Weekend this August, are, in alphabetical order:

Outfielder, 1962-1965
The first Met to hit .300 as a true everyday player, achieving his milestone over 154 games and 543 at-bats in 1964, when Joe led the club in doubles, triples, total bases, runs batted in and runs scored.

Starting Pitcher, 1962-1963
Threw the very first pitch in New York Mets history, having been named Opening Day starter in 1962, an honor Roger would earn again in 1963 after becoming the first Met to compile double-digit victories in a single season.

Starting Pitcher, 1962-1964
Posted the first win in franchise history, a complete game triumph at Pittsburgh on April 23, 1962. Jay followed it by starting the first home win in Mets history on April 28 and notching the Mets’ second route-going road win on May 8.

Infielder, 1963-1966
The first Met to start an All-Star Game, manning second base for the National League at Shea Stadium in 1964, the first of Ron’s two Midsummer Classic selections. Dueled Pete Rose for Rookie of the Year honors in 1963, finishing as runner-up in BBWAA voting.

Outfielder, 1962-1964
The premier slugger of the Original Mets, belting 34 home runs, establishing a standard that would last for 13 seasons. While placing sixth in the 1962 NL home run derby, Frank drove in 94 runs, another club record that would stand until the following decade.

There’s more to be said for each of the above, no matter that whatever was said about them during their Met tenures was uttered against the backdrop of the second division. Acknowledging shortcomings and circumstances is part and parcel of revering the early Mets, or the Mets of any less than brilliant stretch. They lost a lot? They survived. You might even say they flourished, taking turns as genuine fan favorites. It says something for our tribe that we threw ourselves into embracing players who could win only so much on our behalf. It says something about the players that they inspired the amount of adoration they did.

The Mets of those first few years may have lost more than their share of games, but the hearts they won are still being counted.

All five Vestibuleans are still with us. I will admit a bit to prioritizing the living for immediate induction when the living are currently in their eighties and nineties. I’m also in favor of honoring Mets from the Casey Stengel Era who have left us, squaring our historical account and giving their descendants a day to remember once the Vestibule establishes itself and the Mets tend to their Hall of Fame annually. But this summer, let’s take care of those players who have a chance to experience it and enjoy it. Hopefully each gentleman among our plaqueworthy pack — they shall carry the same status as everybody previously inducted in the Hall, from Payson and Stengel in ’81 to Alfonzo, Darling and Matlack in ’21 — can join the long overdue Old Timers festivities at Citi Field this summer, accepting our appreciation and tipping their cap. If they can’t be there physically, they can know their team and their fans haven’t forgotten how they helped build this thing we love, win or lose.

5 comments to Welcome to the Vestibule

  • eric1973

    Amazin’ coincidence, Greg, as just last night I was looking at that website ( that lists all the oldest living Mets and thinking how I would love to see interviews with the Original guys like Thomas, Mantilla, Cook, and Landrith.

    Thanks for remembering them, as they all grow in legend as time goes by, and we gain more perspective regarding our genesis.

  • open the gates

    That’s a really cool concept, even though it will never happen in real life. Losing is part of the Met legacy, after all, and the Mets who rose above the losing are worthy of recognition. (This is an argument that would make any Yankee fan’s head explode, but every Met fan gets it.)

    Speaking of genesis of Met-fanhood, I’d love if next to the Casey vestibule, they built a Joe Torre Corner to similarly honor the late-’70’s, early-’80’s Mets who rose above those miserable years. Guys like Craig Swan. Lee Mazzilli (despite being an ’86-er, Mazz will always more fully occupy the earlier era). John Stearns. Dave Kingman (yeah, I know, but still). Maybe a couple of other guys. They’re not as mythical as the Founding Fathers you mentioned, but they held the fort in a similar manner. More to the point, they’re the first Met heroes of my generation of Met fans.

  • Tad Richards

    I love the idea. I’d also include Little Al Jackson. And Carlton Willey, an early favorite of mine.

  • Kevin from Flushing

    From your keyboard to Cohen’s eyeballs!