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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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Radio, Radio

I knew from the get-go that last night would be one of those catch-as-catch-can games, grabbed by bits and pieces while out and about. That's one of the joys of baseball, after all — when life dictates that you be elsewhere, you can nearly always sneak off for a half-inning or at least a quick update. (And most of the time, some truly marooned baseball fan will chase after you and beg to know the score.) Mindful of the Greg Commandments, I was carrying my portable radio.

A portable radio is your friend — mine is a nondescript little silver thing with a loop that lets it hang around my neck. The letters have long since worn off of it, and each spring I have to figure out what button does what through trial and error, but a few minutes' refresher course usually suffices — it's a portable radio, after all, not the space shuttle. I carry a pair of earbud headphones as well, and it's the easiest thing to put the radio around your neck under your shirt, pop one earbud in and keep track of the game while remaining at least nominally part of the world. I've even become fairly good at putting the bud in the opposite ear and carrying on a conversation. (Emily may dispute this.)

As excuses for not watching/listening to a whole game go, I had a good one: Last night was the second installment of Varsity Letters, a monthly showcase of great sportswriting read by the authors. Tonight's authors were Mark Lamster, whose “Spalding's World Tour” sounds like an intriguing look at 19th-century baseball; David Margolick, writer of “Beyond Glory,” about the 1938 rematch between Joe Louis and Max Schmelling; and Jeff Pearlman, whose new Barry Bonds bio, “Love Me, Hate Me,” I devoured last week. If you're in New York City the first Wednesday of next month, drop by.

I listened to the first inning while walking across the Manhattan Bridge, marveling that I'd barely heard of most of the Pirates. (Freddy Sanchez? Ronny Paulino?) Ian Snell's on my Rotisserie team, setting up an unstoppable force/immovable object debate, since the universe seems to have dictated as laws of physics that the Mets can't hit rookie starters and that my fantasy team sucks. But I couldn't tell you what Snell looks like, beyond guessing he's bipedal. Across the bridge, I stepped outside the astonishingly tasty, astonishingly dirt-cheap Dumpling House in Chinatown (I'm full of recommendations today) to hear David Wright and Cliff Floyd's misery continue. Then we made our way to Varsity Letters.

And then, an interlude. Look, a portable radio is a must-have, but there are some situations in which even a subtle bud-in-one-ear is verboten: The list includes weddings (during the actual ceremony, in the receiving line, whenever your significant other threatens you with bodily harm), funerals (the whole shebang) and when authors are reading from the books they spent so much time and trouble writing. Even were I not a writer myself, I like to think my vestigial sense of decency would have seen me through this one.

After the reading, I popped a bud back in my ear — just in time to hear “Enter Sandman.”

“3-1 Mets, Wagner on his way in,” I told my companions, offering a jaunty little thumbs-up because hey, these were the Pirates. I even let myself think that this was a pretty nice fantasy-baseball outcome: Pedro would be 6-0 and Snell couldn't have pitched too badly in the loss, so it was all good. Perhaps that's when the Baseball Gods decided punishment was in order: Suddenly those anonymous 2006 Pirates became the anonymous 2005 Pirates who sank their pointy little teeth into Braden Looper's hinder one dreary night last July: Tike Redman and Humberto Cota, meet Jose Hernandez and Ronny Paulino. As the authors shook hands and signed books, I stood in the middle of the room frozen in shock and dismay, hand over one ear.

Extra innings passed largely without me, because I was risking being rude and because the night had already demonstrated that I wasn't exactly a good-luck charm. Another of the joys of baseball on the radio: Listen for a second or two in extra innings and you know what's going on, even if they don't tell you the score. Howie and Tom chatting matter-of-factly about the weather with the Pirates up was a pretty good indication that I could check in again after a couple of minutes. So it went until, finally, one more check before heading out into the night….

“Delgado being mobbed by his teammates!”

Hmmm. Did he just win them over with a stirring declamation about the bombing of Vieques? Did he just do something really cool with the donut in the on-deck circle?

No, silly. That's a walkoff. No thanks to me, but I'll take it all the same.

11 comments to Radio, Radio

  • Anonymous

    First of all, yes, I do disagree that you've become “fairly good” at carrying on a conversation while listening to the game, unless “What?” repeated at regular intervals constitutes a conversation.
    Second of all (as Joshua loves to say), I will repeat what I have said on a couple of occasions already. Billy Wagner may not be Braden Looper or Armando Benitez. But I do not have the enviable, “OK, the closer's coming in. We're safe” feeling one would like to have with a closer. Come to think about it, has there ever been a Mets closer that made you feel that way?

  • Anonymous

    Hey, didn't we used to have a fairly frequent commenter named Emily?

  • Anonymous

    I agree, I cannot recall the Mets ever having a truly lights out, thanks for coming, drive home safely, don't forget to ignore your usher on the way out closer in their history. Sure, a few weeks of “nobody can hit this guy” but not for an extended period. Looper, Benitez, Franco, Orosco, Reardon, McDowell, Lockwood, McGraw etc. never have given me the feeling that it's OK to relax the way Sutter, Hrabowsky, Fingers, Rivera, Gagne, Eckersley, Gossage did for their teams. Of course, the guys who can do this are few and far between and usually are only “automatic” for a couple of years, tops. But it is no doubt the bane of a Mets fan existence to not be able to take the 9th inning as a victory lap but to have agita for all nine innings.

  • Anonymous

    I'm betting that the fans of the teams for whom those guys closed probably felt the same way. Rivera blew a save. Gagne blew a save. Sutter blew a save. Eckersley blew a save. That probably stuck with them longer than any 20 saves succesfully accomplished.
    But except for a few weeks here or there (McGraw '73, Orosco '83, Benitez '99, Franco never), it's never come close to that with the Mets. And Wagner, if anybody looked a little too closely, blew saves in Houston and Philadelphia. But damn he looked like he wasn't ever going to do that again the way he pitched Monday night.
    Stupid human.

  • Anonymous

    One of the things I loved about Franco, though, was his lack of dominance. He made you listen with anxiety to the whole ninth inning because he refused to make things simple. When he was right, it seemed to me, he would allow baserunners for the express purpose of inducing a double-play. Make things interesting. That didn't always work. Towards the end, his lost his knack for escaping trouble, his Franconess, if you will, and he started to be just plain bad. But hey, he's the only Met to win a World Series game in the last 20 years.

  • Anonymous

    Hey, this Maholm guy isn't really a rookie. He pitched 40 something innings last year, I think. Do you think that still means he'll shut us down? If so, should we all put him on our fantasy teams to counter-act the curse?

  • Anonymous

    Maholm's on my fantasy team too. Cripes, I've got all these Pirate and Marlin starting pitchers and somehow I'm not winning. Complete mystery….

  • Anonymous

    you “loved” franco for his reliable unreliability?
    man, he's the main reason i had to shave my beard — went from blondish red to optic white (we're talking white that eliminates the need for a nightlight) over the course of the 1999-2000 seasons.

  • Anonymous

    for what it's worth, i've read the lamster book, and while it does run out of gas — more appropriate to the era, steam — so did spalding's tour.
    among its many charms, the book sketches some of the game's earliest names, and not always in the most flattering light. i'll not ever think of cap anson again without thinking, ah, that buffoonish bigot. or john montgomery ward as an early baseball-playing version of marvin miller.
    it may not be “the glory of their times” (what could be?) but it's awfully good.

  • Anonymous

    Reliably unreliable, but also reliably effective. For all the tense innings, Johnny did save a lot of gaves for us, and protect a lot of leads (with some memorable exceptions). You've gotta admit, you get a lot more satisfaction from a sweetly turned double-play than a ground-out with nobody on. At least that was Franco's philosophy, and I tend to agree.