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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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Great Pitching, Man

On Monday night, June 30, 1997, after having finagled a business trip so I wouldn’t have to pay for too much of the privilege, Stephanie and I were in Detroit. Tiger Stadium. For someone whose long-term goal was to see every ballpark, this was a medium-sized dream come true. Tiger Stadium was beautiful. Maybe because I had seen relatively so little of it on television, I was far more taken with it than I was Fenway or Wrigley, its only surviving demographic brethren. It was almost an afterthought that on the night I’d finally get to see one of the two oldest ballparks in the Major Leagues that the opponent would be the Mets.

We made sure to get there early to take lots of pictures. I’m not the photographer in the family, but Stephanie handed me the camera and told me to go have fun. The Tigers weren’t any good and the Mets weren’t any draw, so I had the run of the place. Walked all over the field level, snapping away. Snapped retired Tiger numbers and the legendary overhang and every angle I could find.

Down on the field while I was moseying about in the seats in right, was a little nearby commotion. Bobby Jones, newly minted All-Star pitcher Bobby Jones, was making his way to the Met dugout and was recognizable enough to draw a crowd. He was signing autographs for visiting Mets fans and curious Tigers fans. I closed in to get a picture. It wasn’t a very good one.

I looked beyond the small Jones knot and there was another Met. No commotion surrounding him. Nobody recognized him. I imagine I wouldn’t have recognized him without the blue warmup jersey that said NEW YORK and the No. 11 on its front and back. Although I always liked to think I was too cool for this sort of thing, on this night — Tiger Stadium, Mets’ first game here, my first game here — I wasn’t.

I closed in again.

“Cory! Cory! Can I get a picture?”

Cory Lidle shrugged. Looked like he could have done without it, but he stopped and stood in place. I wouldn’t say he posed. I snapped.

“Thanks! Thanks! Great pitching, man! Great pitching!”

“Thanks.” He seemed slightly but sincerely appreciative.

And with that, Cory Lidle kept walking.

I wasn’t buttering him up. In May and June of 1997, Cory Lidle was what we baseball fans like to call a pleasant surprise. I had never heard of him before he was recalled in May in Houston. He had come in a trade in an earlier offseason for a spare part, Kelly Stinnett (weirdly a 2006 Met). His first inning in the Astrodome, an afternoon I wouldn’t have ordinarily been watching except I had been covering a conference that day and was able to come directly home, was all right. For a bulllpen that was rebuilding from moment to moment — Toby Borland, Ricardo Jordan, Barry Manuel, Yorkis Perez, Rick Trlicek, Takashi Kashiwada, Joe Crawford, Greg McMichael — Lidle wasn’t too bad. Wasn’t too bad at all. The weekend before we arrived in Detroit, Chuck and I went to a Met-Pirate slugfest when the Mets were short a starter. So Bobby Valentine started Cory Lidle. He wasn’t particularly effective and didn’t last terribly long, but the Mets won on a Carl Everett home run. All told, in my estimation, he had given us great pitching.

Though Lidle stayed all year, I don’t have any sharp recollection of him from later in the season, a wondrous season if you lived through it. The Mets remained a pleasant surprise even if Lidle proved to be like the bullpen as a whole, a shaky proposition. He was chosen by Arizona in the next expansion draft. His one season as a Met, like that Mets season to a lot of minds that don’t retain everything that ever happened, has been forgotten by many. Obviously when the news came down about him crashing his plane into a building on the Upper East Side, him and another losing their lives, I found myself remembering him instantly, remembering my moment with him in Detroit as if it happened yesterday. Oddly, I relived the story with Stephanie this past Saturday, the day he pitched against the Tigers, the day the team he last played with was eliminated. Didn’t expect I’d feel compelled to tell the story again any time soon.

Somewhere along the way, Cory Lidle ceased being a Met or an ex-Met when his name was mentioned. He was either an opponent of ours or a pitcher for somebody else. But on a day like this, you think about the guy wearing your colors, the guy whom you exhorted by first name from your couch across a summer, the guy in whose hands your fleeting happiness was entrusted for pitches at a time. The guy you asked to stop for a picture and he agreed and you don’t even need to open the photo album to see that picture.

14 comments to Great Pitching, Man

  • Anonymous

    My hour-and-a-half refreshing the main page did not go unrewarded. I constantly find myself explaining to people what kind of blog FAFIF is. My answer, every time: The blog that tells you as a Met fan what to think and how to feel. And on this confusing (for us) and tragic (for the Lidle, and yes, Yankee families) day, I guess that's why I kept clicking refresh.
    I know you'll probably say it's not much, and I'm sure more in-depth anecdotes and profiles will emerge very soon, but thanks, Greg.

  • Anonymous

    Cory was our resident vulture that year. He could throw one pitch and get a win, while the starters had to slog for every decision. It was pretty amusing at the time. One Mets pitcher was heard to remark that Cory had “a horseshoe up his [butt].”
    I'm sorry his luck ran out this way. RIP, Cory.

  • Anonymous

    No game tonight. Rain. Have to confess it didn't feel right to play (then again, I hadn't schlepped out there). Game One Thursday night with Game Two tickets. Game Two will be Friday, time TBA, with Game One tickets.
    I doubt anyone will be confused.

  • Anonymous

    My thoughts exactly. When not only a player, but a former Met, has been tragically killed a few hours earlier, it doesn't feel right to play.
    Although he was only a Yankee for a short time, I voluntarily concede attention and concern to the Yankees tonight.
    But most of my thoughts and prayers are with Melanie and her little boy.

  • Anonymous

    RIP Corey :(

  • Anonymous

    Thank you, Greg.
    My gut felt the pain but my head didn't have the story.
    Sympathies to all wearers of pinstripe- ours and theirs- whose lives were touched by one taken too soon.

  • Anonymous

    Thank God there's no game tonight. Let's play none today.
    Kind of makes our fretting about which team makes it onto the front and back pages of the Daily News seem a bit silly, doesn't it? The Yankees will get both tomorrow morning, and even they don't deserve to get it this way.
    Tonight's an appropriate evening of silence in the Big Apple.

  • Anonymous

    I liked Lidle that year and was sad to see him go. Then, and now.

  • Anonymous

    And now, my final thought:
    Aren't you glad now that the Mets aren't playing the Padres, and would have to fly cross-country after Game 2 on zero days' rest?
    In the grand scheme of things, it means little. In fact, the whole post-season has now become so absurd, I'm betting the mood in the Mets clubhouse is, “Hey we've got five games in a row. If it rains again tonight, we'll have SEVEN games in a row. We've got two and a half men in our rotation. F&#k it – let's just go play ball!”

  • Anonymous

    Don't forget that in the '86 NLCS, a rainout also ate a travel day, so we played an extra-inning Game Five at Shea, flew to Houston, and played the most ho-hum Game Six you'll ever see.
    Great teams rise to the occasion. This team already has.

  • Anonymous

    I schlepped.
    I would have had no argument either way if they'd played or not played last night.
    I'd have been thrilled to be at an NLCS game (my first ever), but would have felt a little weird yelling my lungs out…

  • Anonymous

    Things getting scrambled because of a rainout are to be expected in October — remember the original Game Seven of the '86 WS was a scratch too, leaving Calvin Schiraldi an extra day to sit in his hotel room and brood. (Though that did also mean Bruce Hurst got the start.)
    None of this rational thinking occurred to me last night, when I was moaning that it would rain for weeks and Chris Carpener would face us four times. Yes, I am insane.

  • Anonymous

    Once again, the Dugout nails it. Those guys deserve a genius grant. Umm…I've got something in my eye…

  • Anonymous

    That's perfect, Jace…