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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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The Shea Countdown: 81-79

81: Tuesday, April 8 vs Phillies

Ladies and gentlemen, today we begin the final season at a historic and beloved ballpark, the home of your New York Mets for 44 going on 45 years, Shea Stadium. While we look forward to the future just over the horizon, we plan to honor our past by paying homage to and celebrating our heritage. Each game we play during the regular season, in the middle of the fifth inning, we will ask some very special people to join us in the right field corner to remove a number that signifies how many games are left in the life of this place where so many memories were born and will forever live. Along the way, we hope you — the Mets fans who have imbued Shea Stadium with the crackle of fervor, intensity and belief — will be reminded of the events that occurred inside these walls, whether epic or unique or just plain fun. If in counting down this final season we all get to take part in what amounts to a Shea Stadium history lesson, all the better. Baseball is about history and we should never forget the remarkable history that has transpired right here.

It is fitting and proper that as we begin this countdown by peeling away the number 81, we assign the honor to the family of the man for whom this house was named. We sit today in William A. Shea Municipal Stadium. We know it better as Shea and he would rather you have thought of him as Bill. Bill Shea was one of New York's top attorneys throughout the 20th century and one of its most civic-minded. It was his unmatched savvy and sturdy commitment that assured generation upon generation of fans that they, after a brief but dark interregnum, would never again be deprived of National League baseball in this city. Many worked hard to make the New York Mets a reality, but no one did so more passionately and more effectively than the namesake of our stadium.

Every Opening Day until his passing in 1991, Bill Shea would return to home plate and present a floral horseshoe to the manager of the Mets so as to say good luck and safe journey in the coming season. His family has continued this wonderful tradition right up to today and we hope they will continue to do so in Citi Field. We know that in a very real sense, none of us would be here without their father's efforts.

To honor the memory of Bill Shea, we ask his three children, Kathy Shea Anfuso, Patricia Shea Ryan and Bill Shea, Jr., to move beyond home plate this Opening Day and join us in the right field corner to remove the first number, 81, from the wall, signifying that this farewell season of Shea Stadium is truly under way…and that whatever the future brings, we thank Mr. Shea for the remarkable journey that began in 1964.

80: Wednesday, April 9 vs Phillies

Ladies and gentlemen, tonight we salute those whose spikes left the first impressions in the Shea Stadium dirt, those whose footsteps every Met has followed.

This stadium sprang to life on a Friday afternoon, April 17, 1964. The Mets' first opponent was the Pittsburgh Pirates. The first result was not pleasing to the home crowd, a 4-3 loss. Yet history was made and it is that history we remember now.

Please welcome back to Shea Stadium, the true pioneers of this place.

He threw the first pitch and recorded the first out in Shea Stadium history: Jack Fisher.

He came up in the bottom of the second and drew a walk, becoming the first baserunner for the home team: centerfielder Jim Hickman.

With two outs in the bottom of the third, he stepped up and registered the first New York Met hit in Queens, a line drive single to right: first baseman Tim Harkness.

It would take another day, the third day in Shea Stadium history, for the Mets to enter the win column. When they did, the man who could take credit for calling the win was the catcher, Hawk Taylor.

And earning that W, and leading our group of Shea pioneers down the right field line to peel off the number 80, was the winning pitcher on April 19, 1964. He threw a six-hit, 6-0 shutout and would establish the record for most wins by a pitcher across a Mets career until a fellow named Seaver came along. Please welcome back to Shea Stadium, a longtime member of the Mets organization and Mets family, the lefthander from Waco, Texas, Al Jackson.

79: Thursday, April 10 vs Phillies

Ladies and gentlemen, it is no secret that the Mets team that inaugurated Shea Stadium in 1964 was not what you could accurately refer to as an artistic success. Not that those Mets weren't loved, but with 109 losses to their docket, let's just say that love was hard won.

It was, however, pretty easy for fans to embrace the first star of Shea Stadium, the first Met to break through as one of the best players in the National League. And what a stage he had for it.

On July 7, 1964, the All-Star Game was played right here at Shea. And starting at second base and playing the entire nine innings was our very own Ron Hunt. Ron was voted by his peers into a lineup that included Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Billy Williams, Roberto Clemente and Orlando Cepeda. He singled in his first at-bat and was among the National Leaguers who crowded around home plate to greet Johnny Callison after the Phillie outfielder's walkoff home run won it for that day's home team.

Ron enjoyed a great run as a Met in between 1963 and 1966 and went on to a long and successful career. As someone legendary for his willingness to absorb a hit-by-pitch to get on base, he has the bruises to prove it.

Tonight, we ask Ron Hunt to take one more for his team…take one more walk up the right field line and take the number 79 off the right field wall.

8 comments to The Shea Countdown: 81-79

  • Anonymous

    Wonderful start, Greg.
    I know you've designated PA announcer Alex Anthony to make these announcements, I'm hearing (alternately) Bob Murphy & Howie Rose.

  • Anonymous

    HI Greg,
    Your creative skills have no boundaries for they have me wandering into an imaginative world where the heroes of seasons past come back one last time to honor these hallowed grounds – it's as if I I'm looking down from the upper deck and see every step, every shadow and every bit of sunlight at home plate with your beautiful tributes (as spoken by Alex Anthony) echoing throughout the stadium as we're wearing overcoats to warm us through the cool temperatures of early April.
    Congratulations – get the printers ready – this series might be a keeper!

  • Anonymous

    Can't wait to find out what number Greg Prince (fan representative) gets.

  • Anonymous

    I'm just happy to be here and hope I can help the ballclub.

  • Anonymous

    “Can't wait to find out what number Greg Prince (fan representative) gets.”
    That's an easy one – he's number 62, the year he and the Mets were both born.

  • Anonymous

    I'm still too stupid to figure all this out, but I wanna be in here somewhere. Shea has no bigger fan than moi. I had planned to have my ashes scattered there (some on the mound, some in the bullpen… shut up, Greg), but of course THAT best-laid plan now leaves my cremains with ugly tire tracks; mixed with dripping oil into a foul goo, in my soon-to-be paved paradise. >:-(

  • Anonymous

    I was going there,too,Laurie……
    We'll have to make do with being sprinkled somewhere at Citi…..

  • Anonymous

    Make it right outside Generic Soulless Crap Field–where the bullpen now stands–and you've got yourself a deal. My heart will always remain in that tiny little corner of the world.