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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: 78-73

78: Friday, April 11 vs Brewers

Ladies and gentlemen, the stadium you see before you, the one you sit in now and the one in which we hope you will be standing and cheering before this night is out, does not come together without the efforts of many fine people. Hundreds of men and women work behind the scenes and all around us to create what amounts to a medium-sized village 81 times a year. Since 1964, thousands of dedicated Shea Stadium employees have devoted themselves to presenting you with a baseball experience without peer.

To represent all those folks and all their efforts, we have chosen two longtime Shea denizens, two men with whose names and faces you might be familiar. Certainly you know their work.

Joining the Mets in 1962 and remaining with the organization clear into the 21st century, Bob Mandt probably knows more about Shea Stadium than anyone who has ever lived. He got his Met start selling tickets for a new expansion team out of the Hotel Martinique, took on responsibility for Season Boxes the next year and with the opening of Shea became ticket manager. He served as a vice president of operations, of purchasing and of special projects before his retirement just a few years ago.

If Bob knows the ins and outs of Shea, Pete Flynn understands the most critical aspect of our baseball stadium like no one else. For four decades, the field was literally his. Pete, like Bob, began with the Mets in 1962, actually building the advance ticket booth at the Polo Grounds. From there, he moved onto the grass, first in Manhattan and eventually here in Queens. Pete was named head groundskeeper in 1974 and tended the field like it was nobody’s business — ultimately, of course, it was his.

Pete, you always wanted people to stay off the grass to keep it in tip-top condition for the game. Tonight, we hope you don’t mind making an exception as you and Bob walk down the right field line and remove number 78 from the right field wall in honor of your long and honorable service to Shea Stadium.

77: Saturday, April 12 vs Brewers

Ladies and gentlemen, there is no sweeter music in this park of ours than bat hitting ball…unless it’s the top of the inning, when it’s ball hitting glove. One exception, however, came from the speakers of Shea Stadium between 1964 and 1979 when Jane Jarvis held court on the Thomas Organ. An accomplished jazz musician and music business executive, Jane will always have a special place in the hearts of Mets fans for her exceptional playing that provided the soundtrack to a generation of Sheacomers. A couple of bars of the “Mexican Hat Dance” and you knew a great day of baseball was about to commence.

One of Jane’s greatest hits, naturally, was the all-time classic “Meet The Mets,” a song that remains an anthem to all of us here, and a song that’s even older than the Mets themselves. This timeless entreaty to one and all to step right up and meet their favorite ballclub was actually written before the Mets had played a single game. It has been recorded and re-recorded over the years and played too many times to count here at Shea Stadium. For its perennial good cheer, we can thank the song’s co-writers, Ruth Roberts and the late Bill Katz.

Ruth will accompany Jane down the right field line to remove the number 77. Please step right up and show them your appreciation for all the good tunes and good times.

76: Sunday, April 13 vs Brewers

Today, ladies and gentlemen, we pause to consider who built Shea Stadium. It gives an opportunity to remember the architects Praeger-Kavanaugh-Waterbury, the construction firms P.J. Carlin and Thomas Crimmons and every worker who poured concrete, rigged lighting and installed every switch and every seat.

Many gave us Shea Stadium. But two names stand out from the annals of Mets history.

One is the mayor of New York City in the early 1960s, Robert F. Wagner, Jr. It was Wagner who was determined to make reviving National League baseball in New York a municipal priority. He saw to it that the new team would have a place to play…this place. He remained highly regarded by all who knew him right up to his death in 1991.

The other is Mrs. Joan Payson, a great sportswoman, a great baseball fan, a great New Yorker. Mrs. Payson led the ownership of the New York Mets from their inception in 1962 until her passing in 1975. She is remembered far and wide for her passion, her charm and her unabashed love of the team that has called Shea Stadium home since 1964.

To honor the memories of these two giants in Mets history, it is our privilege to call on Duncan Wagner, son of Mayor Wagner, and Lorinda de Roulet, daughter of Mrs. Payson, to join us in right field for the removal of number 76. Thanks to you and your families for all you did to make the New York Mets a reality.

75: Tuesday, April 15 vs Nationals

Ladies and gentlemen, it was on a Tuesday night exactly eleven years ago that the attention of a nation was focused squarely on Shea Stadium for a moving and memorable ceremony. It was then, in the company of the President of the United States and the Commissioner of Baseball, that Mets fans witnessed firsthand the retiring of the number 42 throughout the sport. It was a singular honor for a singular human being, Jack Roosevelt Robinson.

Jackie Robinson became a Hall of Fame player in Brooklyn but given his role as the first African-American in modern baseball, it is fair to say he was on his way to immortality before he ever lashed a single, stole a base or drove a pitcher to distraction. As Commissioner Selig put it, Jackie was the single person we could consider as “bigger than the game of baseball.” It is that kind of credential the Mets look forward to commemorating with the opening of the Jackie Robinson Rotunda at Citi Field next April.

With us at Shea that night eleven years ago, along with the president and the commissioner, was true baseball royalty and a loyal friend of the Mets, Rachel Robinson. Rachel took every perilous step her husband took as they together integrated major league baseball and, in a larger sense, America. With her family, she has carried the torch for understanding and human decency that she and Jackie lit one borough over some six decades ago.

We are truly honored to have Mrs. Robinson with us on this April 15 to remove number 75 from Shea Stadium’s right field wall on the eleventh anniversary of Jackie’s 42 going up on the left field wall, which itself marked the fiftieth anniversary of Jackie Robinson making his first appearance with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Accompanying her are several special guests who remember that big night in 1997 very well.

Please welcome home to Shea Stadium:

Lance Johnson, who drove in four runs in the Mets’ victory over Los Angeles that chilly April night.

Armando Reynoso, who pitched five shutout innings before we took time out for the ceremonies that so eloquently recalled Jackie’s legacy.

Toby Borland, who threw four shutout innings to preserve the 5-0 win.

Butch Huskey, the power hitter who wore 42 during his Met career as a tribute to Jackie.

• And Mo Vaughn, who would become the final Met to wear 42, also in memory of the great Jackie Robinson.

Gentlemen, if you would, please escort Mrs. Robinson down the right field line so she can help us say goodbye to Shea Stadium.

74: Wednesday, April 16 vs Nationals

Ladies and gentlemen, Shea Stadium has been making memories since 1964. As long as the Mets play here, we imagine we will be privy to a few more.

Some of the most recent memories we have here came courtesy of three who tonight we call visitors. It wasn’t until recently that we would identify them as such, but that’s the business of baseball.

We are happy to have back a trio of Washington Nationals who contributed to the good times at Shea in 2005, 2006 and 2007:

• The manager of the Nats now, he was the popular third-base coach of the Mets for two seasons, including the division-winning year of 2006 when he led a memorable clubhouse celebration at Dodger Stadium when the Mets clinched their first National League Division Series in six years. You’ll recognize him and his right arm from waving all those runners home safely. Say hi to Manny Acta.

• One of the most exciting young talents to hit Shea in a long time, he made an instant impression and a big splash in 2006 and showed a lot of promise in 2007 — enough so that the Nationals gave the Mets two very appealing players in exchange for his services. We wish him continued success in his nascent career and are happy to say hello once more to Lastings Milledge.

• And being asked to take down the number 74 with Manny and Lastings is the Mets’ All-Star catcher from that 2006 season, one of the most fiery players to ever call Shea home. Even though he plays most of his games in Washington, we will never hear “Stayin’ Alive” in Queens again and not think of one of the great competitors of this or any era, Paul Lo Duca.

Fellas, in a minute you go back to being opponents. But for not-so-old times’ sake, please do us a favor and head up that right field line one more time.

73: Thursday, April 17 vs Nationals

Ladies and gentlemen, someone very special to all of us is celebrating a birthday today. That someone, born 44 years ago on this date, is none other than Shea Stadium.

To celebrate Shea’s big day, we thought it would be nice to share birthday greetings with some other April 17 babies. So before we blow out the candles on number 73, let’s give a warm welcome to these birthday folks.

A lifelong Long Islander and a very big Mets fan, you hear him mornings on the Mets’ flagship radio station, WFAN. Turning 47 today, let’s hear it for former Jets quarterback Boomer Esiason.

He played exactly one game as a Met but carries the distinction of being the only player in team history to share a birthday with Shea Stadium. Give your best to catcher Gary Bennett, who has just turned 36.

You may remember him as one of those pesky Astros who nearly cost the Mets the 1986 pennant or you may recall him as a valued coach on Art Howe’s staff in 2003 and 2004. He was ten years old the day Shea opened, which today would make him…our very special guest, Denny Walling.

She was born on April 17, 1967 in New Haven and grew up to be a singer so well liked that she was invited to offer her rendition of “God Bless America” at the 2005 World Series. Her given name is Elizabeth but in deference to the neighborhood she’s in now, we’d like to offer her the nickname of World’s. But we’ll understand if she declines. In any case, please welcome the birthday girl, Liz Phair.

Finally, leading our contingent of celebrants is someone born on exactly the same day as Shea Stadium. He is a 21-season veteran of the NHL, a paragon of sporting excellence in the New York area with three Stanley Cups to show for it. Now a broadcaster for his old team, we are delighted to wish a happy 44th birthday to the great New Jersey Devil defenseman, Ken Daneyko.

As Ken and our gang of April 17ers head down the right field line, how about serenading them — and Shea Stadium — with a chorus of “Happy Birthday”?

Numbers 81-79 were revealed here.

10 comments to The Shea Countdown: 78-73

  • Anonymous

    Since this is fiction, can we imagine Toby Borland is NOT being booed?

  • Anonymous

    Quite the eclectic group flipping #73…

  • Anonymous

    Mo Vaughn? Ugh…
    He shouldn't be helping escort Rachel Robinson up the RF line, it should be vice versa.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Greg,
    I have to agree, it's a stretch including that trio of Washington Nationals to the list of honorees that made Shea Stadium something special nor did they just happen to be in the right place at the right time. I just hope this doesn't mean we don't have enough people to last the season.
    And having the former owner come back to represent her mom…, well, that's just plain dangerous!
    But a great touch having those behind the scenes take their bows – never thought of it.

  • Anonymous

    I never considered the behind the scenes guys either, good job.
    Does this mean Charlie Samuels will get his due? And does anyone know if Piazza ever bought him that Lexus?

  • Anonymous

    I love Liz Phair, though. Well, old Liz Phair. Bet she's a Cubs fan, though.

  • Anonymous

    In which case, she might face exile in Wrigleyville…

  • Anonymous

    Kevin, let's hope Mike gave Charlie that yellow monstrosity. Better than being seen driving it.

  • Anonymous

    If Charlie started his diet at 352 pounds, Mike would have to give it to him.

  • Anonymous

    I met Mandt in his office about 10 yrs ago & he gave me a nice tour of his office. Man, he had every possible Mets item /memorabilia in there. Real nice guy…………………..Nice touch for 1/2 of #78