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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 Old Soilmaster Stadium Try

We were supposed to go see the Cyclones.

That was the plan for me and Emily: With Joshua away at his grandparents until tomorrow night, we'd hop the Staten Island Ferry to see the Cyclones take on the Staten Island Yankees. We'd drink beer, eat hot dogs and ice cream, watch the legions of Brooklyn stomp their hated rivals, and then marvel at the beauty of New York Harbor before hopping in a celebratory cab home. Along the way, of course, we'd check in via handheld radio on the Mets, who were sure to be showing the upstart Marlins that their run at first place was not just cute but even a little admirable, but reaching its end for all that.

None of it worked out that way.

At first it seemed even better: Our old pal Lyle was in town and cheerfully accepted our invitation to accompany us to S.I. Lyle's seen Met fandom from another angle: He's spent the last couple of years out west, seeing (among other things) the Mets stagger through Oakland and Seattle on that awful 2005 road trip, clinch against the suddenly hapless Dodgers in '06, and bring Jerry Manuel his first win as Met skipper. It was cool on the deck of the ferry, the beer was cheap in that inexplicable Staten Island Ferry way, and a big crowd had gathered to see the Cyclones and Yankees face off. What more could you want?

Well, you could want the game to not be sold out.

Needless to say, this hadn't been part of the plan. The larval Yankees have a nice park, with a killer view of three cityscapes — Jersey City to the left, Manhattan at dead center, and ever-growing Downtown Brooklyn to the right. But it's not Keyspan — in our experience sellouts are rare and the fans are interested in a rather distracted way. But not tonight. Nonplussed but not particularly worried, Lyle and I started walking up and down the block with our best Clueless Baseball Fan faces on, waiting for the inevitable call of “Tickets — who needs tickets?”

Except nobody said any such thing.

There were all manner of sketchy-looking guys outside the ballpark who certainly looked like they'd be selling tickets, but weren't. (What exactly they were doing is another question, since none of them seemed particularly employable.) We certainly tried, but the listless hangers-around looked vaguely affronted when Lyle tactfully asked, “You seen anybody selling tickets?” Perhaps Staten Island hasn't gotten the idea that hot commodities can be sold for more than face value — if you've been around the ferry terminal, you can probably attest that Staten Island isn't really up on the generally accepted basics of commerce. There is little to do around there but take in a ballgame — provided you have tickets — or get back on the ferry. Given the beautiful view and easy access to the rest of New York City, this makes about as much sense as a ballgame without scalpers. I don't get Staten Island.

So get back on the ferry is what we did. (Insult to injury: I'd somehow misplaced the radio.) This time around the beers didn't taste quite so sweet, and we took somewhat less joy in identifying Brooklyn landmarks. We were trying to figure out where to eat. This took some doing — the Financial District is about evenly split between Dickensian beer bars where you'd be scared to eat and fancy restaurants without TVs. But after a few false starts, Emily remembered that the last time we'd been to Mark Joseph Steakhouse (it's a cut off the Peter Luger's bone, except the waiters are nice), the Mets game had been on in the bar. So she got on the cellphone. Could you eat in the bar? Sure! Could you watch the Met game? The bartender's a big fan. Good enough for us.

And so it was that we piled into Mark Joseph, where the bartender was indeed a big Met fan (and a very nice guy to boot), the steak was prepared sizzling in butter (and what food is not improved by dunking it in butter?), the burgers were thick and juicy, and the Mets were leading 2-0.

Or at least they were when we got there. We watched John Maine successfully repel the ministrations of Manuel and trainers once, then succumb a pitch later. We watched Carlos Muniz outrun a shoe. We watched David Wright steal a run with remarkably heads-up baserunning. We watched Scott Schoeneweis get blooped and dinked and parachuted into unhappy submission, staring out at the field with the what-can-happen-next expression of a man whose car has just been staved in by a chunk of blue ice crapped out by an invisible 747. We watched balls elude Brian Schneider and Ramon Castro. We watched Robert Andino bedevil us again. (And in doing so, we remembered that Matt Wise was once a part of this team.)

In short, it was what feels to me like a typical Soilmaster Stadium game: a mess in which the Mets couldn't stop stumbling over their own feet, bled off enough of their reserves of Moxie and Grit and Fight to stay in it, and then were undone by a sloppy Marlin attack that was effective as it was aesthetically displeasing. My God I hate this place. Oh how I pray for this team to head off to San Antonio so I never have to see it again.

Trudging across the cobblestones to get a cab, Emily and Lyle and I agreed that everything had been wonderful — good friends, good Met conversation, good food, good drink. Everything except the final score. But that's the way it goes sometimes — on some evenings, all the audibles in the world can't account for an Andino.

(Oh. At least the Cyclones won.)

2 comments to The Old Soilmaster Stadium Try

  • Anonymous

    Most of the time you can walk up to the SI Yankees park on game day and buy as many seats as you want right behind home plate. Cyclones games are a different story. I found this out a couple years ago in less of a hard way than you – made plans with a bunch of friends and called for tickets the day before.
    I've lived in Staten Island for 38 of my 41 years. It is indeed a curious place. We have one attraction – the Ferry – and as you learned, there is literally nothing to do once you get there except turn around and go back to Manhattan. It's a combination of things: dreadful lack of imagination and planning; general indifference bordering on hostility from the rest of NYC government (due to, I suppose, our penchant for voting against the tide); the utter seediness of the surrounding areas (those “sketchy-looking” guys weren't there looking for work); and the NIMBY-ism that halts virtually every initiative on SI.
    A while back there was a big push to put The National Lighthouse Museum next to the ballpark. Because, you know, what could be a bigger draw than pictures of lighthouses?

  • Anonymous

    I tell ya, the '08 Metsies certainly have a flair for the dramatic…
    Their last 3 losses — The Worst Game Ever ™ in Philly, the Saturday Night Marathon, The Worst Game Ever II ™ in FLA — have definitely been in the “Bizarro” category. Luckily, they've been spaced apart a little bit.