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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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A Baseball Haggadah & Four Other Answers

Why is this night different from all other nights? Well, for the first time in a while, I won't pass over mention of five worthy baseball books that have come to my attention while I've been busy reminding you about my own.

Given that Passover begins at sundown, it's imperative to present the perfect complement to your Seder experience in The Baseball Talmud by Howard Megadal. Howard, whose byline you see in the Observer and a lot of places, wrote the book I always thought would be neat to read: all about Jewish ballplayers. And it is neat, so there ya go. A lot of research and a lot of heart (if not a lot of schmaltz) went into this examination of these not quite 160 people chosen for the majors by managers to take the field. For every Hank Greenberg, there are quite a few Greg Goossens, but you could say the same for any baseball people you choose to examine in-depth.

Goossen is one of nine Jewish Mets to date (Ginsberg, Sherry, Shamsky, Maddox, Roberts, Schoeneweis, Newhan and Green are the others), best known as the secular target of one of Casey Stengel's final active barbs, one of my all-time favorite lines about anything anywhere. Though it is as oft-told as the story of Passover itself, I will repeat the essence of it in the spirit of the season in which Moses led his people toward the Promised Land (or in the case of our ballclub, the Mets leading their fans this season to a promised land just east of what was built at the behest of Robert Moses).

Ed Kranepool was twenty years old in 1965, and Casey said in ten years Ed had a chance to be a star. Greg Goossen was (not quite) twenty years old in 1965, and Casey said in ten years Greg had a chance to be (not quite) thirty.

Ten years later, Goossen fulfilled Stengel's prophecy, reaching the age projected with no sign of baseball stardom. But he did eventually become a stand-in for a star, going to Hollywood and working on a lot of Gene Hackman movies. Howard Megdal, with the wisdom of Solomon, offers up not just Greg's .597 slugging percentage as a Seattle Pilot, but a list of the five best Gene Hackman movies with Greg Goossen and the five best without him. You can decide whether either fork of his career path ranks him as the seventh-best Jewish first baseman ever as Megdal rates him.

This book is statistically fortified, but it never stops being fun. If you're going to offer a reward for finding the afikomen, you could do worse than The Baseball Talmud.

But we're not done covering the bases, of which there are four, counting the plate (on which there need be no charoset tonight at Great American). So let's ask four questions and find four answers.

What about a baseball book for kids?

Not having kids and never having been particularly childlike until I was too old for my own good, I'd still recommend James Preller's Six Innings, a riveting account of a fictional youth league championship game, made ever more tense by the author's blending in details of two very special half-innings from Mets history as part of the climax: the top of the ninth and the bottom of the sixteenth from Game Six of the 1986 NLCS. Kids who read it won't get the reference points, but they will transport some parents back to a great day turned evening. It won't surprise you Preller is a Mets fan.

What about something in verse?

You may not have been looking for the Mets Poet, but when you find him, you're better off for it. I had the pleasure of sharing the Varsity Letters stage last week with Frank Messina, who renders an authentic Mets vibe in a way I've never heard or read. Full Count: The Book of Mets Poetry is a revelation on every page. Regarding 1986: Reagan was president/and Keith Hernandez was God. Jesse Orosco: Autumn joy explodes. His and our own obsession: Where the poet sees beauty, others see shame. Context is everything, and when you read these lines in the context of their poems, they mean even more. I tip my cap to the Mets Poet.

What about something with the big picture?

Long Islanders who go back some with Newsday's sports section will instantly recall the puckishness of Stan Isaacs on games, players and TV (he was Mushnick, Raissman and Best before there were Mushnick, Raissman and Best). He also covered the hell out of some mighty big events from the '50s to the '80s, and ten of them get the Full Isaacs in Ten Moments That Shook the Sports World, a book that came out last year but I'm just getting around to reading and appreciating now. The '69 Mets are in there, as is The Shot Heard 'Round the World (Isaacs grew up a Giants fan, Bobby Thomson be praised). He brings a lot of lost details to light from all fields, leading up to a chilling recollection of Munich 1972. If you're looking for Mets and more, these Ten Moments are for you. (And if you're looking for contemporary Isaacs, he's right here.)

What about something that's Miraculous?

As if parting the Red Sea isn't enough for Passover, you can never go wrong with 1969. The company that published my (and Isaac's) book has, at the same time, reissued an absolute classic, A Magic Summer by Stanley Cohen. Cohen traveled about in the late '80s catching up with the Miracle Mets of two decades earlier and told the story of '69 through the events then and their perspective now (the now of 1988, that is). What's always stayed with me is how he explained the Mets fan, and how the fan stays with the team and in many ways transcends the players who make up the team in a given year, even a great year like that Magic one. The fortieth-anniversary reissue has a new introduction, some great pictures and an improved cover, but its Amazin' insight? Same as it ever was.

These are not times when there's a lot of spare change sitting around for discretionary purchases, so I'll reiterate the sentiment from when I first announced my own book to you. I wouldn't be recommending these titles if they weren't potentially worth your time. I think, once you've purchased and read Faith and Fear in Flushing: An Intense Personal History of the New York Mets (and given a few copies as Passover, Easter and other-occasion gifts), those I've mentioned above might be worth an investment of your time and resources.

FAFIF: AIPHOTNYM, I can't help but mention, is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or a bookstore near you. Keep in touch and join the discussion on Facebook. Also, Mark from Mets Walk-Offs takes me deep — or at least to our new hard-to-reach warning track — here. Finally, thanks to Adam Rubin and the Daily News for giving away five signed copies in a contest that moved so fast yesterday that I never had a chance to let you in on it. Mets fans are quick to answer five questions, let alone four.

4 comments to A Baseball Haggadah & Four Other Answers

  • Anonymous

    'Magic Summer' is really great, in part, I think, because it captures those guys at the right moment for reflection — not ancient history, but distance enough to look back, and also, seems like it was done before nostalgia became such a big business and these guys had pat answers for everything.
    Good book, go buy a few a copies!

  • Anonymous

    Greg, can I ask how you'd prefer we consumers purchase the book? Or, to put it more pointedly, where should I purchase it to guarantee you'll see the largest percentage of the profits?

  • Anonymous

    I don't have a particular preference, Grey. Thanks for asking.

  • Anonymous

    Another book that has come out recently is Ron Darling's tome, “The Complete Game” . Should be a good read, also…..