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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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Avengers vs. Abandoners

For the first time in eleven years, the Mets are making an old-fashioned West Coast swing: they are visiting the Giants and the Dodgers on the same trip. Thanks to expansion and whatever else influences the schedulemakers, there has not been a “traditional” SF-LA (or LA-SF) itinerary since August of 1998, a tour that included the Padres for good measure. FYI, the Mets went 5-4 then. I hope they go 1-0 tonight in San Fran and, to invoke my all-purpose phrase of conditionality, take it from there.

But I really hope they stick it to the Giants and the Dodgers, because I hate them all over again.

I just got through reading an engaging book called After Many a Summer by Robert E. Murphy. It examines the many steps taken by Walter O’Malley and Horace Stoneham toward California and out of New York. You’d think there might be enough of those books out there, but Murphy finds some new ground to tread, particularly where the Giants, forever overshadowed in the nostalgiasphere, are concerned. What I liked in particular was Murphy’s refusal to assign easy blame. Too often in the story of the Dodgers’ bolt, it is either all O’Malley’s fault or all Robert Moses’ fault. No, the author reminds us, it takes many to tango out the door.

The dynamic among the Mets, Giants and Dodgers, given the not-so-incidental roles two of them played in creating the third, could be viewed as a bizarre love triangle. It’s not so much that the Mets wouldn’t exist without the departure of their predecessors. It’s that they wouldn’t exist without the stubbornness of those who were departed upon. The National League was willing to continue without New York; it was New Yorkers who refused to be sated by being part of a one-team market and by being left only one league — the wrong league in their judgment.

I don’t know if it’s possible to fully comprehend if you weren’t around prior to 1958, or didn’t at least come of age as my generation did when the stories were told again and again by those who had been, what it meant for New York to be a National League town. This wasn’t Philadelphia or Boston or St. Louis where one team endured and one went substantially unmourned once it relocated. This was New York, for crissake. This was where we had two teams and two fanbases in the same league, not just the same sport. League delineation meant far more then than it does now. The New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers were one-quarter of the National League. Blindered dolts like Warren Giles, the N.L. president, were willing to abandon that in quest of California gold. All the Senior Circuit owners went along. A pox on them.

And a blessing, as ever, on Bill Shea for leading the charge to right the historical wrong and give New York’s National League fans what they craved and what they deserved: a baseball team. My next read is Michael Shapiro’s Bottom of the Ninth, which picks up the story where After Many a Summer leaves off. I’ve peeked inside a bit and am intrigued that someone is telling the tale of the never-was Continental League, which all students of Metsiana surely recognize as the launching pad for our franchise. I look forward to reporting back to you what Shapiro has to say on Mr. Shea and everybody else involved.

But I’m still sore at Stoneham and I’m still sore at O’Malley. How dare they — how fucking dare they — leave New York to the Yankees? One was extraordinarily greedy, one was as incompetent as he could be; both, as Murphy reveals repeatedly, said whatever suited their aims on a given day. I don’t wish either or both had stayed so I could have grown up a Giants fan enmeshed in a rivalry with the Dodgers (or vice-versa, possibly), but I’m just offended from a historical basis. You were National League baseball in New York and you didn’t value that. You may have explored your options and you may have required new venues, but you took a flying leap when a subtle shift would have sufficed.

One team played in Manhattan. One team played in Brooklyn. Either of them could have relocated to Queens as the Flushing Meadow site was ripe and ready for building in the late ’50s just as it was in the early ’60s. Queens? No, that would never do! Instead, they became California clubs and New York went barren until 1962. It’s revolting to even consider.

Just because we more or less like what we received as compensation doesn’t mean the thieves should be let off the hook for snatching what belonged to us. We should despise the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers like we disdain the Philadelphia Phillies and the Atlanta Braves. We who attempt to honor the memory of the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers for who and what they were prior to 1958 should be especially virulent in our dislike. Those Giants and those Dodgers, the ones who were here before they were kidnapped? They’re all right. They got this thing going. They were, individually and together, baseball in a very tangible way. The Giants practically invented the modern game in the early 1900s. The Dodgers gave it a much-needed shove into the second half of the 20th century. Bully for them and the respective niches they carved in our heritage. But then their owners both turned their backs on us. The moment they went coastal is when they should have earned a permanent place on New York’s cosmic enemies list.

Unless either is playing the Yankees, who committed a far greater crime against the city’s sense of humanity by staying.

This western swing will end and I’ll probably go back to not worrying much about the present incarnations of the Giants and Dodgers, but it galls…it really, really galls that two owners would do to New York what Stoneham and O’Malley did. They took National League baseball away from where it thrived and where it lived. Others may have stood by or not done enough to stop them, but it was they who did the deed. They decided it wasn’t worth their trouble to be the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers. Don’t let revisionism get in the way of that fact. Ptui! to Walter O’Malley. Ptui! to Horace Stoneham.

Foul. Just foul.

For aficionados of the team that made the Dodgers and Giants largely irrelevant, there is Faith and Fear in Flushing: An Intense Personal History of the New York Mets, available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or a bookstore near you. Keep in touch and join the discussion on Facebook.

13 comments to Avengers vs. Abandoners

  • Anonymous

    Well stated!

  • Anonymous

    Eh. That's what owners do. They own. And they do what they damned well please. There was more money to be made out west, so they went.
    We got the Mets out of the deal, so it wasn't so bad. I would have been a Dodgers fan (shiver at the thought) had they stayed, because my parents were. I don't see any plausible way they would have stayed, though. Ebbets was a collapsing trash heap, and there was that big, wide country being criss-crossed by new freeways and fast 707's. No way O'Malley could pass that up for a few more seasons in a Brooklyn dump while he scraped together some cash to maybe move to Queens if Robert Moses said it was OK.
    If you want a villain in the piece, Moses is your guy. He wouldn't give O'Malley or Stoneham the time of day, so they bolted.

  • Anonymous

    Actually, Moses was not the complete closed door he's been made out to be if you read Murphy's book. The Dodgers (and Giants) weren't his priority, though, but he was willing to, to a certain extent, play ball.
    Baseball could have expanded to California and left the New York teams where they were. O'Malley did fine for himself and the rest had to be threatened with antitrust suits to make their game a bigger business.
    Please remember owners do what they damned well please should some Wilpon ever try to do the same.

  • Anonymous

    Ptui on Moses most of all. And not just for chasing the Dodgers out. He put the brakes on development of mass transit mid-century, leaving outer-boro (and NJ, and LI to a lesser extent) residents entirely dependent on automobile transportation. I think him for my endless commute to and from Staten Island daily.

  • Anonymous

    That's a whole other issue, and yeah, ptui! on the Robert Moses who stopped being a force for good after around 1936.

  • Anonymous

    It's hard for me to completely fault the Giants and Dodgers for moving west when you consider that the location of major league cities reflected the population concentrations (and the transportation limitations) of 1900. For the entire first half of the 20th century, until the early 1950s, seven out of the sixteen major league teams were clustered in Boston, New York City or Philadelphia. Today, one out of every six Americans is a Californian.
    That's speaking from the head. If i were a long-suffering fan of either team, I'd be screaming bloody murder, you betcha!

  • Anonymous

    Interestingly enough, one out of every six Major League clubs is a California team.

  • Anonymous

    Nicely done. And – Avengers was a top 5 choice for the name of the new team. So was Burros.
    My generation was kidnapped. Yankees or nothing. When the Mets became tangible – we escaped.
    I have a 1957 street map showing at what became Shea – a circle with a label – proposed baseball stadium. That was the site actually offered to the Dodgers.
    Less known, Fort Totten was available to the Giants. The Throggs Neck Bridge would rise nearby. Even less known, the Giants had a very strong fan base in the Bronx. The Yankees were, you know, the more expensive ticket.
    Could the Continental League have succeeded ? Of the 8 announced league entries – New York, Denver, Houston, Minneapolis, Toronto, Atlanta, Buffalo, and Dallas – only Buffalo has not a MLB franchise.
    Sir William of Shea – Redeemer of Generations – Always in our Memory.

  • Anonymous

    If you put together the World Series and Pennants won by the Giants and Dodgers in NY and Brooklyn along with those won by the Mets – lets include the two World Series won by the Giants and the Dodgers loss and tie in the 18880s, because it really doesn't matter that the Yankees weren't there – you get:
    10 World Series, 1 World Series tie, 22 Pennants.
    Not too shabby.

  • Anonymous

    Moses may not have been the complete closed door, but the door was just barely ajar. He liked the idea of a multi-purpose stadium in Flushing because he didn't have anything else to put in Flushing. The idea of “baseball as public trust” never occurred to him. He just wanted to build a highway leading to it.
    And this conversation wouldn't be complete without mentioning Mayor Robert Wagner, who essentially allowed Moses to do what he wanted while publicly endorsing a new Brooklyn ballpark for the Dodgers.

  • Anonymous

    It's really been that long since the Mets had a “traditional” West coast swing? Wow is all I can say.
    I've always loved staying up late for the West coast games, although I'm probably in the minority on that.

  • Anonymous

    I remember when the west coast night games all started at 11:00pm Eastern. Transistor radio under my pillow.

  • Anonymous

    Mayor Wagner = Tower of Jelly