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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 Perfect Pitch

I'm standing on the LIRR platform Sunday morning, waiting for my train to Woodside. It is obvious from my garb where I'm going. Guy dressed in black, right through to his backpack, comes up to me and asks, “Who's pitching today?”

“Pelfrey,” I say. “Gonna have a nice comeback.”

“Comeback?” he laughs. “Fifteen out of the Wild Card?”

“I don't mean the Mets, just Pelfrey. He's gonna have a good start.”

“Yeah, y'know what? I think he will, too.”

“He's due.”

Nice exchange, right? Just two passersby talking Mets baseball…what more could there be to it?

“Listen,” my new companion says, producing two single dollar bills and changing the subject. “I need to buy a ticket for the train and I'm a few dollars short, and I hate to ask, but…”

Ah, the old Long Island Rail Road ticket scam. How many times have I been the prey for this? For as long as I can remember, whether we're in a recession or an economic boom, there inevitably crops up a would-be commuter who has somehow appeared at whichever station I happen to be, always just a few dollars short of fare into Manhattan or back home. Not a “bum,” just someone who lost his wallet or ran into unforeseen circumstances. His stated predicament can't help but draw out a twinge of empathy — gosh, I'd hate to be in that situation, but if I were, I sure hope somebody would help me out.

I used to believe these stories. I used to believe that somebody could show up for a train bereft of four dollars or six dollars or however much a single off-peak ride cost at that moment. I used to want to believe it, I suppose. I would never ask for this kind of help unless I really needed it. How could anybody else? Eventually, I hardened my shell a bit and just grumbled “no” or wandered away in the middle of the pitch. I don't like being played for a sucker.

But the man in black on Sunday went the extra mile. He talked Mets with me. He acknowledged Mets with me at any rate. He even did it in a manner I could respect — not pretending the Mets were any good just because I was wearing a Mets cap and a Mets shirt, but tamping down my expectations for a miracle playoff run when he misunderstood my “comeback” forecast at first. And he didn't say they're “a million games out” or something disparagingly non-specific. He said they were fifteen games out of the Wild Card.

Which is exactly what they were. He may not have been able to purchase a ticket for the train, but he apparently paid attention to the standings.

A small-time scam artist who knew not just that the Mets sucked, but exactly how much they sucked. I don't respect the scam, but I do respect the research.

So I gave him a buck.

“Hey man, thanks,” he said, accepting the dollar that was still going to leave him quite a bit short of getting anywhere other than the next station (especially if he planned on buying a ticket on the train, which is where they really getcha). I told him, sure, no problem, good luck. As he began walking down the platform to work another mark, he added, “Listen, the Mets are gonna win today. Francoeur's gonna hit TWO home runs!”

I didn't believe for a second he desperately needed to be on the very next train (and indeed when the next one pulled in to the station, he u-turned toward the stairs presumably to gear up for his next group of potential clientele), but he did leave me believing that a) the Mets would win and b) Francoeur would hit two home runs. The Mets did win. Francoeur didn't homer, but still…not “David Wright's gonna hit two homers,” but Jeff Francoeur. Nobody who doesn't keep up with the Mets would have said Jeff Francoeur.

That much, I decided, was worth the buck.

6 comments to The Perfect Pitch

  • Anonymous

    Hi Greg,
    He didn't happen to mention that he needed a dollar bill because the LIRR wouldn't break a $100?
    P.S. Am sure plenty of out-of-work Met fans read FAFIF so bring lots of singles with you the next time your going to the station since there's bound to be a line waiting to greet you.

  • Anonymous

    This reminds me of some newspaper article that found its way onto my computer screen back in October 2000 that still infuriates me. Some sports writer from a Colorado paper came to NY for the Subway Series and rode around on the subways to interview people and get predictions. My blood started to boil early with all the Queens and 7 Train bashing that was going on, but it only got worse when I realized he made it all up. Case in point: the article closed with a story about a bum that asked him for money. After the writer refused, the bum dropped on his knees, crying, screaming, grabbing, and pleading with this guy for spare change. When the writer gave in, the bum walked away–then stopped, turned around, winked, and said “Yankees in five.”
    I still don't know what make me angrier, the fact that he was able to print such an obviously false story, the fact that people in Colorado probably believed it, or the fact that the fucker closed his article with that correct prediction.

  • Anonymous

    My quota's one a season. Talk will have to be cheap.

  • Anonymous

    When I encounter these situations, I try to pause and ask myself, “What Would Jeter Do?” And I normally end up making the right decision.
    Of course, sometimes people standing nearby will ask me “why did you leap into the air before lobbing a dollar to that guy? It would have been a lot easier just to hand it to him.”

  • Anonymous

    A guy in shabby clothes approached Abbott and Costello and asked them for a quarter. While that was all that Bud and Lou had left, they decided to give him the 25 cents because he looked worse off than they were. The guy then puts the coin in a parking meter then thanks them in helping him to avoid getting a parking ticket.
    This was before Los Angeles had any major league team.

  • Anonymous

    Yet another fine example of the posts that keep me coming back here, despite the fact that I stopped watching games soon after The Castillo Incident .