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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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He's a Met Fella, He's One of Us

There was Cleon and Tommie…

“I’ll track that thing down for ya.”

And Tom Terrific, who they also called The Franchise…

“Throw strikes.”

And Little Buddy…

“Let ’em hit it on the ground.”

Jerry the Kooz and Jerry the Catcher…

“Keep the ball down, would ya guy?”

Rusty the Orange…

“Hey, call me in a pinch.”

And his guy Mex who wasn’t even Mexican…

“A little tardy on that swing.”

And William the Mook…

“Gotta run.”

And then there was Hank McGraw’s high-strung brother Tug…

“Ya gotta believe!”

Eddie the Krane…

“What took ya so long?”

Gary the Kid…

“Don’t give up yet.”

Big Straw…

“We’re goin’ deep tonight, be ready.”

And Doc, who liked to operate alone but sometimes needed some help to finish the job.

“I’ll get it to ya later.”

And now there’s the fifteenth player in the club, Johnny Three Times, who got that nickname ‘cause he always loaded the bases.

“I’m gonna go put a guy on, put a guy on, put a guy on.”

Johnny drove us crazy, but he usually got us outta hot water. That’s why he’s made it in the crew now. See, it’s the highest honor they can give you, especially if you’re a kid from Bensonhurst.

Wise choice.

20 comments to He’s a Met Fella, He’s One of Us

  • InsidePitcher

    Well put Greg!

  • RoundRock Mets

    If Johnny ends up like Tommy did on his way to his induction, mark me down as in favor.
    It’ll be payback for Bats. He just hit too many of them.

  • Kevin From Flushing

    Trying to ignore the 0-8 record in 1998 and focus on the 2000 Division Series… it’s tough.

    John Franco is the embodiment of the common 3-hour movie. It’s enjoyable for the first 2 hours, but the longer it goes on, the more torturous it becomes, leaving you BEGGING for it to end. Even though you enjoyed most of the story, the bad taste you’re left with lingers forever.

  • Dave

    Johnny belongs, but I would have gone chronologically and inducted Darling, Orosco and Hojo first, because I think they belong too. But it’s also time to honor Gary and Howie…there are no 2 people on earth who would be more thrilled to be in the Mets HOF than them, and by now they’re as much a part of it as Bob, Lindsey and (almost) Ralph.

  • open the gates

    John Franco belongs.

    I’ve always felt that Franco got a bad rap by being in the same town as one Mariano Rivera. Not Johnny’s fault. Every short reliever pales next to Mariano.

    And yes,sometimes he had you holding your breath. But he came through. Game after game. Year after year, for a very long time. Answer this – who wouldn’t rather have John Franco, even a little past his prime, as Mets closer over anyone the team has now?

    Put another way – many short relievers have a couple of years of domination, then wilt like a cheap taco. Anyone remember all those saves Chuck McElroy got as a Met? Tim Burke? Mel Rojas? Nope, me neither. Yet Johnny had a really long run – not by mowing people down, but by being tough, stubborn, and never giving an inch. He’s one of my all-time favorites,and he’s deserved this for a long time. I’m thrilled for him.

  • richie

    A NY kid that came home and did ok for himself. Nice post Greg. He definitely belongs in the club.

  • Bob 3

    Eh – too many memories of blown saves/holds in pressure situations. Especially late in his career when they ended up leaving left handers in against him because he only had a screwball and a change up. and minus a lot of points for being the guy who suggested playing crazy mary in the 7th inning. Have hated that song the instant I heard it and haven’t mellowed since then.

  • Metsfanwanda

    Franco literally made me sick when he came into the game, but 276 saves for the Mets is saying alot.

  • Go, Johnny, Go! (But I wish Messy Jesse had been inducted either with him or before him.)

  • Will in Central NJ

    Good post, Greg. I always root for players who wear/wore the Met uniform, especially those who do/did so with distinction or maybe in this case, longevity. I’ve gotten John Franco’s autograph when he was a Red, at the Shea railing in 1984, and at Macy’s, winter of 2000-01. He was cordial and gracious. I’ve also had to pause a day or two to think about what I’m gonna write before posting it, ’cause some may say I’m raining on Captain Johnny’s parade.

    Franco is the last man to wear the captain’s “C”, I know. He is the last man to win a World Series game for us (2000, game 3). He ranks high in a number of all-time franchise categories. But, some reported stories in the papers troubled me a bit then; and, the stories linger with me a bit now.

    Wasn’t John Franco the lead hazer in 1992 when Jeff Kent refused to play the fool, possibly driving a permanent wedge between the Mets and the potential future Hall-of-Fame 2nd baseman? Didn’t he have a major hand in the mini-collapse of September 1998, blowing saves nightly at home, versus lowly Montreal and Florida? Wasn’t it Franco who, when confronted by reporters in 2002 with info that Valentine and Benitez outed him as being a behind-the-back critic and saboteur of Benitez after Franco publicly pledged to help Benitez to succeed?

    I get it, Johnny’s a hometown guy. His persona is humble yet media-savvy. He welcomed Mike Piazza by surrendering his #31. He hurt as much as anyone on the Mets after 9/11. He was always accommodating to the media, thus his good public image. But my (and your) Met fanhood lasts longer than any Met player’s career, and I just had to ask. Congratulations, Captain Johnny, on your election to the Mets Hall of Fame….I guess.

    • open the gates

      Re Jeff Kent’s hazing – personally, I think that story says more about Kent than about Franco. It was (IIRC) a minor practical joke, one which pretty much every Met newcomer before and since has endured with good grace. Kent always struck me as (personality-wise) the second coming of Dave Kingman. Please don’t use him as an example.

      • Will in Central NJ

        Fair enough point, about Jeff Kent. He did come across as abrasive and aloof, but still, I recall Franco being front and center with that incident to put the cherry on top of that “Worst Team Money Could Buy” 1992 season. Still, I can’t help but wonder what might’ve been if Kent found his stride in Flushing, and was around to build up his HOF-worthy numbers when our team improved under Bobby V. We’ll never know.

        • open the gates

          Of course, Bobby V’s second baseman was one Edgardo Alfonso, who, despite not having a ghost of a chance for the HOF, was much easier to root for than Mr. Kent. Not to mention that we would never have seen the once-in-a-lifetime infield of Olerud-Alfonso-Ordonez-Ventura. But I digress.

          • Incidentally, Franco was done for the year when the hazing incident occurred, so he may not have been on that trip.

            (Working on a piece that happens to encompass the game in question; stay tuned.)

  • RoundRock Mets

    Much more bothersome to me personally were the accounts that Franco was particularly tough on Rick Reed given Rick’s status as a “replacement player” during the 1994-1995 lockout. It all fits is with my perception of Franco as a self-appointed shot caller, sans the actual ability to contribute to winning.
    Undeniably deserving of induction in the Mets HOF, I just don’t care for him, never did.

    • Will in Central NJ

      Thanks for bringing up the Reed incident–I almost forgot about the alleged friction between everyman Reed and chest-thumping union man Franco. Reed’s story of needing to pay for medicine, etc., for his sick mom did not, as Franco crowed, represent greed on Reed’s part. Let’s not forget the MLBPA union is a bunch of millionaires….dare I say, part of the 1%.

      In his short tenure with the Mets, the quiet and dedicated Reed exceeded all expectations with crafty pitching and gutsy wins. Franco, with his militant enforcer role, again found it necessary to divide, and not unite. I needn’t remind anyone that this is the same union that caused the 1994 season to be truncated, and that year’s World Series to be canceled.

      Aaahh, Captain Johnny, enjoy your day. I think I’ll skip CitiField on June 3rd when they honor you. Pardon me if I just go to the beach or something that day and have a picnic with the wife and kids.

      • Franco was unnecessarily hostile toward a guy who got caught in the crossfire but as I recall he also came around relatively quickly. There was a story in the papers about a month into Reed’s first Met season that when it came time to distribute t-shirts with the MLBPA logo or some other piece of authorized booty, one per teammate, union rep Franco made sure Reed got one so there’d be no further unnecessary divide. He was also the first Met I remember referring to him in interviews as “Reeder,” as in just one of the guys. Seems when the nicknames (however mundane) gain traction, hard feelings begin to dissipate

        • Will in Central NJ

          I’m not comfortable, nor proud, of my ambivalence toward John Franco and his contributions to Mets history. But it’s there.

          Thanks Greg, and also to @open the gates and @Round Rock Mets for sharing your collective thoughts. Good debate.

  • Lenny65

    Franco kind of redeemed himself in my eyes when he whiffed Bonds to seal that NLDS game. It was his biggest “moment of truth” as a Met, he’d have never lived it down had he failed in that spot. Until then he was perceived, at least by me and the Mets fans I know, to be a guy who had his best years when it didn’t matter and was in decline when it did. Now he can’t be blamed for being the closer on some really horrible teams, but yeah, he was a frustrating guy at times. He was never really trusted by the faithful, just kind of accepted. For longevity alone he merits a spot in the Mets HOF, but there’s an argument to be made against it, too. But what the hell, why not, it’s not like they’re running out of room or anything.