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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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Rescue From Radio Nowhere

Monday night I did something I’m certain I hadn’t done since the twilight of Fran Healy. I turned down the sound on a Mets-generated telecast so I could listen to the game on radio. GKR heresy, I know, but I gave Gary, Keith & Ron part of the exhibition season opener off so I could get a taste of Josh Lewin’s debut.

WFAN became a revelation for those innings, though not for the reason one might intuit. It’s not that I fell in love with Lewin all at once on his own merits, though he certainly did nothing to make me want to tune him out (which is a victory unto itself given what’s transpired in that booth since Gary Cohen vacated it). It was that I fell in love all over again with Howie Rose because of how he meshed with Josh Lewin. I’d go as far to say I might fall in love all over again with the Mets on the radio again given the simpatico these two seemed to have right off the bat.

At some point between pitches, Josh invoked the 2002 Mets as an example of when things don’t go very well in Flushing. A little later, he brought up the 1984 Mets as evidence that sometimes things go better than expected. Howie warmed to both subjects instantly. Of course he did. He’s Howie Rose. He’s every Mets fan’s rabbi, disseminating our Old Testament — the Book of Stengel, the Book of Hodges, the Book of Frank Howard even — when not tending to balls and strikes.

Think Wayne Hagin ever played to Howie’s strengths? Oh good lord, Wayne Hagin…I so wanted to not detest him if only to push against the popular tide of anti-Haginism that developed as soon as he opened his mouth in these parts in 2008. In four seasons, I never met a single Mets fan who told me, “Y’know who I like? Wayne Hagin.” The nicest thing I ever heard anybody say about Wayne was when I would hear myself say, “At least he’s better than Tom McCarthy.” The second-nicest thing was my characterization of Hagin as someone who knew his baseball and brought a useful outsider’s perspective to this thing of ours. We already know what Howie knows because Howie has been knowing it since 1962 and has been telling it to us in various capacities since 1987. Howie knows what we all know, but at a depth the rest of us could never hope to attain in this lifetime. So, I reasoned at the outset of Hagin’s tenure, let’s hear what somebody who knows other stuff has to say.

It was occasionally enlightening, but mostly it was slow. I’m pretty sure there are galaxies that Hagin’s description of a double play ball from 2010 is just now reaching. And as for that dandy outsider’s perspective, after a while hearing stories about what Dante Bichette or Jim Edmonds would do in this situation lost its charm. By last year, I was as awash in the popular anti-Hagin tide as anybody: get Hagin out of here, I insisted to my radio.

What I disliked most about him was he sapped the sparkle out of Howie’s voice. Half the time, it seemed Howie was explaining the Met way to Wayne, reminiscent of Ralph Kiner drawing Lorn Brown a verbal diagram of Banner Day because Lorn had never heard of perhaps our most beloved tradition (which wouldn’t have disqualified the late Mr. Brown from working in the Mets marketing department over the past decade, I’m guessing). The other half of the time, Howie edged into kvetchiness. Not uncalled for kvetchiness — to the contrary, it was often righteous kvetching (the black uniforms, the Sunday night start times). But it was taking a toll. Between McCarthy for two seasons reminding me he was no Gary Cohen and Hagin disturbing Howie Rose’s chemistry, I grew to consider my hours away from SNY as some kind of Radio Nowhere purgatory.

Which bummed me out no end. Put aside the sublime GKR trinity and how you’d never want to skip their nightly baseball buffet if you didn’t have to (it was so cute listening to them catch up with each other Monday night like they were eighth-graders returning for the first day of school). Mets games on the radio were a cherished way of life for me from the moment I discovered they existed. I almost never felt like I was missing anything if I couldn’t be by a TV, not in the Original Three days, not when Bob Murphy became exclusively audio in the company of Steve Lamar and then Gary Thorne, certainly not in the long and amazing heyday of Murph and Cohen. When Murph retired and Howie Rose was named his successor, and we were granted 162 audiences with Howie and Gary…honestly, I’m not sure why I kept paying my cable bill.

Then our world changed, all for the better where television was concerned, generally for the worst on WFAN. McCarthy was not a worthy partner to Howie. Hagin was not a worthy partner to Howie. It had gotten so bad that I almost didn’t mind Ed Coleman subbing…and every time Ed Coleman says “cut on and missed,” an angel tears out his wings.

Monday night, though, I was living in a double-dream world. There were five announcers on two media (along with amiable roving reporter Kevin Burkhardt) who totally got the Mets thing. Gary and Howie are lifelong Mets fans. Keith and Ron are all-time Mets idols. Josh, we’ve learned, grew up a Mets fan way the hell upstate, choosing Willie Montañez as his favorite hitter, Nino Espinosa as his favorite pitcher and Nino’s afro as his favorite hairstyle. If we didn’t know that about Lewin before Monday night, it was there to pick up on throughout that maiden broadcast.

It was only a few innings of a spring game, so nothing was at stake, but geez he and Howie sounded at ease, and when you get right down to it, that’s what I want. I want two guys with whom I relish spending an evening; the business of home run calls and hit-and-run analysis tends to take care of itself. Howie was the Howie who spent those five-hour shifts edifying and entertaining me when the FAN was new and sports talk could be intelligent. He was the Howie who thrived in 2004 and 2005, when he and Gary broadcast on a special high-pitched frequency only true Mets fans could really hear. He was Howie Rose in full revival, a little like Bob Murphy was when Gary Thorne (and the 1985-1988 Mets) showed up to nudge him back to total Murphness, a state of being every Mets fan intrinsically understands as transcendent.

Part of me still feels a bit bad that we couldn’t hack it with Hagin. It almost seems the easy way out, hiring a Mets fan who sprinkles just the right amount of Metnip in Howie’s vicinity. So many who didn’t have to sit through Hagin’s labored play-by-play or his alien intonations swore he was a sweetheart. I have no reason to doubt it. For all I know, Howie loved him. But I didn’t and we didn’t. Yet I wonder if we as Mets fans have gotten to the point where we have to be spoonfed with blue and orange flatware. Everybody who announces to us comes at us with a Met pedigree. Is that what it takes to satisfy us? If young Bob Murphy arrived here from Oklahoma on a flight with Tennessee’s Lindsey Nelson and Pittsburgh Pirate great Ralph Kiner in tow, would we snarl because we’d assume they don’t get us?

I don’t think it’s geography. Ted Robinson and Tom McCarthy had grown up as Mets fans, and it didn’t buy them much goodwill. Maybe their mistake was shoving that part of their identity deep within their souls in the name of some bland, nebulous quality labeled professionalism. We want professionalism, of course, but we want people, too. Rose and Cohen are people — Met people, as it happens. Murph was people. Tim McCarver, with no Met connection whatsoever prior to joining us in 1983, was more people than younger viewers could probably fathom now. I suppose there are matters of taste and perception involved with cottoning to announcers. But we the consumers deserve to cotton to whom our ears and our brains are attracted. I probably won’t be turning down the sound on SNY this season as I once did routinely with MSG and the defunct Fox Sports Net New York (Healy…there’s another all-time mystery), but I will no longer be cringing when left to my Mets radio devices.

Nothing sounds better to me than that.

29 comments to Rescue From Radio Nowhere

  • Great stuff. As a British Mets fan dealing with the time difference I wind up listening to more Mets games than watching them, generally catching the previous night’s game on my headphones at work. While I’ve never been as anti-Hagin as some, on Monday’s evidence Josh Lewin already seems like a major improvement. Much of it seemed to be in the little things – a much more distinctive and enthusiatic broadcaster’s tone, and a nice counterpoint to Howie. Also, as I’m not the most veteran of Mets fans (first got into baseball and the Mets in 2005), it is great to have someone in the box who can encourage Howie to fill in the gaps in Mets history – I felt like I was learning about the Mets as much as I was keeping track of the game. If these two continue to gel, I think I’m in for a good season – no matter what the results are.

  • See, this is what I have been saying. Wayne Hagin sucks goat ass!

  • Jestaplero

    Wayne Hagin was HORRIBLE! He was a constant doomsayer, ending virtually every statement with a downturn tone of dread and disappointment. He was the human Sad Trombone Effect, and Howie started picking it up, too. Free at last, free at last….!

  • Greg, you left out the straw that stirs the drink on the radio side the immortal Chris Majkowski

  • BlackCountryMet

    GKR are obviously the cream of the crop tv wise BUT when we’re on a national broadcast, I’ll be overlaying our audio feed(as MLB premium allows you to do) and listening to radio equivalent. I’ve never been a fan of Carver & Buck anyhow.

    Steve – whereabouts are ya? I’m in the Midlands,good to hear of more of us Blue & Orange faithful in the UK

    • I’m in London. Pleased to know there are other Mets fans out there amongst the UK’s sea of Yankees caps!

      • Dak442

        I’m curious… assuming you aren’t American expats working overseas, how did you two come to baseball, and to the Mets?

        • I worked on a kids camp in New Jersey in the summer of 2005. I didn’t know much about baseball, but did know that I couldn’t be a glory hunter and follow the Yankees. I caught a game at Shea and the rest is history. Having a MLB.TV subscription over the past few years has made following the game a whole lot easier.

        • BlackCountryMet

          I visited NYC for the 1st time in 2001. The Mets were at home during the time so as a sports fanatic went to the game at Shea(late June, not even sure of team played)and we lost I then adopted them as my team. Came back in 09 as part of a trip to see u2 at giants stadium and saw 2 defeats to the Braves. My last trip was last season for the Subway series weekend at Citi. As we lost the first 2 games, I was beginning to despair of seeing us win live and consequently went ballistic when Jason Bay got us the win on the Sunday!!As Steve says MLB TV and the net makes it so much easier to follow the team, I;ve subscribed for 3 seasons now and watch most of the day games live and some of the night games in full, the following night. Just love baseball and the Metropolitans

  • […] Prince reports that new Mets radio voice Josh Lewin sounds PRE-TTTTTTT-YYYYYY, PRE-TTTTTTT-YYYYYYY good and seems like he and Howie Rose will be a good mix like U-Bets Chocolate Syrup, a dash of milk and […]

  • Joe D.

    Too bad SNY won’t do audio recreations on their Mets Classics from a decade ago so we could hear Ralph along with Gary and Keith rather than Ralph having to contend with Fran Healy – a nice guy but one I would not want to simply hear calling or commenting on the game.

  • Will in Central NJ

    Goodbye to Wayne Hagin and all those circuitous, roundabout descriptions to bang-bang plays. It tortured me, hearing the loud crowd reaction and applause, while wading through all those extra seconds and extraneous syllables sputtered by Hagin.

  • Rob D.

    I listened the other night and the two of them worked great together. I’m sure Wayne is a nice guy, but he and Howie didn’t mix.

  • The thing that drove me the most crazy about Hagin was his calls. I swear the play would take 5 seconds, but his call of it would last 15. There is no way a double play could possible take as long as his call did unless I was running to first base.

  • And Josh ingratiated himself to Howie almost immediately, dropping a “Honeymooners” reference as soon as he took over ply-by-play duty in the 4th.

  • RoundRockMets

    “and every time Ed Coleman says ‘cut on and missed,’ an angel tears out his wings.”

    Why would you profer a gem like this during spring training, knowing that it wouldn’t even count?

  • Mike

    This was terrific. I’m excited to hear Josh and Howie. I don’t listen to the radio broadcasts as much now as I used to, so I can’t comment too much on Wayne, other than that he seemed affable, if a little dull. Howie is still great.

    And thanks for the actual nice words about Tim McCarver. You hear so much criticism about McCarver these days, from people who are only familiar with him through the Fox broadcasts. But, growing up, watching the WWOR broadcasts of the games, McCarver was my guy. So much of what I learned about the game I learned from his commentary. He holds a special place in my baseball broadcaster fan’s heart.

  • Peggy

    I grew up in the old days when you often got games that were called off a wire service. Ronald Reagan got his start that way. They did a pretty good job but boy it was great to get the Red Sox on radio in New Haven and then when we moved we were able to get the Dodgers. So radio was part of my sports life and when the Bums betrayed us I went to the Mets and you don’t break the radio habit I discovered. Live TV was great but so was doing the dishes and cleaning up to the radio. If I had a problem it was with Fran Healey and later with this guy Hagin. I look forward to hearing Howie with this new guy and I agree that McCarver gets beat up. He was a great guy for going to the heart of a play and analyzing it much as Ralph could do so effortlessly.

  • Keith N.

    Great David Brooks piece on the Mets in todays Times:
    Funnily enough, Josh Lewin’s dad wrote something in the comments section:
    Dear Mr. Brooks,

    My son, Josh, is the new radio announcer (with Howie Rose) for the Mets. He had that attachment of which you speak and has never lost it. I was a Yankee fan at the same visceral level as you were for the Mets…. until George Steinbrenner arrived on the scene with his money and arrogance; it changed everything for me. Well, not everything. I still love Phil Rizzuto!

    Edward B. Lewin, M.D.

  • Chip Armonaitis

    I don’t listen to the radio as much as I used to – and I usually get to the TV broadcast, in progress, afte getting in from little league games and the like.

    Some thoughts:

    McCarver gets a bad rap. People forget how long he has been in major league baseball, and how good a player and athlete he was. (Granted most of it was before I was born). If you listen to him on FOX broadcasts, it is like the life has been sucked out of him by Joe Buck. (You know the announcer who does not really like sports, but announces them as his job.)

    When doing Mets games, I think it infuriated him that he saw things on the field that were not being done right, and that no one was calling anyone on. (Like Darryl playing too deep in rightfield with a right-handed hitter up.)

    I also don’t love Keith in the booth. When you are on, stop complaining about the length of the game, wishing for your next day off to get here, reading the paper while the game is going on. Why should I stay and watch if all you are going to do is complain?

    I agree with his complaints about the pace of the game, but tell me you want a fast game because it is a better game to play, and to watch, not cause you have someplace better to be.

    A wish: A 5 minute segment, EVERY NIGHT, in pre-game, with a former Met player. I know Greg will agree with me on this part – it does not have to be someone who was great, or even good, as a Met, to be interesting. Mets fans loved Doug Flynn and Ken Sanders just as much then as they love David Wright and Johann Santana today. It would be fun catching up with the guys everyone forgot every once in a while.


    Chip Armonaitis

  • Wandametsfan

    I’ve been listening to both broadcasts simultaneously since about 2009, (even though they’re not in sync) and surprising miss very little on either side. It’s amazing hearing Gary say something and then a few seconds later hear Howie say the same thing, and vice-versa. I’ve been doing it for so long, I can’t watch a Mets game any other way. National broadcasts, I turn the tv sound off completely.

  • 5w30

    Lewin did a great job Saturday with the Mets loss to the Nats. He’s going to be great with Howie, once Howie’s Fishsticks season is over on April 7. Decent pop-culture and old Mets references. Already lamenting the tragedy that is Jason Bay.

  • Ljcmets

    Speaking of radio….local long-time affiliate in Albany just threw the Mets over for the Red Sox. Try as I might, can’t get any info on who if anyone picked them up. Anyone have any info?

  • Mike

    1 thing I remember with hagin is his calls on certain pitches would go as “bounces up there”, as if the ball took a big hop from the dirt up to the catcher. I assume the balls were in the dirt, but hagin made it sound a lot different. He pronounced Chris Capuano as Capiano for more than half the season too. It was always something. Worst crime was silencing howie during late game drama though.

  • […] mute? Because he wanted to hear the Mets radio debut of Josh Lewin. See how he thought Lewin fared. Remind me not to get on Metstradamus’ bad side! Here John Coppinger points out there’s no […]

  • StorkFan

    The Hagin/Lorn Brown comparison was always an apt one to me. For some reason, Brown seemed to be obsessed with shut-ins watching the games. Regarding Kiner, I have something of a dissident view. I did not like him very much in the old days when he was forced to do much more play by play than color. To me, he came into his own when he would have conversations with McCarver about their playing days.

  • […] * It was hearing Howie Rose sounding happy and loose in a way he never was with the unlamented Wayne Hagin. In discussing the suspension of Toronto’s Brett Lawrie, Howie noted that umpire Bill Miller had been grazed at worst by Lawrie’s bounced helmet, but reacted like he’d been shot. In jumped Josh Lewin with a good line about Miller overacting like a gunfighter in a spaghetti western. Or there was Murphy’s mysterious relay throw for an unnecessary fourth out, which prompted Lewin to crack that Murph was being mindful of the exchange rate and Howie chiming in that Murphy’s Law is that the play’s not over until Daniel Murphy says it is. Lewin’s genuinely funny, without overdoing it, and he makes Howie far better. […]