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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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Two of a Kind (Love Affairs)

Come Monday, the Mets are slated to introduce nine men who’ve never been Mets before. When the names Scott Atchison, John Buck, Greg Burke, Marlon Byrd, Collin Cowgill, Latroy Hawkins, Brandon Lyon, Anthony Recker and Scott Rice are called, I’ll applaud because they are now part of my team. Some may disappear from the roster before making a lasting impression, some may become sadly synonymous with some regrettable misstep, some may legitimately earn their next hearty hand as they create the kind of tangible bond with me that I figure to recall fondly in this space in the years ahead.

Given how we become attached to certain players, it surprises me that it almost doesn’t matter who lines up and tips a cap on Opening Day. The group is the thing here more than its particular members when you’re considering the composition of a 25-man band. Obviously there’s always going to be a handful we take to heart in a given year or through a string of them, but I never insist on specificity of participants when it comes to going to see the Mets, Opening Day or any day. It’s the Mets. That’s all I need to know.

Not everything I love works quite like that.

The Spinners from the late 1970s on were Henry Fambrough, John Edwards, Billy Henderson, Pervis Jackson and Bobby Smith. Four-fifths of the group had been together from their beginnings in the 1950s, when they were known as the Domingoes, just kids dreaming of the big time in Detroit. Edwards was the veritable newcomer, replacing Philippé Wynne, who replaced G.C. Cameron, who replaced…well, there was one spot in the group that wasn’t always so stable, but the lineup remained remarkably intact for the longest time. When I finally got to see my favorite group perform live in 1997, the Spinners definitely had some mileage on them, but they were still the Spinners as they’d been for a couple of decades. And they were gorgeous.

I’m sorry it took me so long to experience them in person, but I’m grateful I caught them when I did. The Spinners couldn’t stay those Spinners forever. Edwards would suffer a stroke in 2000. Henderson passed away in 2007, Jackson in 2008. And earlier this month, Bobbie Smith — his glistening tenor as much the signature voice of the group as anybody’s — succumbed to illness at the age of 76. Fambrough is all who is left.

But there are still Spinners touring. There were in the weeks prior to Smith’s death and I imagine there will continue to be. Younger members picked up the mics in order to keep on spreading what I believe is some of the most beautiful music ever composed, recorded and performed. “I’ll Be Around”. “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love”. “One Of A Kind (Love Affair)”. “Ghetto Child.” “Mighty Love.” “Then Came You”. “Games People Play”. “Rubberband Man”. Music like that deserves to be played and heard.

Yet I have to admit that when the Spinners came to Westbury in February, as Smith was making what turned out to be his final rounds, I didn’t think much about seeing them again. The ratio was three new members, two originals. I don’t doubt they put on a fine show — judging by an episode of TV One’s Unsung from a couple of years ago, the new guys are talented and each member was still a trouper — but to me, the Spinners were the Spinners I saw in 1997, just in time. With the exception of Edwards, those were the Spinners who rolled out the hits with which I fell in love when I was a kid and grew to love even more as an adult.

Those Spinners can’t play Westbury anymore. But I’ll always have my boxed set. And its contents will always play for me.

The Mets I’ll go to see Monday? Like the Mets I went to see the last time they were in Flushing, they are what happens when the group doesn’t stay together, though I understand more readily what an impossibility that would be. Attrition, substitution, cold/calculating business decisions…when you get right down to it, none of it is really that much of an impediment to my being in their audience.

Santana’s done. Dickey’s traded. Reyes runs. Alfonzo walks. Gooden is not invited back. Seaver slips away twice. I say goodbye to Beltran, to Martinez, to Floyd, to Piazza, to Ordoñez, to Ventura, to Reed, to Mora, to Olerud, to Brogna, to Orsulak, to Strawberry, to Myers, to Hernandez, to Backman, to Brooks, to Flynn, to Henderson, to Grote, to Unser, to Staub, clear back to Swoboda. Guys I really liked and guys I truly loved stopped being Mets. Sometimes it was for better, sometimes it was for worse, sometimes it didn’t wind up making all that much difference. On Opening Day, a couple of dozen men identified as Mets will line up and tip their caps. I will applaud their presence, whoever they are.

I’m ready for another 162 fresh performances, because as much as I cherish the greatest hits, I’m dying to dig on the new material. I hope for harmony and high notes. I’ll settle for a good beat administered in the other direction now and then.

10 comments to Two of a Kind (Love Affairs)

  • Ray

    If you haven’t seen (I doubt much of the world has), Netflix a DVD called “Soul Power.” It’s a recent (2008) documentary of an unrecent concert- done in Kinshasha, Zaire in connection with the Ali-Foreman “Rumble in the Jungle” of 1974. Numerous soul artists from the 50s through 70s appeared then and appear now in digital glory, including the Spinners of that era.

  • Now being the Classic Heavy Metal fan I am, I will admit to having the Stylistics greatest hits on CD. My secret (well not secret anymore) vice is 70’s soul that I used to listen to from my little handheld radio when I was a kid. Now I’ve seen live just about every one of my favorite 70’s and 80’s hard rock & metal bands a few times each. Sometimes it’s a new bass player or a different singer. Or someone playing the same riffs as the original guy. You never know when it will be the last tour before they retire or expire.
    But the Mets will outlast me. Different players, reassigned numbers, new stadiums. If I think that a certain player may not be as good as a certain previous Met, I will still root for him to be successfull. That one hit or that one start may be memorable. Bring on 2013!

    • Saw the Stylistics twice in the 2000s (obviously not the fully original lineup) as part of ’70s Soul Jams or Soulfests or whatever they were called. They — a respectable No. 2 in my esteem when it comes to the genre — were worth the wait as well.

  • Andee

    FAFIF: The only baseball blog on earth where Bobbie Smith would get a shout-out. (Though “Rubberband Man” was Wynne’s lead, and Wynne was the first one of those guys to go, in 1984. And of course it was Wynne on the outro of “Could It Be…” and “Mighty Love.”) I read an interview with Thom Bell once where he claimed that the “female” voice on “Games People Play” was actually Fambrough speeded up!

    Although I’m surprised you didn’t manage to work Jordany Valdespin into this somehow. “Happiness is Being with the Spinner”!

    • The lack of Wynne had deterred me a little 16 years ago, given his importance to their hitmaking years, but…I don’t want to say I didn’t miss him, but the group with Edwards had been so strong for so long that it felt their heyday was still in progress. “Rubberband Man” notwithstanding, they were always more about the group than any one component.

      I’d like to think a Tigers blog or two paid homage to Smith.

  • Kevin from Flushing

    Lets go Mets! We may not get all the wins we want this year, but we’ll hopefully have plenty of good stories!

  • Ken K. in NJ

    One drunken evening back in the early 80’s, my friend Jack & I got to playing our old 45’s, as we were wont to do in those days. He introduced me to this minor hit Spinners record from 1965 which I had somehow missed back when I was a teen. It’s been one of my favorite Lost Soul hits ever since:

    And, yes, I believe that is Bobby Smith on lead.

    Thanks for the memory-jog.

  • Patrick O'Hern

    Don’t think I’ve said the time “12:45” in my normal voice since 1975. And after watching the Eagles docu, I’m going to steal a quote from henley about the upcoming season-“Shit don’t float”