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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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Nothing to Skip Here

We’ve not yet reached the longest day of the year, but Zack Wheeler was off the mound and in the clubhouse before literal darkness descended over Citi Field Tuesday night, so either it’s staying light later or the pitchers are growing short.

Or both.

Wheeler’s reign as undisputed Mets ace lasted one turn of the improved rotation, as he was shelled, shellacked, schlemieled, schlimazeled, what have you by the defending world champion Chicago Cubs in a stint that was both disturbingly brief (1.2 IP) and dragged on interminably (62 pitches). It was a Zack kind of an evening, except for the lack of nightfall and the part where Wheeler guts it out admirably for five to seven innings.

Joe Maddon shuffled the Cubs’ lineup and his alchemy produced its desired effect. First baseman Anthony Rizzo batted first and hit a leadoff homer. Second baseman Ian Happ, born the day the 1994 baseball strike began, batted second and belted a second-inning grand slam to raise Chicago’s lead to 6-1. The Mets’ aspirations toward a fifth consecutive victory pretty much walked off the job right there. Pitchers named Josh and Neil and another Josh were asked to soak up inning after inning after Zack was removed. Cub batters continued to spawn more runs. Jon Lester notched his 150th career win. He could’ve nailed down his 151st and 152nd if they’d let him.

Yoenis Cespedes left the game as a precaution against everything that could go wrong going wrong. Asdrubal Cabrera’s left thumb returned to the disabled list, taking the rest of Asdrubal with it. Michael Conforto’s back stayed stiff and was again kept out of harm’s way. Nobody else seemed to get hurt, though with this team you never can tell.

The final was 14-3, the lone Met bright spot being the re-emergence of the Topps card crate Gary, Keith and Ron dig out of their broadcast lair to make these recurring thrashings go down smoother. The Mets have never come back to win a game in which the announcers pluck cards at random and riff accordingly, yet once Topps time rolls around, my sole rooting interest is for lengthy plate appearances and baserunners galore, no matter who’s up. Fewer outs equals more cards, more cards equals more riffing.

Skip and I hung out a lot when I was seven.

My favorite find in this particular blowout treasure trawl was Keith’s 1970 Skip Lockwood, pictured then with the Seattle Pilots who were already the Milwaukee Brewers by the time the unassuming righty from the transferred franchise infiltrated my consciousness. By the end of the ’70s, Skip Lockwood would be the Mets’ closer and I would maintain a vested interest in securing his cardboard image. At decade’s dawn, when I was seven and first buying packs, I was inundated with 1970 Skip Lockwoods. Didn’t want ’em; got ’em anyway. When I wasn’t getting a Skip Lockwood, I was getting a Skip Guinn, yet it never crossed my mind to skip a chance to accumulate more cards, just as I never dreamed of skipping out on Tuesday’s night’s debacle. By the third inning, at which point it was Cubs 9 Mets 1, I was honestly thinking, “Oh boy, maybe they’ll do the cards tonight!” I was like a kid in a candy store, or, more precisely, “the candy store,” which is what we called Belle’s Luncheonette, the place where I committed dimes to packs, straining futilely to discern which ones might contain within them the stars who were destined to never appear.

I’d go through all those packs in hope of a Seaver or a Mays. I learned to accept the Lockwoods and the Guinns. I sat through a double-digit pasting forty-seven seasons later and I considered myself rewarded when Skip Lockwood appeared. And to think, the summer solstice is still a week away.

Spend a few innings with me this Thursday night at Bergino Baseball Clubhouse in Manhattan for a discussion of Mike Piazza, Tom Seaver and maybe Skip Lockwood. Details here.

Many thanks to WOR Sports Zone host Pete McCarthy for having me on to discuss Piazza. Listen to Pete before and after every Mets game on 710 AM. You never know who you’re going to hear.

30 comments to Nothing to Skip Here

  • LeClerc

    The snowball started to roll downward when Lester (.066 BA) stroked his base hit with two outs.

    The snow boulder descended swiftly as Rizzo worked out a bases-loaded walk and Wheeler lost all focus on the task at hand.

    Happ then delivered the coup de grace to the hapless Zack – who was now melting like Frosty the Snowman on a warm night in June. A few batters later he was a puddle on the mound and the Mets were in a “game situation”.

    Six good innings from Harvey tonight will seem like Koufax compared to Tuesday’s travesty.

  • Dave

    They should have broken out the cards by the 2nd inning, stayed with them, and checked in with Steve Gelbs every now and then for an update on the game. I remember the 1970 Skip Lockwood, it being one of those disappointing Seattle Pilots card, when I wanted to see what this Milwaukee Brewers team’s uniform looked like.

    Wheeler only went one and 2/3? Seemed more like 7.

  • 9th string catcher

    Not a great night for (pitch) Count Wheeler. It’s not mechanics. It’s not stuff. It’s mental. Walk a batter, serve a meatball to the next guy, walk the next batter, serve another meatball, get ahead 0-2, nibble away until you’ve thrown 9 pitches and walked him as well, serve another meatball.

    Ok, done ranting. He is a good pitcher, but needs to be more mentally engaged and better coached.

    • I had a thing to go to last night, so this was the rare game I didn’t see a pitch of. I did check the Gnats score here and there though. I think most of us would be pretty happy to take 2/3 from the Cubbies, so let’s hope Mr. Harvey takes another step forward this evening.

      • Eric

        My hope for the 10-game stretch against the Cubs, Nationals, and Dodgers is 7-3, which comes out to 1 loss per series. Win tonight and the Mets are back on pace.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Well, the bright side is Wheeler only used up 1.2 of those precious 120 innings he’s allowed this year. If he keeps this up he’ll be available for the postseason…

    • Andrew in Boynton

      62 pitches? You could make the argument that it amounts to 4 innings.

      Noteworthy is this snippet from the archives of Today in Baseball History from June 14, 1974:

      Nolan Ryan, throwing an unbelievable 235 pitches, whiffs 19 batters in 13 innings, including Cecil Cooper six consecutive times, in the Angels’ 15-inning, 4-3 victory over Boston in Anaheim.

  • Greg Mitchell

    Wheeler shelled–after tossing 108 pitches in longest stint in two years. We’ll see how this goes from here on out. Six-man rotation really needed for this team.

  • Gil

    “Joe Maddon shuffled the Cubs’ lineup and his alchemy produced its desired effect.” That’s a great line.

    Hope Harvey wasn’t at 1 Oak last night because this is a big game for us. Need to take the series.

    Maybe it’s the 10,000th call I’ve heard on WFAN about Rosario coming up, but I’m questioning why the Mets haven’t made that move. Bring the kid up. Let’s see what he’s got.

    • Eric

      I believe the Super Two hurdle is past (correct me if I’m wrong), so at this point, Rosario’s call-up to play or at least back up at SS should just be a judgement call.

  • Eric

    Regarding WOR Sports Zone and Pete McCarthy, when the Mets moved away from WFAN, I was upset. But I’ve since become a fan of WOR’s Mets-dominated sports coverage. McCarthy provides straight, smart commentary on my favorite team. I like Sal Licata, too.

  • eric1973

    Alchemy ——- Love it.

    Regarding the team’s daily injury status updates:
    Like the Indy 500, the results of each game’s injuries are never official until the morning after, at 8am!

  • Will in Central NJ

    Greg, for every Skip Lockwood (or Skip Guinn) you got in 1970, I got a Mayo Smith or Dan McGinn. I still recall my 7-year old mind wondering why anyone would be named ‘Mayo’.

    Am I the only one, or does anyone else wish they could stand below the SNY booth to catch those pre-1969 Topps cards flung by Keith?

  • Pete In Iowa

    Hey. You guys see that 5-4-3 double play Flores started in the second inning with one out and one on? He really had to charge that one to start the twin killing.
    Oh. Never mind….

  • Greg Mitchell

    Ces-rushed-back 2.0 report: out again tonight, and vs. lefty.

  • Ed

    Hi Greg,
    Skip Lockwood was a favorite of mine as he was one of the few consistent relievers we had in the dark ages (otherwise known as the mid/late 70’s). I remember buying packs of cards and being inundated with Bill Greif’s, Bill Melton’s, Dave Lemanczyk (who has to get some award for worst name), and many other but I loved it. I buy them for my nephews now. Regarding the radio station, its funny 30 years nearly on WFAN does make one forget about the WHN or WABC days when we were not regular programming. I have not adjusted to WOR as you can’t listen live online – I think you have to buy a streaming plan with heartradio or something. Anyway sorry for babbling and thank you for writing something entertaining after a blowout.

  • LeClerc

    Montero is back.

    Why ?

  • eric1973

    They always mentioned Lockwood was a good hitter for a pitcher because he began life as a position player in the A’s organization.

    I remember reading he was great friends with Seaver, and they would ride to Shea together

    • I distinctly remember a game during which Joe Frazier ran out of players and he sent Lockwood up to bat for himself as the potential last out. Whoever was announcing on TV made much of the ex-infielder stuff. It didn’t result in a hit or a win.

      Upon a quick archival dig, it wasn’t the last out, but the first out of the last inning, the eleventh on Sunday, August 1, 1976, first game of a doubleheader. Frazier had indeed used his entire bench (seven guys!), so Skip led off the bottom of the eleventh and grounded out in the eventual 7-6 loss to the Phillies. We lost the nightcap, too.

      Good times.

  • eric1973

    Yup, the bench was seven guys because you had 4.5 starters and 5.5 relievers, and 15 position players.

    Also, you had to pitch a complete game to get on Kiner’s Korner, even if you got the win. Otherwise, he had on two hitters, and you had to hear John Milner saying ‘if I can stay healthy…’

  • I will hold this particular post close to my heart.