The blog for Mets fans
who like to read


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.

Got something to say? Leave a comment, or email us at (Sorry, but we have no interest in ads, sponsored content or guest posts.)

Need our RSS feed? It's here.

Visit our Facebook page, or drop by the personal pages for Greg and Jason.

Or follow us on Twitter: Here's Greg, and here's Jason.

Dates With Destiny

Welcome to A Met for All Seasons, a series in which we consider a given Met who played in a given season and…well, we’ll see.

They swept away all the streamers
After the Labor day parade
Nothing left for a dreamer now
Only one final serenade

Billy Joel

Eight years and a day ago, Johan Santana faced 32 St. Louis Cardinals. He walked five of them and retired the other 27. This might be how we’d express a no-hitter if there was a superstition that demanded you don’t jinx one after the fact.

If “no-hitter” didn’t roll pithily off the tongue, however, the date it occurred wouldn’t have emblazoned itself onto our brains for good June 1, 2012. Given the monumental nature and relative recency of The First No-Hitter in the History of the New York Mets, it may be the one regular-season game date most every Mets fan knows by heart without rancor. June 15, 1977, is pretty deeply ingrained within Metsopotamia’s collective consciousness, but that’s for reasons of infamy and has nothing to do with the Mets beating the Braves that particular Wednesday night. In this century, June 1, 2012, has competition mainly from September 21, 2001, though that’s a date that is subordinate in every telling to another date, from ten days earlier. “Mike Piazza’s home run in the first game in New York after the tragedy of September 11, 2001…” Mike’s homer was a big emotional deal for reasons we all understand, but too many chronological qualifiers preface the narrative and therefore crowd its clarity.

June 1, 2012, doesn’t need any explanation in the Mets fan calendar-to-significance translator. It’s the no-hitter! We all know it, we all love it. I’m not exclusionary as a rule, but it you don’t love it, you’re not part of “we” for the balance of this discussion. Party poopers of the worst order (and, yup, our ranks contain them) can dwell on the five walks; the one ball that may have landed a scooch on the fair side of the left field line without being detected by the only person whose judgment mattered; or the two hands required to count how many starts Johan had left in him after proving himself willing to march into hell for our heavenly cause. Santana spent all of 2011 on the Disabled List and was destined to while away the entirety of 2013 there, too. In between, in 2012, he pitched as good as new for a few months. You couldn’t ask for anything better than The First No-Hitter in the History of the New York Mets as evidence of an exquisite shoulder anterior capsule repair job. You and Terry Collins surely couldn’t ask for 134 pitches, but with Johan, you didn’t have to ask. He’d have been insulted if you thought he’d have to think about an answer.

That date in history.

I don’t know how many no-hitters have been pitched in the eleventh-to-last start of a pitcher’s career, but Johan’s was, which is too bad because we liked having Johan around and it would have been swell to have had him stay in our midst as long as contractually possible. He was freaking Johan Santana, after all. From the moment in January of 2008 when we learned he’d be arriving on our scene until it was made clear in March of 2013 that he could no longer contribute to our glorious quest (though by 2013, our quests mostly involved slogging through the next 162 dates), it was freaking awesome to realize that one of the most imposing pitchers of the generation was wearing a Mets uniform.

We had Johan Santana! Pretty sweet, right? And we have a no-hitter thrown by Johan Santana. If that was the extent of Johan’s Mets accomplishments, Dayenu, it would have been enough. But Santana gave us more. In light of 46 Met wins, four successful Opening Day assignments, an ERA title, an All-Star selection and a steamy evening when he tossed a shutout and belted a homer (on the twelfth pitch of an obviously epic at-bat), I’d be willing to say “much more”. I want to say “so much more,” but that might be pushing it.

Johan Santana did not pitch us to a world championship, which was kind of the idea when we sent four young players of reasonable promise to Minnesota in order to have the two-time Cy Young winner wear No. 57 for us. That was probably too much to ask of one lefty, regardless of talent, bearing and track record.

Johan Santana did not pitch us to the playoffs. That is a true statement if we ignore that no Met did more to land us in the 2008 postseason than Johan, whose fiercely urgent presence in Flushing was largely attributable to the failure of the 2007 Mets to finish first in their division or anywhere with a Wild Card. We had a lefty with two Cy Youngs in his past in September 2007 yet came up one game short of where we wanted…no, needed to be. The trade to the Twins may have involved Carlos Gomez, Philip Humber, Deolis Guerra and Kevin Mulvey, but what we were really doing in the offseason preceding ’08 was trading up, casting off our no longer reliable Gl@v!ne for a sleek late-model Santana. Sure, it had a few more miles on it that we might have preferred (those Minneapolis winters can really wear on a vehicle), but the salesman said it could get us where we wanted…no, needed to be.

The fine print specified Santana was one of only dozens of Mets on the September 2008 roster. He wasn’t a member of the creaky bullpen, nor was he made available to play any of several on-field positions that cried out for improvement. Johan Santana could only be asked to carry a team from the mound every fifth day. OK, every fourth day when things got dire.

Johan looked good in February, but he was truly phenomenal come September.

Oh, did he carry us that September. My god, do you remember how great Johan Santana was in September of 2008? Mind you, he ranged from pretty darn good to utterly superb from April to August, but in the September of our potential redemption, he was freaking Johan Santana: six starts, four wins, no losses, an earned run average under two, more than a strikeout per inning and the pièce de résistance of pennant-race pitching, an effort whose date you might not instantly recall but whose excellence should never escape you.

The Johan Santana start of September 27, 2008, lives in a class of its own. That it wasn’t a no-hitter — or the no-hitter — is immaterial. We’d never had a no-hitter. We wouldn’t have known what to have done with one. What we had was the cloud that followed us from the previous September to this one. What we required was someone to chase the cloud away.

That September, specifically on a gray Saturday afternoon, the last Saturday afternoon Shea Stadium would ever know, Johan Santana was every element under the sun. He was earth, wind and fire while chasing the clouds away.

What part did you like best? The fact that it was a shutout? That it was a complete game? I mean you had to love that not just for the bookkeeping, but for keeping the pen away. No Heilman. No Schoeneweis. No Ayala. Johan was Santana Claus, and his easily spooked reindeer stayed parked safely beyond the right field fence.

But how about that it was a complete game shutout pitched on three days’ rest when, even then, nobody pitched on three days’ rest? Johan wasn’t nobody. Or just anybody. He was Johan.

Ooh, how about a complete game shutout on three days’ rest with an unmentioned torn meniscus in his left knee, something a pitcher who throws with his left arm probably needs in the scheme of crafting short-rest route-going blankings? The man could have copped to physically falling apart but recognized his team was in more pieces that he might have been, so he strapped it on. Strapped what on, you might ask. Whatever Johan strapped on, it was serious stuff.

Let us not let the legend of September 27, 2008, go the least bit unembellished by the facts. Let us not forget that the three-hit, complete game shutout on short rest and one good knee was prefaced by a note from its author, one he penned in the clubhouse and taped to the wall when he wasn’t busy strapping everything else on. It said, according to contemporary accounts, “It’s time to be a MAN.” At the risk of getting carried away by the concept of manliness as it applies to a silly game of baseball, it might have just as easily said, “It’s time to be JOHAN.”

Why was JOHAN so specific in informing the other Mets what time it was on September 27, 2008? Because it was time for all of them to be as much like JOHAN as they could. It was the 161st game of the 2008 season, or 161 games since many of them gave up a playoff berth in the very same ballpark to the very same opponent, no less. As in 2007, the 2008 Mets held first place in the National League East in September and then, because they must have loved it, set it free. Now they were keeping Cliché Stadium open every bit as much as they were closing down Shea Stadium. This was for all the marbles. There was no tomorrow. Technically, there was one tomorrow, but it was gonna be one marble-less Sunday without a marvelous Saturday defeating the disgustingly pesky Florida Marlins.

Thus, to put it all together, Johan Santana pitched that complete game, bullpen-free shutout on one-kneed abbreviated rest so the Mets could contend for a playoff spot for one more day at Shea. Exactly one more day, as it turned out, because in Game 162 of 2008, the reindeer got loose from the bullpen and, when you got right down to it, it was in fashion if not form Game 162 of 2007 all over again. Santana Claus could give us only Christmas Eve, not Christmas Day, and our stocking came up one lump shy one more time.

But you can’t fairly say Johan Santana didn’t pitch us into the playoffs. He pitched us right up to its front door, or the edge of its chimney. Even Santa had helpers to get him through the necessary portal.

Two-plus months before Johan Santana’s first unforgettable Met date, Billy Joel invited Paul McCartney — a veteran of Shea’s multipurpose utility c. 1965 — on stage to add an indelible climax to the ballpark’s final big-time concert. In retrospect, Alec Baldwin narrated on a DVD commemorating what was billed as The Last Play at Shea, the grand musical performance constituted “the stadium’s last magic moment”.

It was indeed magic. But it took place on July 18, 2008. I don’t have a twelve-year-old calendar handy, yet I’m pretty sure September 27, 2008, came later.

1962: Richie Ashburn
1964: Rod Kanehl
1969: Donn Clendenon
1972: Gary Gentry
1973: Willie Mays
1982: Rusty Staub
1991: Rich Sauveur
1992: Todd Hundley
1994: Rico Brogna
2000: Melvin Mora
2002: Al Leiter
2012: R.A. Dickey

7 comments to Dates With Destiny