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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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The Kings of Queens of Staten Island

A lifetime spent staring at the Mets’ skyline logo inevitably draws the eye to the bridge in the foreground. As the franchise’s official explanation details, the span “symbolizes that the Mets, in bringing National League baseball back to New York, represent all five boroughs.” It’s a helluva Met-aphor, and fairly close to geographically accurate from a Flushing-honed perspective. There are bridges that will carry a person between Queens and the Bronx, Queens and Manhattan, and Queens and Brooklyn (including the Kosciuszko Bridge, a.k.a. the Mientkiewicz). Getting from Queens to Staten Island by bridge, however, is like getting the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine: it’s gonna take you a couple of shots.

The eye inevitably meets the bridge.

Yet thanks to the Mets’ decision to play part of their schedule on (in?) Staten Island this season, you might say Queens and Staten Island will be like Johnson & Johnson. If anything, they’ve grown closer. Or as the old saying goes, you’re gonna win a third of your games, you’re gonna lose a third of your games and some games you’re gonna play somewhere you’ve never played before…maybe even Staten Island.

The convenience factor is selective, but after a year-plus of our lives being upended by COVID-19, I guess it’s not too much of an imposition to have approximately one-sixth of all Mets home games played in (on?) Staten Island until further notice. It’s great news for the Mets fans on, in or near Staten Island. I’m not one of them, but I’m not all the way home in terms of being fully vaccinated, either, so it won’t really matter to me personally. Except that it’s the Mets doing it, so of course it’s personal, if only from a distance.

Make that Francisco Lindor and the Mets doing it. Still can’t get over that deal, even with E-ZPass.

Given that New York City and New York State have expressed concerns about maintaining vaccination momentum at supersites like the one established at Citi Field, I understand why authorities don’t want to take such an ideal locale totally off their map. And Major League Baseball, despite the danger the Rangers may be courting in Texas, is right to be legitimately concerned about sanitization in its facilities. Having close to 10,000 Mets fans not in the building about once per homestand certainly won’t hurt the greater good.

Thus we’ve received the joint announcement that home Saturdays will be known in 2021 as Staturdays with the Mets, Presented by Statcast, Powered by Google Cloud. Each Saturday game the Mets host this season — or at least until vaccination penetration reaches that elusive herd immunity level — will take place not at Citi Field but at Richmond County Bank Ballpark at St. George. (Props to the financial institutions for working out the naming rights niceties.) The first time the Mets ferry to Staten Island will be a week from Saturday, on April 10 at 1:10 PM vs. the Marlins. The rest will be day games, too, either at ten after one or ten after four, depending on whether Fox intrudes. Otherwise the Staturdays with the Mets, Presented by Statcast, Powered by Google Cloud games will air on WPIX, Channel 11 in New York and stream, unsurprisingly, via Google Cloud. It’s unclear whether Gary, Keith, Ron or Steve Gelbs will travel with the team or conduct their business from the Citi Field booth or SNY studios.

Per the regulations put in place for public safety, I won’t be going to a game for a while. Maybe a while longer depending on my own comfort level with crowds. Not that the crowds in (on?) Staten Island will be that voluminous. Density is another story. Capacity at the former minor league ballpark is normally 7,171, but normal remains up for grabs. The Mets are capping SI tickets sold to 5,010, which is, appropriately enough this time of year, quite the Easter egg, as 5,010 represents 69.86% of RCBB@SG capacity.

Nice touch, Mets, as, in theory, is the mandate that all fans attending games on (in?) Staten Island must wear Mets-branded masks, even if they must be purchased cashlessly directly outside the ballpark. The Mets are masking their mandate as an anti-COVID measure, citing studies that show bringing previously purchased masks across bodies of water limits their effectiveness. One of the professional curmudgeons at the Post called it the Staten Island Stimulus, and not approvingly. Whatever. Staten Island residents who show three forms of ID will be exempt from having to buy new masks directly from the Mets, but will, of course, still have to wear a Mets-branded face covering. Just as at Citi Field the rest of the week, fans will also have to show proof of a negative COVID test or full vaccination.

Knowing Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio shared concerns about altogether diminishing Citi Field’s efficacy for vaccinations (about the only thing they share, it seems), Steve Cohen volunteered the Mets to move out of Queens on what amounts to a bi-weekly basis. It may not be as community-minded as it sounds, however. The city and state are each going to give the Mets special “financial considerations,” reminding us that Steve Cohen didn’t get to be Steve Cohen just on Twitter charm. And goodness knows Rob Manfred, whose “Minor Your Own Business” program was going over like a lead balloon, was no doubt pleased to find an otherwise vacant baseball factory up and running again. Should you choose to be a cynic, this can also be framed as a dry run of sorts for the proposed proposed Tampa Bay-Montreal arrangement, though the Mets are at least staying in the same city not to mention country. With Cohen being so accommodating, word is the commissioner is ready to exempt a certain baseball team from certain luxury tax thresholds for having, well, played ball. More incentive to pay Messrs. Conforto, Syndergaard and Stroman what they want, I’d like to believe, though — Mr. Lindor’s compensation notwithstanding — that may be not how Steve Cohen got to be Steve Cohen, either.

The Staturdays with the Mets, Presented by Statcast, Powered by Google Cloud task force was led by Staten Island borough president James Oddo, a huge Mets fan, and recently appointed board of directors member Chris Christie, a former Metropolitan Area governor who Cohen cited as “having special expertise in places many people, including Mets fans, reach by bridge, whether it’s the Verrazzano-Narrows, the Bayonne, the Goethals or the Outerbridge Crossing.” It’s unclear whose idea it was to temporarily rename exit ramps off those bridges Lindor Extensions, but, again, nice touch. Former owner and current board chairman emeritus Fred Wilpon was also cited by the new owner for his input on the intermittent relocation, which figures. Wilpon clearly remembers the Brooklyn Dodgers playing select home games at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City before bolting the Tri-State altogether for Los Angeles. The irony may be lost on Fred, but he and his son recently cashed a pretty big check from Steve, so the gain may be his, too. (Geez, I hope this isn’t a stalking horse for a new ballpark far from Flushing. That would be a bridge too far.)

Let’s get a little more orange going around here.

Listen, I wasn’t exactly painting my WELCOME CHRIS CHRISTIE placard for Banner Day — coming to Staten Island on June 12 when the Mets play the Padres, incidentally — when Cohen brought the ex-gov shall we say aboard. I could almost hear M. Donald Grant cackling devilishly that this was one board member he’d be proud to chair. Yet, honestly, this Staten Island outreach, whoever hatched it and whoever’s executing it, isn’t a bad idea, not for a franchise whose own logo is explicitly about bridging gaps. Perhaps you saw the Seatgeek map tweeted recently, the one breaking down MLB loyalties by county across the continental United States. The Mets definitely have Nassau (yay!) and Queens (natch). I had to squint to make out if we have Brooklyn, too. Let’s say we did. That’s the extent of extant orange on the East Coast. If we have to fight this fandom battle one borough at a time, so be it. Taking over the former home of the Staten Island Single-A Whatchamacallits and converting Richmond County to orange/blue figures to go a long way in spreading the Metropolitan Gospel. Today, Staturdays with the Mets, Presented by Statcast, Powered by Google Cloud.

Tomorrow? Hopefully back to Queens full-time, but maybe with some traffic heading eastbound. You’d have to ask Christie.

Historically minded Mets fans can’t help but feel a tingle amid all this because we know about the rich Richmond history of the Mets name. Maybe not the Mets since 1962, but the Mets of 1886 and 1887 for sure. Those would be the New York Metropolitans of the American Association, spiritual forebears to our very own Amazins. As Bill Lamb outlined in the essential David Krell-edited book New York Mets in Popular Culture, the Mets of those bygone days “had their moment, highlighted by the capture of an American Association pennant. That achievement notwithstanding, the Mets were mostly an afterthought to the Metropolitan Exhibition Company.”

Home again, you might say.

Those Mets, like our Mets, started in Manhattan, but unlike our Mets they had no permanent home awaiting them in Flushing Meadows. Instead, when things went awry uptown, those AA Mets vamoosed downtown and across Upper New York Bay to take up residence at the St. George Cricket Grounds. The AA Mets had been a powerhouse when they were based primarily at the oldest of several sites known as the Polo Grounds, going 75-32 in 1884, led by righthanded starters Tim Keefe and Jack Lynch. Each hurler won 37 games, preemptively using all the run support Met ace righties would need for the rest of time. Two years later, as ownership got tangled up in a bundle of conflicting interests, and with the National League’s former New York Gothams gaining traction as the Giants and essentially taking over the territory, the Mets sort of beat it out of town.

Sort of, because the Mets moved from Manhattan to Staten Island. This was before 1898, meaning Staten Island wasn’t officially part of Greater New York, but it was close enough. The Mets, however, weren’t close to the force they’d been. Situated in the future freestanding borough, the American Association Mets pretty much floated out to sea. As Lamb notes, playing outside the borders of what was then considered NYC left them uncovered by the media of the age. What there was to track wasn’t particularly uplifting. The 1886 Mets went 53-82 and finished seventh in the AA. In ’87, their record dipped to 44-89. The Metropolitans came, the Metropolitans went. The St. George Cricket Grounds hosted them for a total of 125 games. In 1889, the Giants briefly set up camp while another Polo Grounds was under construction, playing ball on the Island for 23 games.

So it’s been a while since major league ball had its moment in Richmond County. But that day is coming back. That day will be Staturdays with the Mets, Presented by Statcast, Powered by Google Cloud. Even if all it provides is a port in the remnants of a quarantine storm (another Staten Island echo from the distant past), it’s a legitimate historical bridge to the 19th century. And let us not forget that before the NHL skated to Long Island, one of the names that competed with “just plain Mets” to be what the National League expansion team of the 1960s would be called was the Islanders, a nod to the fact that the Mets would settle on (not in) Long Island. In a slightly westward prism, that little nugget can be seen as setting the stage for this heretofore unseen return to semi-ancestral Metsian roots.

All in the Staten Island family.

You can’t say the Mets aren’t planning on making the most of this promotionally and maybe sentimentally. The family of late manager George Bamberger, a Staten Island native, will present a replica of the traditional Shea-delivered floral horseshoe at the Staturdays with the Mets, Presented by Statcast, Powered by Google Cloud opener on the tenth. Relatives of the late Larry Bearnarth, a graduate of St. Peter’s Boys High School, are also expected at some point. Jack Egbert, the only Met player known to have been born on (let’s say “on” already) Staten Island, will be throwing out the first pitch, and I understand celebrity Mets fan Judd Apatow will be bringing cast members of his 2020 comedy The King of Staten Island for some crossover event. The only thing wrong with that otherwise excellent movie was Bill Burr taking Pete Davidson to a Staten Island Yankees game. Maybe they can digitally edit the next version of the Blu-ray to fix that. Among the necessary upgrades to RCBB@SG itself will be installation of a strikeout board that will notch “HelloFresh Kills” of opposing batters, with every “Kill” punctuated by the PA blasting the refrain to Carly Simon’s “Let the River Run” from Working Girl, a film whose protagonist, it will be remembered, commuted daily on a certain ferry.

Come, the new Jerusalem, indeed. To paraphrase Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, we’ve taken as home boroughs Manhattan, Queens and, now, Staten Island. And let’s not forget Brooklyn, home of the Cyclones and our 2020-2021 alternate site. All told, that’s pretty nifty bridgework.

It’s exciting enough that the Mets have secured the services of Francisco Lindor for the ten years after this one. It’s exciting enough that the Mets are planning on playing a full season this year after what we’ve been through the last year. As for the Staten Island part of the plan, you could be tempted to write it off as utter foolishness. But read the calendar. It’s Opening Day almost everywhere. Anything goes — even the Mets to parts previously unknown.

4 comments to The Kings of Queens of Staten Island

  • Seth

    “Anything goes…” Like today’s game — out the window. I knew it was too good to be true…

  • eric1973

    You had me going there for a while, until the Staten Island masking thing, and then I took a look at the date.

    Well played, my friend.

  • Andy Thomas

    Great stuff!

    I went to Banner Day at the Polo Grounds, ‘63, so I’m allowed to say this Gnats thing is no April Fool’s joke for true Mets fans.

    Faith: Starting the season several days later than everyone else will lead to a surprisingly good first month, enough to keep us in the playoffs despite losing seven of our final ten games this season.

    Fear: Ryan Zimmerman has somehow already infected our new #12, who will become a long hauler and, despite occasional (sometimes even for consecutive weeks) flashes of brilliance, slips to somewhere near .240 with ever diminishing range at SS over a very long decade.

    Tell me it hasn’t crossed your mind!

  • Dave

    Damn. I hate driving across the Goethals, where each lane is about 2 feet wide, but it would mean I could stop for a bite to eat in Elizabeth, home to the world’s best pizza, the best raviolis, and arguably the best Italian hotdogs. If Mets Board member Chris Christie has any say over fan access though, I guess I won’t be among the 5,010 faithful, unless I outsmart him and drive down to Perth Amboy and get the Outerbridge. I don’t want to deal with the traffic getting to the Bayonne Bridge, and besides, ask anyone who lives in Bayonne, if you’re not from there, you need a passport to get in.

    I also understand that the team will change their name for Staturdays to be the Staten Island Pizza Rats. Oh, and I can’t wait to see Lindor’s new uniform number, as he becomes the first Met to ever wear 341,000,000.