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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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Good Morning Back, Our Neighbor!

Francisco Lindor’s first home run as a Met came in Spring Training. I’m not thinking of anything he launched in Grapefruit League competition, but rather when he showed up at the complex in St. Lucie wearing what we’ll call the Eddie Murphy Mets jacket from the Coming to America sequel. In terms of presenting his face as that of the franchise, it was an out-of-the-park shot. Sure, Lindor donning the jacket was product placement to promote something about to stream, but it was also perfect. The movie itself was meant to evoke an overwhelmingly successful production from the late 1980s. In 1988, Murphy as Prince Akeem wants to wrap himself in New York, in Queens. Of course he puts on that jacket. Of course it fits, just as he’s going to fit in New York.

At last, the jacket fits.

“Good morning, my neighbor!” Lindor greeted us in the viral video that resulted, just as Akeem did in Coming to America. It set just the right tone for the season ahead.

Then the season arrived and most everything surrounding Lindor went atonal. That’s the problem with working without a script. On the other hand, improv can be pretty fun, too. Sunday night in New York, in Queens, without any lines penned in advance, Francisco Lindor starred in an even better viral video. He hit a home run. Then another home run. Then a third home run. The third home run was the biggest and baddest. It broke a tie and put the Mets ahead, 7-6, in the bottom of the eighth inning versus the Yankees. The second home run, particularly its trot, is what was destined to go viral, as Lindor let the Yankees know he and his teammates knew what the Yankees were up to with stealing signs and signaling via whistling the night before.

Lindor earned his varsity letter Sunday night. Earned both of them, the N and the Y. He stood up for dear old Payson Tech. He stood up for the righteous side of town. He stood up against the Yankees, which is all we ever want out of our Mets in these Subway Series spectacles. He did it in the spotlight game of the week, presumably interrupting the nonstop narrative devoted to the interlopers from another borough. I say presumably because the MUTE feature is very handy when watching Sunday Night Baseball. Couldn’t miss the camerawork finding Yankees fans in the stands, though. Except once Lindor took over, there was way more of him than there was of them.

On Saturday night, I — who can only pick up on what a pitcher is about to throw after an announcer tells me what I just saw — said as Taijuan Walker was giving up home run after home run, “He’s tipping his pitches.” If I can figure it out from my couch, professionals on location are surely all over it. Walker’s legally changed his last name to Gopher in the second half, but belting everything over the Citi Field fence was coming too easily, even for the Bronx Bombers. He had to be tipping his pitches. Sure enough, Jonathan Villar called time and trotted to the mound to clue in Walker/Gopher that something was up, besides a plethora of Yankee longballs. I didn’t know at the time that somebody in the visitors’ dugout was whistling as part of the communications process. I had Fox on MUTE by then. Also, Villar at third base was a lot closer to the situation than some occasionally intuitive home viewer.

There are implicitly approved ways to relay comprehension of what’s about to be thrown and there are ways you don’t do it. The best antidote is not allow it to be picked up, but Walker had already let that cat slip from its eco-friendly reusable shopping bag. The Yankees apparently figured it was cool to whistle loudly enough so that Villar, not to mention their batter at a particular moment, could hear it over a sold out house. It may not be cameras & trash cans, but it crosses a line if you’re on the other side of it. I’ve always said when it comes to nodded codes of conduct and unwritten rules, if the Mets do it, it’s fair game. If it’s done to the Mets, it’s foul play.

The Mets called foul. Specifically, Lindor called foul as he rounded the bases that second time Sunday (you have to delineate which time; he did so much bases-rounding). He made a whistling gesture. The Yankees took offense because how dare the Mets not put up with their nonsense? Don’t they watch national telecasts with the sound up and hear how the Mets are merely pawns in the grand Yankee chess game to which we are all privileged to witness? The Yankees also have offense, embodied late Sunday night — Sunday night was nothing but late — by Giancarlo Stanton, who homered off Brad Hand to tie the game. I doubt Hand needed to tip his eponym for Stanton to smack one far in Flushing. Stanton was doing that when his first name was Mike and his tint was teal. What he hadn’t done before was bark at the Mets while in mid-trot. How dare you question our Yankee ways?!?! That’s what it looked like he said on TV. I had the sound muted.

Players left their benches and congregated without choreography on the field for a spell. There was some fuming. There was some delaying, because what would Sunday Night Baseball be without extending itself even later? There was Lindor as Dee Snider, leading his band in a chorus of we’re not gonna take it. No fists flew, nor should they have to in a game of baseball, but it felt like indeed we weren’t gonna take it anymore. Not the Mets of Lindor, which is likely how we would have perceived the Mets by now had Lindor not struggled at the plate most of the season and missed a chunk of it injured.

It’s September now. The Mets’ playoff possibilities are thin and hang by a thread that’s thinner. There’s no time for being aggravated at April-through-August Lindor, though you’re welcome to carry a thumbs-driven grudge. I’ve magically purged that memorable gesture from my consciousness. Javy Baez has hit like crazy since letting off his steam in a questionable fashion (2-for-4 this Sunday, continuing his special relationship with the supposed day of rest). His partner in simmering alienation has similarly shaken off his personal blanket of fog. Francisco was supposed to come to New York from Cleveland and overwhelm our airwaves with what made him a star from whence he came. So was Pete Franklin.

I’m thinking Lindor is a better fit for the marketplace than the raspy sports talk host who swung for two years on WFAN but never really connected. Of course I’m thinking nothing but wonderful thoughts of a shortstop who just hit three home runs; drove in five runs; channeled Tanner Boyle from The Bad News Bears by telling the Yankees they can take their whistle and shove it up their asses; secured a game that seemed intent on getting away; led us to a 7-6 triumph that kept our pulse beating faintly in our quest for a division title or Wild Card berth; and, because it shouldn’t go unnoted, made sure we won the 2021 Subway Series four games to two.

Because we see only one or two Mets per night sitting down in front of a Zoom camera, we don’t get the panoply of reactions we used to after a game when reporters filed into the clubhouse. Maybe Michael Conforto or Pete Alonso had something insightful or leaderly to say in the wee hours of Monday morning once the four-hour, six-minute nine-inning contest was complete. We didn’t hear from them. But we heard from Lindor postgame. I had the sound up for that. Francisco in the Met-managed media session sounded like the guy whose team this is, the guy who believes himself responsible for what this team can be. I don’t know if he was genuine, but he sure as hell seemed genuine. It was the Yankees now who were weaving tales of rats and raccoons (claiming their Saturday night whistling was just innocent energetic cheerfulness). It was Lindor acknowledging that while the great game was no doubt great, he and the Mets have a long way to go. That may not have been exactly what he said, but that’s how it came off. Mature. Realistic. Our team’s leader.

Admittedly, I’m still high off Sunday night and the three homers, but I like this Lindor. I think it’s the Lindor we got before he put on the NY jacket, before he realized what the NY on the jacket was getting himself into, before he fully grasped that New York ain’t just a bigger Cleveland. He’s an been an extraordinary ballplayer for years who’s played below average much of his first year in a new situation. When it was necessary for him to be extraordinary again…well, it’s been necessary all year, but he picked a good night to save it for in case he was waiting to remind us why we were delighted to trade for him and sign him into the next decade.

Welcome to the neighborhood, Francisco. Like you, we’re really not so bad once you get to know us.

___

Tuesday and Wednesday night at 8 PM ET, ESPN will show under the 30 for 30 umbrella Nick Davis’s epic story of the 1986 Mets Once Upon a Time in Queens, two hours each evening. Set your DVRs accordingly. Talk about evoking an overwhelmingly successful production from New York in the late 1980s. I saw the first half at a Citi Field screening two Fridays ago. For Mets fans, it’s the cinematic equivalent of somebody in orange and blue blasting three home runs in a Subway Series finale. (And, as evidenced by the ESPN commercial that’s run during recent Mets games, I’m in it, portraying the lone New Yorker who didn’t party the ’80s away — well, me and Gary Carter.)

Dave Loggins beseeched his girlfriend to please come to Boston for the springtime, please come to Denver for the snowfall, please come to L.A. to live forever. That’s a lot to ask. I’m merely suggesting you (please) come to Freeport, L.I., to hear me talk about writing about the Mets this Thursday night at 7 o’clock, the Freeport Memorial Library, 144 W. Merrick Rd. The Mets aren’t playing, Yom Kippur will have ended and monumental documentaries aren’t premiering. Honestly, I can’t think of an excuse not to come.

There is not only a deep-dive podcast devoted to Curb Your Enthusiasm — titled, appropriately enough, Pretty Pretty Pretty Good — but it’s produced by Mets fan Av Sinensky, which means when they got to the 2011 episode featuring Bill Buckner, Av called on another Mets fan he knows to delve into the significance of this Buckner character. You can listen to me speak to that particular time in Queens here at approximately the 2:14 mark. That’s two hours and fourteen minutes in, or the equivalent of five innings in Sunday Night Baseball terms.

13 comments to Good Morning Back, Our Neighbor!

  • Flynn23

    ” [Lindor] channeled Tanner Boyle from The Bad News Bears by telling the Yankees they can take their whistle and shove it up their asses.”

    YES! In a season filled with countless great lines, THIS is the line of the season!

    What a night. Would love to have been there. Electric atmosphere.

    Sign Baez please.

    Stay hot and maintain that intensity, guys. We’ve got a three-game series with Cardinals starting tonight. And that only means one thing:

    BAD NEWS for the Cardinals!

  • Seth

    “His partner in simmering alienation” was just brilliant — that’s why we come here.

    Really looking forward to OUATIQ!

  • open the gates

    So I’m pretty proud of myself. I was listening to the game in bed on Audacy with my earbuds, and I managed to not shout with glee and wake my wife when Lindor hit Number Three. Just about. Ditto when Don’t Call Me Mike popped up to Francisco to end it. Iron self control, what can I say.

    As for Mr. Lindor, the smile always got me nervous. Was it a joy-of-the-game smile, a la a young Jose Reyes? Or was it more of a defiant smile, a “you nasty Met fans won’t ever knock this smile off my face,” a la Bobby Bonilla. Well, I guess we got our answer. Both in terms of offensive drama and in defending Met honor, Francisco Lindor just connected with Met fans in a way that Bobby Bo never would. It took a while, but sometimes it does. Jose Reyes had his growing pains. Piazza’s first month as a Met was puzzling, as was Straw’s, as was Beltran’s first few months. Fonzie’s first year as a Met was pretty pedestrian. Similarly, things weren’t pretty for Lindor earlier this year, and the thumbs-down episode was unfortunate. But it looks like Frankie has finally had his long-awaited Mets inauguration, and put the bad stuff in the rearview mirror. Welcome to the family, sir. Any tormenter of the Yankees is a friend of mine.

  • Eric

    4 teams to leapfrog for the 2nd wildcard. 3 games behind, 4 in the loss column. 18 left to play. How does that compare to the 2016 run to the wildcard?

    5 games behind the Braves, 6 in the loss column.

    If the bullpen is cracking, maybe hopefully deGrom and Syndergaard rejoin the team as relievers in time to make a difference.

  • Left Coast Jerry

    I am fervently hoping that the Yankees miss the postseason by one game. We can say they were Lindored out of it.

  • Seth

    Well Yankees, don’t let the Lindor hit you on the way out!

  • Joe Nunz

    Just when you thought enough time had passed that you’d never hear a Pete Franklin reference ever again…well played, Sir.

  • Bob

    In my 57 years of being a Met fan and going to dozens of games at Shea (and that DH in 1963 VS Phils at Polo Grounds where Piersal hit his 100th career HR and Mets swept DH) my happiest moments were Game # 3 of 2000 World Series. I was overjoyed on LIRR ride back home at 1AM seeing all the sad yankee fans and HAPPY Mets fans.
    I think of the millions of Met fans who have been to Shea and thanks to the Baseball Gods, (Casey Stengel & Mrs. Payson in Heaven) I was able get 2 tickets for $60 each and the $1200.00 airfare from LA to be one of 57,000 fans–mostly Met fans- at that game.
    Never mind that rat bastard skankee shortstop ruining everything on the first pitch of Game 4-which I was not able to get tickets for….
    But last nights game ranks up there and even from 3000 miles away, I could feel the joy from Mr. Lindor’s homers!
    Shove the whistles up your ass, skanks!
    Let’s Go Mets!

  • Matt T

    What a weekend! On a more mundane note, I think Carlos may be taking the idea of “it’s not how you start it’s how you finish” a little too far. It’s getting a little weird isn’t it?

  • eric1973

    Gotta get my two cents in on the much-appreciated Pete Franklin reference.

    I really liked him. If memory serves, I may have listened to him when he was on in Cleveland, when I got WWWE, and was able to get some Indians games, too.

    Back then, I got a kick out of listening to out of town games, WCAU with Harry Kalas, Richie Ashburn, and Chris Wheeler, WTOP Baltimore games, and some Boston games on WTIC.

    My favorite rant of Pete’s was when a Bengals fan called in, and OAB (old acid breath, as per Mushnick) shouted at the guy to ‘Go Screw a Bengal!’

    Good Times.

  • open the gates

    I actually got a kick out of Pete Franklin for about five minutes. Then I decided that I’d rather have my old radio curmudgeons cursing New York governors in Italian than analyzing sports and persecuting radio callers. Steve Somers is about as curmudgeonly as I want my radio sports commentary to be.

    Purposely not commenting on yesterday’s game.

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