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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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Nancy With the Lasting Grace

Technically, the win in the game that commenced the National League season in New York went to Chris Bassitt. Not so technically, actually. Chris, No. 40 in the common guise of No. 42, gave the Mets six superb innings, and when a Mets starting pitcher is backed by sufficient offense, that generally means the starting pitcher who has pitched superbly is in line for a win. The 2022 Mets are suddenly showing a knack for sufficiently offending opposing pitchers. Just ask Zach Davies and Caleb Smith of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The home team in Friday’s Home Opener did not lack for runs. Three Mets — the aptly first-named Robinson Cano, Francisco Lindor and Starling Marte — produced four homers, with Lindor choosing to smack one from each side of the plate. Among them, the power trio knocked in seven runs. The Met most closely identified with crowd-pleasing home runs, Pete Alonso, satisfied 43,820 with a pair of run-scoring sac flies. Eduardo Escobar chipped in an RBI double as well.

Travis Jankowski likely wasn’t going to be in the lineup, but bench coach Glenn Sherlock wasn’t planning on a) testing positive for COVID-19 and b) coming into close contact with Brandon Nimmo and Mark Canha. Sherlock ended up not coaching and Nimmo and Canha were shuttled to the IL. Jankowski got a start in center, collected three hits and scored one of the Mets’ ten tallies that supported Bassitt and three relievers. The sunniest of baseball afternoons give credence to the adage that when it doesn’t rain, it pours runs.

Because of positive tests that eliminated a pair of outfielders from Buck Showalter’s finely honed plans, not only did Jankowski get a chance to shine, but Nick Plummer suddenly if tentatively owned a roster spot (as did potential next Recidivist Met Matt Reynolds). With a gargantuan lead safeguarding the ninth inning, Showalter allowed Plummer, misspelled by SNY as “PLUMBER” in the pregame introductions, the pleasure of making his MLB debut on defense. Nick thus notched his name (PLUMMER) in Metropolitan annals as the 1,162nd player in team history. His uniform number, you might have guessed, was 42. We’ll learn his “real” digits should he stick around one more day.

Yes, on April 15 everybody wore 42, for the only reason you’d do away with individual numerical identity: to honor the transcendent contributions of Jackie Robinson. Cano, who wears 24 because 42 usually isn’t available, had to love it; he was named Robinson because of Jackie. Jankowski, despite the circumstances that pushed him forward, couldn’t have minded — three hits in four unexpected at-bats look great however they’re cross-referenced. Chasen Shreve, at last a home team Mets pitcher pitching in front of Mets fans rather than the cardboard cutouts who stayed notoriously silent throughout his stint as a 2020 Met, was probably so gratified by the encouraging noise made by tens of thousands of friendly voices that he didn’t worry at all about his number (or NUMMER).

When uniform numbers go missing.

For the 75th anniversary of Robinson’s precedent-shattering debut in Brooklyn, MLB decided a blue 42 on players’ backs would be de rigueur for every team, with no numbers on the front for any team. Though it wasn’t intentional, there was an inherent turn-back-the-clock element to the Jackie look for our side. The Mets wore no numbers on the fronts of their pinstriped jerseys from 1962 through 1964. From 1965 forward, the pins have always come numerically enhanced, backs and fronts, with one lone pre-Friday exception that I can recall. On August 30, 1992, the Mets revived their ancient NNOF practice for a Nostalgia Night celebration at Shea Stadium, commemorating their 30th anniversary. They wore 1962 throwbacks, as did the visiting Reds. Bobby Bonilla beat Rob Dibble with a walkoff dinger. As fans coast-to-coast tuned into ESPN witnessed, Dibble disgustedly tore his vintage vest from his torso and left it for somebody else to clean up.

Steve Cohen might relate to the additional task that faced Pete Flynn’s grounds crew that Sunday night. The Mets were a bit of a mess when they became his, and it fell to him to make things more presentable. I don’t know that it was the very first thing he did when he decided some sprucing up of his new property was due, but he clearly took care not long after taking the keys from the previous owners to think about remaking the landscape outside Citi Field.

Specifically, he thought a ten-foot statue would look, oh, Terrific right over…there. That’s the spot — more or less opposite the original Home Run Apple.

Tom is here.

The Apple and Tom Seaver, destined to essentially flank the pathway by which so many mass transit-riding and Roosevelt Avenue-parking fans file into Robinson’s Rotunda, theoretically make strange gatefellows. Seaver was traded by an even worse ownership than the one that preceded Cohen’s in 1977. The Apple was installed beyond the right-center field fence by the next iteration of upper management in 1981. The top hat that housed it read “Mets Magic,” which made sense in the context of the advertising that dared to declare the Magic was Back in 1980 (as the campaign faded from relevancy, the text was switched to HOME RUN in 1984, but the Magically themed top hat never went away). The Franchise and the fruit only co-existed at Shea Stadium for one season, during Seaver 2.0 in 1983. Since the Apple only elevated when a Met went yard, it probably wouldn’t have bothered Tom to know someday that very same Apple would always stick up behind him, as if to imply he’d just given up a long one to Terry Puhl. I suspect the juxtaposition of his iconic pitching motion and produce symbolizing the conquest of pitching would probably make the pitcher laugh…and if Tom Seaver had laughed, he would have cackled.

On Friday morning, a couple of hours before No. 42 for the Mets threw the first pitch to No. 42 of the Diamondbacks, we all saw how inspired that choice of statuary really was. Then again, if you’re starting a Home Opener with No. 41, it’s hard to go wrong. Tom Seaver started eight Home Openers in his Mets career. The Mets won seven of them. Tom got the W in six of them.

You may have heard of “the Tom Seaver statue” dating back to all the seasons it could have fronted the Mets’ ballpark but didn’t. Late in the tenure of the previous ownership, the former caretakers of the organization let us know they’d put the statue on order. Mighty sporting of them, with the greatest Met the Mets had ever known or will ever know in no condition to ever see the concept become reality. In March of 2019, Tom Seaver’s family informed his legions of fans that Tom wasn’t doing well enough to be out and about any longer. In June of 2019, the previous ownership announced the statue was in development. Nice timing.

Seaver died late in the summer of 2020, about two months before Cohen took over as owner. I’d like to believe the first call Cohen made once he figured out how to get an outside line was to sculptor William Behrends to see how Big Tom was coming. The second call in my dream scenario was to the offices of Seaver Vineyards to make certain Nancy Seaver would be on hand for the unveiling when the statue arrived.

Big Tom and the big day converged at last, and Nancy, in the company of her daughters Sarah and Anne, along with a flock of Franchise family members, was there to greet both. Nancy Seaver used to be at Shea all the time when Tom pitched. They were a matched set. You grew up in New York as a Mets fan and you knew them both. You idolized one. You acknowledged the pair. Maybe you didn’t think about Nancy beyond realizing you knew the name of your favorite baseball player’s wife, but she was a constant. The rock of the operation, you got the feeling. Tom went out and racked up strikeouts and shutouts. Nancy kept the enterprise going. You saw her in the yearbook. You revisited the footage from the World Series where she was resplendent in her trademark tam o’ shanter. You respected them as an entity. The Seavers.

The Seavers.

That statue Behrends sculpted — every bit as awe-inspiring as No. 41 himself — should have been unveiled in the presence of The Seavers. Tom should have looked slightly embarrassed by all the fuss, while Nancy should have reminded him, quietly but firmly, no, Tom, you deserve it, you earned it. The ballpark at whose front door it now resides opened in 2009. Tom Seaver visited in 2009. And 2010. And kept coming back until 2013. I don’t know what William Beherends’s schedule was in the years leading up to the opening of Citi Field, but I’m guessing he could have carved out time for a commission of this nature had he been contacted when Tom Seaver was alive and well.

Water under Shea Bridge, one supposes. The important thing is there is a statue of Tom Seaver outside the park where the Mets play, it is magnificent, and it stands tall for every Mets fan to admire. All 3,200 pounds and 311 wins of it. It’s even got the right knee where the right knee is supposed to be. The ideal proposed in this space in 2006 — when we go to games, we can meet by The Knee…the lovingly sculpted joint with the trademark splotch of dirt that Seaver absorbed every time he went into that perfect motion — has at last come to pass.

So has the widely held desire that Nancy Seaver would fly east to see it. She wasn’t here when they rechristened 126th Street Seaver Way. Sarah was here. So was Anne. Tom couldn’t make it by then, and Nancy wasn’t going to leave her husband alone in Calistoga. But one didn’t have to be a certified Seaverologist to infer Nancy wasn’t too happy with the Mets for not having already put up that statue. The street name was a grand gesture in the interim. That took too long, too.

Friday morning, all was forgiven. It was the era of Steve Cohen. It was the era of the larger-than-life statue of the larger-than-life Met. It was the era when Nancy Seaver returned to Queens, every bit the “Mets royalty” master of ceremonies Howie Rose labeled her. Watching her and listening to her was more than making the reacquaintance of a public figure from a prior age. For all the Seaver kids and grandkids who came to Citi Field in 2019 and were back again, Nancy was…Nancy. Of Tom and Nancy. Only Nancy could elegantly slice through the Flushing winds, battle her way to the podium and address the Franchise as he now stands. Prefacing her remarks of gratitude to the crowd, she spoke one-to-41 with Tom.

She was talking to a statue, but she was talking to the love of her life, and she let us eavesdrop. Tom Seaver is the love of our life every bit as much as he is hers. We all spent more than half-a-century together, fifty-plus years lifting each other up, rooting each other on. “Hello, Tom,” Nancy said on Mets Plaza. “It’s so nice to have you here where you belong.”

Due statistical respect to Chris Bassitt, the 10-3 win for the Home Opener this year has to be assigned as it was on so many Opening Days in the Met past. Put it in the books as another W for Seaver.

She deserves it, she earned it.

13 comments to Nancy With the Lasting Grace

  • Nick

    Beautiful, Greg.

    Was I the only one hear echoes of “Hello, Willie,” the “Hello Dolly” pastiche that greeted Willie Mays upon his return in 1972? Regardless, it was such a beautiful, touching moment, and for all the grumbles – why did they do it on Jackie Robinson day, why isn’t he chewing his lower lip, the face looks more like the sculptor’s own than Tom’s – it was hard for me to feel anything other than joy and gratitude. For once, for one moment, one day, the Mets got it all right.

  • Bob

    You got it perfect again—-
    I must say, the Mets did it right yesterday–very moving for those of us old enough to recall Tom Seaver when he came to Mets.
    Seaver told us thru his pitching… there was hope for a good ball club in Flushing and he led us to it.

    Well done, Mets!

  • Brian H

    Yesterday was a great day to be a Met fan for sure.

    Two side things, I live just a few miles from the University of Portland so it was fun to hear the guys talking about the Pilots. Joe Etzel Field is the only stadium that I’ve ever seen that has the dimensions on the fences in fathoms (54 ftm to the LF foul pole).

    Nick Plummer at this moment has the same stats as Moonlight Graham!

  • Eric

    I don’t know if his glovework compares, but otherwise, Bassitt’s pitching style and attitude remind me of Stroman.

    As for the Seaver statue, there are images of his iconic drop and drive form with more dramatic positioning of his head, arms, torso, and legs. But maybe those poses were unsuitable for making a statue. I also don’t think the face looks like Seaver.

  • Paul from Brooklyn

    Beautiful tribute,beautiful statue!
    Nancy is as ever a class act! We couldn’t blame her if she decided not to come but she stole the show.
    The statue is up and Gil is in the hall.Nancy came back East and the Mets won the opener. Jacob sat in the front row for the ceremony.It was a classic “all is right in Metsville” day.

  • Dave

    I’m always proud to be a Mets fan, although it’s often the kind of pride one has in being the holdout, the one who goes against the grain, the one who sticks to one’s ideals and values no matter how counterintuitive they may be, and no matter how much damage they are doing…to you.

    But yesterday I was proud to be a Mets fan for all the right reasons. Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” ran through my mind. Yes, Jackie Robinson is probably the most important sports figure in American history, and transcends sports. But The Franchise is our guy and regardless of wearing other uniforms at times, no one else’s. And now he’s immortalized there forever. Overdue, but now it’s done and it’s spectacular.

  • Ed Rising

    Thank you Greg for bringing tesrscto my eyes. It was indeed a beautiful opening day. The statue I amazing and I hope it will be a reminder for all of the great legacy Tom built only steps away at Shea. You also made me laugh with the bit about the homerun apple rising behind him and implication thereof!! I love Nancy Seaver and it was indeed a pleasure to see her one more time at this ceremony. I agree that the previous ownership/administration should have put this honor in place long ago – 2009 to be exact. I have such anger over how Tom was mistreated as a player, broadcaster, or ‘former’ Met. I watched the ‘88 Seaver day late last night and laughed watching a younger, healthier Tom and Nancy laugh and enjoy the retirement of of #41. The fun extended to include Koosman, Grier, and Buddy Harreldon. I then cried sgain. So many emotions. So much love. It means so much to have Tom right where he belongs – but should have been there to feel the love of all of us who appreciated him, and loved him and what he meant then and now to the NewcZyork Mets.

    • The best part, Ed, is we get to see both strands of the Met legacy out there on the Plaza: the absolutely sublime and the slightly ridiculous. We love ’em both. Thanks for sharing your impressions.

  • Eric

    Seaver pitched for the Mets before I became a Mets fan, which started with the 1986 team. When commentators mentioned him during the 1986 World Series broadcasts, I didn’t know who he was. I wish Seaver had decided to come back to the Mets in 1987 to introduce himself to me, even if he had nothing left in the tank, and say good-bye to all his fans while wearing the correct colors.

    Nonetheless, I know he’s in the inner circle of the Hall of Fame and the greatest Met of all time. And I appreciate that Nancy Seaver is Mets royalty.

  • […] standing tall outside Citi Field and therefore not a dream is that Tom Seaver statue, a miracle of Metsian sculpting reflected upon in the latest of episode of National League Town. […]