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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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Ring Around QBC

What I have in common with Baseball Hall of Famer Gil Hodges I could count on very few fingers, but it delights me that one of them is a ring finger. Gil earned three World Series rings, two as a player in 1955 and 1959, one as a manager in 1969. I was presented with what is likely the closest thing I’ll ever claim as a championship ring on Saturday, and it wouldn’t have been possible without Gil Hodges.

Saturday brought around the more or less annual Queens Baseball Convention. QBC has been a staple of the offseason calendar since January of 2014, except when a blizzard canceled it in January of 2016, a Mets-run fanfest in January 2020 rendered it temporarily superfluous, and that pandemic business discouraged crowds from populating indoor spaces a winter later, no matter how much that crowd might have loved the Mets. Other than those pauses, QBC has marched on. Different months some years. Different venues other years. This year it was December in downtown Flushing, at a hotel located a relatively convenient walk (albeit through rain and wind) from the final stop on the 7 train. I almost never take the 7 east of Mets-Willets Point. On Saturday I did and noticed that as you pass Citi Field (the parking lot of which has been transformed into a glittery Christmas village), you get a generous glimpse of the left field Promenade and a full-on view of all those retired numbers the Mets suddenly sport, as if they have a real and proud history.

Which they do, which explains why, other than for fun, I was heading to QBC. My primary role at this offseason gathering spot is to present the Gil Hodges Unforgettable Fire Award, a token of fan recognition for keeping the Met-aphorical torch lit. Recipients prior to this QBC have included Gil himself (presented posthumously to his son Gil Hodges, Jr.), Ed Charles, Bud Harrelson (presented that summer at the Long Island Ducks’ pond in Central Islip, a contingency necessitated by the aforementioned blizzard), Tom Seaver (who couldn’t be there, but his teammate Art Shamsky graciously swung by to pick it up and later bring it to Tom in Napa), Bobby Valentine, David Wright (who accepted it via classy video) and the late communications specialist and friend to all Shannon Forde (with her family on hand to help us pay tribute to her memory). Real and proud history, indeed.

One of the reasons we can feel proud of the Mets, despite sometimes being, you know…the Mets, is the man who holds the titles vice president of alumni relations and team historian for that organization so close to our heart, Jay Horwitz. You can’t ride the rails to Flushing-Main St. and grab that peek at the rafters and not get a sense of some of the work Jay has done. A few years ago it took less time to read the numbers up in the rafters than it did to confirm that there’d once again be no Old Timers Day. Since Jay was appointed to his current positions, we’ve seen three numbers added to the four that sat waiting too long for company. We’ve also stopped confirming that the Mets would never again have an Old Timers Day, because, thanks to Jay’s leadership, Old Timers Day returned in 2022 for the first time since 1994. The vibe associated with the Mets as an entity that lived in the present, was clueless about the future and pretended there was little past to them has done practically a 180 since Jay shifted from public relations to alumni relations. We have a present. We have a future. We salute our past.

That’s worthy of an award. That, the folks who put together QBC decided, was worthy of selecting Jay Horwitz as this year’s recipient of the Gil Hodges Unforgettable Fire Award. They courteously asked me if I agreed. I did. They doubled down on courtesy and asked me if I would present the award to Jay. I agreed to that, too. I’m always up for the ceremonial aspects of baseball. To be a part of this one particular ceremony more or less annually gets my torch lit as is. To do this presentation in the wake of reaching one of the goals of establishing the Gil Hodges Unforgettable Fire Award — contribute in whatever way possible to keeping Gil’s name on people’s minds until he was elected to the Hall of Fame — made the Hot Stove flame burn that much brighter for me.

So through the rain and wind I clomped from the final stop on the 7 to the hotel a little north of Northern Blvd. (getting flummoxed by construction for a few minutes before I found the entrance), shook out my umbrella, stepped into the men’s room and waited to wash my hands behind somebody using the sink on the right when I heard somebody using the sink on the left tell the man using the sink on the right, “IT’S YOU!”

I was standing behind Endy Chavez. Because that’s the sort of thing that happens at QBC. Endy said to the other fellow, “yes” and smiled. When my turn came to wash my hands, I soaped, rinsed and dried quickly so I could casually follow Endy out of the men’s room and blurt the first thing that occurred to me:

“It’s an honor to share a men’s room with you!”

I think Endy smiled. And perhaps picked up his pace to get away from me.

Just a couple of guys who’ve written Mets books (thanks to my friend Jessie for introducing me to R.A. Dickey).

Endy Chavez! R.A. Dickey! Howard Johnson! Bartolo Colon! Nelson Figueroa! DOC GOODEN! Those were the players who were at QBC in one capacity or another. Well, one capacity above others: they were Mets among Mets fans. That goes over pretty well, especially when it’s barely half-a-day since we learned one Met chose to no longer be a Met among Mets fans, even if we agreed to keep our distance and not follow him into or out of men’s rooms. Let’s just say “Jacob deGrom” was no longer a surefire applause line in this environment.

The departure of deGrom (before we knew about the arrival of Verlander) didn’t put any more of a damper on this event than did the howling rain that lasted into mid-afternoon. That was outside. Inside, warmth was in the forecast. People talked Mets. People listened Mets. Mets fans renewed acquaintances. I ran into Dave, a guy I knew in high school. Then, we were two Mets fans happy to find anybody who’d identified as such. There weren’t many of our kind in those days. On this day, “Mets fans” described everybody in sight. For all the procuring of players’ presence, and Mets themselves are certainly a draw, I don’t think it’s the chance to score an autograph or a photograph or even a men’s room sink encounter that makes QBC click. It’s me in my SHEA STADIUM THE GREATEST BALLPARK EVER! hoodie running into Dave from high school in his SEAVER 41 jersey, introducing me to his son who’s a bigger fan than he is, even if unlike his dad and me, he’s still waiting for a world championship — it’s that interaction multiplied by who knows how many hundreds of times in the course of a Saturday. Mets fans running into each other is the lifeblood of a day of this nature.

And, a little bit, it’s prime QBC movers Keith Blacknick and Dan Twohig — aided in their heavy lifting by a raft of volunteers in cleverly designed t-shirts — carving out a few minutes to make sure we talk about Gil Hodges and Mets history. That’s where I come in, and that’s where my championship-style ring comes with me. See, I’m enjoying my impromptu reunion with Dave from high school when Dan pats me on the shoulder and lets me know I’m up next. I excuse myself and, within a couple of moments, I’m sitting on the dais, next to Jay, promising him that I plan to embarrass him with praise any second now. I’m also looking out on the crowd, as we wait for people to sort themselves out after HoJo has given of himself generously in his panel (moderated elegantly by WFAN host and fellow Mets fan Lori Rubinson). In the first row, there’s Irene Hodges. Jay introduced me to Irene, who I recognized from her speech inducting her father at Cooperstown this summer. I shook her hand and thanked her for that. I’m thinking she’s probably heard something like that before, but then again I’m pretty sure HoJo, R.A., Bartolo, Figgie, Doc and Endy have heard what they’re hearing all day before, give or take the men’s room sentiment. I’m gonna guess that they don’t altogether mind the repetition or enthusiasm for aging accomplishments. They agreed to come to a venue for the express purpose of being recalled lovingly to their faces.

Lest we forget, Jacob deGrom’s Met legacy includes the foreword to an Amazin’ memoir.

I’m there for the express purpose of remembering Gil Hodges lovingly. Irene is there to support Jay, which tells you something about Irene as well as a good deal about Jay. Jay stayed in close touch with the Hodges family through the long, long wait for good news from the Hall of Fame. He was a true friend to Mrs. Joan Hodges. He’s a friend to Irene. He’s a friend to more Mets and Mets-affiliated folks that can be counted. If you wanted somebody to say something nice about Jacob deGrom on Saturday, you needed only to turn toward Jay Horwitz if you were lucky enough to be sitting next to him on a dais as you waited to make a formal presentation. Jacob, I reminded him, wrote the foreword to his memoir. Through a bit of a pained expression, Jay acknowledged deGrom’s defection (my word, not his) but wanted to remind me “Jacob’s a very good person.” Well, I said, at least you have another Met alumnus now.

As the room settled down, Dan the co-organizer stood with a mic for a moment and made an announcement. He explained what we were about to do, said a few words about the transcendence of Gil and the worthiness of Jay and that he was about to turn it over to me, but first, he and Keith had something for me: a ring, in appreciation for being QBC’s resident “historian” since the “by the fans, for the fans” fanfest hit the drawing board nearly a decade ago. The ring bears the logo of QBC and evokes the kind of jewelry one receives for winning a title. My title is fan who gets to do the Gil Hodges Unforgettable Fire Award presentation more or less every winter. I wasn’t expecting a ring for doing it. When you’re a Met fan, you learn to never expect a ring, though when one does slip onto your finger, you’re most grateful for what it represents.

It’s not all about the ring, but it’s pretty nice getting one.

I’ve toggled between referring to it for my own amusement as the Gil Flores Unforgettable Fire Award (don’t tell me you’ve forgotten the outfielder who roamed THE GREATEST BALLPARK EVER! when Dave and I were in high school) and the Royce Ring Ring (an homage to both our Closer of the Future c. 2005 and the hastily arranged Francis Scott Key Key from the “Privateers” episode of The West Wing), but mostly I’m touched that Keith and Dan paused amid taking care of the umpteen-thousand details necessary to put on a show of this magnitude and give me this other pat on the shoulder. Or ring finger. Thanks very much, guys. Thanks to everybody who takes a few minutes from roaming around and gabbing excitedly and queuing up for autographs to listen to me doing my Mets historian thing, particularly when I’m doing it with the guy who actually is the Mets historian.

The following is the text I wrote and delivered at this year’s Queens Baseball Convention in honor of Gil Hodges and Jay Horwitz (who made his acceptance remarks all about Gil, because that’s who Jay is). I hope you enjoy it.

As we close out the 60th anniversary celebration of our New York Mets, I want to wish all of us a Happy Mets Anniversary in the year ahead. Every year is the Mets anniversary of something. In 2023, we will be marking…

• The tenth anniversary of peak Harvey Day and the All-Star Game Matt Harvey and David Wright started at Citi Field;

• The twentieth anniversary of the first base stolen by Jose Reyes and the last broadcast by Bob Murphy;

• The thirtieth anniversary of Anthony Young persevering until he finally won a game after losing 27 in a row;

• The fortieth anniversary of the days we got to Shea hello to Darryl Strawberry, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling;

• The fiftieth anniversary of Tug McGraw instilling within us the evergreen philosophy, You Gotta Believe;

• And the sixtieth anniversary of a ninth-inning, two-out ground ball to shortstop Al Moran from Jim Davenport of the San Francisco Giants to end the nightcap of a doubleheader at the Polo Grounds on May 5, 1963, a Mets victory sealed when Moran fielded it and threw it to a first baseman you knew would handle just about anything coming his way.

The Mets’ first baseman was Gil Hodges. It was the last play Hodges made in the major leagues, twenty years after his debut for Brooklyn. Gil was an achy 39 in May of 1963, about to be done as an active player. By the end of the month, he’d be traded to the Washington Senators, who immediately appointed him their manager. It was a very quick transition and, from our perspective, made for a very useful apprenticeship. Following the 1967 season, Gil would be traded again, as a manager, back to the New York Mets, and I think we know where this transaction — and this man — would lead us.

When the Queens Baseball Convention conceived of an award to honor members of the Mets community past and present for making us forever proud to be Mets fans, there was only one name that could instantly describe its inspiration: Gil Hodges. At the same time, QBC wanted to make a point of at least once every year calling as much attention as possible to the name Gil Hodges.

Gil, you probably remember, had missed making the Hall of Fame too many times despite being one of the top run-producers and THE premier defensive first baseman of his time before managing the 1969 New York Mets to the most unlikely world championship ever. Not in the record books: the universal esteem in which EVERYBODY in baseball held this man. So we thought maybe, just maybe, we could add our voice to an already strong chorus and raise the volume, however slightly, in service to making sure the unforgettable fire Gil Hodges represents in our Met story would remain lit for all to see.

One year ago this weekend, the fondest wishes of QBC and Mets fans everywhere — really, baseball fans everywhere — came true, and Gil Hodges was elected, AT LAST, to the Baseball Hall of Fame. We got to witness it, his children got to witness it, and, in Brooklyn, Mrs. Joan Hodges, 95 years old and waiting a half-century for the phone call that affirmed the news, got to witness it, and we are so thankful that she lived to see her husband’s election and induction.

I can’t tell you what a thrill it is to sit up here and refer to this symbol of QBC’s affection for contributions to what has made the Mets the Mets in the best sense of the word for more than six decades as the Gil Hodges Unforgettable Fire Award — and to add, it is named for Baseball Hall of Famer Gil Hodges.

I have a feeling Gil would nod in approval at this year’s recipient. This person has given his all to make the Mets better in every way he possibly could. He’s been a team player as long as he’s been with the team. He’s kept the fire burning when it comes to Met history meeting the Met present.

He’s Jay Horwitz, the “sports-mad kid from Jersey,” as the cover of his book “Mr. Met,” foreword by Jacob deGrom, identifies him. Of course he’s from the METropolitan Area. Of course when you see him you think of him as the embodiment of the New York Mets…no offense to the other Mr. Met.

I was a sports-mad kid from Long Island when I first learned who Jay Horwitz was. He’d been in his job as Mets public relations director for less than two months when a Mets game from Pittsburgh went into rain delay, as so many Mets games from Pittsburgh do. While the tarp sat on the field and before Channel 9 fired up — as they invariably did in these situations — the 1969 World Series film and the 1973 World Series film, they needed to fill some time. Thus, invited into the Three Rivers Stadium visiting television booth, alongside Ralph Kiner and Steve Albert, was this fellow who on first glance I mistook for Marvin Kaplan, the character actor who played Henry the lovable telephone repairman on Alice, if that rings a bell.

This guy, however, wasn’t an actor. He was a genuine character. Jay slides into the booth and enthusiastically explains to our announcers and those of us at home that he just came to the Mets from a similar role at Fairleigh Dickinson University, but never mind his story, because he wants to let everybody out there in TV land know what an incredible assortment of personalities is dotting the 1980 Mets roster. Did you know, he asked Ralph and Steve, that Craig Swan has a green thumb for gardening, that Lee Mazzilli was an Olympic-level speed skater, that Doug Flynn has a flair for country music? Jay used his moment in the sun, or technically the rain, to put the players he represented in the best, most fascinating light he knew how, keeping us as Mets fans watching and wanting to know more.

And he’s continued to do exactly that ever since. Jay handled Mets PR for nearly four decades, which meant serving an array of constituencies: a necessarily demanding, deadline-tethered media he strove to inform while building their trust; the hard-working members of his own staff — we were fortunate to honor one of his most wonderful protégés, Shannon Forde, last year; the individuals and groups who benefit enormously from having a friend in Flushing — a shining example being all Jay and the Mets have done and keep doing for the families who lost loved ones in the tragedy of September 11, 2001; the club owners, the front office, FOURTEEN different managers, and hundreds of players who couldn’t help but maintain specific preferences regarding what they wanted or didn’t want publicized; and, in the end, the fans who got to understand the team better because Jay worked so hard to put the Mets in a good yet realistic light. Through no more than simply doing his job, I’d say Jay became as recognizable a face to Mets fans as any Mets player between 1980 and 2018. More recognizable than Marvin Kaplan, certainly.

In 2018, Jay took on a new role, one that was crying to be created, one that he was born to fill, directing Met alumni relations. His efforts and the fruits they have yielded have been a revelation for everybody who cherishes this team, as Jay has connected those of us who love the Mets with Mets who might otherwise not realize that we’ve kept them in our hearts long after they’d played their last game.

Jay won’t take credit for Old Timers Day, and no doubt everybody from current ownership on down helped him make it happen, but give Jay credit for Old Timers Day, the first one the Mets had held in 28 years. Having someone so dedicated to “his players,” which at this point is everybody who’s played for the Mets since 1962, was the difference-maker in bringing us to a party that was unprecedented in Met annals and an event that was SORELY missed by Mets fans in the decades it was absent. Jay also provided a guiding hand in so many of the other signature historically minded moments of 2022: the commemoration of Johan Santana’s no-hitter; the overdue unveiling of the Tom Seaver statue; the overdue retirement of No. 17 for Keith Hernandez; the LONG overdue retirement of No. 24 for Willie Mays; and, through his fervor for a goal we all held dear, the LONG, LONG overdue election of Gil Hodges to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Jay didn’t have a vote, but he did have a voice, and he politely and respectfully raised it at every turn to ensure nobody should forget about Gil and that the Hall of Fame should not go another year without enshrining him.

One other gift Jay gives us on a regular basis is the Amazin’ Mets Alumni Podcast, where he showers attention on Mets and Mets personalities from 1962 forward. When Jay talks into his microphone, he speaks to the soul of this franchise. I also notice Jay introduces nearly every episode as a “special” edition, and he’s absolutely accurate in doing so. It’s truly a portal into living Mets history and I urge you to listen to it, not only because it’s a splendid show for Mets fans like us, but so Jay knows we’re hearing him. I told him once that I really enjoy his podcast. “So you’re the one,” he said. I imagine there’s lots of us, Jay.

I also imagine I could go on about a person who has brought uncommon humility and humanity to the Met cause for so much of his lifetime, but it’s my sense that Jay doesn’t really seek attention, let alone awards. We apologize for giving him both.

On behalf of the Queens Baseball Convention and Mets fans everywhere, it is my privilege to say this year’s SPECIAL EDITION of the Gil Hodges Unforgettable Fire Award goes to the one and only and unforgettable Jay Horwitz.

After the awarding, one more moment with Jay.

On behalf of Mets fans everywhere, Jeff Hysen and I attempt to put the deGrom defection into something approaching perspective on the latest, hopefully special edition of National League Town. You can listen here or on the podcast platform of your choice.

11 comments to Ring Around QBC

  • Dave

    Well done Greg, and well done QBC for recognizing your role and importance among Mets fans. At least somebody won a ring in Flushing this year.

  • eric1973

    Super tribute to Jay Horwitz. Can never get enough tributes to him and to Gil Hodges. “Incidentally,” I had a high school teacher back then who looked and sounded like Jay, Mr. Ferrara.

    Nice ring, Greg, you deserve it!

    Good men’s room story, and I have my own. I lingered outside the mens room in the JFK Delta Lounge, as the great Stephen Schwartz had to come out sooner or later. He of Godspell/Pippin fame.

    I had a moment to compose myself, and then told him how much I loved Godspell. He said he was on his way to London to Wimbledon, and we wished each other safe travels.

  • Joey G

    Love the Marvin Kaplan reference, one of my favorites. A stellar supporting cast member in the vein of a Benny Agbayani if you will. I would say that he will be remembered less for “Alice”and more for his “tour de gas station” turn in a memorable “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” sequence with Jonathan Winters, along with fellow “Top Cat” voice actor and nebbish, Arnold Stang. In perhaps the funniest 5 minute sequence in motion picture history. Your Jay Horwitz speech was spot on, and I will always be grateful for what he put together for Old Timer’s Day this year, which dug up so many memories and warm feelings. He is a true mensch.

  • Kevin from Flushing

    FANtastic! And that ring is well deserved!

  • Rob Emproto

    Congratulations, Mr.Prince! It is an honor to share this team with you all these years, a pleasure to read your words, and it’s gratifying to see you get any recognition that comes your way. Well-earned, and well-deserved. May we ALL get to read you writing about a championship team before we get too much older.

  • Brian H

    I just listened to two episodes, thanks for the link. Listened to Mookie talk about catering and Wagner and Pelfrey talk about coaching, awesome.

    My last game at Shea:

    Pelfrey pitched a complete game and Delgado hit 2! 3-run homers.

  • Seth

    Congrats on your championship, Greg! Hope you’re not planning to move to Texas.

  • Chuck B

    In marriage, a ring symbolizes love and fidelity — all that is true when it comes to you and the Mets, Greg. You are wedded to them, through good times and bad. And so getting that ring makes sense. Congrats! And thanks for always beautifully expressing what so many of us feel about the Mets and Mr. Horowitz and Mr. Hodges. Your words always ring true, through good times and bad.


  • Curt Emanuel

    Great report and congratulations on being selected to present the award. Not quite the honor the award itself is but an honor still and a recognition of what you and Jason bring to Mets fans.

    Loved finding out more about Jay Horwitz. Great tribute and anything than can be done to elevate Gil Hodges is a good thing.

    I have my own bathroom story but it doesn’t involve anyone famous so I’ll leave that out. However I did not say anything approaching your brilliant, er, greeting. Though mine was while IN the bathroom thereby breaking a major rule of male interactions. At least we weren’t at the urinals.

    Settling in for the biggest baseball day between December 6 and December 8, 2022. RULE 5 DRAFT DAY!!!! Can you feel it?

    No idea if we grab anyone. There are some intriguing prospects and we have a few mid-level minor leaguers who could be picked. But there are a lot of intriguing FAs too which we’d need roster spots for.

    Any day with baseball news is good – it’s one day closer to February 25.

  • Bob Kurpiel

    Well done Mr. Prince, as usual. Excellent selection for Fireman of the Year award. I remember Al Moran. Very handsome young chap who once ran in the opposite direction that the ground ball was traveling.
    Managed to see game 2 of the WS in the auditorium of the Baseball HOF up in Cooperstown. It’s an annual event up there and they even serve hot dogs, soda and popcorn as much as you want for $15/pp. They added trivia games between innings so we didn’t have to watch all those commercials. One of the trivia answers was the Yankees of which the moderator added the fact that this team had won 27 championships to which I shouted out: and lost 13 as well! I’m a Met fan!

  • Bob

    Thanks for the great writing.
    Great stuff about Jay Horowitz-one of our originals.
    In 1997 @ Jack Murphy Stadium before Mets-Padres game Jay was walking with Mookie down 3rd base line before game started and Mookie signed autographs with Jay right beside him.
    I had gotten down to 1st row of field level and had new NL Ball and pen.
    Maybe it was my Mets shirt/hat but Mookie looked at me, stopped and signed the ball with Jay Horowitz right next to him–maybe 5 feet away.
    Jay Horowitz reminded me of some of my Uncles.