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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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Gary & Howie & A Helluva Hall Haul

It’s an article of faith among people who critique sports media that, ultimately, fans don’t tune into games because of the announcers. That appraisal may track with ratings but it doesn’t reflect enthusiasm. I’ve been tuning into Mets baseball in one form or another with glee in my remote-clicking and button-pushing fingers for more than half of my life because I know I’m going to hear from New York Mets Hall of Famer Gary Cohen or New York Mets Hall of Famer Howie Rose. I’ve considered them each the moral equivalent of New York Mets Hall of Famers going back at least to fairly early this century, probably late in the last one. I’ve just been waiting for somebody to make it official.

On Wednesday, space was specifically reserved in that room off the Jackie Robinson Rotunda for plaques honoring Mr. Cohen and Mr. Rose. I’ve seen their respective likenesses hanging up there with my own two ears. Now everybody can have a literal look at them once they are inducted on June 3, the same day a pair of plaques will go up for a pair of players whose exploits you definitely looked forward to tuning in for as well: Al Leiter and Howard Johnson. Off to the side of the wall where the plaques are hung will go the name Jay Horwitz, to be honored at the same ceremony via the Hall of Fame Achievement Award, the one given for MEriTorious service within the organization. Jay already has the fame and the achievement. Now he’s got the award to go with it.

You can wear out certain letters on your keyboard typing “long overdue” when it comes to the Mets getting around to certifying certain figures as franchise-immortal. This certification for these five fellows was indeed long overdue. Within the executive suites of Shea Stadium and Citi Field “long overdue” was Met history’s unspoken modus operandi. Was. While there’s still some catching up to do in that department, Met history is clearly gaining ground in the names behind column.

Hojo — forgive the use of informality on the occasion of conferring immortality, but c’mon, Hojo is what everybody calls Howard Johnson — was a singular Met of multiple abilities. Three Mets have homered 30 times and stolen 30 bases in one season. Only Hojo did it thrice. And only Hojo did it shifting between third and short when asked. And only Hojo did it trotting out to what amounted to a new position in right when asked. And only Hojo, at the peak of his powers, said “sure” when he was assigned center after so many seasons playing anywhere but. And only Hojo led the league in homers and RBIs along the way to piling up all those bags. And if you wanted an incredibly clutch hit on a night practically aching for victorious resolution, Hojo was memorably your man again and again. He was never the star attraction among the bigger-name Mets from 1985 to 1993. He merely played like it.

Leiter was enough of a headline-grabber in New York between 1998 and 2004 that when I’d see the News or the Post blare something first-namish about Gore or Sharpton or D’Amato on a non-sports page, I’d reflexively think, “Shucks, I was hoping that was gonna be something about Al.” For us, one Al was most prominent, and we always wanted to read or hear more about him. Especially on the days when big games loomed, which was when we’d turn to Al, and Al would usually turn in a performance that put the Mets on the cusp of something bigger. He was the lefty from New Jersey whose goal was to grow up and follow in the footsteps of Koosman and, arm differential notwithstanding, pretty much served as our Seaver. Al was the ace of his time and his team. He wore it well. You could see it in his face. You could hear it in his voice. Better yet, you could watch him on the mound.

Not all that long after Howard Johnson arrived from Detroit, yet well ahead of the trade that brought Al Leiter north from Florida, our collective consciousness welcomed the two announcers who constitute the other half of this delightful 2023 Mets Hall of Fame Class. If they’ve been Mets Hall of Famers to us all these years, it was their skills speaking — and our self-esteem listening.

We are Mets fans. We are millions. We believe, without even stopping to explicitly mull the issue, that we deserve a little acknowledgement for being who and what and how many we are. Two Hall of Fame plaques can surely be parceled out on our behalf. When they carry the names of Gary Cohen and Howie Rose, we’ll see ourselves up there as much as we will hear them speaking for us. They have amplified our thoughts whether they’ve understood it or not. They report the action, they describe the details, they feel us. We feel them in our bones without as much as a seven-second delay.

They’re professional to a tee; no “we,” “us” or “our” in their Met vocabulary. That’s how they learned to deliver the game no matter that they received it in their respective youths with a rooting interest we would surely recognize as our own. Yet those microphones they’ve spoken into since the late 1980s — Howie from the moment he commenced hosting Mets Extra on WHN in 1987, moving into full-time play-by-play on TV in 1996 before switching to radio for good in 2004; Gary when he took the radio booth seat adjacent to Bob Murphy’s in 1989 en route to flourishing as anchor of SNY’s GKR juggernaut from 2006 forward — have been powerful. They always pick up the heartbeats of two lifelong Mets fans who’ve seen it all. If they don’t know it all, they know most of it and share it with us with overriding grace and understated passion. Not unlike Leiter, their childhood Met ambitions came to fruition. À la Hojo, you’re not going to find anybody else on a given roster who can do quite they have done and continue to do. I definitely tune in for Gary Cohen. I definitely tune in for Howie Rose. Nine or more innings of Mets baseball coming bundled with their presence is a bargain. Like Murphy and Kiner and Nelson, they are so essential to telling the story of Mets baseball that you couldn’t rightly maintain a team Hall of Fame without them. Bob, Ralph and Lindsey (Mets Hall class of 1984) taught us to be Mets fans. Gary and Howie keep us company as peers who mentor. The original three announcers might as well have been my uncles. These two will forever be my guys.

Jay Horwitz, if he were still doing PR for the Mets, could sit back and relax if this was the news he had to disseminate on an otherwise dreary January morning. It writes and broadcasts itself. Of course anybody who has been conscious of Jay since he began his Met tenure doesn’t picture him sitting back or relaxing much. The hardest working person in baseball? The hardest working person in public relations? The most beloved person in baseball if you’ve tracked the accolades that have poured in since he glided from everyday communications to handling alumni affairs. The Mets always had former players, but it never really felt like they had alumni until it became Jay’s responsibility to guide them back, physically and spiritually, to the Flushing campus. If putting together last year’s Old Timers Day was all Jay Horwitz had as a Hall of Fame Achievement Award qualification, it would be the stuff of first-ballot acclamation. He’s done so much more for and meant so much more to the Mets since 1980. His day in the sun, the same June Saturday planned on behalf of Johnson and Leiter, Cohen and Rose, can be forecast well in advance as warmth all over.

13 comments to Gary & Howie & A Helluva Hall Haul

  • Dave

    I couldn’t be happier for Gary and Howie…as if after growing up as Mets fans, becoming a Mets announcer isn’t enough of a dream come true, now to be Mets HOF’ers? This has to be a “if I’m dreaming, don’t wake me up” moment for both of them.

    I do wonder why Jay is getting what seems to be a Mets HOF-adjacent honor and not just being inducted on a plaque along with everyone else. But I have two other non-uniformed classic figures in Mets history who I will continue to carry the HOF torch for. Both contributed significantly to the fan experience at Shea for many years. Karl Ehrhardt – The Sign Man – is captured in many of the most memorable photos from Shea, and like the Mets of that era, was at his best in 1969. To this day, there is probably no better known rank and file fan (and no, making lots of noise on Twitter doesn’t move you past The Sign Man). Jane Jarvis, an accomplished jazz pianist and according to her not at all a sports fan, was Shea’s soundtrack; I can still hear her serenading us on the organ, which you could hear as you were approaching the stadium and making your way up the Shea ramps. Then so cleverly throughout the game, like the time she played “Four” by Miles Davis when Ron Swoboda stepped up to the plate because, well, he wore #4. Little did Ron know that his walkup music was so cool (from Mr. Birth Of The Cool himself) before walkup music was even a thing.

    Karl Ehrhardt and Jane Jarvis both belong in the Mets Hall of Fame. Soon, while those of us who remember them are (sadly, unlike them) still here.

  • eric1973

    Regarding Howard Johnson:

    1-Sparky Anderson once said that he would not want to be in a foxhole with Howard Johnson.

    2-When Whitey and Tony Pena ripped the bat out of his hands to check for pine tar, he just stood there and let them do it.

    3-When St.L intentionally threw at him, he just yelled and stood there and waved his arms around.

    4-When he came back, he wore #44, but the pressure got to him, so he gave it up.

    So put me down as ‘Undecided.’

    • Dave

      Eric, I would suggest that, in addition to Sparky Anderson not having a Mets HOF vote, Hojo had nothing to hide when the White Rat was playing head games with him by accusing him of having a corked bat (not pine tar). Refusing to hand over his bat would have made him look guilty, so being innocent, he got to prove his innocence. Pete Rose said if people wondered if Hojo’s bat is corked, they should have taken a look at his forearms…the man hit homers because he was strong as a bull.

      If we’re going to deny Mets HOF entry on the basis of failure to retaliate with fists instead of the long ball, let’s remember that Mike Piazza chose to stay back and not get ejected from a World Series game after someone’s roid rage and a flying splintered bat could have gotten him killed. As much as a bloodied Roger Clemens would have given me momentary satisfaction, Piazza’s self control was probably well advised under the circumstances.

      Hojo’s stats speak for themselves (as does, as Greg alluded to, his willingness to be moved from one position to another without a peep). The man is a mensch. He belongs.

      • mikeski

        I was at the “Check That Bat” game (I still have the scorecard somewhere, with that written in the margins), and fuck The White Rat and fuck the Cardinals, forever and ever, amen.

  • DAK442

    Excellent additions to the HoF.

    I bet you can probably guess who I believe is tremendously overdue for this honor.

  • open the gates

    All excellent choices. Howie and Gary are how the Mets sound. HoJo is, for my money, one of the all time underrated Mets. Al Leiter, aside from being the Mets ace during their late-’90’s successes, was also the only guy to ever become the Mets ace after the Yankees gave up on him. (Hah! Take that, Steinbrenner!) And Jay is Jay. Nuff said.

    It’s almost as if the Mets are being run by an actual Met fan rather than a jilted Brooklyn Dodgers fan. Keep those HOF’ers coming, Mr. Cohen.

    One quibble. Of all of his teammates, HoJo is not the one that would come to mind regarding the conferring of immorality. Just saying.

  • eric1973

    Yup, looks like Jay got the Bob Mandt treatment. I say retire the man’s whatever, and put it right up there in the rafters with all the others who do and do not deserve it.

    And I could not agree more with celebrating Jane Jarvis and Karl Ehrhardt. They really made going to Shea just the most wonderful ‘experience,’ as the marketing kids today like to say.

    And Hey DAK442, I love Dave Kingman more than anyone, except probably you, but…..
    Ahhhhh, he deserves to go into someplace. The man was an experience all his own.

  • Tobedetermined

    Five incredibly deserving choices.

    But I have one important question that’s going to keep me up at night:

    With both Howie and Gary being honored… who’s going to host the ceremonies?

  • Seth

    I’ll always remember HoJo being the guy on deck in game 6 when Mookie’s ball went through Buckner. We’ll never know what he might have done had he come to bat — thank goodness.

  • open the gates

    Seth, I rewatched that game recently. In the top of the tenth, all the announcers could talk about was how Davey had lost the Mets the season by not pinch-hitting HoJo in the ninth with men on. Another thing we’ll never know.

  • Bob

    More great writing–you are mentioned in Amazin’ Ave website.
    As an old Met fan fart I rememeber Kiner, Murphy & Nelson (used to sneak my transistor radio into bed to listen to them..)
    Good to see Howie & GKR do such a good job keeping our history & traditions alive!
    Amd 60 years later I can watch (still) our Mets–No worries!