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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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Wasted Day and Wasted Night

The Wednesday morning news where Detroit was concerned was good. The Spinners, the enduring, melodious R&B group out of Ferndale, Mich., had made it at last to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Their most fervent fans — a cohort that surely includes me — had been waiting what felt like forever to hear they had been chosen. Imagine how long “like forever” that felt to Henry Fambrough, the last surviving founding member of an outfit whose roots date to the 1950s. Fambrough is about to turn 85 and only recently retired from performing. He’s been out there, on the road, with dedicated, talented successors to the late Billy Henderson, Pervis Jackson, Bobby Smith and Philippé “Soul” Wynne. Those five legends will be inducted by the Hall as the classic lineup from the heart of the 1970s (“I’ll Be Around” to “Rubberband Man”), but props are also in order for John Edwards, who succeeded Wynne when Wynne left for a solo career, and G.C. Cameron, who Wynne had succeeded.

Wynne, de facto front man for the quintet during its prime, joined the group as the Spinners were about to achieve their trademark success under the guidance of producer Thom Bell at Atlantic Records, but it is Cameron’s voice you hear most prominently on their first true pop hit, the pre-Atlantic “It’s A Shame” from 1970. The real shame is that it took the Spinners as long as it did to score that radio breakthrough, given that they were signed to a label otherwise known for launching superstar acts.

The Spinners were on Motown. Usually when Motown is invoked, America feels a warm glow reflecting on all those fantastic vocal groups it gave us. And why shouldn’t we? The Supremes. The Four Tops. The Temptations. The Miracles. The Jackson 5. (Not to mention solo acts like Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder.) Somewhere down the deepest roster music may have ever known, never getting much of a chance to show their stuff while Berry Gordy was turning Motown HQ into Hitsville U.S.A., were the guys from Ferndale. They were not a priority. In short, Motown didn’t know what to do with the Spinners. They had to leave Detroit to reach the big time — if they weren’t Motown’s Nolan Ryan, they were at least their Amos Otis. The Spinners, from right there in Michigan, would become known as the leading practitioners of Philly Soul. “It’s A Shame” amounts to a footnote in the hallowed label’s discography.

The Spinners, while still at Motown. Like the Mets, they didn’t really score enough in Detroit.

Hence, when Motown is invoked, my warm glow is tempered by a bittersweet chill. You had the Spinners, you all but ignored them for the better part of a decade, you let them get away. Fambrough had to wait until his mid-eighties to be told his music qualified as immortal? He had practice waiting. Motown made his group cool its heels, standing in the shadows of everybody else. I was elated and emotional when I learned the Spinners were going into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on Wednesday morning, but, as with the family of Gil Hodges having to absorb election after election of disappointment before he finally got into baseball’s Hall, I found it hard to forget that so much for the Spinners could have come sooner.

The concept of a wasted opportunity in Detroit was therefore top of mind come Wednesday afternoon and Wednesday evening. A visit to Comerica Park, coupled as a day-night doubleheader after rain on Tuesday, theoretically provided a better-than-even chance to pile up wins. The Tigers entered this series 10-17 and in the midst of essentially a seven-year losing streak. Every day, however, is a new day. With two chances to win, the Mets went back to their hotel with a pair of losses.

It’s a shame, indeed.

The lightly attended day portion was the shamier half of the festivities. The Mets seemed to have handle on that one, leading, 5-4, after falling behind early. Joey Lucchessi had straightened out after gophers got loose on his ledger. Eric Haase bit him for a three-run homer in the first and Old Friend™ Javy Baez led off the fourth to nip him again. With five more frames scheduled plus nine come nighttime, Joey the Churve could have continued to chomp up innings, but Buck Showalter removed him because he might need him Sunday against the Rockies…which is what Met starting pitching has come to, treating Lucchesi four days in advance like he’s Randy Johnson in Game Six of the World Series, coming out with a big lead after seven because he might be needed the next night to close out a dynasty.

Say goodbye to Joey the Churve, say hello to Jimmy the Yak, and Jimmy the Yak — Jimmy Yacabonis on your scorecard — was a beast: nine Tigers were claws poised to do damage; nine Tigers tiptoed to their dugout ready for a mid-afternoon nap. Maybe you could have your Churve and eat it, too. The Yak made Buck look like a bigger genius than Bob Melvin removing the Big Unit 22 years ago. It helped that in the half-inning interval between Lucchesi and Yacabonis, the Mets had wrestled the lead from the Tigers, boosted by Francisco Lindor’s fifth homer of the season and the Mets’ third of the day. Tommy Pham and Mark Canha had previously gone deep in a ballpark previously known as stingy for allowing home runs. Bring in the fences and watch the balls fly out.

The Mets’ penchant for assuring they wouldn’t be swept in a doubleheader got pinched in the eighth. Adam Ottavino, perhaps rusty from not pitching much since going on paternity leave or sleepy from having become a new father, was not sharp. He gave up a single and a steal to Matt Vierling; hit Baez; allowed both runners to move up on a groundout; and succumbed to the newest Metkiller to haunt our dreams, Haase, he who knocked in each of his teammates from whence they stood on base. Suddenly, the Tigers were ahead, 6-5. Alex Lange came on to save it and was successful.

If the Mets wanted to maintain their freakish string of going no worse than 1-1 on days with two games, they’d have to take the nightcap. Good thing they had Max Scherzer returning to the mound…is what you might have said before Scherzer actually pitched. The legendary former Tiger ace (we have a couple of those) was rustier and flatter than Ottavino. Max hadn’t pitched since his suspension for sweat and rosin nearly two weeks before, and before that, he had been sidelined by back issues. So maybe that’s it. Let’s say that’s it. To say worse — like at 38 and in a sped-up world of pitch timers, the aging Max is not physically equipped nor mentally prepared to grapple with the current state of baseball — is just too depressing. Haase homered again. Vierling homered. Max gave up six runs, all earned, in three-and-a-third.

The Mets didn’t do much to Tiger starter Michael Lorenzen. We got one run, driven in by Daniel Vogelbach, the designated hitter. Maybe if they designated every Met a hitter, our hitters would better understand the nature of what to do while attempting to hit. Lefty reliever Zach Muckenhirn made his debut for us, and it didn’t go badly. Muckenhirn is the 1,197th Met overall and, barring who knows what before today’s first inning, will always have the pleasure of knowing he will always sit directly above prospective Met No. 1,198 Justin Verlander on the franchise’s all-time chronological roster. Jose Butto also successfully soaked up excess batters, which is all one can ask of a person announced in advance as the 27th man in an endeavor that usually encompasses 26 men. “Hey, Lastie, they’re puttin’ ya in!”

But, alas, not Splitsville.

The final in the second game was Tigers 8 Mets 1, snapping that streak of not getting swept in doubleheaders at 25, a feat that should sound more impressive than it does. Knowing that a bunch of those doubleheaders date to 2021 — when doubleheader games went seven, and “extra” innings meant you might have won in eight, and any game that went extras was further besmirched by the presence of the automatic runner — detracted from an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. Also knowing that the last doubleheader sweep against the Mets happened in 2020 makes me think none of it was quite authentic, given that the seven-inning doubleheader rule was implemented then and there were bleeping cardboard cutouts in the stands, with even fewer people on hand than there were for the Mets-Tigers makeup opener. If we’d done nothing but sweep doubleheaders for two years, I might feel differently. Of course, I’d have taken one win out of two on Wednesday at Comerica versus what actually happened.

No trip to Splitsville on this stop in Hitsville. Yes, it’s a shame.

Another shame would be if Mets fans, even if it’s only on television, don’t get one more look at Miguel Cabrera in Thursday’s finale. How often do you get to see a member of the 3,000 Hit Club in action, even if it’s halting action, even if it’s as a DH? Twenty such members have gotten at least one of their 3,000 or more hits against the Mets, even if they weren’t members of the 3,000 Hit Club most of their plate appearances against us (because it takes a long time for even the greats of the game to make it 3,000). Plus, Cabrera, 40, has 99 hits versus the Mets in his career, most of them accumulated before he was an icon and merely a Marlin. Even with that Fish story in his background, I’d rest more easily knowing Miggy at least got a shot at a hundredth.

From 2003 to 2007, we knew he was good, but he wasn’t yet exalted. He had to become a Tiger to become a legend, alongside Scherzer and Verlander. Man, those Tigers were good. I’d be fine if they could hold off on being successful for one more day, but if it doesn’t make a great deal of difference to the Mets getting back on track, I’d really like to see Cabrera not only bat this afternoon but maybe single with nobody on and the Mets up by a lot.

Miguel joined the 3,000 Hit Club on April 23, 2022. Mets pitchers began contributing to his climb up that golden ladder on June 24, 2003, when Al Leiter gave up a leadoff single to Florida’s recently promoted eighth-place hitter at Shea Stadium on June 24, 2003. Leiter began pitching in the majors in 1987. Cabrera is still playing in the majors in 2023. That’s a 36-year span, overlapping a bit (Leiter and Cabrera would be teammates in 2005). It was the Marlin rookie left fielder’s fourth hit as a big leaguer. The Marlins went on to win that game, 8-4. They also went on to win the World Series, fueled in great part by their 20-year-old callup. Miguel wouldn’t be a left fielder or bat low in anybody’s order for long.

The last time we had the pleasure of Cabrera’s company at Shea was September 30, 2007. We weren’t too terribly focused on Miguel the cleanup hitter that Sunday afternoon save for his singling in the first run of the top of the first inning. Before we got to the bottom of the first inning, it was Marlins 7 Mets coming to bat/going to hell. After five years and 36 hits at our playpen of then 44 years, Cabrera was traded to Detroit, one of those many, many moves the Marlins made to make sure they’d escape competitive viability for as long as they could.

With the Tigers, Cabrera could be paid like the superstar he had become. We wouldn’t see him very often from the last Shea year of 2008 onward. That wasn’t so bad from a not contributing to our downfall on the last day of seasons as a Marlin aspect. It’s a little disappointing in that here was this great hitter mostly out of our view. This isn’t an endorsement of Interleague play. It’s “phooey” on the Marlins for being run like the Marlins. As he grew toward immortality in Detroit, Miguel swung by Citi Field for three series. He liked it more than Shea. Whereas he batted only .240 in Flushing from 2003 to 2007, he murdered Met pitching in 2010, 2013 and 2019, racking up an average of .424, with 14 of the hits that have, to date, added up to 3,098 in all. The last one was on May 25, 2019, a single to get the top of the twelfth going off Hector Santiago. The single, No. 2,730 for his career, didn’t drive in a runner from second because in 2019, they didn’t start extra innings with a runner on second. After Santiago walked the next batter, Tigers manager (and Old Friend™ Ron Gardenhire) pinch-ran for Cabrera, and that was the last we would see of Miggy in Queens.

The Tigers will have a hard time filling Cabrera’s throne.

The hit in top of the first inning on 9/30/2007 may have been the most damaging (as was every Marlin hit in the top of first inning on 9/30/2007), but the one I’ll remember Cabrera delivering against the Mets most came the last time I saw him, on Sunday, August 25, 2013. It was a first-inning homer to deep left off Dillon Gee that could have ordered brunch, because it rushed into the Acela Club like it had reserved a table. Miggy would garner three hits that matinee, the third of them in the ninth. The Tigers led the Mets, 4-3, going to the ninth. The Mets wound up losing, 11-3, after the ninth. It was one of those innings on one of those days in one of those years. Had we had to have kept facing Cabrera nineteen games annually, there likely would have been more of those innings and those days and maybe more of those years.

Nevertheless, you don’t hide from competition. We are better off as fans facing legends in the making, legends in their prime, legends on the wane. If Cabrera does play and get a hit in his Met finale, he will have not only exactly 100 hits against us, but 50 in our parks, 50 in his. That’s evocative of the career of the first member of the 3,000 Hit Club to take on the Mets, Stan Musial. Musial’s hit total against everybody (not just us) was 3,630: 1,815 in St. Louis, 1,815 on the road. Musial got us for 32 hits in all, but none before en route to 3,000, given that Stan the Man ascended to that plateau on May 13, 1958, and the Mets didn’t exist until April 11, 1962. That was when Musial logged his first hit against Met pitching. It came in the very first inning of our very first game, driving in the very first run any Met pitcher (Roger Craig) ever surrendered. Musial’s all-time hit total rose to 3,402 with that knock.

Conversely, Cabrera hasn’t had a hit off the Mets since getting his 3,000th. He hasn’t played against them. Dave Winfield, Eddie Murray, Wade Boggs, Rickey Henderson, Rafael Palmeiro and Alex Rodriguez never added to their post-3KH sum against the Mets, either, usually because they and we ceased crossing paths late in their runs toward (if not to) Cooperstown. Roberto Clemente, sadly, never had the opportunity to hit against us post-3,000, dying after notching No. 3,000 against the Mets at the end of the 1972 season off Jon Matlack. That went into the books as a milestone double when it was recorded. It became his final hit when he died in a plane crash on his humanitarian mission to aid victims of the Nicaragua earthquake three months later.

The player with the most hits against the Mets after collecting his 3,000th is also the player with the most hits, period: Pete Rose (though Rose is second to Lou Brock among 3,000 Hit Club members in terms of total career hits versus the Mets prior to 3,000, with Lou leading in the pre-3K segment, 289 to 257). Pete, a Phillie from 1979 through 1983 and an Expo for the bulk of 1984, played us a lot after securing his 3,000 hit on May 5, 1978. He hit us a lot, too, the last time at Riverfront Stadium, on July 22, 1986, the fourteen-inning affair that is best remembered for about five other things, all of them somehow more memorable than the last hit the Hit King ever got off a Met pitcher.

It was in the tenth inning.

The game was in the tenth because Dave Parker dropped a sure third out in the ninth.

Rose, as Reds player-manager, had Eric Davis pinch-run for him, but Davis soon had to be pinch-run for by pitcher Tom Browning because Davis was ejected in a brawl with Ray Knight that also saw Knight and Kevin Mitchell thrown out.

Rose’s hit, the one that created the baserunning opportunity for Davis to slide a little too hard into Knight and therefore instigating the melee, was off Jesse Orosco, who would be playing right field by inning’s end, not as punishment for permitting a hit to 45-year-old player-manager Rose, but because of the fight — not only was Mitchell ejected, but so was Darryl Strawberry (though that happened earlier), and Davey Johnson was low on bodies.

Rose was back in managerial mode again soon enough, spotted by a Channel 9 camera combing the pages of a rule book in the dugout to check if Orosco taking warmup pitches after coming back in from the outfield to pitch was legal; Jesse and Roger McDowell switched off with one another at the behest of our personnel-strapped Davey skipper…when one or the other wasn’t switching off with Mookie Wilson between left and right fields, depending on who was batting for Cincy.

Also, with Knight tossed, Gary Carter played third, and Kid helped execute a massive 3-5-4 DP started brilliantly by Keith Hernandez.

And, almost incidentally, Howard Johnson, by then the shortstop, blasted a three-run homer in the fourteenth to ultimately win the game, 6-3.

So you can see why Pete Rose’s last hit ever against the Mets, the 4,247th of a 4,256-hit career, kind of got lost in the shuffle that night in Cincinnati.

This afternoon in Detroit. Miguel Cabrera, playing out his twenty-first and final season, is not in the starting lineup. It’s our last chance to see him play our team. Maybe he’ll pinch-hit. Maybe he’ll get a hit. Maybe I’ll slightly applaud if the hit doesn’t hurt us on the scoreboard. It never hurts to appreciate greatness before it exits the stage altogether.

Pete Rose 139
Hank Aaron 46
Stan Musial 32
Willie Mays 16
Ichiro Suzuki 11
Derek Jeter 9
Tony Gwynn 8
Craig Biggio 5
Cal Ripken 4
Lou Brock 3
Adrian Beltre 3
Albert Pujols 3
Miguel Cabrera TBD

Photos courtesy of Long Island’s Own Jeff Hysen.

6 comments to Wasted Day and Wasted Night

  • Seth

    Too bad Scherzer isn’t Scherzer, since he’s being paid Scherzer money. Half a billion doesn’t buy what it used to, I guess…

    Maybe let’s not think of it as a doubleheader, then. Game 1 was just the night before’s game, severely delayed due to rain.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Nice diversion, totally understandable and almost necessary after yesterday’s games.

    Buried on the LP you pictured is my All Time Favorite Spinners record. As a teenager in the 1960’s I was well aware of The Spinners, but I did not hear this one until a party at a friend’s house in 1981. He pulled that very same LP from his record shelf and played this track.

    Wow, said I in 1981. Wow, I still say in 2023.

  • eric1973

    Headed for the subway home
    I took my time
    Cause I felt so all alone

    Nowhere to gooooooo….
    Let’s take it slow…..

    • You beat me to it. Been meaning to post this all day. One of the most renowned solos by a bass, Pervis Jackson, in the history of pop music. Games People Play–a landmark song, but Games Metsies Play? Quite forgettable and very discordant in their most recent iterations.