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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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Double-Dip Into Your Pocket

On May 9, 1972, it rained in New York, which, then as now, is an unfortunate occurrence when a baseball game is scheduled in the Metropolitan Area. The Mets were to play the Dodgers at Shea Stadium that Tuesday night, meaning that baseball game would have to be made up. The good news was the Dodgers would be sticking around Queens for a couple of days. They had games scheduled Wednesday night and Thursday night. With no significant travel on their itinerary — their next stop was scheduled to be Philadelphia — it wouldn’t put anybody out if a twi-night doubleheader was scheduled. Instead of opening the gates for an 8:05 PM start, the norm in 1972, the Mets could invite fans to be in their seats by 5:35 PM for the first pitch of the first game, and then continue to maintain those seats as theirs through the final pitch of the second game. Such adjustment to circumstances by the management of the home team was traditionally one of the unexpected bonuses of a given baseball season. You didn’t expect there to be two games for the price of one on that date when you saw the schedule at season’s beginning, but sometimes you’d get a chance to partake. What a bargain!

Author Charlie Bevis, a baseball historian of all things night-game related, breaks down the utility of the twi-nighter on his incredibly informative website, explaining its application peaked between 1942 and 1972, when the NL and AL were shifting from almost exclusively day games to mostly night games. “The twi-night doubleheader originally developed to facilitate the makeup of postponed games,” Bevis writes. “The potential problem with night baseball was the postponement of a night game, since teams couldn’t just add on another night game as they easily could to an afternoon game, since spectators would not tolerate the second game starting very late at night.”

A ready-made answer hence existed for the Mets. Ah, but M. Donald Grant, running the show, had or at least signed off on a different idea. Perhaps because a players’ strike had lopped a few dates off the front end of the season, or perhaps because the Dodgers were too enticing a draw to make him tolerate losing the receipts they usually generated (a reluctantly hosted makeup doubleheader versus L.A. from the previous August might have remained fresh in the chairman’s mind), Grant approved a Shea Stadium first: a split doubleheader on Thursday, May 11. Mets and Dodgers at 1:30 PM, with all fans clearing out when that game was over. The second game would be at 8:05 PM, as scheduled. Each would require its own ticket. No freebies in Flushing this Thursday. No bargain.

Two for the price of two the first Met time.

Coverage of baseball might not have been as consumer-friendly or at least as consumer-conscious as it is today. Reporters in the press box didn’t have instant access to what fans were thinking nor were they necessarily compelled to find out. Thus, when one plumbs various archives, one comes up empty in search of explanations for why, in the Mets’ eleventh season, they are suddenly deciding to charge two admissions for two games in one day after, for ten seasons, hewing to the beauty of two for the price of one, sometimes on purpose (Sunday doubleheaders were fairly standard), sometimes out of rainy necessity. In Boston, the Red Sox regularly held day-night doubleheaders when compelled by the weather, but that was understandable. Fenway Park was comparatively tiny in the emerged age of multipurpose stadia. With about 32,000 seats and decent demand, you maybe wanted to make sure every possible fan in New England could be accommodated amid a ticket squeeze. Shea held 55,000 or so seats. People weren’t likely to be left altogether out in the cold if a date went by the wayside somewhere between April and October. Rainchecks could do wonders in an enormous outdoor facility. Joe Trimble in the Daily News provided the most service journalism in this realm by detailing Thursday morning a little what would be different at Shea Thursday afternoon and evening.

“Incidentally, the matinee begins at 1:30 p.m., 35 minutes earlier than usual for a day game. The reason is obvious. The cleaning crew has to have time to sweep up the house. Season ticketholders must use coupon E-1 today. No tickets were printed for today’s game as it wasn’t on the original schedule.”

While the Mets beat writers didn’t explicitly address what the heck Grant was doing here, a reader more than a half-century later can discern more than one raised eyebrow. After covering a 14-inning affair on Wednesday night that lasted until close to midnight Thursday (“by the slender margin of 10 minutes, the Mets lost a chance at a unique tripleheader sweep”), Joe Gergen in Newsday alluded to the upcoming day-night doubleheader, attributing its scheduling to “Tuesday night’s rainout and a new management policy.” What the policy was may have been edited for space or never chronicled in the first place, but a person gets a sense that “new management policy” is code for Grant grubbing money. The Times didn’t seem to think much of what the policy wrought, with its non-bylined story devoting its fourth paragraph of ten to noting, “The two games — two for the price of two — were watched by a total of 28,732 persons, not many for a rivalry with ancestral overtones. Only 8,299 paid to watch the afternoon half of the program, a makeup for Tuesday’s rained-out game, and 20,433 turned out at night.” Indeed, during the last series in which Mets hosted weeknight games against the Los Angeles Dodgers of no longer Brooklyn, in June of ’71, paid attendance topped 35,000 twice.

Once the two-for-two occurred, there didn’t appear to be much followup on the subject of Shea’s experiment with day-night doubleheaders in the local media. To be fair, there was a lot going on in Metsopotamia that week.

• There was that 14-inning game on Wednesday, won by the Mets on Teddy Martinez beating out an infield single following Buddy Harrelson stealing second and taking third on a wild pitch, all after Tug McGraw pitched five innings of shutout relief. “It was a long night,” Harrelson observed in the home clubhouse as the calendar pushed forward. “It was almost a long tomorrow.” There was, too, the quick turnaround for that day half of the split-admission extravaganza ahead. (Gergen: “McGraw still was in his underwear at 12:30 and he was due back at 11:45 AM.”)

• There was the Mets’ win in the day portion Thursday which featured Tom Seaver’s 100th career victory, achieved despite what had become chronically aching legs; imagine how terrific Tom would be feeling totally healthy.

• And, oh, there was the little matter of a trade the Mets were working on with the team that was coming into the Shea once the Dodgers left town after the nightcap (which L.A. salvaged to not make their stay in New York a total washout). The Mets and Giants were talking through a deal that would send one of San Francisco’s high-priced veterans back east so he could finish his career in the city where he started it. The Giants weren’t having a great season and weren’t drawing well. The Mets could afford him and, though he wasn’t the player he was in his prime, the 41-year-old’s appeal was undeniable. You might have heard of him. His name was and is Willie Mays, the Say Hey Kid who recently turned 92. Although the Giants were playing in Montreal, Mays had his club’s permission to fly ahead to New York to get involved in the talks himself. Everybody had to be satisfied by the brewing transaction that was filling newspaper column inches Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday, May 12, Willie, in a suit and tie, was on the back page of the four-star edition of the News, pictured sitting in the press box taking in the Thursday afternoon action in the company of the sparse crowd; Grant presumably didn’t charge him to count among the 8,299 who went through the turnstiles. Willie appeared to be watching intently. He should have been. Those were his new teammates down on the field. The Mets had swung the deal for Mays on May 11, 1972 — exchanging pitcher Charlie Williams and a reported $100,000 in cash — the day that doesn’t primarily go down in franchise history as the day Tom Seaver notched his hundredth win nor as the day the Mets experimented with day-night doubleheaders.

Willie Mays watches history at Shea just before making his own.

The experiment lasted a combined 18 innings. The Mets went back to making up rainouts the old-fashioned way, with single-admission doubleheaders, or as we old-timers call them, doubleheaders. On August 1, the Mets and Phillies played a twi-nighter to compensate for a rainout from the end of May. As if karma was trying to get a message to Grant, the first game of this twinbill lasted 18 innings and nearly four-and-a-half hours on its own, and the teams couldn’t play the nightcap until between-games festivities were completed. It was Banner Night, with 2,176 bedsheets and placards marched through the center field gate. Game Two (a 1:45 Koosman-Carlton special executed sans pitch clock) didn’t end until 12:45 AM. Thankfully for the players, August 2’s lone Mets-Phillies game was scheduled for 8:05 PM.

Shea Stadium wouldn’t host both segments of another day-night doubleheader until 2007, when pretty much every team resorted to split-admission twinbills if the weather was uncooperative. The Mets could reasonably tell their customers that with attendance riding high in the ballpark’s final two seasons of existence, they sure wouldn’t want to shut out raincheck holders who might not be able to turn in their vouchers for a comparable seat so easily. In 2009, the Mets would move into a smaller ballpark, where the same argument could be made with an approximately straight face. Fans, particularly those who didn’t grow up in the age of single-admission doubleheaders as essentially the only kind of doubleheaders, didn’t think anything was particularly unusual about this kind of double-dipping into their pockets.

Yet nobody could instantly remember anybody doing to its ticketholders what the Washington Nationals did on the weekend of May 13-14, 2023. The Nats, who provided the opposition when the post-Grant Mets revived the split-doubleheader experiment at Shea on July 28, 2007, sanctioned the starting of their game versus the 2023 Mets this past Saturday at 4:05 PM despite ongoing rain. Maybe it would pass. It didn’t. The tarp went on the field within 40 minutes of first pitch, in the top of the third inning. It came off more than two hours later. The grounds crew came out and worked to make the field playable. It was no longer raining, but nobody was playing. People sitting on hold amid a loop of “your call is important to us…” had more of a clue as to what was going on in their endeavors than did anybody curious as to whatever became of Saturday’s contest. Ultimately, just short of four hours since play was stopped, the game was suspended. It was still the third inning, the Nationals ahead, 1-0. The Mets had runners on second and third. Daniel Vogelbach on third base and Michael Perez on second had the good sense to come in from the rain. But they and their colleagues would return to the field the next afternoon, the environs sunny and dry. It hadn’t made for an ideal scenario — not starting in the first place and preemptively rescheduling didn’t require much hindsight to anybody staring at the sky or a weather app — but these things happen.

The unusual if not wholly unprecedented part: the Nationals, who kept progress reports so quiet that not a single fan in attendance at Nationals Park, let alone anybody following along via any channel of popular communication, had any idea when another pitch might be thrown, decided Sunday would be a split doubleheader. That’s two for the price of two. Except this was a suspended game, not an outright postponement from a rainout. Baseball doesn’t let partially played games get washed away any longer. You’ll recall in 2021 the Mets and Marlins barely got a rainy game underway on April 11, halted it, and picked it up right where they left it at Citi Field on August 31 (with five Mets playing in the “April 11” game despite not joining the team until well after that date). They concluded that game eventfully in the afternoon — the Mets scored a passel of runs in the bottom of the ninth to win it, making fans forget that several players had been thumbs-downing in their general direction a couple of days before — and then cleared the ballpark for the regularly scheduled night game (which, during the Abundance of Caution era, was declared in advance a seven-inning game despite a doubleheader technically not taking place). It was basically two games for two admissions, plus the Marlins weren’t in town between April 11 and August 31, so if you squinted generously, you could almost see the semblance of sense in the solution.

Missing: any word indicating apology for inconvenience.

This, in Washington, was different…or “shameful” as Gary Cohen dubbed it over SNY. This was the Mets at the ballpark the very next day when a 1:35 first pitch was on tap. Also, it was Mother’s Day Sunday, with MLB pinking up the joint. A holidaylike atmosphere in theory. Here’s what the Nationals could have done: pick up the game, right were it was left the night before, finish that game, and then have the game people paid for and call it one happy gate for those who were in the house, with rainchecks for whoever got soaked the night before.

Nah, the Nationals didn’t do that. They made it first furtive, not as much as tweeting an update once the tarp went on the field Saturday until an hour after the suspension went into effect, then, without so much as a “we apologize for the inconvenience/thank you for your support,” they made it difficult. Show up 12:35 Sunday for the suspended game, if you had a ticket Saturday. Watch that one wind down, box score and agate type curiosities included at no extra charge. It became a 3-2 Mets loss despite recalled catcher Perez rapping out four hits from the nine-hole in his first game back from Triple-A, only the second time the Mets have ever lost a game with that kind of bottom-of-the-order production, and surely the first time they’d been held to a mere two runs with their last batter proving himself entirely unretirable. It also contained the rarity of a starting pitcher, Joey Lucchesi, being optioned to the minors while the game he started more or less had stepped outside for a smoke. “Lucchesi, you’re going to the showers. Then you’re going to the airport. Then you’re going to Syracuse. Yeah, we know you gave up only one run in suboptimal conditions, but them’s the breaks, Churvy.”

Then, with the curly Ws unjustly rewarded with a competitive W despite their bad-karma creativity in consumer relations, they took the “split” in split admission seriously, more or less imploring the crowd already in the ballpark to “split!” so they could commence ushering in the originally conceived Sunday afternoon gathering at 4:35 PM for what was now a late Mother’s Day outing. The Mets won the Lerner-rigged nightcap, 8-2, with Max Scherzer returning to form (5 IP, 1 ER) and the Mets cramming all their offense into a single inning (the fifth). I’m sorry the Mets didn’t win both games, not just because I prefer the Mets win every game, but because Nationals management doesn’t deserve to benefit in any fashion from the way they presented baseball to their fans or, for that matter, visiting fans.

Somewhere down there — and I don’t mean the District of Columbia — M. Donald Grant was monitoring the Nationals’ decisionmaking process Saturday and Sunday and asking himself, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

8 comments to Double-Dip Into Your Pocket

  • Seth

    Nice to see Max show up. I’m still finding my eyes glaze over and fall into drowsiness whenever the Mets come to bat (except for the 8-run inning). I haven’t seen a less interesting offense in a long time.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    Sometimes it’s the links that bring an excellent writeup over the top. Fascinating Charlie Bevis links about night games and twi-night doubleheaders. One personal observation: He seems to imply that the term “twilight-night” doubleheader faded after they were “legalized” by the NL in 1950.

    It must have taken a while, As a kid in the late 50’s they were still “twilight-night” doubleheaders. In fact I don’t recall hearing the term “twi-night” doubleheader until listening to Bob Murphy’s early days doing the Mets. (I’m not making this up) my friend Jay & I discussed this while we were at the “Carl Willey Return” Twi-night Doubleheader in June 1964, as in “since when is this a “twi-night doubleheader not a twilight-night doubleheader??”.

    Great stuff. I love the weeds…

    PS: No doubt in my mind that the split Doubleheader with the Dodgers in 1972 was a Donald Grant Money Grab and nothing else.

    • mikeski

      I saw Donald Grant Money Grab open for Ray Ramirez & The Injured List.

      That show…well, it sucked.

  • Bob

    Spoke to sister-in-law in Alexandria last night (Mothers Day call) and although not a baseball fan, she remarked about negative local TV news coverage of the DC Expos (Nats) shameful money-grubbing behavior.
    M. Donald Grant is small stuff comapred to the present day MLB Corporate/Marketing money-hungry swine now running Baseball.

    One Memorial Day weekend DH my father took me to @ Shea in 1964-2nd game went 23 innings with Mays playing SS for 7 innings for Gints.
    Imagaine 32 innings of Baseball for 1 ticket price.
    That would just kill The Manfred Entitity and his ilk.

  • JoeNunz

    I attended the 8/1/72 “triple header”

    Thankfully, I did not march in the banner parade which had to assemble behind center field at the top of the 8th inning of Game 1.

  • open the gates

    As I’ve mentioned before on this forum, my first baseball experience as a kid was the 1983 Banner Day doubleheader against the Pirates. Both games went 12 innings. Both were won by Jesse Orosco in relief. The first game featured the Mets coming back after being down by 4 in the first. The second featured 8 and a third innings of no hit ball from opposing pitcher Jose DeLeon, 10 innings (!) of shutout pitching from our guy Mike Torrez, and the winning (and only) run coming in with Mookie going second to home on a ground ball in the bottom of the 12th (or 24th of the day).

    All that, and the banners too.

    Now that’s what I call getting your money’s worth.

  • eric1973

    Probably my favorite post of all…

    Just invoking Shea Stadium, Rheingold, Twi-night doubleheaders, and 805pm and 205pm, makes me long for the good old days.

    Today’s fans are a little soft. In those days, we all sat through 2 hour rain delays and rainouts without complaining that they should have postponed the game before it started, or that we need some hideous-looking dome.

    Also, remember when ONLY the 2nd game of the twi-nighter was on Channel 9, and they would come on the air with the voiceover opening and the sponsors credits OVER the 8th or 9th inning of the first game, which was still going on.

    Now THAT was free baseball!

  • eric1973

    And during said rain delays on Channel 9, they would show the 1969 or 1973 highlight films or WS films, or actually Nelson/Kiner/Murphy would talk among themselves or interview interesting baseball people, rather than show some highlight shows from last year, or some weird dating show….. Although ‘OH YEAH’ ain’t too bad.