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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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Everything But the 6:44

Almost everything was great Saturday. Really.

The start time, Saturday afternoon at 4:10, was great. As a start time, 4:10 has élan. On any day, 1:10 can be too early, 7:10 too mundane. On a Saturday especially, 4:10 is the sweet spot. You have your day. You have your night. You have your baseball in the middle. That’s the sandwich a fan craves.

The train going to the game was great. Conceptually great. Anecdotally fine. I mean, it’s a train ride that requires a couple of transfers. You just want it to get you where you’re going when you need to be there. Romance for train travel takes a beating when you’ve spent any part of your life as a Monday-through-Friday local rail commuter, yet I will contend for the rest of my days that Saturday afternoon is ancestral prime time for Long Island Mets fandom, when, if blessed with tickets, our instinct is to reach for our Long Island Rail Road schedule. We know in our hearts and heads that we should drive only as far as the station in the town where we live. We will wait antsily. We will stare down tracks. We will board. We will change at Jamaica. We will wait at Woodside. We will climb staircases and trundle across boardwalks. We will tamp down our resentment and suspicion of strangers and roll as one orange-and-blue ball until our journey reaches its destination, at which point we will disperse, albeit inside the same facility. We have arrived at Shea Stadium or, if progress insists, Citi Field. We have avoided traffic. We have saved on parking ($40, unless you rely on secret spots). I will go to Mets games at any juncture of the week, yet to me, Saturday afternoon is home, and the LIRR — with an assist from the 7 — means I’m homeward bound, coming and going. Granted, I am influenced by personal experience: my first Saturday afternoon game came at the end of June in 1974, so I’ve been doing it forever. It was also my first win at Shea, so I tend to associate a Saturday train ride to the ballpark with a seminal happy memory.

The date on this Saturday was great, in that it marked the beginning of July. We very much needed to end June in 2023. June 2023 is already one of the most infamous months in Mets history. We live through a lot of Junes like that. And a lot of months like that. After going 7-19 in June, July arrived right on time, which is something you can’t say of every conveyance scheduled by the Metropolitan Transit Authority.

If you know, you know. And we know.

The parade of banners running down the first base side of Citi Field was great. I don’t know if they’ve been hung lately or I simply didn’t see them until July 1 because I had no reason on previous 2023 visits to head for the right field entrance, but I’m taken by the imagery the Mets have decided to project. It’s not just famous faces, but famous scenes, none more recognizable to the clued-in Mets fan than The Black Cat. There’s no accompanying text, no caption. It’s The Black Cat, no explanation necessary. It’s classic IYKYK.

The seat that I was commuting toward was great. The section is behind the Mets dugout, to the rear of the Mets dugout. The row is numbered 19. I’m not automatically enamored of Field Level in the way Shea-raised fans are conditioned to be. The angle-closeness tradeoff doesn’t always work for me, and I can never shake the feeling I’m surrounded by people who were given tickets to the game and would otherwise not be there. Then again, I was given a ticket to the game and would otherwise not have been there, so who am I critiquing, exactly?

The weather was great. You can’t take weather for granted in an outdoor stadium in a city (and nation) where air quality alerts share space on our apps with temperature. On this Saturday, it is not raining and it is not smoking. That’s like being ahead two-and-oh in the count. Four nights earlier, on my previous Citi Field adventure, I was in jeans and kept a long-sleeve shirt handy. That was June. July is here. I’m in shorts, carrying no additional sleeves and I’m not regretting my choices. The Shea winds of Citi can be tricky. No mischief today. Play ball!

The starting pitcher about to start the 4:10 start is great. No qualification is necessary to describe career 246-game winner Justin Verlander just that way. His groping for greatness in a Mets uniform has been another matter, but nineteen rows from the home dugout, I take a second to process that I am seeing Verlander pitch for the Mets in front of me. Ever since the ballpark reopened to fans in 2021, I’ve drawn a lot of Carlos Carrasco starts (6), practically every Rich Hill start (4), plenty of Taijuan Walker starts once he stopped being routinely outstanding (5, with the Mets going 1-4) and a few relative oddities I was happy to add to my collection for novelty’s sake (Robert Stock, Mychal Givens, Joey Lucchesi and Trevor Williams twice). I lucked into David Peterson throwing shutout ball on two separate occasions, Tylor Megill three times appearing as if he belonged at the big league level, Marcus Stroman pitching effectively enough to get Marcus Stroman a new contract somewhere else, and, though it seems distant and sort of impossible now, Jacob deGrom being Jacob deGrom a couple of times last year, when that meant superb rather than injured. The luck of the draw — or a lack of proactivity on my part — has yet to have me and Max Scherzer doing our thing together and, until Saturday, I had never written “Verlander” in The Log II, the steno pad where I keep track of, among other essential details, who has started the games I’ve gone to. Barring unforeseen revelations that prevent his seemingly inevitable Cooperstown induction, I was, on July 1, 2023, seeing a future Hall of Famer start for the Mets for the first time since September 25, 2008, Pedro Martinez’s last home start at Shea. It’s worth taking a second to process greatness when it appears right before your eyes.

The starting pitcher for the opposition in a 7:10 start thirteen years prior was not great, which was great…for us. And noteworthy thirteen years later in the context of Saturday’s 4:10 start, for I saw Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers pitch at Citi Field on June 22, 2010, one of those Junes that didn’t implode on the Mets (that would come in July). Verlander was in his fifth full season in the majors. He’d been Rookie of the Year, attracted Cy Young votes, and was about to make his fourth All-Star team. But he was neither the primary attraction nor a particular obstacle that June night. Looking back via the magic of blog archives, I can see I wrote about the rain you get in an outdoor stadium; and the personnel who operated the outdoor stadium and how they could make a rain delay even worse; and the fleeting sighting of the pitcher Justin Verlander has reminded me of from afar in the years since — Tom Seaver was on hand in his ambassador capacity, making it the last time I’d ever see him in person; and the torrent of runs that fell on the Tigers, falling harder on the visitors than the rain fell on us. The Mets won 14-6. I was thrilled that the Mets were winning by so much, and more thrilled that the Mets were winning so many games I was going to that year. The Log II and the blog archives will confirm it was my tenth win in a row at Citi Field. The Mets were legitimately competing for first place as June grew late. I was so giddy with the provincial and personal success, that I notice thirteen years later I never thought to mention in my on-site report the name of the losing pitcher. Verlander’s outing was halted by the precipitation, but he wasn’t getting anywhere when the skies were dry, surrendering five hits and three walks en route to being charged with five earned runs. Justin may have been developing into a Hall of Fame pitcher, but on June 22, 2010, he was just roadkill on my Mets-myopic romp through the rain.

The starting pitcher’s pitching on July 1, 2023, from 4:10 onward, was great. The Verlander we haven’t seen much of as a Met emerged in full form once the first San Francisco Giant stepped in the batter’s box. Joc Pederson was there for exactly three pitches, all strikes. The ultimate Old Friend™, Wilmer Flores, wasn’t any more successful, though he did make contact. Less beloved but still welcomed warmly Old Friend™ J.D. Davis battled Justin for six pitches. J.D.D. the SFG, determined to join the ranks of 3B-OF/OF-3B alumni who make the Mets regret dismissing them, singled to left, but Verlander shook off the setback and put rookie Patrick Bailey back in his place after the fresh kid put veteran David Robertson in his place the night before, popping the catcher to short.

The opposing starting pitcher’s pitching was great for a couple of innings, as New Jerseyan Anthony DeSclafani held the Mets scoreless in the first and second, but if I wasn’t gonna be at Citi Field specifically to see the emerging immortal Justin Verlander in 2010, what did I care that DeSclafani was matching zeroes with our imported hero in 2023?

Seeing my friend Dan arrive in Row 19 before the second inning was over was great. Truly great. Dan’s the reason, more than the glorious Justin Verlander, more than the glorious weather, more than the glorious recollections of Saturday afternoon trips via train to games past, that I was at Citi Field. Dan’s the one who gave me the ticket to the game in Field Level, but this wasn’t about the game. Getting together with Dan and being Mets fans with Dan was the point. It always is. Dan and I go back to my second wave of living the Mets online. First came the Metcave board, where Jason and I found one another in the mid-’90s. Later, as the 1990s were morphing into a new millennium, came a Mets fan email group that I nudged my way into via a side door. I was a stranger let in by a lurker. I spoke up and wasn’t kicked out. Those were the days of Bobby V, who you’ll recall as the most fun Met manager ever, running teams you couldn’t wait to talk to others about orally or electronically. For me, those were also the days of some real sweethearts I considered myself the luckiest fan on the face of the Web to get to know. One of them was and is Dan. The email group dissolved ages ago. Dan and I are still in regular Met touch, which in 2023 has meant Met commiseration, but on July 1, 2023, meant a Happy Bobby Bonilla Day live at Citi Field (Bobby Bo was the actual answer to a between-innings quiz on MegaCitiVision — if you owe it, flaunt it). Dan got to the park late because of traffic. He didn’t take the train, but he wasn’t coming from Long Island.

The conversational flow was great. Dan and I compared notes on which player-dedicated t-shirts we have or haven’t discarded from our respective wardrobes out of pique for the player’s departure or from eternal loyalty to that player’s tenure; how many years after a world championship a team’s fans can begin to righteously reclaim long-suffering status; what’s it’s been like to raise a child to adulthood as a Mets fan without being able to share a world championship with that child-turned-adult (Dan’s son Asher is still hanging in there); whether we should sip from our respective cans of Rheingold that we’ve been waiting to open more than two decades apiece, saving them for that moment families of Mets fans throughout the Metropolitan Area have been thirsting for since 1986; and what the hell is wrong with this team. There were no answers forthcoming on that last one.

Interrupting the conversation and general sense of doom was great when THREE home team home runs in the third inning made it too loud to talk and too celebratory to mope. There went one to right from Francisco Alvarez, which I briefly lost track of because I thought everybody was following the flight of another foul ball. There went one up onto the sponsored beverage porch from Brandon Nimmo, suddenly overcome by a thirst for power. And there went one in the direction of the bullpens from Francisco Lindor, who we would later to pause to praise for his steady defense, and here he was being offensive. There went DeSclafani from the game after the third, rendering him a footnote to this on-site report. Throw in an RBI double from Tommy Pham, and misery could take itself a long holiday weekend. Dan and I got back to our t-shirt talk in an uncommon state of relaxation.

The starting pitcher for the home team continued to be great. Justin Verlander, staked to a 4-0 lead, didn’t encounter trouble until Pete Alonso threw a grounder away on what could have been a 3-6-3 DP had he opted to step on first to begin with, but instead went as a fielder’s choice that wound up putting runners on first and third. A redemptive double play grounder scored one Giant run. An ensuing double and walk indicated maybe Justin was just about done, but an inning-ending strikeout of Brandon Crawford indicated better that Justin would be the one to determine when his day was over.

The seventh-stretch was great, mainly because it’s the middle of the seventh already? Dan and I were having such a marvelous time talking baseball, that the baseball in front of us was flying by, with much help from Justin Verlander’s 102 pitches in seven innings that I was surprised to realize were seven innings. I kind of didn’t want the game to go so efficiently, because Dan and I only get together like this every so often, but you’re gonna ask the Mets to complicate what has shaped up as a great day for them? The answer to that is the same answer we collaborated on regarding drinking the Rheingold from 2002.

Drew Smith was great, setting down the Giants in order in the eighth, which I swore felt like the seventh, but I wasn’t the most reliable of witnesses. When Verlander gave up that one run in the seventh, I thought it cut the Mets’ lead to 3-1, because I somehow had forgotten all about Pham’s double in the fourth scoring Alonso.

Adam Ottavino had to be great in the ninth, because let’s not blow this, guys. Otto was great for his first batter, Davis, grounding him out to surehanded Lindor for the first out. Otto was less great walking Bailey. Up stepped Thairo Estrada as not the potential tying run (it was 4-1, not 3-1), but who wants floodgates to open? Two pitches in, Adam induces another ground ball to short. Lindor to Guillorme to Alonso! Mets win! We win! We high-five! All but the usual influx of Giants fans cheer! That includes the guy at the end of Row 19 in a Los Angeles jersey — DRYSDALE 53 — who has come to Flushing presumably to hate on San Francisco. All things being equal, I detest the Dodgers and maintain an affinity for the Giant franchise, but all things are not equal when the Mets are involved. I’m with Don Drysdale over there.

“BACK! BACK IN THE NEW YORK GROOVE!” is so great to hear after a game is over. It’s the leading indicator of a Mets win, and that, no explanation necessary, is great. Not so great is when Ace Frehley is mysteriously and rudely interrupted. The KISSman briefly gone solo was, in fact, silenced, and all the on-field high-fiving was cut off. What gives?

The mystery is solved. The rude interrupter is Giants manager Gabe Kapler. He is issuing a challenge on the apparent game-ending double play. What is he talking about? The throw to first clearly beat Estrada, and Pete’s foot was on the bag. Wait, did he think Luis didn’t have his foot on second? What the hell? Dan and I already agreed that in the tale of two Luises, Guillorme would never turn a win into a loss for us the way we’re still sore at Castillo for doing that one time what Dan saw fit to invoke during an innocent 2023 pop fly lofted over the right side of the infield because he admits he can’t see any pop fly and not, in his mind, see Castillo circling under another, less innocent pop fly in 2009.

Thinking July is going to revert to June before it can move on with its own calendar page is not great. Thinking the Mets might find an all-new way to lose that not even Luis Castillo ever thought of is not great. And, very much in the moment, the clock is not great. The game that flew by permitted me a hopeful glance at my LIRR schedule app. I didn’t want to not enjoy the company of Dan or the thrill of well-played Mets baseball all day for all it was worth, but making a train is making a train. Commuter’s instinct never leaves a Long Islander. The game has ended at 6:18. It’s a fairly short walk from these great seats to the 7. I know there’s construction down the line, but the Super Express is running. I can make the 6:44 at Woodside. I can be home by 7:30. I never get home by 7:30 from a 4:10 start. I want to be home by 7:30 from this 4:10 start. I want to walk in the door at 7:29 and announce to my wife, we won a great game and we did it so quickly that I’m home already.

Waiting on this asinine challenge is not great. 6:18 is becoming 6:19. My train is scheduled to depart Woodside in 25 minutes. Every second counts. MegaCitiVision is showing every angle it has. Luis Guillorme is stepping on second. Of course he is. Isn’t he? Maybe not? No, don’t give into Kapler’s chicanery! This is a ploy! This is worse than Buck and the ear goo business with Joe Musgrove in the playoffs last year. It’s unbecoming of a major league manager. They shouldn’t allow challenges of a last out, I’ve just decided on the spot. They shouldn’t allow challenges when me making the 6:44 is on the line.

6:19 turning to 6:20 before a mic’d up pronouncement is forthcoming is not great, but it comes, and it is great. The call stands. Phew! Ace Frehley returns to the sound system. Dan and I congratulate one another anew. I tell the Dodgers jersey guy, “Screw the Giants, right?” (“We’re all Mets fans today” is his gracious reply.) I thank Dan profusely for inviting me, and then, like Gabe Kapler interrupting Mets fan revelry, I am rude. I bolt, because now that the day is done and night approaches, I want to make that train. I want to make that train so bad, I skip my standard precautionary men’s room trip because the line is snaking. I usually run up to take care of that precaution in the eighth, but the eighth showed up so suddenly that I didn’t want to pause my conversation with Dan. Every choice carries a price.

I walk heartily through Field Level, down the winding staircase and out the Rotunda. I do my best impression of a blocking back to reach the stairs to the 7. I’m swiping through the turnstile, I’m dodging the dawdlers, I am on the Super Express. I don’t get a seat. i don’t need one. I need to feel momentum beneath my feet. I feel none. An announcement tells us this train will be express, but not that super. It’ll stop at 74th Street. Then 69th Street. Then, finally, 61st Street, a.k.a. Woodside, where I need to be to catch the 6:44 to Jamaica, where I’ll change for the Babylon train and be home by 7:30, which, as mentioned, never happens.

All we need is for the Super-ish Express to get going. “Stand by for closing doors,” the disembodied voice says more than once, but the doors don’t close in response. False start, like when the Mets being 14-7 in April. Are we gonna go or are we gonna go? Not going is not an option. It’s before 6:30. I’m not totally worried. It’s after 6:30. I’m not overly worried. Then I’m a little more worried. Miss the 6:44, and it’s the 7:12 for me. Twenty-eight additional minutes at Woodside on an ever more crowded platform, plus the gap to the connecting train at Jamaica is longer, too. Come on, MTA. Don’t you fall victim to Kapler’s chicanery.

The closing doors close. We crawl out of Mets-Willets Point. We crawl to 74th. We crawl to 69th. We wait for a gust of wind to push us to 61st. I can see the 6:44 pulling in below. I stride off the 7 at maybe 6:43:30 and rush to the staircase. Even with plywood up everywhere as they make repairs they’ve been waiting since at least 1974 to make at Woodside, I know my way down. I make it to the top of the staircase that I know will lead me to my final dash.

What it does in reality is give me a great view of the 6:44 pulling away.

I kick a temporary plywood wall twice because Gabe Kapler is not available to take my frustrations out on. It’s his fault. The Super Express, whatever its machinations, is keyed to the end of the game. If the game ends two minutes earlier, the Super Express leaves two minutes earlier and I’m at Woodside two minutes earlier, and I’m on that 6:44, likely the one and only train that’s left anywhere on time all frigging day.

Kicking didn’t do it for me. Besides, one more kick would have given the cops on the other side of the station the opportunity to notice me assaulting public property. I need to cool off. I hit the street below. I stand and tweet something nasty about Kapler onto an app that I’m not sure is working well enough for anybody to see it. People do and tell me Kapler was probably right about Guillorme’s foot missing second, as if I frigging want to hear that right now. May the managerial suite in the Giant hotel be lodged directly above a jackhammer convention and directly below another jackhammer convention. I’m still fuming — and that not stopping to go to the men’s room before leaving Citi Field isn’t working out for me, either. I take a walk a few blocks, I circle back toward the station, I enter a neighborhood pizzeria I know has a bathroom it doesn’t hide from customers, I order a slice to go, I slip into the back to attend to certain matters, and I pay for the slice. Soon I’m on the predictably crowded platform waiting for the 7:12, contenting myself with the pizza and the win and the knowledge than unless everything goes to hell like so much of this season has, I’ll be home a little after 8 PM, and, really, that won’t be so bad.

9 comments to Everything But the 6:44

  • Seth

    Darn it! Well, you could have left before the challenge was done, but I was worried too — it really looked like Luis’ foot did not touch the bag. About time we caught a break. And I’ll bet that pizza was scrumptious.

  • eric1973

    Hey Greg, One more kick at that plywood and you would have been taken away like Pat Zachry.


  • Rumble

    Amazing read, Greg.

  • dmg

    Glad you liked the seats! Not sure when we last sat and chatted but it was pre-pandemic. The day moved so quickly that I didn’t have a chance to tell how I got the last refund check of the Wilpon era. It only involved threats, promises and direct appeals to Fred Wilpon his own self. But that’s a story for another game.
    As you noted, one reason we were fast-tracked was the Mets only had 4 hits, but they each were for extra bases and scored a run. Such efficiency is new for 23.
    I learned this from Pat McCarthy on his post-game radio show while I sat in my car (parked under the highway by the Shea Service Station on 127th and Northern Boulevard) and decided what to do with the evening. (Evening activities after a late afternoon ballgame? Also new for 23!)
    Opted for a suburban screening of Asteroid City, Wes Anderson’s latest quirky little gem, and it occurred to me that if Anderson were to make a baseball movie, these Mets would provide an excellent cast of characters.
    Great to see you IRL! Undefeated in July! LGM!

  • Joe D

    With roughly the same elegance as a wayward fan splattering onto the outfield warning track, a 2-game winning streak also seems to have fallen Into our midst.


  • open the gates

    Fun game, fun read. Glad to hear about the cat. With everything that’s gone wrong this season, it’s still good to know that we’ve gone from ownership that refused to retire Keith Hernandez’ number to ownership that saw it worthwhile to muralize the Black Cat. The baseball deities may be frowning at us this year – they’re fickle like that – but at least we have real Met people at the helm, not warmed over Brooklyn Dodgers fans. Granted, winning more will make that fact more relevant.

    As for the last out – maybe someone should suggest to the Commish that we disallow challenges to potential game-ending plays. Tell him that it will shorten the game. The Commish is all about shortening the game. In a couple of years, we’ll probably just be showing up to the ballpark, paying our money, then turning around and going back home. See that? We just saved two hours!