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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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The 2023 Oscar’s Caps Awards

When Oscar Madison, our avatar of Mets in the Popular Culture, is sloppy, dog bites man. When Oscar Madison attempts to be neat, the fault lies not in our stars, but in ourselves (Shakespeare). In the Odd Couple episode “Cleanliness is Next to Impossible,” Oscar is unwittingly hypnotized to Felix Unger levels of fussiness. Only when Felix — who has arranged for the hypnosis as a favor to Oscar, albeit without Oscar’s awareness that he’d be put under while dining with a woman he wishes to impress — inadvertently snaps his fingers and breaks the hypnotic spell does Oscar revert to form and start grabbing at the evening’s hors d’oeuvres and stuffing them in his mouth.

“Oh boy! Midget hot dogs!”

In other words, man bites dog.

Oscar going against type, no matter how dependably funny, is bound to be hilarious because we know and love Oscar the slob: from the Mets cap atop his head to the mismatched shoes upon his feat. Likewise, finicky Felix taking on an Oscar-like characteristic has to be a scream. The gold standard of this personality swap, as anybody who celebrates New Year’s Day because it means Channel 55 in New York is running the Odd Couple marathon could tell you, is “I Gotta Be Me,” during which the roommates agree to act as each sees the other. In Felix’s case, that means he’s wearing the Mets cap. Less pronounced vis-à-vis the role-reversal trope is the episode “Felix the Horse Player,” when Felix finally sees what attracts Oscar to gambling and proceeds to become obsessed with doings at the track.

Felix is convinced Oscar’s hot streak, enabled by tips he’s receiving from exercise rider Harry Tallman (Tallman is too short to be a jockey) is permanent and jumps on the betting train. Of course he turns obsessed and insufferable, even when Oscar tries to warn him away from betting it all on a horse called Yellow Angel, of whom Harry has advised, “I didn’t ride him, but he looks real good.”

FELIX: Yellow Angel in the third, it’s a sure thing.
OSCAR: No, no, I didn’t hear Harry say ‘sure thing’.

Natch, that wasn’t gonna stop Felix, who put aside “five dollars for socks” and indeed bet it all. It’s a sitcom, so you know Yellow Angel in the third wasn’t a sure thing.

Also, this is the Oscar’s Caps, our twelfth annual survey of the intersection of the Mets and pop culture, so you probably know we’re galloping somewhere with this…though not as swiftly as Yellow Angel approached the finish line (where the thoroughbred lost by “two lousy inches,” also known as a nose). Oscar cautioning Felix against interpreting “looks real good” as “a sure thing” sure sounds like an allegory for the 2023 Mets, but never mind them for now. I’m thinking about this very feature and all the information that goes into building it.

For example, if there’s a new movie titled Somewhere in Queens, chances are real good that I’m going to find out organically that it contains some Mets content. Yet I count five different friends of FAFIF who reached out to this blog to make certain we had on the record the following:

The trailer for the 2023 Ray Romano vehicle Somewhere in Queens included a man in a SANTANA 57 Mets t-shirt. When the movie was released, theatergoers indeed saw the shirt as well as prime signifiers that the movie is indeed set in Queens: a Mets cap, several small Mets pennants, a drive past Citi Field and an invocation of “Ya Gotta Believe”.

It was no sure thing I was going to know any of that. So thank you to everybody who dropped me a line to confirm that the Oscar’s Caps wouldn’t miss a Met trick in 2023. Same for all the other data that trickled in throughout the year, both for new stuff and old stuff that resurfaced. A person needs to consume a lot of popular culture to detect tinges of Metsiana, and no one person can be Endy Chavez and catch it all. Oscar’s Caps is particularly bountiful this edition because so many Mets fans are on constant high alert for shades of orange and blue showing up in unanticipated places.

When we first unveiled Oscar’s Caps at the end of 2012, we were thinking mostly in terms of TV, film, music, stage, works of fiction. In the ensuing years, we’ve experienced some mission creep. A Mets cap or a Mets jacket or a Mets reference seeps into non-sports real life where you wouldn’t expect to find it, we make a note of that as well. To not do so would go against type.

Thus, in addition to Somewhere in Queens dressing to fit its name, we have from the year past — and many years past — a slew of Amazin’ examples of Mets in the Pop Culture to add to our endless cataloguing.

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Jack Klugman as Henry Willows — we think we know him from another role — and John Stamos as Matt Willows drive by Shea Stadium on You Again?, Season 2, Episode 6 (“The Lush Life”), aired on NBC, November 12, 1986.

In Spidey Super Stories #8, the May 1975 issue, comic readers find Spider-Man going to Shea Stadium and wielding a Mets pennant as he shouts “Let’s Go Mets!” on what is framed as “Spidey’s day off,” firmly establishing our title character as a Mets fan. Alas, there’s no rest for a superhero as Spidey encounters The Wall, which is a villain you definitely wouldn’t want an outfielder running into let alone Spider-Man; in this story, it’s The Wall that runs into a Mets outfielder. Ouch! Spider-Man leaps into action, but ultimately, Spidey and The Wall are ejected from the field of play by the umpire, because baseball rules says only players can take the field.

A framed Pete Alonso jersey-style crewneck sweatshirt has guest-starred on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on Food Network, which is to say it could be seen on the wall at Brooklyn’s Pies ‘n’ Thighs in an episode that aired on January 20, 2023. (It’s their sweatshirt that’s graced by ALONSO 20.)

Battle of The Bats —
Mets stick it to Cubs

—Tabloid newspaper headline tacked to Josh’s friend’s Billy’s bedroom bulletin board in Big, 1988

In the video for the Arcángel and Bad Bunny single “La Jumpa,” released in late 2022, Bad Bunny makes several appearances in a highly detailed long-sleeved shirt celebrating the Mets. The franchise’s home ballparks and world champions appear listed on the respective sleeves while NEW YORK and NY are prominent on the front.

***
Oscar’s Caps doesn’t subscribe to a surfeit of streamers, but a cap must be tipped toward what Hulu seems to be doing to promote the greater good.

• In the first episode of Hulu’s 2023 History of the World, Part II, in a segment on the Russian Revolution (Fiddler on the Roof-style), a copy of the Nyet Post carries the front page teaser, “METS CONTINUE SLUMP!”

• In the 2023 Hulu series Up Here, Miguel (Carlos Valdes) wears a vintage 1986 National League East champions shirt.

• On Hulu’s This Fool, “Clyde & Clyde, Parts 1 and 2” (Season 2, 2023), Rob Corddry, playing a cop in Los Angeles, puts on a Mets cap to convince a criminal he has just flown in from New York.

• And on Hulu’s How I Met Your Father, Season 2, Episode 13 (2023), Sophie may have spotted her father in the hot dog shop, watching a ballgame and cheering “Let’s Go Mets!” sparking an epiphany on Sophie’s part that she knows so little about the man who might be her father, thus scaring her off from confronting him with the possibility that they are indeed father and daughter. Another character says, regarding the man’s Mets fandom and the possible family ties, “That’s a brutal legacy to live with.” Come Episode 18, as she has dinner with the parents who supposedly haven’t seen each other since conceiving her. Sophie, in an effort to make her Mets fan father happy, asks the harpist she’s hired if she knows any songs about the Mets. ”I went to Juilliard,” is the harpist’s response.

 

***
When ABC celebrated the 50th anniversary of Schoolhouse Rock! on February 1, 2023, viewers were reminded that the very first educational vignette the revered Saturday morning series showed, on January 6, 1973, “Three Is a Magic Number,” featured an animated baseball team wearing uniforms that say “Mets” to get across the lesson that “3 X 9 is 27.”

Spotted on the PIX11 Morning News in New York on February 6, 2023: Dancing with the Stars mainstay Val Chmerkovskiy in a Mets cap as he gave reporter Ben Aaron a few pointers.

“The theater with Miss Davenport, or the Mets against the Dodgers at the stadium?”
“How do we feel about that?”
“We suggest the Mets against the Dodgers, sir.”
—Gentleman’s gentleman Mr. French (Sebastian Cabot) helping gentleman Bill Davis (Brian Keith) arrange his social calendar in the series premiere of Family Affair on CBS, September 12, 1966

In the first episode of 2023’s Bill Russell: Legend documentary series on Netflix, viewers were treated to a glimpse of Tom Seaver chatting up Wilt Chamberlain. Tom Terrific interviewed Wilt the Stilt when Tom hosted Greatest Sports Legends in the late 1970s.

 

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From the non-explicit Mets pop culture sighting department:

In production in 2023: the movie You Gotta Believe, the story of a Little League team and not Tug McGraw’s rallying cry for the 1973 Mets.

“Teamwork makes the dream work.”
—Roman Roy echoing New York’s Dream Team’s 1986 hit song (“We got the teamwork to make the dream work…”), “Let’s Go Mets” in the series finale of Succession, “With Open Eyes” (Season 4, Episode 10), May 28, 2023

***
On the game show 25 Words or Less, aired in early 2023, a contestant had to guess “Yankees,” and among the clues given — in the interest of economizing words — was “Baseball; not Mets…”

In Quiz Lady (2023), Jenny (Sandra Oh) wants a Philadelphia bar to switch its TVs away from the Mets and Phillies to the game show her sister Anne (real life Mets fan Awkwafina) watches regularly, a program called Can’t Stop the Quiz. In the televisions in the background of the scene, Taijuan Walker is pitching for the Mets at Citizens Bank Park with a 3-0 lead on April 11, 2022.

Speaking of game/quiz shows, this is Jeopardy!:

• “The kings of Queens, this team plays its home games at 41 Seaver Way in Flushing” was a clue on Jeopardy on February 16, 2023. When the contestant answered correctly, host Ken Jennings added, “Go Mets.”

• On the April 14, 2023, episode of Jeopardy, the following clue was offered: “This Mets manager, Ol’ Casey, lost an argument on Marv Throneberry not touching 1st during a triple; turns out Marv missed 2nd too.”

• On Jeopardy, May 10, 2023, contestant Sam Buttrey said he was a Mets season ticket holder who sold his ticket to Game Six of the 1986 World Series because he didn’t want to see them lose (but he did go to Game Seven).

• “Remember 1969, when these New Yorkers became the first expansion team to win a World Series?”
—$200 clue in the Remember Baseball category on Jeopardy, June 23, 2023

• On October 16, 2023, the 54th anniversary of the 1969 Mets winning the World Series, the Double Jeopardy answer on Jeopardy was “1969: Ed Kranepool, Bud Harrelson & Tom Seaver…What an Amazin’ Team”. (Category: “In the Baseball Team’s Lineup”)

***
You know who else besides Oscar Madison wears a Mets cap well? Mr. Met! And Mrs. Met!

Newark mayor Ras Baraka wore a Mr. Met cap while being interviewed on a local baseball field by an Eyewitness News Reporter (WABC-TV, Channel 7), May 5, 2023.

According to Stephen Colbert on The Late Show of January 19, 2023, Rep. George Santos’s claim that he used to attend the Met Gala was another lie from the Congressman — and that the only Met Gala that would want Santos might be the Mr. Met Gala.

On the March 2, 2023, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, the host expressed shock that a woman wearing a DeSantis t-shirt in a Florida diner on a Fox News segment told the reporter she was “either/or” when it came to Trump or DeSantis in 2024. “Either/or?” Colbert asked in mock shock. “You’re wearing a Ron DeSantis t-shirt. That’s like Mr. Met saying, “Go Mets! Or Yankees. I’m not really into baseball. This,” gesturing toward where Mr. Met’s large baseball-shaped head would be, “is just an unrelated medical condition.”

With the Westminster Dog Show’s 10th Anniversary Masters Agility Finals taking place at Arthur Ashe Stadium, just across the boardwalk from Citi Field on the first weekend of May 2023, you might have expected a Met presence, and had you, you would have been “ARF!”…make that right. Mrs. Met indeed welcomed the stylish pooches to the neighborhood. According to one witness taking in Fox Sports’ coverage of the proceedings, “There was a scene toward the end where Mrs. Met was shown bending down and petting one of the dogs, giving lots of love to her canine friend. Well, good for her, and I guess she might have walked there since it’s very close to her Mets team’s home stadium. Apparently, the dog was not freaked out by her disproportionately large head.”

On September 11, 2023, a drawing of Mr. Met was spotted on a Writers Guild of America picket line sign, outside the CBS New York facility where Drew Barrymore’s talk show was briefly being produced sans union writers, with a comic balloon expressing the mascot’s pro-WGA sentiments: “Be a Drew Carey, NOT a Drew Barrymore.” (Mr. Met could not be reached for comment.) Earlier, on August 8, Al Jean walked the WGA line in Manhattan while wearing an alternate-version Mets cap (white outline around the orange NY).

All Elite Wrestling (AEW) world champion Maxwell Jacob Friedman hyped his upcoming Grand Slam title defense at Arthur Ashe Stadium in September by visiting Citi Field in his personalized No. 55 jersey and reminding Mets fans he has always been one of them — with his bona fides showing most effectively when, during his interview with ballpark hosts Emily Reppert and Mike Janela, he praised Mr. Met as the only mascot that matters and called Chase Utley “a schmuck” (as if attendees didn’t already know that).

A September 2023 CNN news story that featured baseball mascots led anchor Jim Sciutto to let viewers know “Mr. Met is much better” than Screech the Bald Eagle from the Nationals (as if viewers didn’t already know that).

***
The Hallmark Channel isn’t usually a stop on the Oscar’s Caps route, but we’re always willing to take a detour. From Hearts in the Game a Hallmark Original that first aired on April 29, 2023, we have…hoo-boy, what don’t we have?

Let’s start with the Mets cap on the driver’s side dashboard of a parked SUV on a busy street in Manhattan, or, given that it’s the Hallmark Channel, Vancouver as Manhattan.

Fred is the driver.

Jax is the assistant to Hazel, the person who is being driven and, at the moment, waited for.

Jax and Fred discuss a “big announcement” from Strike Zone Weekly — it looks like the New York Mets have “officially lost their minds” as rumors spread that they are signing pitcher non grata Diego Vasquez.

Who is Diego Vasquez? Exposition tells us, “The league’s top pitcher was dropped last season for freezing on the mound in the ninth inning of Game Seven of the World Series, and Vasquez still won’t comment on why. In our humble baseball opinion, this could be Vasquez’s last chance at pitching professionally.”

FRED: I don’t know what the Mets are thinkin’. A guy that freezes like that is not New York Mets material. We are a team that cares about tradition, loyalty!
JAX: He’s one of the best pitchers Major League Baseball has ever seen. Vasquez holds the record for the most no-hitters in baseball history, and that’s exactly what our Mets need, Fredo!
FRED: I sure hope the Mets know what they’re doin’, ’cause they’re bettin’ the entire franchise on Diego Vasquez.
JAX: That’s the beauty of baseball — the theatrics, the heart, the soul!

Soon we hear from Mark Gold, Vasquez’s agent, giving the straight skinny to the would-be Amazin’:

“We’re gettin’ pressure from the GM to make sure you look good. The New York Mets club doesn’t really trust you yet. The Mets won’t make it official until we start to see some good press.”

The aforementioned Hazel is a PR wizard who has a chance to take on Vasquez as a client (and maybe more?). Hazel is reticent, but Jax is insistent:

“You could change the fate of baseball, the fate of the New York Mets, and as a diehard Mets fan, I can tell you that if we ever wanna win, the New York Mets must commit to Diego Vasquez, you must commit to Diego Vasquez.”

Hazel and Diego do get together, professionally, but there are twists and turns on the road to getting the pitcher that “good press” the Mets demand before they dare sign the holder of the record for most no-hitters in baseball history. An article Hazel has planned for Hudson & Park magazine appears to be off. She has to break the news to Jax.

HAZEL: How would you feel if I did the right thing, but that [means] the New York Mets may never win again.
JAX: If it means your happiness, I would literally love nothing more in the world, Hazel.
HAZEL: Even over the Mets?
JAX: Even over the Mets, which is hard.

Hallmark’s imprint ensures Hazel and Diego get together more than professionally. We are eventually transported to “New York City Months Later,” indicated by the exterior of Citi Field from the air and a closeup of the ballpark’s logo. Inside, Diego is at a press conference table set up in front of Mets, MLB and Citi Field logos. Vasquez sits in a blue Mets cap with black long sleeved shirt that has the blue NY logo. He fields a reporter’s question:

“Mr. Vasquez, what a comeback. A no-hitter in your first professional game back. How do you feel?”

“I feel great, I feel really great.”

When asked in a razor-sharp followup, after it’s been acknowledged that it’s been quite a year, “how are you liking New York?” Vasquez minces no words:

“It feels like home, it really does.”

Congratulations to the New York Mets on their third no-hitter.

***
The Simpsons, Season 34, Episode 19; April 30, 2023; “Write Off This Episode” starts with a sports gambling commercial in which Coach Jim “Jimmy” Jimmerson tells viewers, “In the sport of sports betting, you’ve gotta sport bet responsibly,” and on a blackboard, one of Jimmerson’s 3 Simple Rules to follow is “Mets, Jets and Nets = Debts”.

On the Season Three premiere of Comedy Central’s Awkwafina is Nora from Queens (April 26, 2023), Nora’s dad Wally buys coffee at a coffee cart operated by a guy wearing a Mets cap.

“I want a contract that guarantees me an expense account, stock options, 22 weeks vacation, a company car, a box at Shea Stadium, a percentage of the gross, total creative freedom, transplant insurance, and a no-cut clause.”
—Nathan (Stan Gottlieb) listing his demands to stay at the newly named Truth and Soul advertising agency, Putney Swope, 1969

In the 2022 documentary “The Princess,” archival footage contrasting British civil unrest with the nation’s excitement over the 1981 engagement of Charles and Diana includes a person in a Mets cap smiling incongruously next to an aggrieved woman shouting into a microphone, “Our children are suffering!”

“What do you think about him?”
“Who?”
“Gil Hodges. I mean, can you explain to me how anybody in their right mind would get rid of Gil Hodges?”
“Well, I suppose that’s all in the point of view.”
“Precisely, absolutely. You’ve got a good mind, young man, an extremely good mind.”
“Thank you.”
“It’s the top of the sixth. The Giants are leading the Mets, six to two.”
“Excuse me a minute. He’s out.”
“Who?”
“Gil Hodges.”
—Exchange between shopkeeper Sadie (Doro Merande) and customer/television writer Julius (Jack Weston) in a bookstore, where a radio is playing a ballgame that the announcer has said is already in the bottom of the sixth. Indeed Gil Hodges is batting (and Jack Sanford is pitching) after Willie Mays has made a basket catch…in The Twilight Zone, “The Bard” (Season 4, Episode 18), first aired May 23, 1963, the very day Hodges was traded by the Mets to the Washington Senators to become their manager

In a May 25, 2023 NBC Nightly News report on the struggles facing America’s Chinatowns, New York’s historic community was represented by Cory Ng, proprietor of the Potluck Club restaurant, with Ng, in turn, choosing to rep the Mets in his nationally telecast interview with correspondent Vicky Nguyen. Cory wore a black Mets cap with the 2000 Subway Series logo on the side as he explained how important preserving the culture of Chinatown is to him.

In The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Season 5, Episode 3, “Typos and Torsos” (2023), we are transported to Toots Shor’s in 1961, where fictional talk show host Gordon Ford and actual sportswriter Jimmy Breslin are having a chat in which Breslin tells Ford that New York is a baseball town.

BRESLIN: The Pirates are gonna repeat. It’s not what I want, but it’s what’s gonna happen.
FORD: No, it’s gonna be the Yankees.
BRESLIN: Without Stengel?
FORD: Good riddance to Stengel. Don’t quote me on that.
BRESLIN: Word is he’s talking to the Mets.
FORD: The Mets? What’s the Mets?

Breslin proceeds to laugh, perhaps knowing it will be up to him (and Stengel) to define them in 1962.

***
More than a few cross words were spoken about the Mets in 2023. And more than a few New York Times crossword puzzles were filled in with Metsian answers.

April 19, 2023 NYT Crossword, 5 Down: ____ Field (Shea Stadium successor) — four letters … CITI

April 22, 2023 NYT Crossword, 65 Across: Piazza, for one — five letters … EXMET

April 30, 2023 NYT Crossword, 30 Down: New York’s ____ Field — four letters … CITI

May 14, 2023 NYT Crossword, 79 Down: Queens Players — four letters … METS

May 25, 2023 NYT Crossword, 57 Down: National League expansion team of 1962 — four letters … METS

June 11, 2023 NYT Crossword, 14 Down: Team seen in Queens in brief — six letters … NYMETS

June 18, 2023 NYT Crossword, 5 Across: Citi Field mascot — five letters … MRMET

August 14, 2023 NYT Crossword, 69 Across: Citi Field team — four letters … METS

November 7, 2023 NYT Crossword, 1 Across: N.L. East team for which Tom Seaver pitched — four letters … METS

November 16, 2023 NYT Crossword, 16 Across: N.L. East team — four letters… METS

December 12, 2023 NYT Crossword, 68 Across: Baseball’s Alonso or Rose — four letters … PETE

December 17, 2023 NYT Crossword, 77 Across: Former M.L.B. left-handed pitchers Jackson and Leiter — three letters … ALS

For those who ventured beyond the long-established wordplay on nytimes.com, on October 5, 2023, the New York Times Connections game, in which players attempt to thread sixteen given words into four groups of four, “MET” went with “ANGEL,” “CUB” and “RED” in the category “M.L.B. Team Member”. (“NAT” was another choice, but that was an answer within the category “Insect Homophones”).

Yet if you were looking to stay up to date on your favorite baseball team, or any baseball team, the Times ceased being the paper for you by September, when it altogether dropped the sports section that was already a shadow of its former self. Between Opening Day and the All-Star break of 2023, a search of nytimes.com for articles containing “Mets” and “Showalter,” a decent indicator of day-to-day reporting on one of the paper’s ostensible hometown teams, turned up in all of 14 articles despite manager Buck Showalter’s Mets having played 90 games to that point while making plenty of news. Although the New York Times had long ceased daily coverage of its hometown National League team by 2023, they did manage to find their own Amazin’ angles in their non-sports reporting.

Since the Times was no longer a newspaper that covered sports, it seems Oscar’s Capsworthy to note how they got the Mets into the paper, beyond four-letter clues.

On June 27, 2023, the Times visited with drag king/actor Murray Hill as he received the star treatment at Citi Field on Pride Night. “I’m a sports guy,” Hill said, even though he referred to the ballpark as “Mets Stadium”.

In the Mini-Vows section on June 30, 2023, NYT readers got to know Elan David Cooperman and Sydney Marissa Berger, portrayed as a sports-mad couple who reached a crossroads before they could take the biggest step of all:

“Ms. Berger had grown up in a split household: Her mother rooted for the Yankees, while her father was a Mets fan. Out of loyalty to both parents, she had never picked a side. On their first date, Mr. Cooperman, a diehard Mets fan, told Ms. Berger that ‘if this is going to go deep, you’re going to have take a side.’ She went all-in for the Mets,” as evidenced by the presence of “two special guests joining the party: Mr. and Mrs. Met, the official mascots of the New York baseball team, strutting into the celebration. ‘When they came in, our jaws dropped to the floor,’ Mr. Cooperman said.”

Come July 6, 2023, Op-Ed columnist David Brooks devoted one of his pieces to musing about his Mets fandom: “I’ve lived my fan life in a state of irrational anticipation.” Four days later, it turned out any fan of any team would be irrational to anticipate the Times sports section being part of the paper much longer, as the so-called Paper of Record announced it was disbanding its sports department, explaining it would lean on the NYT-owned (and non-union) Athletic — where at least national baseball columnist Tyler Kepner was able to transfer his talents — for “coverage of teams and games”. The Athletic does a helluva job. But so did the Times in its heyday.

While the Times no longer seemed too interested in sending its own reporters out to Citi Field to track the ups and downs of the Mets, plenty of photos from the ballpark were published on July 14, including one of a woman in a bootleg t-shirt that combined the Mets logo with that of a timeless band, to illustrate a story on the final tour of Dead & Company, which had stopped over in Flushing a few weeks earlier.

Following the implosion wrought by the 2023 trade deadline, Times music writer and Mets fan Lindsay Zoladz on August 4 offered subscribers to The Amplifier newsletter “a (sad) playlist for the 2023 New York Mets,” fifteen songs ranging from the obvious to the obscure, explaining, “As any librettist or opera composer knows, some tragedies are so grand that they must be expressed in music.” Selections included Peggy Lee’s “Big Spender” for Steve Cohen; “Come Back From San Francisco” by The Magnetic Fields, dedicated to former Mets Michael Conforto, J.D. Davis and Wilmer Flores; “June Is As Cold As December,” an Everly Brothers track recalling the month when the Mets fell out of contention; and “New York Groove,” Ace Frehley’s jam that scored the increasingly rare home team win at Citi Field.

In that spirit, a quick playlist of our own, in memory of the sports section of the Times from when it was truly in the New York groove:

“The announcement this week that the New York Times comes as the kind of shock you get when you turn a corner and a longtime store or restaurant or building is gone; even if you haven’t been there in years, it takes a moment to wrap your head around a world without it. I grew up a sports fan in a New York Times household. In the ’70s and ’80s this meant waiting days for box scores to appear. Everything about the sports section reinforced the idea that sports really wasn’t that important in relation to the rest of the paper, or the world. I always got the sense that this was grown-ups writing about sports for grown-ups. A serious and un-fun paper with no comics or pulp, it seemed fitting to me that they had a columnist named Ira.”
—Alex Belth, Esquire

“I think it’s important, when talking about the Times sports section, to talk about the unique place sports has within that particular paper over the years. It’s almost like Times sportswriters worked for what the country’s most essential newspaper considered to be its least essential section. This is what the paper thought, right? […] At one point in history, it seems weird now, the New York Times was a New York newspaper. It was being read by people across the country, but it was also like, ‘We have local teams here we need to cover.’ That’s the base function of any sports page, covering the local teams. So they did that for a while. Slowly they pulled away from that, probably as they became a national paper and the world was really changing, and said, ‘OK, what if we don’t have to cover the Yankees and the Mets every day?’ Remember, New York has tons of sports teams, so in order to do that, it’s just a lot of manpower. ‘What if we become a more nationalized section?’ […] It felt like it was programmed for people that were reading the rest of the Times to come over, ‘and here’s a sports feature that’s going to interest you, but it’s not going to be something that’s gonna be a sportsy sports piece that you’re not gonna care about.’ I just don’t know how many of those people exist.”
—Bryan Curtis, The Press Box podcast

“As Times writers and editors, we had to be better than everyone, not just because our readers expected it, but also because our disapproving bosses were always lurking. I remember my welcome lunch when I was hired in 2003, a group of new hires invited to then-publisher Arthur Sulzberger’s office. As he asked all the others about their careers and their interests and what they hoped to accomplish, his only question for me was how I thought the Giants might do that season. My spot at the bottom of the Times totem pole might as well have been monogrammed, but at least my introduction to it came with a nice salad. The dilemma that predated me, and lasted beyond my departure in 2014, was never solved. No one ever figured out how to keep everyone happy: sports fans who wanted all the details, the daily grind of games and practices and melodramas; and a set of bosses who couldn’t care less about any of that. For years, we gamely did both: covered the sports as sports people expected and also wrote huge, award-winning pieces and series and covered big, tough topics like the concussion plague, the Boston Marathon bombing and all the other big social issues that always end up intersecting with sports.”
—Lynn Zinser, Editor & Publisher

“From my standpoint, this has been coming on for a long time, since people stopped reading newspapers – a terrible trend for swaths of the country that no longer have the information to cope with government and business and health issues. When I see once-great papers like the Louisville Courier-Journal get Gannetized, my heart breaks. The sports sections were particularly vulnerable. While I was still working, valued colleagues, particularly sports columnists, began to be disappeared, sometimes en masse. Fortunately, the New York Times made a lot of good decisions — a web presence, color in the paper, and more valuable news and information about health and safety and cooking. Perhaps the best business decision was to use the sparkling printing plant in College Point, Queens, to print other newspapers. The Times now prints 60 papers, from dailies to weeklies, news and ethnic. That pays some bills around the paper. Since I retired at the end of 2011, the Times has flourished around the country and around the world, using other print plants. However, deadlines had to conform, with available press time, which ultimately meant the Times had to stop covering games — Mets games, Yankee games, Giants games, Jets games, etc. To its credit, this great paper continued to report and comment about the major issues in sports — brain concussions, how money was made and spent, gender issues, racial issues. Inevitably, the excitement over the ‘local’ teams was lost. I felt the absence of emotion. Readers felt it. […] Readers feel there is a hole in their lives. I can tell you about my sense of loss of the Sports Department — once a bustling clubhouse of colleagues, specialists, who schmoozed and kibitzed across their specific skills. They formed a team.”
George Vecsey

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On Saturday Night Live, April 1, 2023, in the Please Don’t Destroy Street Eats video, Martin Herlihy as “Tabby Cat” wears a Mets cap as part of a crew of three overconfident, clueless post-college guys who visit a jerk chicken store in Jamaica and a (mispronounced) bodega in the Bronx in their quest to get a taste of real New York food.

Two other appropriate SNL fashion statements:

• Host Pete Davidson wore a Mets jacket when he appeared in promotional spots for the 2023-24 season premiere of Saturday Night Live (Season 49).

• In the official Saturday Night Live cast photo for Season 49 (2023-24), Michael Che, holding down the center spot in the back row, wears a Mets cap (along with a Knicks jacket).

From when the Mets were at their most fashionable, in his first appearance as “Mr. Subliminal” — the recurring sketch in which almost imperceptible hints regarding what he wanted or wanted thought were dropped into conversation — Kevin Nealon several times quickly mentioned “Mets tickets” to his boss, played by Jon Lovitz, on the Season 12 premiere of Saturday Night Live. Not surprisingly, Lovitz gave Nealon Mets tickets. Also not surprising: this episode aired October 11, 1986, hours after Lenny Dykstra’s walkoff two-run homer gave the Mets a two-one lead in their NLCS versus the Astros, making an even hotter commodity out of Mets tickets (even if there was little subliminal to Dykstra’s persona).

Saturday night, especially on NBC, inevitably leads to Sunday morning, especially on CBS:

• On CBS Sunday Morning, March 12, 2023, in advance of that night’s Academy Awards presentation, Josh Seftel, director of Stranger of the Gate, nominated in the Best Documentary Short category, spoke with his mother about his chances of winning an Oscar. She reminded her son that an award would be a “feather in your cap,” but that “you’ve already got the cap.” When he asked her, “What kind of cap is it?” she replied, “baseball cap,” with a picture of Josh in a Mets cap appearing to end the segment. (Josh’s film did not win).

• “One man has a rich, fulfilling life, and the other is a dad.”
—Comedian Jim Gaffigan’s Father’s Day essay on CBS Sunday Morning, June 18, 2023, illustrating his own dad life with a picture of himself with his children all in Mets caps at what appears to be the Grand Central 7 station, presumably going to or coming from a Mets game (Gaffigan is smiling; the kids are…not quite).

The legacy of David Letterman is shared by the Eye and the Peacock. Here’s a Metsian taste from each of the great man’s after-dark programs:

On March 31, 2011, on the eve of Opening Day, Chris Rock visited The Late Show with David Letterman to bemoan how cash-strapped the Mets were in the wake of the Bernie Madoff mess. “My team’s broke, Dave,” the comedian told the host. “Some teams don’t have a cleanup hitter, some teams don’t have a closer or a good pitcher. My team has no money, Dave.” When Letterman asked Rock if he had season tickets, Rock replied, “They don’t have tickets no more, Dave. No more tickets — tickets cost money, they’re on paper, they have no paper, Dave. You show up and a dog licks your hand, then you show the spit and they let you in. This year, second base is a manhole cover, Dave. Between every inning, they use the other team’s gloves. No catcher’s mask this year. They just get an ugly guy. The Yankees got Bat Day. The Mets got Bring a Bat Day. ‘Here ya go, Jose Reyes. My daddy gave me this for Christmas. Maybe you can use this.’ It’s gonna be some year.” (The Mets would go 77-85 in 2011, their first season under Terry Collins.)

“Why is it so hot in here?”
“Because the Mets won.”
“So this building is on the same circuit as Shea Stadium?”
—Exchange between David Letterman and an offstage voice, Late Night, October 14, 1986, following the Mets’ 2-1 victory over the Astros in Game Five of the NLCS

***
Oscar’s Caps admires unlikely entities doing their best to understand the Mets. We’d place John Wilson, the host of HBO’s How To with John Wilson, squarely in that category. In “How to Watch the Game” on How To with John Wilson, Season 3, Episode 4 (August 18, 2023), John — very much not a sports fan — receives an email from the PR department at Citi Field inviting him to a game toward the tail end of the 2022 season.

Even though the email is directed to “Josh” Wilson, John accepts.

To make sure he fits in, he stops by a Times Square souvenir shop to purchase a Mets cap; as he buys it, he confirms that it is indeed a Mets cap.

For research, he looks up the Mets’ Baseball-Reference page and scrolls through some other material, including the Posts’s Mike Piazza “I’M NOT GAY” back page from 2002.

When he arrives at the ballpark for “quality time at Citi Field,” he’s is very much a stranger in a strange land, and that strange land is deluged by rain. He passes a couple of college-age fans — one whose shirt bears Greek fraternity letters — and asks, “What do you think’s gonna happen?” The answer: “Mets gonna lose.” John’s reply, “Ah, shit.”

Viewers see Citi Field personnel wiping down the fanciest seats (John seems to think this happens throughout the ballpark whenever it rains; it doesn’t) and John’s camera shows us another staff member wearing an ALCOHOL COMPLIANCE jacket, which John takes to mean he “makes sure people drink enough alcohol”.

We’re also treated to a glimpse inside the media dining room, where John marvels that there’s a meat loaf large enough to feed all “the male photographers”.

Eventually, the show’s host bumps into loyal Mets fan and Citi Field fixture Pin Man, Nicholas Giampietro, who invites John to his house once the game is rained out. Pin Man — whose jersey identifies him by nickname and is festooned with pins — graciously pulls out his ’86 Mets video tape A Year to Remember to bring John up to speed on Mets history.

In one final admission of unfamiliarity with his subject matter, John asks Pin Man, “Was the ’86 team a good team?”

***
Oscar’s Caps admires likely entities continuing to be Metsie as hell. On December 8, 2023, for the second night of Yo La Tengo’s 2023 annual run of Hanukkah shows at the Bowery Ballroom, the guest mix CD provided to raise funds for charity (in this case Doctors Without Borders) was compiled by Howie Rose, with the music therein a collection of songs from Mott the Hoople. No explanation is needed in these quarters what legend Yo La Tengo named themselves for (but maybe a certain “news” outlet requires a quick refresher on which Frank Thomas is which Frank Thomas).

Right up there with YLT and Oscar Madison’s cap itself is the most cornucopic of post-Odd Couple Mets pop culture content, Seinfeld. If there’s a sure thing in our world, it’s that every Mets fan reading this knows about the Keith Hernandez episode. Yet there’s always more to learn about any subject.

• On May 5, 2023, Noah Gittell on defector.com examined Seinfeld’s unwelcome shift in baseball focus from the Mets to another New York baseball team, noting not only most of the Mets-intensive plots (most notably “The Boyfriend” with Keith Hernandez), but how “whenever possible, Seinfeld incorporated Mets imagery into the show. In ‘The Busboy’ (June 2, 1991), the title character has a Mets banner above his bed. ‘The Alternate Side’ (December 4, 1991) opens with George wearing a Mets cap, complaining about Jerry’s being stolen, as they return to Jerry’s apartment. We can presume that they were on their way to Shea Stadium.” Gittell bemoaned that once George got a job as assistant to the traveling secretary fro the Yankees, “the Mets virtually disappeared from the show, while their cross-town rivals became fully integrated into the group’s weekly hijinks.”

• Come August 23, 2023, New York magazine’s Vulture section included a Q&A between Devon Ivie and Keith Hernandez in which “Keith Hernandez Answers Every Question We have About Seinfeld,” with Keith revealing, “I’ve only watched the episode a couple of times. I have a hard time watching it, so I haven’t in several years. […] I feel like it’s embarrassing to me. I don’t think I did that great a job.” Keith also forgives George Costanza for joining the dark side: “It’s all part of creativity and comedy. They had to think about all the episodes. The writers had to come up with different storylines every week. It’s a lot of pressure.”

Keith’s a very understanding person.

***
“Casey Stengel doesn’t have half the problems I have.”
—Charlie Brown, upon discovering Snoopy is standing at his position asleep, May 28, 1964 (with the Mets off to another terrible start)

“NEW CANAAN, CT—Sources familiar with the man’s role in his child’s life confirmed to reporters Monday that local dad Marcus Weir’s parenting strategy is solely focused on ensuring his son doesn’t become a New York Yankees fan. Beginning shortly after his son Miles’ birth nine years ago, Weir reportedly concentrated the entirety of his fatherly influence on making the boy a supporter of any sports team besides the Yankees, a project he initiated by acquiring several Mets onesies in his son’s infancy.”
—From the Onion, “Dad’s Entire Parenting Strategy Just Ensuring Son Doesn’t Become Yankees Fan,” May 27, 2023

At the very end of the June 9, 2023, episode of The Prestige TV Podcast (a Ringer production), in which host Sean Fennessey interviewed star and creator Bill Hader regarding the series finale of Barry, Hader blurted out, “Go Mets!” presumably as a friendly nod to Fennessey’s fandom. Sean’s response was, “That’s just mean.” Fennessey, on Twitter, referred to Hader’s remark as trolling; Hader is an excellent actor, so perhaps “Go Mets!” wasn’t as sincere as one wished to believe it sounded. Though the podcast episode was taped in advance, it dropped shortly after the Mets were swept by the Braves in Atlanta, the last game of the series lost, 13-10, in ten innings.

“If you don’t have a philosophy, you turn into the Mets, and I’m a lifelong Mets fan.”
—Brendan Sweeney, KUOW-FM, a public radio station in Washington state, describing for the Nieman Journalism Lab in a November 2023 article the challenges his medium faces; in the words of author Ben Brock Johnson, Sweeney added, “The Mets survive via the largesse of a wealthy benefactor, but don’t have a lot of pennants.”

A distant shot of Mark Canha playing left field at Citi Field graces the cover of the July/August 2023 issue of The Atlantic, illustrating Mark Leibovich’s cover story, “Moneyball Broke Baseball,” about the implementation of the pitch clock.

On October 23, 2023, in the single-panel comic strip The Lockhorns, Loretta Lockhorn informs another couple that grumpy-looking Leroy Lockhorn “hates the new pitch-clock rules…it means less time for him to drink beer,” and she does so in the parking lot of a gray edifice that is very much modeled on the dear departed Shea Stadium, a mere fifteen years since it last hosted a ballgame.

John Mayer wore a LINDOR 12 Mets shirt as he performed with Dead & Company at Citi Field on June 22, 2023, with Francisco Lindor and wife Katia Reguero Lindor in attendance, tweeting the next day, “I’ll never forget those two NYC plays at @citifield,” identifying as his “Series MVPS: @lindor12bc for his friendship and hospitality, and the @mets organization for taking such wonderful care of me and one of their biggest fans: my dad.” Father and son showed off their vintage Cooperstown Collection Mets jackets in said tweet.

 

Actress Chloë Grace Moretz throwing out the first pitch at Citi Field on August 7, 2023, prior to that night’s Mets-Cubs game, earned notice as one of “The Best Celebrity Wellness Instagrams of the Week” by SELF magazine later in the month.

Among the many talking heads in the 2023 HBO documentary Albert Brooks: Defending My Life, only Judd Apatow thought to wear a Mets t-shirt (featuring a prominent orange NY) as he shared his thoughts with director Rob Reiner.

Sadly, the world of Mets pop culture lost one of its implicit advocates in the past year, as Young Capone, a rapper who performed while wearing a Mets cap, died in August 2023 after having been reported missing for several weeks. He was only 35.

***
In the first episode of the second season of the Netflix series Atypical (2018), Doug, portrayed by Michael Rapaport — before he showed up on SNY between every half-inning to promote Mike’s Amazing Mustard — is shown in a flashback to 2004, during which he wears a Mets cap.

At the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) Leadership Conference in September 2023, Vice President Kamala Harris shared a stage with Mets superfan John Leguizamo…and Leguizamo represented as he so often does, wearing a Mets cap for the occasion.

In the 2014 documentary Advanced Style, one of the Manhattan-based fashion icons profiled, Tziporah Salamon, jokes to her doorman, “Coco Chanel would never be taking the subway,” while she brandishes a Metrocard…but not just any Metrocard. Ms. Salamon is holding a Metrocard with a Mets logo printed on its underside, plainly discernible to the viewer, assuming the viewer is forever on the lookout for even the most incidental Met sightings in the popular culture.

Enchanting iterations of “Meet the Mets” are a staple of every season, good or bad. In 2023, Jordan Simpson dropped his jazzy version, accompanied by a Spotify video in which he shows off not just his musical talents, but an impressive array of Mets jerseys.

In the 2023 installment of the PBS series American Masters on Jerry Brown (“The Disruptor”), a clip from Brown’s 1992 presidential campaign reveals one fellow in a Mets cap. Much as the 1992 Mets failed to attain their goal, Brown did not win that year’s New York primary.

In 2023, the same year he learned the Mets would retire his number in a Citi Field ceremony the following season, Darryl Strawberry was featured in the documentary, The Saint of Second Chances, the story of Mike Veeck. Their paths crossed in St. Paul in the mid-1990s when Darryl revived his then-dormant baseball career by playing in the Northern League for the unaffiliated Saints, run by Veeck.

Before the Strawman was in need of the a second chance, the December 1987 issue of Spy magazine, splashed its popular “Separated at Birth” feature on its cover, with two subjects suggested as sharing DNA Darryl Strawberry (in Mets cap and jacket) and Dino from the Flintstones (in a non-team baseball cap). The resemblance was striking.

Vincent D’Onofrio as Steve Cohen wears a Mets cap in Dumb Money, 2023’s cinematic telling of the GameStop caper.

The ubiquitous GEICO Gecko stands at home plate and speaks into a microphone (ostensibly to tell a joke that is drowned out by a flyover) at what is clearly a CGI’d version of Citi Field in an insurance commercial that ran on national telecasts during the 2023 postseason.

A TMZ Live correspondent wore a Los Mets cap (made by The 7 Line) on camera on November 16, 2023.

In the 2001 time-travel romcom “Kate and Leopold,” the actor brother of Meg Ryan’s character (Kate McKay) is watching a Mets game, with Mike Piazza at bat. The brother, Charlie, played by Breckin Meyer, starts calling the action using different accents. When Mike hits a home run, the brother describes it in an Indian accent similar to that of Apu from The Simpsons (itself considered culturally insensitive in later years, even if it is a creation of celebrity Mets fan Hank Azaria…and Apu’s favorite squadron is the Nygh Mets). In addition to game footage, the moviegoing audience was treated to a glimpse of a framed poster featuring the Mets skyline logo and several of the 1969 Mets — their heads floating in circles — above the words LET’S GO METS as it appeared in the apartment of Liev Schreiber’s character (Stuart Besser, Kate’s ex).

Relatively reliable memory supported by a blurry newspaper archives photo says that on October 15, 1978, a Mets pennant was visible in a sketch performed by Bob Hope and Steve Martin (as ballpark vendors) on Bob Hope’s All-Star Comedy Salute to the 75th Anniversary of the World Series on NBC, as close as the 1978 Mets were getting to the World Series.

The 1980 “America’s Turning 7 Up!” commercial that starred three National League East superstars — the Cubs’ Bruce Sutter, the Pirates’ Dave Parker and the Phillies’ Mike Schmidt — also included, essentially as a prop in the Schmidt segment, a forlorn catcher whose jersey’s blue and orange trimming around its short sleeves very much suggested a Met backstop helpless to stop his division rival from a) tapping on home plate with his bat to produce a bottle of the sponsor’s product on demand and b) whacking another home run.

***
As a guest of Adam Schein’s on SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Radio on May 24, 2023, new Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers said he got an idea of how “special” winning a championship in New York would feel like from watching 2021’s Once Upon a Time in Queens, the four-part 30 for 30 documentary that revisited the exploits of the 1986 Mets. The 39-year-old Rodgers mentioned having been a Kevin Mitchell fan growing up in Northern California.

Aaron Rodgers was going to be a big deal in New York in 2023, remember that? Well, maybe in 2024. If you’re not necessarily looking forward to that guy, you can look forward to the following flowing from the pens of a couple of true orange-and-blue storytellers:

• May 2024 will see the release of the novel Curveball, which will follow lefty hurler Jess Singer, who author Eric Goodman explains “will start the year at Syracuse, but make it to Flushing after the Super Two deadline”. Curveball is the sequel to the 1991 book In Days of Awe, which introduced readers to Jewish Joe Singer, “a pitcher for an unnamed National League team in Queens”. Goodman, in case you haven’t inferred, describes himself as a “lifelong Mets fan” who “grew up in Brooklyn and saw them play at the Polo Grounds”.

• The new year will also be graced by the release of the sixth Mike Stoneman thriller, Double Takedown, set in September of 2023. When the title detective “turns on the TV to watch the Mets game,” author and diehard Kevin Chapman warns readers, “it isn’t pretty.”

We look forward to those books, and we also anticipate seeing, reading, hearing and discovering Mets Pop Culture that has yet to see light and Mets Pop Culture that emerges from dark corners of the collective consciousness. Again, enormous thanks to everybody who helps keep Oscar’s Caps current and comprehensive.

3 comments to The 2023 Oscar’s Caps Awards

  • Seth

    I have a Tivo, and have set a “wishlist” search for anything containing “Mets”. It’s interesting what sometimes comes up. Similar occurrences to what you write about, although usually pre-2023.

    Off topic, but I just have to say my favorite Odd Couple episode is the one where Felix performs an exorcism on his air conditioner.

  • Greg, always a fun and entertaining read in the cold winter doldrums before the coming baseball season. I recognize a few of my sightings here; thanks for citing my sightings! Though you find plenty of Metsiana on your own, it’s nice to contribute to the broader sense of community among Mets fans.

  • eric1973

    Agreed that certain “fake news” “network” was only reporting another “fake news” story, but it only reminds us of our own beloved team reporting that Jesse Hudson and Jim Gosger had passed. And please give Gosger some rings, as he played a little on each of our 1969 and 1973 teams.

    1978
    The Wiz
    Diana Ross and her friends running up and down the ramps at Shea Stadium, perhaps on the same ramps where we shouted “Yankees Suck!” all those years ago.

    And in your Mike Schmidt photo, the umpire is Hank Robinson, who played The Police Commissioner in the Odd Couple, in the speakeasy in the Blinky Madison episode.