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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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What Excellent Service!

“Don’t you just love it when you come back from the bathroom and find your food waiting for you?” Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) asks Vincent Vega (John Travolta) over dinner at Jackrabbit Slim’s in Pulp Fiction, just as she has indeed returned from (ahem) powdering her nose to find the “bloody” Durward Kirby Burger she ordered waiting for her. The baseball version of this experience can be just as satisfying.

For very recent example, on Wednesday afternoon, the Mets were leading the Pirates in the bottom of the sixth inning, 2-1. It was a game I was in and out of consuming live, as will happen on a weekday afternoon when I can’t necessarily glue myself to the action. I adore baseball games magically appearing and brightening weekday afternoons, but there tends to be a tradeoff of a few pitches here, a few pitches there, in exchange for the more indulgent aspects of a midweek matinee. In the bottom of the sixth, after Francisco Lindor singled to lead off and advanced to second on a wild pitch while Pete Alonso batted, I had to check out for a few minutes. Maybe more than a few minutes. I didn’t know how many pitches were being thrown nor how the consequences of those pitches were unfolding.

Next time I check in, the first thing I hear on the radio is a discussion between Howie Rose and Keith Raad about the efficacy of a sacrifice bunt in broad terms. Then they drill down to how a specific sacrifice bunt, which might not be approved of as sound strategy in certain circles, sure worked that time. I haven’t yet heard a score, nor exactly the role of the bunt in question on the score, but it seemed to have been laid down by Jeff McNeil, and whatever was going on in the wake of the bunt seemed to be going well for the Mets.

Sure enough, it was Mets 6 Pirates 1, the key hit following the bunt in question coming from Tyrone Taylor, who singled in the previously advanced Lindor and Alonso (who had walked after that wild pitch). Then came the kind of crowning blow that makes every bunt look prescient, Harrison Bader’s two-run homer. I pieced the details together a little later. All I knew at that moment was four runs were delivered to my table during the brief interlude I had stepped away.

Don’t you just love when that happens?

Likewise, don’t you just love realizing your crummy baseball team is now your pretty good baseball team, with each facet of its on-field operation coming around bit by bit until your team is suddenly doing everything fairly well? And isn’t it wonderful when your baseball team has won its most recent contest, 9-1, and it isn’t a shock? The Mets were resolutely crummy for the first five games of this year, no argument. Oh and Five didn’t lie. Yet Oh and Five also didn’t forecast the next thirteen, let alone 157. It was only five games, or so we can tell ourselves now that the Mets have won ten of thirteen and have looked that much more formidable day after day in doing so. I’ve gone from being conditioned to the Mets losing; to surprised at the Mets winning; to, as of the parts of Wednesday’s game I could watch and hear, figuring we have at least a 50-50 chance to come out ahead any day or any night. I may be slow-walking my expectations upward, but after 0-5 to start the year, and 75-87 to ruin last year, I’ll settle for not expecting the worst.

Beating the Pirates on April 17, 2024, was also good long-term payback for losing to the Pirates on April 17, 1964, each game having been played in Flushing, the earlier one having been the first the Mets ever hosted in the borough of Queens. Presumably by coincidence, MLB sent Pittsburgh back to New York on the 60th anniversary of the opening of Shea Stadium. Good for the Mets for picking up on the milestone and inviting home their starting pitcher from that inaugural game, Jack Fisher, to toss out a ceremonial first pitch, accompanied by that year’s Met among Mets, 1964 National League All-Star starting second baseman Ron Hunt. The Immortal Chris Majkowski (I believe that’s his full name) also deserves applause for sharing with WCBS listeners during Wednesday’s game Bob Murphy’s call of Fisher’s very first pitch.

It sounded like this:

And the leadoff batter in the ballgame is Dick Schofield, switch-hitting shortstop of the Pirates, and ladies and gentlemen, we’re ready to go.

You can imagine there must be a lump in the throat of twenty-five year-old Jack Fisher, the Frostburg, Maryland native as he looks in the for the first sign ever taken in the twenty-five million dollar ballpark named Shea Stadium.

This is it.

Jack Fisher is into his windup and here’s the first pitch ever…a strike on the outside corner.

The roar comes up as the first pitch ever thrown in this beautiful baseball palace is over. Perhaps the tension now is broken, and the game is underway.

Jesse Gonder walking slowly, back toward the mound. Out in the outfield, the outfielders are checking their sunglasses; the breeze not really too much of a factor in the game, kind of blowing diagonally from right across toward left.

Three hundred and forty one feet down the foul lines to the wall. The ballpark is symmetrical. Three fifty-eight in left center and right center.

Maj didn’t play all of that on Wednesday, because the pitch clock tyrannically moves today’s games along too briskly to allow announcers to paint the most fulsome word pictures they can. It’s Amazin’ to consider Murph once had to explain what Shea Stadium looked like to everybody tuning in, because nobody had yet seen it. Now we see it in only in our memories or photographs or footage, or, perhaps best of all, when we’re treated to Bob Murphy’s voice in our head.

We, meaning Mets fans in general, had seen the Mets beat the Pirates by a score of 9-1 before Wednesday. The first time Mets 9 Pirates 1 was a final was the first time anybody saw the Mets beat anybody by any score. The Mets were 0-9 heading into Forbes Field on April 23, 1962 — 0-9 on the year, 0-9 in their existence. Just as Oh and Five didn’t foretell everything about the weeks ahead in 2024, the 1962 Mets were going to win a game sooner or later. Sooner arrived in Pittsburgh when Jay Hook went the distance to lift the Mets into the win column at least once (and then answered so many questions from the press afterwards that he discovered the shower in the visiting clubhouse had run out of hot water).

I was kind of hoping to find out that the 60th anniversary of the first game at Shea marked the first time the Mets had beaten the Pirates, 9-1, since their first-ever win. I looked it up via Baseball Reference’s Stathead tool and learned, nope, this was the fourth Mets 9 Pirates 1 tally in the rivalry’s history. I was at one of the two others, on September 14, 2010, an R.A. Dickey special whose deep-dive details apparently hadn’t stuck indelibly to my consciousness. The other came at Three Rivers, on September 8, 1982, which rang an audible bell for me datewise. It was the finale of a series that began two nights earlier with the Pirates honoring their retiring captain and legend Willie Stargell. Willie Stargell capped Willie Stargell Night on September 6, 1982, by pinch-hitting and singling off freshly called up Doug Sisk.

Stargell was uncommonly capable of doing more damage than that versus the Mets. Nobody to this day has hit more home runs off Met pitching than Willie Stargell. Pops clobbered 60. The third of those longballs came on April 17, 1964: the first home run anybody ever hit at Shea Stadium, part of a 4-for-5 christening of the new ballpark. Willie then took it easier on us for the rest of that opening series, though one of his teammates kept up the slugging. The second-ever homer at Shea came the next day, off the bat of Pirate first baseman Donn Clendenon, almost precisely five-and-a-half years before he would accept World Series MVP honors at Shea Stadium for the Mets. The third-ever Shea Stadium home run, and first (at last!) struck by a member of the home team, came in the next series the Mets played, against the Cubs. It was hit by Wednesday’s Citi Field co-guest of honor Hunt.

A lot of what goes around can come around if you pay attention, regardless that you sometimes have to miss a few pitches.

You don’t have to miss the latest episode of National League Town. It’s right here.

6 comments to What Excellent Service!

  • Seth

    No! I do NOT love it when that happens! I sit through enough boring 1-2-3 innings that when I miss the Mets scoring a bunch of runs, I really feel robbed.

    My only claim to fame for April 17, 1964 is that my father and brother were at the game. I was either too young or too unlucky (or both) to have been there myself.

  • Ken K. in NJ

    While Bob Murphy was giving that wonderful description of Shea Stadium my Dad was probably listening to it on the car radio…he was stuck in traffic on the way to the game, wound up parking on the grass along the Grand Central Parkway.

    He finally showed up around the 4th inning. My HS friend Jay & I made it on time, having taken the soon-to-famous 7 Line from school in Manhattan. Jay & I exchanged reminiscing E mails today.

    BTW, am I the only one having trouble viewing Jack Fisher’s ceremonial 1st pitch on MLB dot com? The video icon Just spins, on all platforms.

  • mikeski

    S. Cohen: “Now, I wanna World Series, I wanna win. I want that trophy, so play good.”

  • mikeski

    Did everyone else get the email about the CityConnect unis?

    Gunmetal gray with black pinstripes and purple accents/piping. PURPLE.