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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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Summer Hours

“Solstice schmolstice,” they might say in the bleachers at Wrigley Field, where the exact position of the sun doesn’t matter as long as it’s out somewhere. They have their new tradition of building a cup snake that wends all the way to Lake Michigan, perhaps Michigan itself, and they have their old tradition of throwing back the baseballs hit at them by Cub opponents. Both traditions got a workout on Friday. Hope you had some version of summer hours and got to take it in in all its Metsian glory.

The Mets enjoying themselves in the visitors’ clubhouse is the best of Wrigley Field traditions.

In the ballpark where Willie Mays dressed for the final time as a regular-season active player — he was a dugout spectator on October 1, 1973, as his Met teammates completed fighting for themselves en route to an NL East title, then a teetotaler taking a cold champagne shower in the jubilant visitors’ clubhouse — the Mets threw a first full day of summer cookout, grilling phenom Shota Imanaga for ten runs in three-plus innings. Given that Imanaga had the Mets roasting on a spit at Citi Field several weeks earlier, the main course was quite satisfying. Runs in each of the first four innings. Multiple runs in three of them. Souvenirs for reluctant recipients in those far away seats via the good graces of J.D. Martinez, Francisco Alvarez and Brandon Nimmo. Between the stacking of empty beer cups, each baseball the Mets deposited was marked RETURN TO SENDER. Sure, whatever. The runs the homers represented stayed glued to the scoreboard.

Four RBIs for Martinez. Three for Jose Iglesias, who recorded four hits and the ditty teammates love to blast when they’re done blasting the likes of Imanaga. Six-and-a-third innings of cool, calm professionalism from Jose Quintana, who allowed just one run and struck out eight. Competent relief from both Adam Ottavino and Drew Smith, putting the kibosh on any idea that this was going to be one of those Wrigley days when no window on Waveland Avenue is considered safe. Nope, only the Mets found the wind blowing out, gusting to an 11-1 romp. The end result was never in doubt. The last of the lingering intrigue, beyond whether Steve Gelbs would abandon his play-by-play post and race to cover his beloved cupathon (focus, Steve, focus), was whether we’d see two catchers in particular.

And we did. We saw Joe Hudson, a career journeyman on a weekend pass to the majors because Luis Torrens took a couple of days of paternity leave. Hudson caught the Mets’ final defensive half-inning, action enough to qualify him as Lifetime Met No. 1,239. Joe didn’t get to bat in what might be his only Mets game, temporarily placing him in the company of another Joe H. who crouched behind the plate without getting to stand beside it, the immortal Joe Hietpas amid the last wisps of 2004, a decidedly less jubilant season-ending occasion than the one that soaked Mays in 1973 (though Hietpas can probably still taste the cup of coffee and consider it champagne). Hudson bounced into the Met organization in April courtesy of the Cubs when the Cubs signed Silent Generation expatriate Ali Sanchez, our 2020 cameo catcher who has since been sent from Chicago to Miami, which in turn created Cubbie-hole space for none other than Tomás Nido, the other catcher we wondered if we were going to get to see on Friday. We did when he pinch-hit with two out in the bottom of the ninth. Nido didn’t respond to the sight of the only team for whom he’d ever played the way Mays did when he homered for the Mets against the Giants in 1972, but three strikes before he ended the game, I gave him a quick Old Friend™ series of claps from my couch. He probably didn’t hear them.

Tomás is an ex-Met after eight seasons of being true blue and orange (his MLB debut came on the wrong end of a 17-5 blowout at Wrigley in September of ’17) because Torrens, when not off taking care of emerging daddy duties, usurped any need for the Met lifer who always did his best, which was, you know, Nido-level. Luis and Tomás shared catching duties for a brief interregnum before Alvarez was pronounced fit as a fiddle and in fine fettle. Francisco returned to daily catching and by some Amazin’ coincidence, the Mets have won practically every day with him fully present. Who knew one of the key players on whom we were relying at the outset of the season being out for an extended period would have a deleterious effect on the ballclub as a whole? God, it’s hilarious how we keep overlooking stuff like that. We didn’t have Alvarez, and we were a worse team. Martinez wasn’t quite ready to swing to his standards, and we didn’t look like we had much of a lineup. Iglesias? Wasn’t he a glove-first, singing-second guy? Now he, like Torrens, is quality depth; Alvarez is shepherding every starter; and Martinez lines the ball everywhere. Better components will do wonders for the collective unit.

It’s the second full day of a summer when we’re one of nine (!) teams within two games of a playoff spot. We’ve got time to figure out plenty. We probably won’t, but we’ll try.

Tom Seaver sought out Willie Mays as the Mets went suitably nuts at the winning of their demi-flag on the final afternoon of ’73. As captured by Mays biographer James Hirsch, Tom asked, “Where’s Willie?” Someone told him, “He took two sips of champagne and he passed out.” No, Willie wouldn’t have been much help draining beer cups in the Wrigley bleachers, but he could do everything else in a ballpark. Jeff Hysen and I reflect on his briliance in the new episode of National League Town, which you can listen to here or wherever you drink in your podcasts.

5 comments to Summer Hours

  • Seth

    I guess this is Gary Cohen Appreciation Weekend.

  • Rudin1113

    At least Gelbs didn’t break out into song…nor did he giggle like a fangirl when reacting to a mildly humorous Darling comment.

  • eric1973

    I sure appreciate it!!!!!!!

  • Mike

    Another great article Greg. The Willie Mays link was appreciated and that photo of Willie is epic. Brought back some memories. Thank you for what you do!

  • Curt Emanuel

    I’ve been to probably a dozen games at Wrigley. I am now disappointed that I have never witnessed a cup-snake.

    Not that I ever really looked for it either.

    I like Nido. I always felt he gave us what he had, even if it wasn’t all that much. Glad he caught on somewhere.