Like a proud grandfather at a college graduation, he sat in the audience watching the whole thing. Fred Wilpon, 86, was the owner of the Mets when Mets Hall of Famers Howard Johnson, Al Leiter, casters Gary Cohen and Howie Rose rose to prominence on the team. rice field. At the pre-ceremony press conference on Saturday, Wilpon had a big smile on his face.
He did not participate in the on-field celebrations. That set the stage for new owner Stephen A. Cohen, whose generous spending and respect for Mets history made him the caretaker fans always wanted.
But I have one thing to say to Wilpon, who bought the team in 1980 and sold it to Cohen in 2020. Despite all the dysfunction that has so often overshadowed the Mets, he never silenced the franchise. Cohen and Rose have been central figures in Booth since his 1980s, blending authentic fandom with a journalistic instinct to tell it as it is.
Wilpons, like many owners, can be very sensitive to criticism. But they always understood the value of a reliable broadcast as a pipe to their fans.
“I never called Booth, never called them again, and never told them they couldn’t be more honest than they needed to be,” Wilpon said Saturday. “I don’t want them to be mean, but please be honest. And they were.”
Rose was eight years old when the Mets debuted in 1962. It was truly an age when teams and sports will never be forgotten. Rose, who hails from Bayside, Queens, said PS his old friends at 205 “would be roaring in the schoolyard” hearing the idea of him being a Mets Hall of Famer.
But Rose also said, is it really as absurd as the Miracle Mets winning the World Series in 1969? The victory was transformative, he said. He learned that with hard work and faith, almost anything is possible.
Rose won pregame and postgame positions on the Mets’ radio team in 1987, and after several years as television voice, returned to radio near the end of Bob Murphy’s long tenure. Unsure of herself in such a medium, Rose once loudly asked Murphy about her future during a commercial break. Murphy, who was 30 years older and stingy with compliments, patted Rose on the thigh and told her she was fine.
“It meant the world to me and still does,” Rose said. “So when I think of Murph, it’s not just a fun wrap-up or a great call, it’s about feeling like you got Murph’s approval at the last minute.”
Cohen, 65, hoped to grow as a shortstop for the Mets. Instead, he got a job in broadcasting as a student at Columbia University, before joining the Mets in 1989 after playing in the minor leagues at Spartanburg, Durham, and Pawtucket.
It’s hard to imagine a broadcast trio as compelling as Cohen and his SNY analysts Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez. They are erudite, resourceful, not condescending, and intently focused on what they do without forgetting to have fun.
For Mets fans, they are like family. Hall of Fame baseball writer Roger Angell, who died last year at the age of 101, said he never missed a broadcast.
When asked about his favorite call, Cohen replied, “I’m not very good at moments.” “I always feel that the most important thing in a broadcaster’s job is not what you do in the 15 seconds when the big play happens, but how you fit in with the fans during the 500-hour broadcast. ” during the season. ”
Having grown up rooting for the Mets and spending seven seasons as a rotation star, Leiter made a fun connection. The Mets last enshrined a station in 1984, the same year Leiter was drafted out of Bayville High School. in New Jersey. And it was the soundtrack to Murphy, Ralph Kiner, Lindsey Nelson, and the writer’s youth on the Jersey Shore.
“I grew up with them the way the current generation grew up with Howie and Gary,” Reiter said.
As a fan and as a player, Reiter said he always wanted the local broadcasters to do well for the team. It makes sense, he said, because the majority of viewers were fans. But the Polyan view would go too far.
“That’s what I was all about as a player. When I didn’t like it, I didn’t mind analyzing that I wasn’t doing well,” said the writer, who also has a successful television career. “Don’t get into what he thinks. Just think whether he does or not.”
He added: “I think it’s about that balance when it comes to Howie and Gary. They’re fans of the team and they’re proud of it, so as a fan you have to be sharp at times.” It makes me angry when I see things I don’t like, but I still love my team. ”
For fans who share that tradition, it’s useful to have Shea Stadium sons like Cohen and Rose double as Mets historians. The role is officially occupied by the unparalleled team spokesman Jay Horwitz, who was honored Saturday.
Cohen rightly pointed out that switch-hitting third baseman Johnson has long been an underrated figure in Mets history. He hit 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in three seasons, a feat only matched by Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonds and Alfonso Soriano.
For Johnson, the last of those seasons came in 1991, more than half a life ago.
“There’s probably not a day that goes by that you don’t think about being able to play like you did when you were 25 and play at that level,” Johnson, 62, said. , there are old memories. They are like two different people. And the older he gets, the further away he gets. And I don’t like it. I want to know that person who was still playing. I want to know who that person was. ”
The point of a day like Saturday is to celebrate the past of those who made a difference for the Mets. Thankfully, some of those people still do.