What I’m Reading: Faith and Fear in Flushing

In my last post I mentioned “cabin fever” getting the best of me. Trying to write about the Mets during a winter of inaction led me to do some reading.

For the past few weeks I’ve been re-reading favorites from my own shelf and borrowing books from the library. What I’m reading this weekend is a book I’ve been meaning to read for two years, and never got around to it, until now: Faith and Fear in Flushing: An Intense Personal History of the New York Mets, by Greg Prince.

Prince’s blog partner Jason Fry wrote the Foreward, and in it, describes one of Greg’s extraordinary traits:

“… one of them is his memory. The man remembers everything. … It’s jaw-dropping the first time he does it (and pretty amazing the hundredth), but Greg doesn’t do it to show off. It’s a rare gift, but not one of which he’s particularly exhibitionistic — if anything, he’s a bit shy about it. (Nobody likes being a parlor trick, even if it’s for a friendly audience.) That level of recall is just something he’s always had, and it took him a while to realize that other people didn’t have it too.”

It happens that I’m one of those “other people”; one of the reasons I blog (and write down nearly everything I need to remember) is because my memory is horrific. My wife finds it amusing that I can watch a TV show repeat without recalling anything from the first time I saw it two weeks prior. So the vivid detail in which Greg Prince describes games and events going back to the 1970s, I’m fascinated — and grateful, since through Greg’s memory I can re-live the good times (and the bad).

But Greg Prince’s recall isn’t the only thing that makes Faith and Fear in Flushing worth reading; there’s the writing, of course! The tagline for the Faith and Fear blog is “for Mets fans who like to read”. I’m a Mets fan who likes to read, and it turns out, I like to read Greg and Jason’s blog. As it turns out, I also am liking the reading of Greg’s book.

Though, it could be argued that a Faith and Fear blog post and a book are similar when it comes to length. OK, just kidding. The truth is, the book — like the blog — reads more swiftly than one might expect. Sometimes I look at a Faith and Fear blog post from a distance and think, “oh man, there must be ten paragraphs; I don’t have time to read all that” — five minutes later I’ve plowed through it and scrolling down to start reading the previous one. That’s kind of how me reading the book went. I started it on Sunday morning, and zipped through the first 220 pages (of 304) by the early evening. Mind you, it usually takes me about four months to finish a book from cover to cover.

Greg’s flashbacks to the days of Rusty Staub (his first go-around) to Ron Hodgers to Doug Flynn to George Foster to Rusty Staub (his second go-around) to Dwight and Darryl to Mike Piazza were the first elements that sucked me in. Then, it was the author’s self-deprecating humor and openness about the pain and awkwardness that comes with being a Mets fan through the years that kept me turning the pages.

If you became a Mets fan anytime after 1984, you might not feel the same way about the book, nor identify with Greg, in the same ways as I. But you can catch up with us during the pain of the post-1986 club, and/or the post-2000 team. Because to be a Mets fan is to endure troublesome times, usually amidst the constant shadow of that other New York baseball team. Why we love this team is beyond logic, and it connects us as fans. Or as Greg puts succinctly in the final chapter:

“I love the Mets because I love the Mets. Call it circular reasoning whose perimeter permits no logic to permeate. I love the Mets because I love the Mets even though there is, at certain times, almost nothing on the surface about the Mets that I can stand. … I picked them up at six and stayed with them. … I was little. They were local. It was 1969. From there, it was easy. I was a Mets fan then, I’m a Mets fan now.”

If you are a Mets fan who likes to read, I encourage you to read Faith and Fear in Flushing — both the book and the blog.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Mark January 2, 2011 at 10:48 pm
    Interesting post – I’ll definitely have to pick up a copy of the book. As we head deeper into winter (when the weather turns frigid and pitchers and catchers seem to be an eternity away), I was wondering if you could share any recommendations for baseball books.

    And yes, the Faith and Fear posts are long, but damn, those guys can write.

    • Joe Janish January 2, 2011 at 11:21 pm
      Indeed they can … and I’ve met both Greg and Jason and they are down-to-earth, very nice people, which makes reading their work that much more fulfilling.

      I’ll be posting more books I’m reading at the moment, but to give you a few to consider now: Moneyball (appropriate considering the new management), The Great American Novel by Philip Roth, Ball Four, Dollar Sign on the Muscle, The Worst Team Money Could Buy, The Bronx is Burning (Yankee book, but a good read nonetheless) and anything by Andrew Zimbalist.

  2. Mark January 3, 2011 at 10:59 pm
    Those sound like interesting choices. I’ve actually read a few of them – Money Ball was solid (I would read pretty much anything by Michael Lewis) and Ball Four a riot. I was pleasantly surprised by The Bronx is Burning (notwithstanding that it was about the Yanks). I will have to check some of the other ones out, starting with Faith and Fear.

    I would also suggest Dan Okrent’s Nine Innings, the Last Best League (about the Cape Cod baseball league) and Fantasyland. And I recently read Mike Shropshire’s Seasons in Hell which cracked my up.

    Lots of good stuff out there to tide us over ’till pitchers and catchers.

    • Joe Janish January 4, 2011 at 1:15 am
      Thanks for the suggestions! I never heard of any of those books, and will seek them out when I’m through with the current pile next to my bed.

      If you enjoy baseball fiction then The Great American Novel is the one to read first; it’s one of my favorite books of all-time.