Here’s a special treat for everyone. The great Howie Rose was kind enough to give me some of his time to answer a few questions for me and also a few of our readers here on the site and our followers on Twitter at @Metsmerized. (5,015 strong, and growing!)
Howie is a tremendous resource of Mets information and nobody knows the history better than he does. Here is what he had to say on some hot Mets topics and again let me thank Vinny and Tim for participating and winning our Ask Howie contest last week.
Tim asks: Howie, you are a Mets immortal. It looks like Terry Collins won’t be back as a manager in 2014, but I’m sure they will keep him in the organization. Who would you like to see manage the Mets if it’s not Terry?
Thanks, Tim, but you’ve got the wrong guy. Chris Majkowski is the immortal one. I’m not so sure that if the Mets show some progress this year that Terry won’t be back. I hope he returns. He is a fabulous baseball man, so if he’s not back, I hope the Mets find a significant role for him in player development.
For the sake of your scenario, I’m not certain that Sandy Alderson sees Wally Backman as the Mets next manager, but that could change depending on how things go in Las Vegas.
I know this much, most of the guys who have played for Wally at any level really like him and consider him bonafide big league managing material. If it was up to me, I would right a wrong from 40 years ago and hire Whitey Herzog. Somehow, though, considering that he is 81 years old, I have a feeling that ship has sailed.
Vinny asks: If it were your decision, what other numbers should be on that blue wall at Citi Field next to 14, 37, 41 and 42? Thanks, Howie! You’re the best!
Thanks Vinny. I hear you’re pretty good, too. I have always felt that Keith Hernandez should have had his number 17 retired, and many of his former teammates feel the same way. There are a variety of opinions, though, about whether he should be the first of the 1986 team to be so honored, and whether Dwight Gooden’s number 16 should go first, and then what about Darryl Strawberry’s number 18 and Gary Carter’s number 8? It is not as simple a project as it might seem, but then I have always thought that Jerry Koosman’s number 36 should receive strong consideration. Sooner or later, we might well see number 31 retired for Mike Piazza, but I have been on record since the 1990s supporting this honor for Keith.
Can you tell us about 2-3 of your most memorable All-Time Mets calls or Mets Moments from your illustrious Mets broadcasting career?
Hi, bro. (I feel like Joe Benigno). Although I have had some memorable (at least to me) calls on television, whenever I think back to personal broadcast highlights they invariably are from radio. On television you simply punctuate, embellish or narrate. Radio is where you describe and your creative and reportorial skills mesh. The night the Mets clinched the division in 2006 was fun because it was the Mets first division title in 18 years, and when Cliff Floyd caught the fly ball which ended the game, my mind immediately flashed back to Lindsey Nelson and Bob Murphy making their calls on TV and radio when the Mets clinched first place in 1969.
It’s really not perceptible to the listener, but my voice caught for a split second as the thought of Lindsey and Bob entered my mind and I realized that I had just enjoyed a similarly significant, and for me, emotional moment. Calling the final out of the NLDS against the Dodgers was similarly enjoyable and special, but for me, the final out of Johan Santana’s no hitter is among the small handful of all time personal broadcast highlights. Given the history, I never thought it was going to happen until strike three was securely nestled in Josh Thole’s glove. It will probably be topped by nothing less than a Mets pennant and World Series winning call when and if I am lucky enough to make them.
I always love your stories and was wondering about when you were working with with Bob Murphy. Do you have a memorable Bob Murphy moment that you can share with us?
I have several, a couple of which are outlined in the book. Here are two. In spring training, 1987, I was in a car going from St. Petersburg to Kissimmee during spring training and Bob was driving. I wasn’t paying much attention to the road, but suddenly a car came from the left lane, cut right in front of Murph who was driving in the center lane, and darted into the right lane. I was probably half asleep at the time, but all of a sudden Bob blurted out, “WHOOOAH, HO HO HO!” I half expected the next thing he said to be, “Oh, what a play by Buddy Harrelson.” That was a surreal moment, considering I had heard him sound like that on the air for 25 years, but this was in his car!
Another was memorable for a different reason. I was never Bob’s regular partner, so I didn’t do all that many games with him. Murph had a tough veneer to crack. He was old school; a marine. You did your job, and you went home, and words of praise were rarely offered. One year, probably just a season or two before he retired, I was doing primarily TV with a sprinkling of radio games. Radio is a completely different art than television, and I was just not comfortable with my ability to do baseball well on the radio at that time. (It’s still very much a work in progress.) Between innings of a game on this day, however, I mumbled something about how unsatisfied I was with the job I was doing, and Murph, who was seated next to me, patted me on the leg and said with a reassuring smile, “You should feel good about your radio (work).”
Now that might not sound like much, but from someone who I had grown up watching and listening to, and who was not often given to complements, that meant the world to me. Those simple words gave me the confidence that I was on the right track.
Howie, you get to see this team day in and day out and never miss a game. You’ve seen the ups and downs over your amazing career. What are you most excited to see in 2013?
I am most excited to see the various components to this organization that will be the foundation of a team that grows into perennial contention. The fastest way to get there, is by developing pitching, and this is where the Mets have their greatest organizational strength.
We’re not just talking about Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler, but Rafael Montero could be up before long, and Cory Mazzoni might not be far off, and there’s Domingo Tapia and Jeurys Familia, and behind them Noah Syndergaard and others. Then of course, there’s catcher Travis d’Arnaud, with Wilmer Flores on the way to help offensively. They won’t all be here this year, but as a group, that’s something to feel good about.
Put It In The Book is a treasure trove, packed with all the richness of a half century of Mets baseball as told by the one who chronicled so much of it. When putting this book together, was there a particular recollection that made you smile and warmed your heart as you wrote about it?
I’m sure it comes across, but anything which recalls 1969 gives me goosebumps to this day. The season was so magical, so unexpected, and to a 15 year old such a tremendous gift, that, as I explain in the book, it’s shaped my career and my life simultaneously. The Mets owned not only New York back then, but the entire baseball world. They were as beloved a champion as any team in any sport at any time. I can’t wait for the time when we can say that again about the New York Mets. The sooner, the better.
Joe D. – Thank you so much for your precious time, and I can’t wait to tune in and listen to you on April 1st.
Howie - My pleasure. I hope you enjoy the book.