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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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NY Mets’ 50 Years

The New York Mets were born in 1962, which means that, if they were a person rather than a baseball team, they would be fretting in 2012 about being old enough to join the AARP.

Alas, the Mets as an institution have bigger problems today than turning 50 as media accounts of the team’s financial problems continue to make headlines.

Next month, Hofstra University is offering Mets fans a three-day—Thursday, April 26, Friday, April 27, and Saturday, April 28—respite from the team’s ongoing travails by marking The 50th Anniversary of The New York Mets.

More details about the conference, which organizers hope will be both scholarly and celebratory, are to be announced soon. The event’s co-directors are Richard Puerzer, a Hofstra associate professor and chair of the engineering department, and Paula Uruburu, a Hofstra English professor and vice dean, School for University Studies.

Professor Uruburu told me last week that Rusty Staub, a key player on the Mets’ 1973 National League championship team, as well as Ed Charles, Ed Kranepool, and Art Shamsky of the Mets’ 1969 World Series championship squad, have agreed to visit Hofstra on one of the three days. Meanwhile, journalists who covered the Mets have also said they’ll participate, including New York Times columnist George Vecsey, former Newsday sports writer Stan Isaacs, and broadcaster Sal Marchiano.

In reviewing online the list of scheduled presenters, and the papers they’ve written, two names stood out. Skip Lockwood, a very effective Mets relief pitcher in the late 1970s, will be discussing his paper on “Shea Stadium: Where Everyone Knows Your Name.” History buffs may also want to sit in on Kent State University professor Leslie Heaphy’s presentation of her paper, “An Early Leader: Mrs. Joan Payson.” Mrs. Payson (1903-1975), the New York Mets’ first owner, resided for many years in Manhasset.

Dr. Dana Brand (1955-2011), a Hofstra English professor and author of 2007’s Mets Fan and 2009’s Last Days at Shea, was involved in the initial planning of the Mets conference and his sudden death in May 2011 shocked the Hofstra community. The event is being held in his memory, and the creation of a Dana Brand scholarship is in the works, Professor Uruburu said.

One of Dr. Brand’s final blog posts came on May 23, 2011, soon after The New Yorker magazine posted an article based on an interview with current Mets owner Fred Wilpon, who offered in that piece a harsh critique of three high-profile Mets players. “By lowering the value of [Jose] Reyes, [David] Wright, [Carlos] Beltran, and the team of which he is trying to sell 49 percent, [Fred] Wilpon has betrayed everyone in sight: the players, his wonderful new administration, and the fans, some of whom have now lived and died with this team for half a century. We all deserve an apology,” Brand wrote. “But we deserve more than that. We deserve an exit that doesn’t make anything worse than it already is.”

Nearly a year later, only Wilpon and Wright remain associated with the Mets. Reyes (Miami Marlins) and Beltran (St. Louis Cardinals) are, in 2012, former Mets. More information on the conference can be found at www.hofstra.edu/mets.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: MFBARRY@optonline.net