QUEENS, NY – Where I grew up in the Glen Oaks section of Queens, there was a cool little restaurant called Hamburger Coach. The novelty of it centered around the fact that when you were seated at the counter of the Hamburger Coach, a toy train would make “stops” at each diner and you would then take your order from the tray off of the train. It didn’t get much cooler than this as a kid. This is why I was surprised when Howie Rose chose this location to grab a bite this week.
Howie Rose has been the Radio play by play man of the New York Mets since 1995, and has been involved with the Mets as pre and post-game radio and TV host since 1984. With all due respect to Gary Cohen, Howie Rose is the ultimate Mets guy; with more knowledge and more grasp of Mets history and lore than any man alive. Sure, Cohen is excellent. A close 2nd to Howie in terms of Mets history. Cohen is a truly outstanding TV voice for the Mets after a long stretch as the team’s radio man. Gary has the enviable “task” of teaming with Met legends Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling, and is a great foil for them – even if his shameless fake guffaws at anything Keith says can be grating. And his insistence on precise pronunciation of every player’s name – regardless of origin – is also kind of annoying. Ruben Tejada – an awful excuse for a major league shortstop – should just be Ruben Tejada. To Gary Cohen he’s “Ruben “Tay-Hodda.“ In the first inning, the 4th, or the 9th, to Gary he’s always “Ruben “Tay-Hodda.” Similar to “Edgardo Al-Faawnsooh,” while everyone else called him Alfonzo or even Fonzie. Gary is always determined to make sure everyone knows he’s got a degree from an Ivy League School (Columbia). But don’t get me wrong, those are minuscule chinks in his armor.
But Howie? Howie’s a Queens guy through and through. Graduated from Queens College. Grew up in Bayside. In a garden apartment. You know what he did while he was in college over the summers? He worked as a Day Camp Counselor at Alley Pond Park. And you know who one of Howie’s campers was? Yep! You guessed it. None other than FSA! Howie was the best damn camp counselor there was in those days. Carefree but always thinking about his future as a sportscaster, Howie always let the kids get away with things other Counselors wouldn’t. Those counselors took themselves too seriously. Not Howie. We played baseball virtually all day, even when it was arts and crafts or music time. Howie only wanted to hit fungoes to us. He would give all of his campers sports nicknames. I was “Boom Boom Geoffrion,” the legendary and hot-headed former Montreal Canadian who actually was just the 2nd player in league history to score 50 goals in a season. Howie is about the closest thing Queens has to royalty. Unless you want to count the late Donald Manes.
So I *met Howie at Hamburger Coach and he immediately ordered a Turkey Burger Deluxe. I had the Chicken Club sandwich and we both squealed with delight as the train approached our “stop” and we were about to receive our meal! But we soon got down to the issues of the Day, and Howie held nothing back.
“It’s Bud Selig’s fault. Every bit of it. If Bud would stop giving the Wilpons these damned ‘bridge loans’ so they can make payroll every 15 days, Fred would be forced to sell. But Bud is like a smack dealer. He gives Fred a taste and he can’t help himself. He just keeps giving, and Fred just keeps taking. Bud really had a hard-on for former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt. Called him a thievin’ bastard. Hated his wife too. The wife once said Bud was Simian in his features. Bud took that as an anti-Semitic remark, and swore to drive McCourt out no matter what. Wilpon’s wife thinks Bud’s Robert Redford. So, Bud keeps giving Fred dough!”
I asked Howie what Met fans should be doing during this, the darkest era in team history. Rudderless and Penniless without any regard for the fans.
“Stop going to the games. Just stop. Don’t buy the merchandise. Don’t feed the Wilpon beast. It has an insatiable appetite for greed. Cut the head off. The body will die.”
Wow… Howie’s come a long way from “Matteau! Matteau! Matteau!!!
Angry Ward, who I don’t want stepping on my toes, tomorrow.
*In my head.