Book tells tale of Mets’ pre-Amazin’ years

VERO BEACH — Greg Forrer is a former Florida sports writer and lifelong New York Mets fan, so when offered the opportunity to be the editor of a new book on the early years of his favorite baseball team, he didn’t need much prodding.

“I’ve been a Mets fans since 1965 – since I was kid growing up on Long Island, before my family moved to West Palm Beach – so this piqued my interest from the start,” said Forrer, 63, a Baytree resident who has lived in Vero Beach for the past 12 years. “And I actually learned a lot about the years before I became a fan.

“Reading the chapters, seeing the quotes from the old Mets, including some of the guys I never saw play . . . It was a trip down memory lane,” he added. “Editing this book was as much fun as I’ve had working.”

Forrer said he edited every word and fact-checked every detail of the 422-page paperback, “Long Before The Miracle: The Making of the New York Mets,” which was written by Bill Sullivan, published last month and is available for purchase on Amazon.

In fact, it was Seagrove winter residents Nelson and Gretchen Cover who suggested that Sullivan talk to Forrer about editing the book.

Sullivan, like Forrer, is a former sports writer, New York native and life-long Mets fan. He’s also a high-end landscaper in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., where the Covers are among his customers.

The Covers knew Forrer through his wife, Andi, a local interior designer who worked with them on their home here.

“They told me Greg was an astute editor and a devoted Mets fan,” Sullivan wrote in the “Special Thanks” section of his book. “They were correct on both fronts.”

Forrer, who graduated from the University of Florida and worked at the Stuart News and Palm Beach Post in the 1970s before entering the corporate communications field, was immediately intrigued when he heard about the book in January.

Sullivan told him he already had written one book – “Sullivan’s Practical Landscape Design” – but Forrer said the Mets book was a “true labor of love.”

So Forrer asked Sullivan to send a few sample chapters.

“Bill is a pretty darn good writer, and he was a pleasure to work with,” Forrer said. “He has been a Mets fan since the beginning, so you could tell this meant a lot to him. And he went all-out on it.

“This isn’t just a history book, though there’s a lot of history in it, going all the way back to Walter O’Malley’s 10-year effort to keep the Dodgers in Brooklyn,” he continued. “As everyone knows, his efforts failed, and the move of the Dodgers from Brooklyn and the Giants from New York is what created the opening for the Mets.

“There’s a lot of other historical background, too, all of which was researched in detail,” he added. “But, to me, some of the best parts of the book are the personal stories told by the players and managers of that era.”

The book covers the cast of characters who played varying roles in the Mets’ formative years, dating back to New York being awarded a National League expansion franchise in 1961, the inaugural season in 1962 and the seven long, losing seasons that preceded the team’s stunning World Series triumph in 1969.

You’ll find stories about the team’s original owner, Joan Payson, and first manager, Casey Stengel, as well as a string of short, easy-to-read chapters on players such as Marv Throneberry, Jim Hickman and Ed Kranepool from the 1962 squad to Don Cardwell, Ron Hunt and other lesser-known Mets of 1960s.

There’s a chapter about Tom Seaver, the team’s first Hall of Famer who is still considered by most fans to be “Mr. Met,” as well chapters on the Polo Grounds and Shea Stadium, the Mets’ first two homes.

There’s even an “Early Mets Trivia” segment that longtime fans should enjoy.

“Mets history didn’t start with Mike Piazza,” Forrer said, referring to the team’s newly enshrined, second Hall of Fame player. “This book will have a tremendous appeal to older fans, especially those who are 55 and over, because they were there for those years and it’ll bring back a lot of memories.

“But even if you’re a younger Mets fan, I think you’ll enjoy it, because it tells the story of how the team got started,” he added. “I grew up with Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and Nolan Ryan. A later generation grew up with Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling and Sid Fernandez. We both saw the Mets win the World Series.

“This book is about a forgotten era, but if you’re a Mets fan of any age, you’ll find some really good stuff in it.”

And that includes Forrer’s favorite baseball quote, fittingly uttered by the legendary Stengel.

“There comes a time in every man’s life,” he said, “and I’ve had many of them.”

Leave a Comment