The 2023 New York Mets Hall of Fame Ceremony
This past Saturday, I was overjoyed to have been able to attend Citi Field in Flushing, Queens, NY to see the New York Mets Hall of Fame Induction Class of 2023.
It was an overcast day at the ballpark, but the stars were shining on the stadium grass, as four men were given one of the highest honors a team could provide: the Hall of Fame.
For me, this was very personal.
First and foremost, I would not be a New York Mets fan if not for Howard Johnson. Watching my first games with my father in 1991, I saw a scrappy, hard-nosed player get his third 30-30 season, including leading the league in home runs and runs batted in. “HoJo” instantly became my childhood hero. Learning that he would be inducted on June 3, 2023, I knew I had to be there.
Then, you mix in Al Leiter and his gritty bulldog tenacity on the mound, including a 95-67 record in 213 games pitched with 10 complete games, including Game 163 in 1999 to clinch the National League Wild Card on the road, and now the Mets history pot starts cooking.
Finish that ensemble with the two voices of the Mets, with Gary Cohen and Howie Rose, a pair of die-hard fans who sat in the upper deck of Shea Stadium during their childhood and wound up becoming broadcasters for their favorite team, and you have an immensely talented crew prepared for Mets history.
One-by-one, each inductee was introduced by the “Masters of Ceremonies” Todd Zeile. They came out of their own personal trading card standup.
The one thing I love about the induction this year was the addition of the Hall of Fame blazer, which was a baby blue jacket with a Hall of Fame patch stitched on it. Similar to the tradition that the Yankees started with the Monument Park blazers, you just have the vibe of the importance of this honor.
The dignitaries in attendance were among the most storied of Mets legends. 1969 World Champions Art Shamsky and Ed Kranepool, 1986 World Champions Mookie Wilson, Keith Hernandez, Ron Darling, and Tim Teufel, 2000 National League Champions Glendon Rusch, Turk Wendell, Edgardo Alfonzo, John Franco, and manager Bobby Valentine, and 2015 National League Champions David Wright and manager Terry Collins.
That is a loaded crew.
Before the ceremonies could truly begin, a special Mets Hall of Fame Achievement Award was given to the former Vice President of Media Relations and current Vice President of Alumni Public Relations and Team Historian, Jay Horwitz. There is no one more deserving of an honor as much as that man.
After a video package, both HoJo and Leiter were given their Hall of Fame plaques. Johnson went up the podium first and gave a humble speech to the crowd about his family, God, and his brotherhood with the 1986 Mets team.
I blubbered like a baby in the stands
Leiter gave more of a bombastic tale, discussing his die-hard fandom of the Mets as a kid, and the honor of being a part of the Mets lore. In a big surprise to Al, his son, Jack Leiter, a pitcher in the Rangers organization, was in attendance.
And then, Gary and Howie.
Gary Cohen was very emotional with his passion behind his speech, while Howie Rose maintained his stoic demeanor. But both men gave the same vibe, as they were the biggest Met fans of all. Their pride and passion for the organization is incredible.
And on a personal note, after hearing about Howie Rose’s health issues over the past few years, it was extra exciting to see him at the podium gaining this honor. Also, Mr. Rose, your bobblehead sits at the head of my table. Put it in the books!
At the end, all four inductees and Mr. Horwitz threw out the ceremonial first pitch, and enjoyed the rest of their day in the Hall of Fame Suite high-up in Citi Field, taking in the moment.
Watching your childhood hero get into the Mets Hall of Fame is incredible. Seeing four other men get their just due in the organization that they gave so much to is awe-inspiring. The Mets Hall of Fame 2023 Induction Ceremony was just perfect.
From now and forever, LET’S GO METS!