Extra inning baseball book reviews for 2020: Ever met Mr. Met? The wit and wackiness of Being Jay Horwitz

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In a story published in June, 2013, the New York Daily News mapped out how many “extra miles” Mets PR man Jay Horwitz had to travel to help new pitcher Zach Wheeler get acclimated with the team and prep him for how to deal with the New York media.

Mr. Met:
How a Sports-Mad Kid from Jersey Became Like Family to Generations of Big Leaguers

Mr. Met Cover
The author:

Jay Horwitz

The publishing info:
Triumph Books
$28
272 pages
Released May, 2020

The links:
At the publisher’s website
At Amazon.com
At BarnesAndNoble.com
At Powells.com
At Indiebound.org

The review in 90 feet or less

A few years back, Jeff Pearlman wrote a profile on New York Mets public relations man Jay Horwitz for the Wall Street Journal — this is spring training, 2011 — that began poetically:

Mets vice-president of media relations Jay Horwitz is, self admittedly, ‘a little bit of a schlump.’ He’s wrinkled, he’s baggy, he’s disheveled. His glasses are slightly crooked. His head is a little bit large for his shoulders. He talks with a thick New York accent. He’s lost or broken at least 10 Blackberries over the last few years, including two that plopped into the toilet.

A piece in the New York Post in 2009, when Horwitz was celebrating his 30th season, included this from writer Filip Bondi:

He is 63, a lovable, frazzled soul among young millionaires from very different cultures. He could be the father to these players, and talks like their proud, protective grandpa. … Everybody is a saint, or at least a mensch. … The stories he can tell . . . and the ones he must censor just a bit, because after all that is his business.

Another piece on Horwitz in the New York Post in 2018, includes these quotes from then-Mets captain David Wright: “You naturally think of players or managers when you think of Mets history, but in my opinion he’s right up there on that Mount Rushmore of the organization.” Team co-GM Omar Minaya adds: “I don’t want to say he’s Mr. Met, but he’s as close to Mr. Met as possible.”

In 40 years as the New York Mets’ PR man, Horwitz served a purpose. He could have revived the rules of Dodgeball — Dodge, Duck, Dip, Dive and Dodge — by adding Damage Control and Divert Attention. Even when the team was winning World Series titles in 1986 or NL pennants in 2000 and 2015.

Public relations, after all, is about relationships. He knew the process, the deadlines, the marketing side to how everything was interrelated.

getty images
Getty Images

Starting on April Fool’s Day, 1980, and five years later becoming an unwitting accomplice in George Plimpton’s Sports Illustrated April 1 cover story about the discovery of Sidd Finch by the Mets’ organization, Horwitz was assigned with finding a new way to get New York media coverage than what was being generated by the far-more-successful Yankees.

A former scribe who was doing PR work for New York University and Fairleigh Dickinson University, Horwitz had been trained to be on the lookout for off-beat stories to get attention. That’s what the Mets needed. So here was Horwitz, kind of a humble, goofy guy who doesn’t take himself too seriously, could be the lovable, laughable middle man in the writer’s process of finding a story.

He’s endeared himself to local writers who can’t say enough about what he brings to the business:

Having been moved a few years ago to the team’s VP of alumni relations and franchise historian, Horwitz was told so many times over that years that he needed to write a book about his his experiences. So he took went to Steve Kettmann’s Wellstone writers’ retreat center in the Santa Cruz Redwoods, was guided through the process of how to do it, and came up with this.

“Maybe it took writing this book, going through all these stories I’d half-forgotten over the years, reliving all the amazing ups and downs of four decades as Mr. Met, the biggest booster and fan the Mets have ever had, for it to sink in how much I enjoy my new role,” he writes in the epilogue. “I consider myself to be the most fortunate man I know, to have been at my dream job for four decades.”

And now he gets a platform to tell as much about it as he wants.

How it goes in the scorebook

A slice of Big Apple pie with a ton of whip cream. Not really filling, but something of a treat you can tell people about.

When you can connect a baseball book to a New York topic – team, player, championship year – it’s bound to have a built-in buy-in from fans. This gives those who’ve followed the Mets a chance at some insight into reliving times and moments and players. Nothing really tell-all. Just another perspective.

The Mets remain newsworthy, if not making all that worthy of news. In 1980, when the Payson family sold the team to Nelson Doubleday, John O. Pickett and Fred Wilpon, the price was $21 million. The current value of the team is $2.4 billion, sixth-best of all MLB teams. It won two championships over the last 40 years, but also launched its own TV cable channel. The team is up for sale again,and after the last four decades that included Bernie Madoff having his Ponzi scheme tied to team ownership, and a contract with Bobby Bonilla that will continue to pay him through 2035, some sanity could come of it. One offer from a hedge fund operator was offering $2 billion for the team and another $2 billion for the cable channel.

So we offer this up amidst all the books we’re reviewed this year as something of a diversion. There isn’t a lot of insight as much as there are stories retold, 9/11 revisited, a mostly sanitized version of how things happened to the most part.

(And we’re thinking right now about how a Mets’ fan like Jason Smith might want to seek this book out … so ….)

If we could agree with any one review we’ve seen on this book, it’s a post on Amazon:

“As a life-long Met fan I anxiously awaited this book the entire off season. In some respects, I really enjoyed it. Jay has a unique and interesting background, he told some very funny stories and he comes off very likable and genuine in his love and regard for the franchise and its players, managers and front office people.
“But at the same time, I’m kind of disappointed. I gathered from the title not to expect an airing of dirty laundry or too much inside info, but three things bothered me throughout:
(1) Parts of the book just came off as a re-telling of Mets history … this is a franchise with so many self-inflicted PR issues over the years, I would have liked to understand more about how he dealt with some of those challenges, but most were not discussed
(2) There was an over-reliance on quotes and excerpts from newspaper articles … I would have preferred to hear more directly from Jay himself
(3) Factual errors; the most egregious is when he tells a story of consulting with his Rabbi about what he should do after game 6 of the ‘86 series was rained out and rescheduled for Yom Kippur … except that never could have happened … first of all, game 7 was rained out, not game 6, but more importantly, Yom Kippur that year was 2 weeks before game 6!! Either bad memory or bad editing, but he went on for a full page about this and it just wasn’t the case
“Most hardcore Met fans will still enjoy this since he’s such a beloved figure in team history, and in fairness, the parts about 9/11 and Shannon Forde are extremely touching and well written. Just be prepared for less of an insider’s view than you would expect from someone who was behind the curtain for 40 years.”

So to say it is what it is … that’s about it. For what it’s worth.

More:

== An excerpt of the book, focusing on the 1986 Mets, from the New York Post
== An interview Chris Russo did with Horwitz on the MLB Network

 

 

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