When the New York Mets announced earlier this month that a new class was set to be inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame, those chosen for induction made certain to let everyone know that this was a deeply emotional honor.
Three of the new members of the Mets Hall of Fame first loved the team as fans, and another will forever be associated with the most dominant team in franchise history.
Broadcasters Gary Cohen and Howie Rose, starting pitcher Al Leiter, and infielder Howard Johnson will be inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame at a pregame ceremony on Saturday, June 3. In another fitting tribute, longtime Mets Vice President of Media Relations and current Vice President of Alumni Relations Jay Horwitz will be honored with the Mets Hall of Fame Achievement Award.
This will be a season to look forward to at Citi Field, as the Mets are among the teams with the best MLB odds to win the World Series, and current ownership shows continued dedication to saluting the team’s history with another notable Hall of Fame event.
For Cohen and Rose, being inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame is a further realization of how they have lived out and continue to experience their lifetime dreams and evidence that any fan of the team or sports who has significant career goals can indeed make them come true.
They both grew up rooting for the Mets in the 1960s and beyond, and their journey to the broadcast booth began in the stands at Shea Stadium.
“It’s rather flabbergasting, I have to say,” Cohen said. “I think back to hundreds of nights sitting in the upper deck at Shea Stadium. I think about original Mets broadcasters Lindsey (Nelson), Bob (Murphy), and Ralph (Kiner) under my pillow for west coast night games.
“I was a Mets fan from the time I was 6 years old. I know Howie feels the same way about this: In many ways, we have been representatives of the millions of people who care deeply about the Mets. We’re fans who got lucky and got a chance to bring our favorite team home to people.”
Rose said that the Mets’ first championship team fueled him to chase his career dreams.
“That 15-year-old kid who sat in the upper deck countless times that year, saw that season unfold and really thought I was living in a fairy tale,” Rose said.
“Those guys, the 1969 Mets, changed my life. I would not be doing what I am doing if not for the 1969 Mets. That convinced me that there was nothing you couldn’t accomplish if you worked hard enough at it.”
For two longtime beloved voices of the team to enter the Mets Hall of Fame together, Cohen said, makes the upcoming event even more special.
“I feel such an incredible kinship with Howie. I am so, so pleased that we get to be in this class for the Hall of Fame together because it wouldn’t have felt right any other way,” he said.
Rose fully agreed, adding, “The fact that Gary and I are going in together is so special.”
Leiter, a New Jersey native who pitched for the Mets from 1998 to 2004, winning 95 games with 1,106 strikeouts, was a young Mets fan just like Cohen and Rose.
For young baseball players or athletes who one day want to play for their favorite team, he illustrated that it was possible as a reality.
“Anyone that knows my story and my history, having grown up a Mets fan, what really went through my mind was every little boy that dreamed of playing in the big leagues, you’re just grateful and hope you can make it. When that happens, and you establish yourself to some degree, there’s a next-level dream, fantasy if you will, is to play for the team that you rooted for as a kid,” he said.
“My father was a big Mets fan, and all the Leiter boys were to follow.”
Cohen, Rose, and Leiter’s comments demonstrated deep personal connections to the franchise that can motivate current followers of the Mets or any team to strive for significant achievements of their own.
Horwitz joined the Mets in 1980, and as a youngster, he did not foresee a path to receiving a major award from the Mets.
“To me, it’s just a humbling experience,” Horwitz said.
He shared that when he was making errors in little league games, he never saw himself becoming an essential person for an MLB team.
“I just never thought something like this was possible. I never thought my name would be associated with anything to do with a Hall of Fame Award,” he added.
Horwitz became one of the most beloved and recognizable media relations figures in the game. Johnson said that Horwitz has his rightful place in franchise annals along with all of the team’s greats.
“Jay is one of the most humble guys you will ever meet. He doesn’t really toot his own horn at all; he just does his job, a lot of times in the background, but he is well deserving to be a part of this,” Johnson said. “He’s as much a part of the Mets as anyone, including from the locker room.”
Johnson, a key member of the 1986 World Champions team, said he was “in shock” when he received the call about his upcoming induction.
What he greatly appreciates is how current Mets ownership has moved to increase the recognition of Mets’ history in recent years.
Johnson, who was originally a platoon third baseman, emerged as a two-time All-Star and Silver Slugger and led the NL in HRs and RBIs in 1991. Because of Steve and Alex Cohen, he is now officially part of eternal Mets lore.
“I’ve always been a fan of history. Baseball history especially is very interesting to me,” Johnson said. “The Mets’ history is a rich one. But it hasn’t been mined yet like it should. And I think that’s what Steve and Alex Cohen are doing. They’re going to try and mine that, and they’re going to promote it. That’s something that needs to be tapped into, and I’m grateful that they are.”
Rose fully echoed Rose’s sentiments.
“I can’t thank Steve and Alex Cohen enough for everything that they’ve done to reconnect Mets players and Mets personnel with the history and tradition of this franchise,” he said.
Gary Cohen, Leiter, and Horwitz also thanked Steve and Alex Cohen for making their inductions and awards possible.
On June 3, this ceremony will be about more than just recognizing the significant accomplishments of these five historical Mets figures. It will also be about realizing that three young Mets fans eventually became forever linked with the franchise.
A guy who was a part-time infielder rose to be regarded as one of the most revered players to ever wear a Mets uniform. And a man who devoted his life to the organization will be lauded for his incredible dedication. Horwitz proved that if you can’t be a professional athlete, you can be fulfilled by your favorite sport.
The 2023 Mets Hall of Fame induction ceremony will serve as a beacon to those who seek inspiration.
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