Pete Flynn throwing out first pitch before his last game as Mets groundskeeper yesterday.
Pete Flynn's New York Mets career ended yesterday with the last game of the 2011 season. If you don't know Flynn's name that's understandable because Flynn was the team's groundskeeper and yesterday marked the end of his time with the Mets that began when the team was first formed in 1962.
Flynn is an Irish immigrant from County Leitrim. Although it's fuzzy now, I can recall what I thought the first time I heard Flynn's name and that he was from Ireland. My vague memory is that it had started to rain and the grounds-crew was rolling out the tarp to cover the infield and, I think, Flynn fell or got knocked over. Mets announcer Bob Murphy spoke his name, hoping Flynn hadn't been hurt in the fall. He then said that Flynn was from Ireland and that he had been with the team since the first days in the Polo Grounds.
Two things went through my mind at that moment. First that Flynn had been with the team since Day 1 seemed an incredibly long time in the past (this was around 1978). Next was that a man from Ireland had, what seemed to me, a dream job - tending the grass at Shea Stadium. "How does he know anything about baseball?", I wondered, not giving any thought to reality, which was that all Flynn really needed to know was grass.
Flynn said it took him a year to understand the game after he first got the job with the Mets back in '62. It wasn't just baseball either. The Mets shared Shea with the NY Jets for 20 years and Shea also hosted many concerts, including most famously, the Beatles in 1965.
Even if being groundskeeper for the Mets was a dream job, I'm sure there were moments when it was far from easy. Shea Stadium wasn't very well built and Flynn had to contend with a field that didn't drain well.
After the Mets clinched the division title in 1986 Flynn was angry. The fans stormed the field and basically wrecked it. Flynn was angry at the club because they hadn't heeded his warnings about the need for security. He knew what was going to happen. He was angrier at the fans, saying they - we - didn't deserve a champion. There was no repeat of that destruction during the playoffs or after the final out of the World Series or any time since.
Flynn met all the great Mets, many great Jets, the Beatles, other rock stars and Presidents Nixon and Clinton. He witnessed all of Shea Stadium's special moments, including the Mets' World Series wins in 1969 and 1986. Yet, Flynn says the greatest thing he ever saw was the rain giving way to the sun over Shea just as Pope John Paul II came out to say Mass during his 1979 visit to New York.