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The 2023 Mets Hall of Famers are taking a trip down memory lane

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The 1969 “Miracle Mets” changed the course of Howie Rose’s life. The 1986 World Series changed Howard Johnson’s life.

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Rose, Johnson, Aletter, and Gary Cohen may all be important figures in Mets history, which is why they will all go into the club’s Hall of Fame on June 3, but the organization has affected all of their lives in ways they couldn’t. I imagined. The four reflected on their travels through the Mets on Thursday on a Zoom call with the media.

“The Mets are in my heart, they are in my body as part of our identity. It’s in our DNA,” said Johnson, a former Mets player on the 1986 World Series team. “All the guys who’ve ever worn that uniform, we share a brotherhood. The guys in the booth are no different.”

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The club has had fractured relationships with some of its former players over the years, but there has been a concerted effort under owners Steve and Alex Cohen to mend those relationships and bring some beloved former Mets and their families back into the fold. History and nostalgia are what baseball does best, and the Mets are a bridge between past and present with the Class of 2023.

The four members of this year’s class have given fans unforgettable moments throughout history, and the two announcers go on to recount some of their best and worst moments. Behind the scenes is Jay Horowitz, a former director of public relations for the Mets who is now leading the club’s alumni relations effort. Horowitz will also be honored this summer with the Mets Hall of Fame Achievement Award.

“(Jay) is, in many ways, a bastion of Mets history and a bedrock of every player who has played for the Mets over the past 40 years,” said Cohen.

Johnson was a player who hit 30 home runs and stole 30 bases three times as a switch batter. He later returned to coaching the Mets in various positions. He didn’t have his best season in 1986, but he did have one signature moment in a season full of them for the Amazons, hitting Cincinnati’s three-run home run in the 14th inning after Ray Knight, Daryl Strawberry and Kevin Mitchell were sacked.

The group that defeated the Boston Red Sox in the 1986 World Series stayed close. Some of them became celebrities overnight and some got their celebrity image seen. It was a unique experience that few outside of that particular group could relate to.

“It’s hard to put into words what this team did for all the players that were on that team,” Johnson said. “It’s sad that some of them are no longer here, but they look down on us too. And I’m glad I was a part of it.”

Leiter, a left-handed pitcher who hit a hit double in Cincinnati to help the Mets clinch the 1999 NL Wild Card spot. The New Jersey native who grew up rooting for the Mets started his career with the Yankees and ended it there as well, even though he wanted to finish it with the Mets. He’s been mad at former Mets general manager Omar Manaya for years but the two are close friends now.

Leiter was traded to the Mets during the Marlins’ 1997 fire sale and remains grateful to longtime baseball manager and then Florida GM Dave Dombrowski for how it all turned out.

Dave Dombrowski called me the day before the trade and said, “I don’t promise you anything, but I have similar potential offers and I’m wondering if you have a preference.” “I had an offer from the St. Louis Cardinals, and I got an offer from the New York Mets,” Leiter said. “I said, ‘Dave, are you kidding? And that would be great.”

One day later he is a member of his favorite childhood team.

“I couldn’t be more grateful that Dave Dombrowski would do such a thing to connect with a player,” Leiter said.

But while Johnson and Leiter’s careers were ending, Rose’s and Cohen’s were taking off. Both can relate to Leiter as lifelong Mets fans, which makes this honor of being inducted into the team’s hall of fame all the more rewarding.

“It’s kind of surprising,” said Cohen, who has called Mets games on the radio and on SNY since 1989. “I think I’ve spent hundreds of nights sitting on the upper deck at Shea Stadium. Think Lindsey (Nelson), Ralph (Kiner) and Bob Murphy under my pillow for West Coast games. The Mets have been a huge part of my life.”

A famous Beatles fan, Rose recalls attending his first Mets game on July 6, 1962, because it was the same date the Beatles had their first Abbey Road recording session. Four years later, he met his wife, Barbara, on the same date.

The two ended up sharing a booth and sharing a friendship that spanned decades. Rose did not come from a minor league baseball background like Cohen and learned about elaborate radio broadcasts from his partner. Cohen learned how and when to let his personality and sense of humor shine from Rose.

“We are lucky fans who had the opportunity to bring home our favorite team,” said Cohen.

Naturally, the two would go into the Hall of Fame together.

Rose said, “The fact that Gary and I go together, it’s very special, we’re kindred spirits.”

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