Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted on Sept.
It was late Sunday night and the curtain literally had come down on a show for the ages for Mets fans -- the naming of their all-time team by position, as chosen by a media panel assembled by SNY.
But Tom Seaver lingered on the stage at the 92nd Street Y long enough to consider a question: Given the franchise's modest half-century of accomplishment, how do you think the men you've just sat beside stack up to other teams' stars?
"Actually, I was looking at them and saying, 'I'll take this semicircle right here and let's go,' " Seaver said. "I will take that. That's pretty good.''
Seaver said he naturally would insist on taking along some honorees not present because of other obligations, such as shortstop Jose Reyes, and some not selected at all, such as Nolan Ryan, a Met early in his career.
But his point was clear: When you're a Met, you're a Met all the way. No apologies necessary.
That certainly was the vibe on a night when a raucous crowd full of replica Mets jerseys greeted every star with a standing ovation and no one seemed to mind that some positions were a tad less competitive than, say, a team of Yankees from the past 50 years.
In short, it was a celebration of all things Mets. Those not in the live audience can relive it at 7 p.m. Thursday on SNY.
Seaver, 67, said sharing memories with fans does not get old, even after all these years. "We touched people's lives as much as we touched the lives of those players in uniform around us that will stay with us forever,'' he said.
This was shortly after the former face of the franchise had approached the current face of the franchise, pointed at David Wright's chest and encouraged him to start thinking what he will be doing when he is 45.
"You're a bright guy,'' he said. "There are wonderful things to do.''
Wright, 29, and Mets fans have more pressing concerns than what he will do when he retires. But the paternalism came off not as lecturing but as confirmation that being a Met means being a member of a quirky but close fraternity.
During an earlier Q&A session that will not be seen on the telecast, Wright had spoken of the "tremendous honor'' of being a lifelong Mets fan on stage with the likes of Seaver, Keith Hernandez and Darryl Strawberry.
"It's something I'll always cherish,'' he said. "I'll be able to tell my kids and grandkids one day that I got a chance to sit on the stage with this group of gentlemen.''
Davey Johnson was picked over Gil Hodges as manager, a difficult call that grew more awkward as Jones and Seaver spoke eloquently and emotionally about Hodges' impact.
Play-by-play men Howie Rose and Gary Cohen, both members of the selection panel, discussed the complexity of some calls, notably at catcher, where Piazza edged out Gary Carter, Jerry Grote and Todd Hundley.
"This, hands down, to me is the best position the Mets have ever had,'' Cohen said.
One of the challenges was weighing hard evidence over childhood memories, which Rose said was most evident in choosing Reyes over Bud Harrelson at short.
"This was the ultimate test of head over heart,'' he said. Rose and his fellow panelists went with the former for their official pick.
But on this night, it was OK to celebrate the latter, too.