Shortly before Tylor Megill threw the first pitch against George Springer and the Toronto Blue Jays, the Mets inducted some of the franchise’s most beloved figures into the team’s Hall of Fame.
Al Leiter, Howard Johnson, Gary Cohen and Howie Rose were inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame Saturday in front of family and friends at Citi Field.
Mets VP of media relations Jay Horwitz also became the fifth person in team history to be honored with the Mets Hall of Fame Achievement Award for contributions to the organization
The 2023 Hall of Fame class induction started with Horwitz receiving his flowers first. He’s worked with the Mets for 40 years and has been tasked with putting together these same kinds of events to honor Mets players throughout his tenure.
But on Saturday, he was the one being honored.
Horwitz, who Cohen called the backbone of the team, didn’t speak on-field like the other honorees but he admitted to reporters prior that the tables being turned this time left him feeling “weird.”
“It really makes me proud [that] I worked with all of these guys. It’s really great,” he said. “It’s awkward being on this side of the table for sure.”
Leiter, who pitched seven seasons with the Mets, reminisced about playing for the team he grew up rooting for as a kid in New Jersey. Leiter landed in Queens after being traded from the then-Floria Marlins and he said playing for the Mets was “a dream come true stuff.”
Despite losing in five games to the Yankees in the 2000 World Series, the two-time All-Star highlighted that postseason as one of his favorite moments with the Mets.
During his speech, Leiter thanked team owner Steve Cohen and his wife, Alex, “for bringing back Mets history in a fervent way.”
“Your love for this team doesn’t go unnoticed and it is very appreciated,” Leiter said to the Cohen family.
Johnson’s Hall of Fame induction to the team was long overdue, Cohen said before the ceremony. Cohen made sure to praise the switch-hitting slugger Saturday, calling him “an overlooked piece of Mets’ history for far too long.”
Howard played nine seasons with the Mets in his 14-year career. He’s known for being part of a historic 1984 Detroit Tigers squad that defeated the San Diego Padres in the World Series.
But Johnson played bigger roles with the Mets, becoming a rare power-hitter who also flashed his speed on the bases. Johnson recorded three 30-30 seasons (30 homers and stolen bases) in Queens and was part of the last Mets team to win the World Series in 1986.
HoJo, during the ceremony, thanked the fans that gave him his nickname that’ll be remembered forever.
“You are the lifeblood of this team and this organization. You are the driving force behind our success… I’m honored to have played in front of you,” Johnson said.
The longtime voices of the Mets, Cohen and Rose, are etched into the minds of fans from all ages. They both grew up as Mets fans and spent just two seasons working with each other before the television network SNY existed.
With Cohen going on to be the lead play-by-play voice for SNY and Rose taking on radio broadcasting, they’ve earned themselves a spot in the Mets Hall forever.
The induction was surreal for Rose, who said the team’s 1969 championship run changed his life. He said the championship taught him that anything can be accomplished if you go out and work hard enough.
“So I might not have been born with a great deal of athletic ability but to have found a way to get into games for free and enjoy being around the Mets organization was enough,” Rose said prior to the ceremony. “To be part of it and to be honored like this today, I’m still not sure this is gonna be real when I wake up tomorrow morning.
“But what really is the icing on the cake is that everybody up here with me is a friend.”
Cohen went down memory lane before getting inducted.
He mentioned the 1999 Mets under manager Bobby Valentine, who was in attendance, was a magical year filled with iconic moments, including Leiter’s two-hit shutout performance against the Cincinnati Reds that clinched a postseason berth.
The broadcaster acknowledged Leiter and HoJo as “two of his favorite players to watch” and said he along with Rose “are just two of the lucky ones” out of thousands of fans dreaming to do the jobs they currently do.
Now Cohen and Rose, along with the rest of the 2023 class, bring the total number of Mets Hall of Fame to 34 members.
“I am just a kid from Queens. I got lucky. I am one of you. And I share this honor with all of you,” Cohen said to the Citi Field crowd.