Clifton, NJ

Jay Horwitz Caps 42-Year Mets Career With Terrific Tome

IBWAA

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Jay Horwitz chronicles his Mets career in a new book.Triumph Books

By Dan Schlossberg

Jay Horwitz wanted to be Pierre Salinger.

When he was a college student at Fairleigh Dickinson University, the lifelong resident of Clifton, NJ longed to follow in the footsteps of President Kennedy’s press secretary.

That’s what he told a crowd of admirers at Clifton Jewish Center last Sunday before talking about his life as a publicist — first for FDU and finally for the Mets. He now runs the team’s alumni association and doubles as team historian.

On April 1, 1980, his first day on the job, Horwitz got lost trying to find Shea Stadium. He called, someone came to get him, and the rest is history.

Now 76, he never married, mainly because of time constraints caused by his job as Director of Media Relations for the Mets. He did that job well: the press box at Citi Field was just renamed in his honor.

“It’s all about relationships,” said Horwitz, who has an artificial right eye as the result of his mother’s pre-natal bout with German measles.

Joe Torre, the Hall of Fame manager, helped Horwitz when he managed the Mets. “Joe brought me into the clubhouse and took me under his wing,” Horwitz revealed.

The affable baseball historian was with the Mets for their 1986 world championship season. He even cracked a knuckle trying to take off his Clifton High School ring so that he could wear the World Series ring the team voted him.

Horwitz was there through a roller-coaster of emotions, including the team’s reaction to the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York. Manager Bobby Valentine, closer John Franco, starter Al Leiter, and catcher Mike Piazza were the mainstays who used Shea as a staging area to help Metropolitan Area residents in need.

“We felt we made a difference in the community,” said Horwitz, who got to know Ed Kranepool, Ron Swoboda, Art Shamsky, Tom Seaver, Darryl Strawberry, Doc Gooden, and other Mets heroes.

He’s looking forward to July 24, when the late Gil Hodges will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame after a long wait, and August 27, when the Mets will bring back a popular but forgotten tradition, Old Timers Day. Pedro Martinez and Keith Hernandez will be featured guests this year.

“The Miracle Mets never would have won without Gil Hodges,” Horwitz said of the manager, who died from a heart attack at age 47 in 1972. “The Cubs were 11 1/2 games ahead in August with Leo Durocher managing.”

Never an autograph collector, Horwitz preferred photographs. But he said he doesn’t own much Mets memorabilia.

Asked whether there could be a Subway Series this fall, he shook his head. “Anything can happen in the playoffs,” he said, noting that a team has to win 11 games to become a world champion (the Braves went 11-6 in the 2021 postseason).

He does like the team’s new manager, Buck Showalter, who also managed the Yankees during the George Steinbrenner years. “Buck is the perfect manager for the Mets,” Horwitz said. “You need a strong voice in the locker room.”

Horwitz goes to work three days a week but also does a regular podcast, reaching out to players he knows. His long guest list has included Benny Agbayani, Turk Wendell Willie Randolph, Kranepol, Valentine, and Torre, among others.

Jacob deGrom, 40 years younger than Horwitz, has become such a good friend that he wrote the foreword to the new book, lovingly called Mr. Met.

His ability to laugh at himself has endeared Horwitz to players, managers, and media members. “I wanted the players to trust me,” he said, “and I always told the truth to the media.”

The biggest difference from when he started? “There was no social media in 1980,” he said. “Now there’s no privacy for anyone.”

PR people no longer draft press releases, according to Horwitz. “Everything is on Twitter,” he said.

In the only Subway Series involving the Mets and Yankees, the team from the Bronx won in five games. But the Mets stopped the Yankees’ record winning streak of 14 consecutive World Series games.

A personal note: Jay and I started our careers in the same place at the same time. We were both college interns at the Passaic Herald-News, a daily newspaper later absorbed by the Bergen Record (and now USA TODAY’s Gannett group). Even then, Jay was an off-beat, creative, and innovative guy who knew how to turn a phrase.

His book shows that neither his zany sense of humor nor his affinity for the language has faded.

Ex-AP newsman Dan Schlossberg, a baseball writer since 1969, will be signing books in Fair Lawn, NJ on June 19, Cooperstown on July 6 and 23 and at the Level Hotel on South Olive Street in Los Angeles on July 17. E.mail ballauthor@gmail to book him as a speaker.

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