HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) - As their first manager, Casey Stengel, might have said: Simply Amazin'.
Fans, broadcasters, sportswriters and former players are taking part in a three-day academic conference at Hofstra University, examining the 50-year history of the New York Mets.
Created in 1962 to soothe heartbroken National League baseball fans four years after the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants fled to California, the Mets have had rare, but notable, victories on the field, winning only two World Series, in 1969 and 1986. But the team has had a loyal, vocal fan base through decades of many losing seasons.
"It's a sentimental thing, more than anything else," explained Frank O'Brien of Bethpage, N.Y., of his love affair with his favorite baseball team. Sporting a royal blue Mets jacket with bright orange NY lettering on his chest, O'Brien added: "When the Dodgers and the Giants left, it was a big void."
The conference, which runs through Saturday, features panel discussions by sports journalists, baseball historians, bloggers and biographers. Topics include discussions of the ballparks the team played at: first the Polo Grounds in Manhattan, then at Shea Stadium in Queens from 1964 to 2008, and now at Citi Field, which was built next to Shea.
There are discussions on team statistics, favorite players and managers and displays of artworks and photographs from the past 50 years.
There also are exhibits of Mets memorabilia, musical presentations. Former Mets third baseman Ed Charles is even giving a talk about his poetry.
Charles' fellow teammates Ed Kranepool, Bud Harrelson and Art Shamsky took part in a panel discussion Friday recalling the team's improbable 1969 World Series victory.
Before that, the Mets were perennial league doormats, hopelessly mired in last place most of the time. But that changed the year man first walked on the moon, when manager Gil Hodges _ a former star with the Dodgers and an original Mets player _ led the team to 100 wins in the regular season and a World Series victory over the Baltimore Orioles.
"I believe history will show the `69 Mets may not have been the best team to ever win the World Series, but they're certainly the most memorable," said Shamsky, who was both an outfielder and first baseman that season.
Kranepool, who grew up in the Bronx, was 17 when he joined the Mets in their inaugural season.
"In the first couple of years I think the fan base was built around Dodger and Giant fans," he recalled. "Obviously when both those ballclubs came in we packed the house. They were tremendous fans, National League fans in New York. The Mets created a monster as far as I'm concerned. You know they have a tremendous following."
The conference is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Dana Brand, former chairman of Hofstra's English Department and a lifelong Mets fan who died last year. Brand wrote two books about the team: "Mets Fan" in 2007 and "The Last Days of Shea" in 2009.
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