Groundskeeper Pete Flynn drove the Beatles, saw the Pope and had water fights with Jerry Koosman
When you think about attending a Major League game, what's one of the first things that comes to mind? That's right: the smell of the fresh cut, brilliant green grass.
But the field doesn't just grow in like that. It takes a lot of hard work from the grounds crew at each stadium to make sure that the field can handle the rain, sun and cleats tearing up the turf for 81 home games.
On Friday, Pete Flynn, former head groundskeeper for the Mets, and the late Pat Santarone, who spent 22 years with the Orioles, were recognized for those efforts and elected into the Groundskeeper Hall of Fame.
Santarone followed in his father's line of work and actually worked with Earl Weaver during the 1960s at Double-A Elmira. The two would be reunited in Baltimore and would hold annual tomato growing competitions together.
As for Flynn, he became the head groundskeeper accidentally. Unemployed in the winter 1962, Flynn told MLB.com that when he saw that they were looking for help at the Polo Grounds, he decided to apply. He went down to 19th street in Manhattan and was hired as a handyman, eventually climbing the ladder through hard work and a growing love for the job. His first day on the job was the first time he ever stepped on a baseball field.
Working at the Polo Grounds was especially difficult as the field would occasionally feature car races that left the playing surface a "mess." Without the assistance of any machinery, Flynn and the grounds crew had to use "just a rake and a shovel and a lot of hard work" to get the field presentable in time.
But, that work would pale in comparison to Flynn's hardest seasons in 1974 and '75. Said Flynn, "I had the Yankees, and the Mets, and the Jets and the Giants all playing at Shea. Unbelievable. I worked like six months without a day off. It nearly killed me."
There were plenty of fond memories, too. Flynn's favorite was of the 1969 Miracle Mets, and he recalls the time he was tasked with driving the Beatles from "second base out to center field in an armored truck. Took all of about three minutes." He added that it was so loud during the show that "I was sitting on the stairway up by the stage and with the kids screaming I couldn't hear the Beatles." That's not to mention the time the Pope visited and the skies miraculously cleared as his motorcade drove into center field.
While working for the team for over 50 years, Flynn made plenty of friends. Though he was close with Tom Seaver, who he called "Rookie," and Vince Coleman jokingly blamed him for slowing down the infield and keeping him out of the Hall of Fame, Flynn's closest friend was Jerry Koosman.
The two shared plenty of water fights, with this particular story being a favorite of Flynn's:
Flynn and Santarone will be formally inducted into the Hall at a ceremony on Jan. 11 at Coors Field, joining Emil Bossard of the Indians, George Toma of the Royals, Joe Mooney of the Red Sox, Dick Ericson of the Twins and Harry Gil of the Brewers as the Major League representatives.