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Mets fans react to Willie's dismissal

Mets fans react to Willie's dismissal

NEW YORK -- Just less than three weeks ago, Ernestine Spann circled the front gates of Shea Stadium looking for somewhere to fetch a Mets pocket schedule, and, more importantly, she sought to deliver a message to Willie Randolph.

"Are you going to see Willie today?" she asked a reporter entering the press gate, as she began to shuffle through her purse for an unsealed white envelope addressed to "Mr. Willie Randolph ... Shea Stadium ... Queens, New York." The postage, complete with her Bronx address, was stickered on the top-left corner.

"It's just a letter of encouragement," she added.

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Dated May 28, 2008, the letter was penned on a plain sheet of notebook paper in cursive, and it attempted to extend a heartfelt message of hope from one New Yorker to another: "Mr. Randolph, Get Ready. The Mets are going to win the World Series."

After all, those were the preseason expectations. And, who knows, maybe the Mets will still prove her a prophet. But if a World Series is coming to New York, Randolph won't be the one to see it through.

On Tuesday, the Mets fans were told that Randolph, who oversaw a victory against the Angels the night before, wasn't going to have a chance to manage in Flushing any longer. If you want to send any letters of support, they should be readdressed to interim manager Jerry Manuel.

With the hints of this dismissal coming through the radio, newspaper, Internet and television for nearly a month, most Met fans already had advanced notice to brace for Randolph's exit. Last weekend, sales of Randolph's No. 12 jerseys were already beginning to thin.

Now, nary a "12" is hung through store's front glass. Only the popular No. 5s and No. 7s are prominently advertised. And, if for some nostalgic reason you want discounted Randolph attire, there might be a few left inside the stadium.

Driving up to the ticket gates with his metal-moving truck, Mets fan Rocco Freno was looking for a place to exchange his rained-out Rangers tickets on Tuesday. "I'm hoping for the Phillies series," he chuckled, explaining that his boss gave him a few seconds to drop by Shea Stadium because Freno just so happened to be delivering in Queens. Even after digesting the news of Randolph's demise via the radio on his drive to work, Freno still had to rationalize the move.

Still, he didn't like how the move tasted. At least, he said, it was better than if they removed Randolph on Father's Day.

"It's sad because they flew the guy all the way out to California," Freno said. "While they were east, they could have done something then."

Across town at the All-Star FanFest preview at MLB Headquarters, a spectator in the crowd looked at Derek Jeter and screamed, "D.J., have you called Willie yet?"

Jeter, along Yogi Berra and current co-chairperson Hal Steinbrenner, was bombarded with questions about the former Yankees bench coach. Steinbrenner, poked and prodded on whether Randolph might find himself back on the Yankees bench, or if he would at least remain as a coach at the All-Star Game, said it was far too early to respond to Randolph questions.

After all, they were all as unsettled by the news as any other New Yorker, most of whom spent their afternoons hearing about Randolph's release through endless street chatter.

"It's a shock," Steinbrenner said, "but it's not the time to even talk about this."

"Not now," Jeter said, stating that he had only heard about Randolph's dismissal 10 minutes before arriving at 46th Street and Park Avenue for the event.

"All that I can say is that it's unfortunate," Jeter continued. "I know that Willie cares about the team, like when he worked with the Yankees. He works extremely hard. I think it's unfortunate. I feel bad for him. Hopefully he'll get another opportunity to manage. I think he will."

Berra said he knew all about managing in New York. He also knows his share about being asked to clear out his office.

His first stint as a full-time manger lasted one season. A player/coach in 1963, Berra managed the Yankees to a pennant in 1964 but dropped the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games. Moments later, Berra abandoned the Yankees bench until he was hired back for a second stint starting in 1984.

Berra also found himself out of a manager's job with the Mets after four season of .500 ball in the '70s, so he's well-versed Randolph's situation. Amid all of the commotion, all of the drama surrounding Randolph's firing, Berra was unmoved.

Famous for his Yogi-isms, Berra listened to a reporter's question and calmly tossed back some wisdom.

"Managers are going to get fired," Berra said. "What else can you say? I got fired twice."

Jon Blau is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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