Mets fans know his name. It titles their blogs, lines their memories of the 1969 championship team and still represents how the franchise blossomed from expansion and into contention.
Ed Kranepool, the original Met, lives among his admirers in New York. He watched Shea Stadium rise in 1964 and will see it fall after the 2008 season, and he hopes to take a chair in Citi Field when it opens in 2009. A Yankees fan growing up in the Bronx, Kranepool, the Mets' first centerpiece, finds room in his heart for both teams, as well as the Knicks on occasion, and maybe a rooting interest in the Islanders every once in a while.
Making his career as a stockbroker and restaurant owner after his baseball career, Kranepool continues to immerse himself in the city that has always been his home. He even tried to lead a group to buy the Mets in 1979 before losing out to Fred Wilpon and Nelson Doubleday.
"Obviously, when you sign a contract with a team, I am a New York fan," Kranepool said. "I am a baseball man, No. 1."
That didn't stop him from branching out after his retirement. He had already appeared in "The Odd Couple" with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau in 1968, and would go on to participate in an episode of "Saturday Night Live" in 1979 and the movie "It's My Turn" in 1980.
And during a 1999 episode of the New York-based "Everybody Loves Raymond," Kranepool joined several former Mets -- including Cleon Jones, Tommie Agee, Jerry Grote and Tug McGraw -- onscreen with Ray Romano.
Kranepool's best memories are rooted in New York. He watched boxer Chuck Wepner fight Andre the Giant in Shea Stadium. One of his most prominent ventures into the restaurant business was east of the city, in Amityville, as he and former teammate Ron Swoboda opened an establishment called "The Dugout."
To visit the stadium where he was an All-Star in 1964, the stadium that he stills loves -- even though he jokes that the "urinals weren't working" the first day it opened -- is a sentimental yet comfortable existence for the original Mr. Met.
"I saw the last game in the Polo Grounds, I saw the first game at Shea," he said, "and I hope I'm here next year to see the first game over at the new stadium."
Jon Blau is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.