Tuesday, August 29, 2006
But what does Chris Everett think?
Before you start this, you need to know that Jackie Robinson is one of my heroes.
I think he’s one of the most important people of the 20th century. I think he’s ability to withstand all that abuse and still hold his head high and get the job done should be an inspiration to us all.
I think the mandate that his No. 42 be retired by every team was one of the few great things Bud Selig has done as commissioner. And that uniform patch worn by every player in 1997 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his breaking the color barrier was a stroke of genius.
And I’d be proud if the Mets honored Jackie by naming their new stadium after him.
But I don’t want them to do it because some tennis player and New York Times columnist demand it.
In case you missed it, the USTA renamed the tennis complex across the street from Shea after Billie Jean King. It was a worthy honor to a pioneer.
Then, according to the New York Post, Billie got loose with these comments:
"How about the future stadium down the street? I think Jackie Robinson. I think so. I certainly hope Jackie Robinson, I hope the Mets do the right thing, that's a no-brainer, too.”
I hope the Mets do the right thing? We tend to not ask tennis players what the “right thing” is for baseball. But setting aside the source, is it the right thing?
Let’s break this down:
Pro: It would be a wonderful honor for Jackie, a true American hero.
Con: You can’t do enough to honor Robinson. But right now, the official Major League Baseball tribute is to figuratively hang No. 42 on the wall in every stadium. He’s the only player to receive that honor, and probably the only one ever. That’s a pretty important tribute.
Pro: Jackie played in New York.
Con: But not for the Mets. He, of course, played for the Dodgers in Brooklyn, not Queens. Teams tend not extend tremendous honors to other teams’ players.
Pro: The Mets have become the de facto holders of the Robinson legacy. The national ceremony on the 50th anniversary was at Shea.
Con: It was at Shea, but the game was against the Dodgers. And we wore those goofy white caps.
Pro: The Wilpons, who own the Mets, seem to want to embrace the whole Dodger legacy thing. The new stadium has some similarities to Ebbets Field. And the Mets seem to have adopted the scruffy, “Dem Bums” persona that was certainly more like the Dodgers than the also-departed Giants.
Con: Screw the Dodgers. The team chased the greenbacks all the way across the country, inflicting an immeasurable amount of pain on New Yorkers who deserved so much better. And after 44 years, the Mets are well on our way to building our own legacy.
Pro: It would be the politically correct thing to do.
Con: It would be the politically correct thing to do. Hey, why are the Mets getting beat up like this? The Yankees are building a new stadium and I don’t hear any cranky tennis players tossing “It’s the right thing to do” in their direction.
Truth be told, the Yankees record in racial areas is pretty dismal. Jackie broke the barrier in 1947, followed shortly by Larry Doby, who deserves some respect as well.
But it took the Yankees seven years to add Elston Howard to their roster, and that was only after people picketed outside the stadium and George Weis traded away every black minor-leaguer whose stats made it obvious that they belonged in the big leagues. Shameful. The only thing keeping the Yankees from total disgrace is the fact that it took the Red Sox even longer to add a black player.
Howard’s promotion came off looking like the Yankees’ hand was forced.
And sadly, now that’s how it will appear if the Mets take this step. The moment’s been tainted.
If the team takes the speculated $10 million from some corporation for naming rights, it will be painted as greedy despite the fact that every new yard built since Oriole Park at Camden Yards has held a corporate moniker – and many built before Camden Yards have since sold their names. I’m not saying I like it, but it’s the reality. If you want stuff like Barry Zito under your Christmas tree this off season, you can’t begrudge the team for trying to do things that generate money without raising ticket prices even higher.
And if the Mets do something nice, like add a statue of Robinson, every columnist will break out with lines reading how it is a lesser tribute because the team took the money for the naming rights.