Monday, November 13, 2006

Honor Jackie, but don't forget Tom, Gil, Willie...

One of the surprises about today’s groundbreaking ceremony was the announcement that a statue of Jackie Robinson would be erected inside the CitiField rotunda.

I think that’s great. Fantastic! Wonderful! I’ll be the guy posing next to it. I expressed my feelings about Jackie here.

But I’ll be even happier if not far away is a statue of Tom Seaver. And one of Gil Hodges and Willie Mays, as well as Gary Carter and Keith Hernandez. Then we need Mike Piazza, and I’m open to discussing Doc and Straw. Perhaps Bill Shea speaking to Joan Payson would be a proper tribute to their roles.

Today’s announcement proves that the Mets do a horrible job of honoring their history, and it doesn’t appear that they’re going to get better at it any time soon.

But the whole statue thing is interesting. In theory, a statue should be a step higher on the list of honors than a retired number. They also become a focal point for your stadium, because people naturally gather around them and snap photos.

So I thought it was odd that the Mets would plan a statue of a guy, however historic and important, who never played a game for them — or had any role with the team whatsoever.

I did a little poking around at what other teams had done. Jackie actually would not be the first such player honored. The Braves have Ty Cobb standing near Hank Aaron, Warren Spahn and Phil Niekro. And the Phillies even have another team’s manager — Connie Mack — in their new yard. The Orioles have a young Babe Ruth, but without any indication of his Yankeeness.

There are some real head-stratchers in the bunch. Let’s review:

Ameriquest Field: Nolan Ryan and Tom Vandergriff, former mayor of Arlington who was key in getting a team located there.

Angels Stadium: Apparently no players have been deemed worthy, but Gene Autry and Michelle Carew, Rod’s daughter, who died at 17 of leukemia, are honored.

AT&T Park: Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal

Busch Stadium: A 10-foot-tall Stan Musial, and smaller likenesses of Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Enos Slaughter, Red Schoendienst, Ozzie Smith and Jack Buck. Very nice. The Cards are a classy organization.

Citizens Bank Park: Richie Ashburn, Robin Roberts, Mike Schmidt and Connie Mack, who was moved from Shibe Park. Luckily the Rocky statue has not ended up here. The Roberts statue is odd because it’s painted like a black and white photo.

Comerica Park: Ty Cobb, Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg, Willie Horton, Al Kaline, Prince Hal Newhouser and Ernie Harwell. Horton is very popular in Detroit and a cog of the 1968 champs, but he might be the worst player ever cast in a statue.

Dolphin Stadium: Joe Robbie, Don Shula and Dan Marino. Perhaps this shows how unwelcome the Marlins are in their own park, but I’m not sure I any Fish player has earned the bronze treatment.

Fenway Park: Ted Williams, with a little kid, no doubt hearing how he is the greatest hitter who ever lived.

Great American Ballpark: Joe Nuxhall, Ernie Lombardi, Ted Kluszewski and Frank Robinson. Will, the resident Reds expert, said they’re taking care of the old-timers first. We speculate that the Bench, Morgan and Perez tributes — I’d argue for Seaver, too! — are pending the resolution of the Pete Rose fiasco.

Jacobs Field: Bob Feller.

Kaufmann Stadium: George Brett, Mr. and Mrs. Kaufmann.

Miller Park: Hank Aaron, Robin Yount and construction workers killed during the stadium crane accident. Aaron is precedent for the Mets adding Willie Mays.

Minute Maid Park: Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio. This is a strange one. They’re outside the park completing a double play — at a time when both were active. Usually you wait until guys hang ‘em up.

Oriole Park: Babe Ruth. The Bambino is from Baltimore and grew up not far from the ballpark. Nevertheless, there are a number of very worthy Orioles.

PNC Park: Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Honus Wagner.

Rogers Centre: Fans. This is more of a decoration than a tribute.

Tropicana Field: A generic Devil Ray fielder, again, more of a decoration.

Turner Field: Hank Aaron, Warren Spahn, Phil Niekro and Ty Cobb. You know Chipper "Freaking’ Jones wants one!

U.S. Cellular Field: Charles Comiskey. Yikes.

Wrigley Field: Harry Caray. Double yikes! It’s a strange-looking thing, too.

None: Shea Stadium, Chase Field, Coors Field, Dodger Stadium, Petco Park, Safeco Park and the place in the Bronx.

The Dodgers surprise me, considering the team’s respect toward it’s history.

As for Jackie, this won’t be the first time he’s been cast in bronze. You can find the version of him and PeeWee Reese at Keyspan, a leaping catch in Newark, speaking to kids in Montreal, and giant head at Pasadena, kneeling on deck outside the stadium at UCLA and playing in Stamford, where he lived after baseball.

I’m glad the Mets are honoring Jackie, as we’ve become the de facto keepers of the flame. But let’s not forget our own heroes, too.


Dan in Texas said...

Hey Dave, There is a statue at Shea in the Diamond club of a German Shepherd and no explantion of it's presence. (Joan Payson's dog maybe?)

I agree with you about honoring our own before players who made tremendous contributions to baseball but never wore a Mets uniform. I always thought the Dodgers should be the ones claiming Jackie as their own, not the Mets.

I would love to see a Seaver, Carter, Hodges, Casey, Piazza, and even a Robin Ventura in the post swing pose after winning game 5 of the 1999 NLCS. I also find it curious that Mrs. Payson is not honored anywhere in the stadium. I wouldn't mind a Bobby V statue but that might be overkill.

Keep up the good work, Davey!

Brokaw said...

we do a piss poor job of honoring our past heroes but embrace heroes of other organizations.

hopefully, with the end of the "cookie cutter" stadium, we can finally embrace OUR heroes

G-Fafif said...

The first thing the Mets can do to make CF feel like home will be in the summer of '09. Hold a homecoming weekend. 40th anniversary of 1969. 10th anniversary of 1999. 25th anniversary of the rookie season of one Dwight Gooden. Unveil the Seaver statue. Induct Doc into the team Hall (by then, knock wood, he's three years clean & sober). Retire No. 31. Maybe we skip the 30th anniversary of the 1979 team, but devote a Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon to Mets history like crazy. Link Citi Field to the MET past. In addition to whatever the team is doing on the field, we will instantly have Met memories codified in the new place.

Come to think of it, 2009 will be the 50th anniversary of the Continental League. A little something for Bill Shea wouldn't be out of the question.