I have seen the past, and its name is the Mets Hall of Fame & Museum.
To all who thought the Mets loathed their own history, their self-hatred has come to a merciful end. To all who thought the Mets didn’t listen to their customers, their hearing tests came back with belated flying colors. To all who thought the Mets could screw up a one-car funeral, don’t assume they can’t present a vibrant memorial after the fact.
The Mets Hall of Fame & Museum answers just about all of our desires in the realm of Met legacy. Granted, it doesn’t do anything about the pitching and the injuries and the general murkiness that surrounds the season ahead, but it does take care of what came before and it does so with grace and style. The space is airy, the vibe is lighthearted, the density of display is impressive. You know you’re in the Mets’ ballpark when you’re in the Mets Hall of Fame & Museum. You know there’s a team with a half-century of heritage that has been hauled out of storage to shine in the sun. You know the organization that you were convinced wanted nothing to do with you has awakened like Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas morning and, having seen the error of its ways, is sending out plump turkeys instead of begrudgingly flipping us the bird.
God bless us all, everyone!
I’m a wee bit giddy from this experience because I had a hard time believing it might happen, the admonition that You Gotta Believe notwithstanding. It’s just so unlike the Mets to celebrate the Mets…to go all the way in celebrating the Mets. They began to rehabilitate their image last summer with a few Nikon-sponsored murals, but you had the sense they were affixed to the Citi Field walls with spite. Not this venue, though. This thing is the real deal. This thing shows off the artifacts, the trophies, the uniforms, the pictures…everything.
The Citi Field of April 2009 acted as if it invented the Mets from old Dodger dust and implied that the purpose of the Mets all along was to give Ebbets Field a chance to reincarnate. The Polo Grounds didn’t exist in this new history. Shea Stadium didn’t exist in this new history. Just cold, hard commerce in the form of a few private clubs and a slew of ugly ads. Boy did I dislike that Citi Field.
The new Citi Field, which you can call Mets Ballpark and be accurate, acknowledges it had other ancestors. It acknowledges the other two Mets Ballparks and tells a rich, textured story of who played in them and why they mattered. It’s not just the HOF&M, either. It’s the parade of color banners outside. It’s the beloved original Apple on the Plaza. It’s Shea Bridge. It’s the Stengel, Seaver and Hodges entrances. It’s the oversized vintage baseball cards (including one for Bernard Gilkey!) on the Field Level concourse. It’s those plaques within the brick formations. It’s the new actual Hall of Fame plaques. It’s the loving treatment of each postseason appearance. It’s a handful of implicit and explicit nods to the (gasp!) New York Giants. It’s the blue and orange speckles on the restroom floors. It’s “Meet The Mets,” the 1963 version (both verses), playing happily as you enter the Rotunda. It’s the Mets not worrying that other teams have histories that encompass more medals and fancier ribbons. Management has accepted the idea, at last, that we don’t care that it hasn’t all been one long glory ride from 1962 to the present. We just wanted the ride acknowledged. And now it has been. The Mets aren’t wallflowers at their own dance anymore. They’re calling the tune and it sounds better than I could have fathomed.
Today’s visit, possible via the workout opened to season ticket and plan holders (thanks to Team Chapman for the invite), was about being stunned and gratified. Future visits will entail further exploration and yield, no doubt, some more ideas on how to maintain and extend this sudden burst of excellence. Now that we’ve got this place, I want it to flourish. At this moment, however, I just want to think about what I saw and see it again.
Congratulations to all who made the Mets Hall of Fame & Musuem a gorgeous and brilliant reality. Let it be said that on Easter Sunday 2010, Mets history was truly resurrected.
Full disclosure: I had a hand in writing the script for the video you’ll hear Gary Cohen narrating as you tour the museum, having worked with Little Guy Productions on crafting its first draft, but I otherwise had nothing to do with the planning of this beautifully executed facility.