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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Banner Day Doubleheader 2012

A banner book in which we propose a Banner Day.

It’s not too late to order yourself a copy of Amazin’ Avenue Annual 2011. Considering it’s an annual, that makes it good for the entire year. And it really is good…and I’m not just saying that because Jason and I were invited to write an article for it about ways the Mets could take steps to preserve their legacy at Citi Field.

And no, wise guy, not the legacy of losing. The good parts. The fun parts. The proud parts. We spell it out over not a few pages, and you should really make AAA part of your baseball library and soak up every word of it (and every word everybody else contributed — more information here).

But with AAA editor Eric Simon’s blessing, I’d like to call particular attention to one the ideas we are proposing, namely the reinstatement, for 2012, of the Banner Day Doubleheader.

You heard us: Banner Day Doubleheader: two games, one admission, on the schedule, in advance.

Why?

1) TRADITION! TRADITION! TRADITION!

Not tradition for tradition’s sake, but because Banner Day was, from 1963 through 1996, as Metsian as it got. Watch a Mets Yearbook lately? Have you noticed one common denominator (besides “I think I saw this one already”)? It’s that Banner Day was year-in, year-out the signature promotion on the Mets special events calendar. Nothing was more special or more of an event.

2) Gone but by no means forgotten

The Mets quietly folded up their beloved tradition fifteen years ago, yet Banner Day still comes up. It came up before Mets Yearbook began airing. It comes up from those who promenaded and from those who watched and those who’ve only heard about it. It comes up because it remains, even in absentia, as Metsian as it gets. The banner…the placard as Casey Stengel, godfather of all things Amazin’, put it…was the purest expression of the Metsian mind there ever was. Nobody asked Mets fans to spill their hearts out on bedsheets, they just did. Then they just kept coming. Then the Mets had the keen sense to lunge out front and lead the parade: Don’t just bring your banners to the Polo Grounds, management said — bring ’em onto the field. Magic was created and extended to Shea Stadium. Magic doesn’t just vanish because you inadvertently tried to make it disappear.

3) Fiscally prudent

We’ve seen that it’s tough for the Mets under current ownership to maintain a promotional schedule in line with that of recent years. Can’t rustle up sponsors for nicknack giveaways as readily as you used to? Don’t worry, Mets, we’ll bring our own. If you can talk Emerson Radio back in as presenter, great, but the point of Banner Day was never the prize. It was the process. It was the proximity to greatness — fan feet on the actual warning track patrolled by everyone from Jim Hickman to Don Hahn to Mookie Wilson — and it was the moment to say with paint what was on your mind, usually a message of unconditional love and eternal support. A hearty handshake from Mr. Met and whoever replaces Dan Warthen would serve as prize enough for the winning banner in 2012. That and attention. The winning banner on CitiVision! The winning banner on mets.com! The winning banner displayed in the Mets Museum! Fandom for the sake of fandom. Mets fans melt at the proposition.

4) Forget your troubles, c’mon get happy

Watch those film clips from the not-so-sublime years covered in Mets Yearbook. Do the banners say, “The Mets suck and we don’t like the Mets, when are they going to get better and they suck and you suck and everybody sucks”? No, they do not. It is always relentlessly hopeful and ridiculously optimistic. Mets fans, it might surprise Mets management, desire and seek reasons to believe. If they can’t believe in an imminent improvement, they want to believe in themselves. They want to believe there’s a reason they tromp on out to Citi Field when the non-believers around them ask, “Mets game? Why are you going to THAT?” We know why, and we want to show it from the heart. We can buy licensed merchandise (and we will, pending pricing) and some of us can blog up a storm (and we do), but we all want to be reminded that something makes us unique — and Banner Day, a Met creation, is one of those singular sensations that belonged first, last and always to the New York Mets. To the Mets and their fans, technically, but we tend to think they’re one and the same.

5) Brand equity

Current ownership — or new ownership, should it be in place by next season — will (or should) be groping about to make people look at the positives of what it means to be Metsian. They can focus-group this until we’re all asked to bring our own handheld fruit to meetings, but nothing means Mets like Banner Day means Mets. It will let the fan base knows that whoever’s running the show in 2012 gets it the way the Della Femina ads of 1980 were supposed to let the fan base know that Doubleday & Wilpon got it. I don’t mean so much the “The Magic Is Back” tagline but the ads that declared, “This is dedicated to the guys who cried when Thomson connected with Branca’s 0 and 1 pitch.” (Thirty-one years later, I think we should have seen Dodger trouble coming, but it was a reasonably effective come-on at the time.) If a new owner’s broom wants to sweep in some goodwill in its midst, bring back the Banner Day Doubleheader. If WilponCo wants to remind us why we trusted you in the first place, bring back the Banner Day Doubleheader.

And it has to be a doubleheader. It has to be. Forget the instinct to make it a corporate-sanitized Tropicana Pre-Game Banner Parade & Contest as it was when last the bedsheets fluttered in the Flushing breeze. Do it as Mrs. Payson’s minions intended, between games of an honest-to-goodness twinbill that has zero to do with whether it rained yesterday.

What? A doubleheader? An intentional doubleheader? Scheduled on purpose? That’s crazy! The next thing you’ll tell me is you want Jason Isringhausen back on the Mets.

It’s not crazy. I know baseball is generally brought to you by avarice, and that the Players Association is no more a proponent of two games in one day than the owners, but there is precedent here. I don’t refer to 1963 precedent, but rather 2011 precedent, provided by our friendly foes from the 1973 World Series. Check it out — the Oakland A’s have scheduled a single-admission doubleheader for Saturday, July 16.

It is not a typographical error, or even one of those typographical fielder’s choices that doesn’t show up in the box score. It’s an idea that looms as a hit come midsummer in the East Bay. The A’s figured they needed an attendance boost, so instead of putting on four single games against the Angels right after the All-Star break, they received permission from all concerned to skip Thursday and lay in two games on Friday.

How very unusual, this two-for-the-price-of-one gimmick. It used to happen in baseball as a matter of course. It was quite the bargain. I’m not going to tell you this is the start of something big — or double — sportwide (doubleheaders can feel long, especially when they lack a unifying theme or one lousy win) but the A’s are proving it can be done. Once a year, you can host two games on the same day and you can make a big deal out of it. In the Mets’ case (which doesn’t seem to be a case loaded with gate receipts at this juncture), the deal is it gives them a golden opportunity in 2012 — the year when they celebrate their golden anniversary — to revive Banner Day like it oughta be.

Take a cue from the A’s. Pick a spot on the calendar in which you can work in that extra off day so nobody whines too much about upsetting the mediocre pitching. Then figure out the physical logistics. In the old days, fans would be called to line up behind the center field fence at Shea around the seventh inning of the opener. Maybe at Citi Field you need to have folks on the left field ramp, or in the Bullpen Plaza or figure out a way to use 126th Street effectively. You can determine, just as you can give each placard a quick gander to make sure it’s family-friendly (though don’t be total jerks about it and try to exercise obsessive editorial control to the point of censoring any sentiment that isn’t WE LOVE DELTA CLUB AMENITIES; even M. Donald Grant eventually feigned good humor at the Grant’s Tomb cracks.) You can pull people away from the Shake Shack line or grab them mid-wave. I’ll bet it won’t be that difficult. I’ll bet the banner-bearers will be rarin’ to go. (With a lesser capacity than Shea, the banner traffic will potentially flow more smoothly, too.)

Promote the hell out of it, link it to the thrills of the first fifty years, make clear that this is Marvelous, Exciting, Tremendous, Spectacular — METS. You’ll get those of who grew up on this stuff to come out but, more importantly, you’ll get the newer generation of Mets fans that must ask itself, “Why am I a Mets fan? Nothing good ever happens.” Something good will happen. Those kids, teens, twentysomethings…they’ll get to partake in the first Mets Banner Day at Citi Field, the first Mets Banner Day since 1996, the first Mets Banner Day doubleheader since 1988.

They’ll be part of the Mets tradition. That’s world-class in ways that clubs, restaurants and cushioned seats could never be. That fills those seats, I’d be willing to wager. Even those who don’t plan to parade will want to be on hand for the rebirth. If all goes well, then you put in to MLB for an annual exemption to whatever rule has made scheduling doubleheaders obsolete. This becomes our version of the Patriots Day 11 A.M. start Fenway, our Lions/Cowboys Thanksgiving home game. This becomes, again, tradition. The best kind of Mets tradition.

Make it part of your big 50th Anniversary weekend: Casey Stengel Bobblehead Night on Friday; Banner Day twinbill on Saturday; Old Timers Reunion for the Amazin’ Ages on Sunday. Don’t halfway it. Don’t halfass it. Don’t blow it. You only turn 50 once. This is the moment to make your stand, Mets. This is the moment to be the Mets.

You know what you have to do. Do it.

In that same vein of celebrating that which is good and Metsian, join us at McFadden’s Citi Field, Thursday, April 21, at 6 P.M., prior to that night’s Mets-Astros game when Faith and Fear invites you to Buy Tug a Beer. It’s all part of our ongoing efforts to help Sharon Chapman raise funds for the Tug McGraw Foundation’s battle against brain cancer and other insidious diseases. Details here.

15 comments to Banner Day Doubleheader 2012

  • Nik

    That’s because Walter O Wilpon is intent on killing all our Mets traditions, taking the pleasure out of my fan experience and bringing back what only the over 70 crowd can possibly understand (Brooklyn Dodgers). Even most of them have got to be over it by now…

  • Ray

    If it was reallllly necessary to keep the Wilpons out of the poorhouse, go ahead- hold the parade after a 1:00 Saturday game, clear the bowl following the celebration and have a separate admission for the nightcap. Or charge extra for the whole production. It would be worth it.

  • BlackCountryMet

    One question, why the heck don’t the Mets employe you as some sort of fan rep?

  • Don’t halfway it. Don’t halfass it. Don’t blow it.

    You’re kidding, right?

    I wish I had a better image of this organization, but I’ve had my toes burned too many times to trust that they’ll listen to that sage advice, Greg.

  • Hotrod

    I love the idea but I bet the Wilpons would be afraid of negative banners concerning their ownership. Banner days (especially the earlier ones) were innocent expressions of love and hope. There is a lot more cynicism and frustration now.

    Anyway, I love to see another banner day. Maybe I can did out my “Let’s Go Mets, World Champs ’64” that I carried around the Polo Grounds and almost got thrown out of the place by draping it over the left field scoreboard.

  • dak442

    They’ll never do it. It’s leaving too much money on the table. Say they average 20K tickets sold per game; does this promo guarantee 40K? And even if it does, that’s $100K or more for a day’s less parking receipts. Probably less food and beer sold than on two separate days.

    Love the idea and would be there with an entry (amazingly and regrettably, I never went to a banner day), but I don’t see it happening.

  • farva mcgee

    maybe you can have it both ways. keep it split admission, but if you participate in banner day, you are guaranteed admission to the 2nd game, and it keeps it split admission for those that want to breeze in/out of each game. maybe also have a concert in between games, or some way to amuse folks in between games, maybe sell a combined ticket. there are tons of ways here folks – the mets just need to become more creative and fan friendly!

  • Tom in Sunnyside

    As a former vendor at Shea in high school, I can tell you Banner Day doubleheader was the worst day on the schedule. Doubleheaders are always unpopular days with vendors because fans bring enough money for one game, not two, and unless you’re a beer vendor you spend the time between the eighth inning of the first game and third inning of the second trying to find that one fan who still has a few dollars left in his wallet willing to spend them on what you’re selling. Banner Day just compounded the trouble.

    First, it was always scheduled during the hottest, most humid part of the season. Good chance of sweating your junk off, especially if you were selling pretzels or hot dogs with a lit sterno can a few inches from them.

    Second, the banner walk took place between games, so you had to walk around selling your stuff for an hour or more in front of empty seats while the fans went down, marched and came back.

    Third (and personal to me only), it was usually on the weekend before or after my birthday, so instead of having a birthday party at the beach in my honor I’d have to suffer through the indignities listed above.

    So I’d much rather have a ticker tape parade down Broadway at the end of the season than Banner Day in the middle of it. Maybe we can get the Mets working on that one first? ;-)

    As for the Mets and ticket revenue, well, they’re desperate to get butts in the seats. Look at Tuesday’s game. The weather was a little iffy, so the Mets gave you a ticket to another game in the season, [i]even if you showed up[/i]. They’re advertising tickets starting at ten dollars, and begging people to buy flex plans. If a serious Banner Day proposal crossed their desks ticket revenue lost would be at the bottom of their list of issues. Higher up would risking having fans on the field who look more like they know what they’re doing in left field than Hairston.

    • Tom,

      My brother-in-law was a vendor at Shea in the ’70s and he has told me similar tales of Banner Day misery. Due respect to him and you and those who have succeeded you, this would be a day for the fans. Anything that can be done for the prevention of sweating junk, that would be great.

      • Tom in Sunnyside

        Greg, if your brother in law was a vendor in the 70’s, my hat is off to him. Those were not exactly the halcyon years 1986-88 were.

        • His years were ’73-’77, and he didn’t care if the Mets were winning or losing, just that the games would end. Now and again, I’ll mention Banner Day just to enjoy the monologue it will stir from his tortured Shea soul.

  • […] • the fact that Mets fans with dogs are welcome to parade around the Citi Field warning track but no similar invitation has been issued to Mets fans with banners; […]

  • I was at a memorable Banner Day sometime in the early 70’s. My grandparents took me and my brother and around the 7th inning the long-awaited announcement was made: Anybody with a banner please proceed to wait behind the centerfield fence. The “parade” would commence immediately after the game ended. Joe and I kissed our grandparents and gleefully made our way behind centerfield.

    Where we waited.
    And waited.
    And waited.
    The first game of the doubleheader lasted EIGHTEEN INNINGS.

    Of course, Joe and I were die-hard Met fans even then. When we were reunited with my grandparents we immediately started clamoring to stay for the second game. We protested loudly all the way out of the stadium. My grandfather was silent until we reached the parking lot and then through clenched teeth said four words, “Get. In. The. Car.”

    Still, I’d give anything for the Mets to reinstate Banner Day, and I’d gladly wait through 18 innings again to walk across the grass even though it would be Citifield and not my beloved Shea!

  • […] to best extended the Mets legacy at Citi Field. One of them, which we expanded upon recently, was reinstituting the Banner Day doubleheader in 2012 and making it again a yearly Met tradition. The Mets haven’t gotten back to us on […]

  • […] management of this miserable team still had the good grace to permit on the field, making us wonder yet again why a beloved tradition that survived arguably the worst year in Mets history isn’t […]