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.
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.