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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
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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The Bureaucrats Have Won, and Other Anniversary Tales

You know that Toshiba ad where they ship the laptop without the shock-resistant hard drive, and there’s a nationwide power outage and a guy drinks bad milk and turns into a zombie and bites his roommate and then there are zombies everywhere? (You’re a Mets fan, you have to know it.) I imagine Major League Baseball must had that warning in mind when they refused to let the Mets wear caps honoring first responders during tonight’s game.

Sure, to those of us not gifted with the foresight of MLB mandarins, it seemed natural and right for the Mets to honor first responders on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, seeing how the Mets were a) the New York team playing at home on Sept. 11, b) had just participated in a nicely done, nationally televised ceremony honoring those killed that day, and c) were paying homage to the 2001 team’s gesture of remembrance.

But let the chain of dominoes fall before you judge MLB too harshly. If the Mets had received permission to wear those caps, the Yankees might have asked to do the same, seeing how they also represent the city wounded so grievously 10 years ago. And then the Nationals might have wanted to don such caps, since a hijacked plane struck the Pentagon on that terrible morning. And then the Pirates might have decided to honor first responders, given their proximity to Shanksville, where Flight 93 crashed after its passengers saved untold more lives in D.C.

And then, if the Mets, Yankees, Nationals and Pirates had worn such caps, more and more teams might have wanted to do so. You might even have had the nightmare scenario of 30 teams honoring their local firefighters, police officers, EMTs, Coast Guard members and others, inspiring fans both to remember 9/11 and to give thanks for the people in their hometowns who run towards danger instead of away from it.

And if that had happened … well, I’m not sure what would have befallen us next, but thank goodness Bud Selig and Joe Torre were vigilant and protected us from whatever it would have been.

* * *

As for the game, it was actually something of a relief when extra innings arrived and the crowd thinned out and the parade of visiting ex-Mets stopped.

I’m not saying there was anything wrong with what had come before — the ESPN crew was properly solemn and reflective, with Bobby Valentine interesting as always whether talking about the aftermath of 9/11 or the game in front of him; the Mets did a fine job with a poignant, understated commemoration; and the ex-Mets were thoughtful, particularly John Franco with his pitch-perfect recollection of the team as “a little Band-Aid on a big wound.”

Rather, it was that the emotional weight of the entire day had been so crushing that it was hard to get invested in the game — which made it a very faint echo of what Greg and Emily and I and others felt on Sept. 21, 2001, before Mike Piazza’s bolt off Queens-raised Steve Karsay let all that accumulated tension and sorrow blow, to be replaced (at least for a little while) by joy. There wasn’t and couldn’t have been any such release tonight, though ESPN kept trying to cast various Mets as the Piazza-esque hero in waiting, and it was impossible not to remember and do the same thing in the stands or at home. But what we did get was a game that crossed so thoroughly into funhouse-mirror territory that the solemnity receded, with the Mets and Cubs taking turns refusing to win it until the Mets’ relievers were so awful that the Cubs basically had no choice but to prevail.

(The frustration of the Mets’ inability to get the big hit when it mattered was an unhappy reminder of what happened to the Brooklyn Cyclones Saturday night, when their season ended with a 1-0 loss to the Staten Island Yankees. But I’m going to wait and write about that on a night when we’re not all so wrung out.)

* * *

Anyway, back to the damn hats, which I found myself getting angrier and angrier about as the night went on. (With an interlude during which I demanded of poor Jason Pridie why he couldn’t have dented a seat in the Pepsi Porch in his previous at-bat.) I got angrier, but also found myself baffled and saddened that someone had done something so inexplicably dumb, making the Mets’ efforts feel unfairly hollow. Until I found myself trying to wish the whole thing away.

I wish MLB had come to its senses this morning and not issued an edict that was tone-deaf, ridiculous and ensured they’ll be cleaning up Augean stables of thoroughly deserved bad PR.

Failing that, I wish the Mets organization had shown more spine and told MLB to stick it, they were going to support their city with the same gesture that accompanied their selfless efforts of a decade ago, and would now stand for everything they’ve continued to do through programs such as Tuesday’s Children.

Failing that, I wish the Mets players had shown a little spine and told the organization and MLB to stick it, because they were honoring their city the way their baseball forebears had. (David Wright’s acquiescing limply to MLB orders and then tepidly rebelling by wearing a first-responder cap in the dugout only made manners worse.)  [Struck given R.A. Dickey’s tweet that someone from MLB took Wright’s hat away after the fourth inning. You can’t make this shit up.]

And since no one was willing to say no to a terrible decision enforced by the guy a rung above them, well, I wish the Mets had at least beaten the Cubs.

20 comments to The Bureaucrats Have Won, and Other Anniversary Tales

  • BlackCountryMet

    It’s time like this you have to wonder at the sheer stupidity and block headedness of people in authority

  • Ken K. from NJ

    You don’t think maybe Torre’s idiotic decision was a little revenge for the Mets stealing the spotlight from the Yankees post 9-11, being visible everywhere, culminating with the First Home Game, First Wearing of The Hats, Piazza, etc?

    • Much as I dislike the Yankees, no. I’d attribute it to authority breeding stupidity, and no one having the spine to say, “Hey, that’s wrong, and we’re going to look like enormous assholes if we do that.”

      The thing that really amazes me is that apparently there are MLB goons who take hats away in dugouts. To me, that’s a story. Who are these people, on whose orders were they operating, and what about them makes gigantic well-paid athletes do what they’re told?

    • I get the sense Torre is the front man for this but he doesn’t really sit and worry about this crap. This smacks of Selig and the marketing goons.

  • Andee

    They would have let the Yankees do it. They wouldn’t even have to think about it. That’s America’s Team, man! The Mets are just this thing that refuses to leave New York to its rightful owners.

    I don’t know what makes me wanna barf more: that, the pigpen gift-wrapping two straight games for a team that’s 20 games under .500, our pitchers not being able to get out hitters who can’t even hit their wives’ weight let alone their own, loading the bases in the ninth and tenth and not being able to plate one lousy run, or CollinsWarthen’s inexplicable crush on Ryota Igarashi. Come on, guys, I know he has cute hair and everything, but this is ridiculous.

    • But the Yankees wouldn’t have. They didn’t in 2001. Pregame yes, but not on the field. Torre’s explanation then was, pointing to their version of NY, “this means too much to too many people” (paraphrasing).

      Whatever cap the Mets wear tonight, here’s hoping they don’t have one for Igarashi.

      • dmg

        hey whaddya mean? in 2001, shea was used as a staging area for supplies to ground zero — superjoe even drove a freakin forklift — and the yankees “held batting practice.” sounds equivalent to me.

  • […] responders because of MLB’s lucrative contract with New Era? That’s pretty bad. But demanding a player who dared defy it take off his cap posthaste, midgame, even though he only wore it in the dugout? That’s the kind of mind-numbingly bureaucratic […]

  • They took Wright’s hat away?!?! You really can’t make this stuff up. Unreal. Way to go, Mets.

  • Don’t worry, MLB will get it’s just reward come the postseon when the Cleveland Browns-Oakland Raiders game gets a better TV rating than any LCS game. Enjoy those single digit raitings Bud

  • Joe D.

    One of the reasons the Mets didn’t go ahead and defy the order from MLB was because ESPN reported, among other things, that they would have been levied a big fine from MLB.

    Even though MLB’s edict was a disagrace, despite exclusive legalities with the new-era contract I doubt new-era or MLB would have taken any severe action had the Mets defied it simply due to the sheer criticism and backlash both would have received.

    So the Mets reaction was due to something more, either 1) The Wilpons not wanting to show up MLB by defying it’s edict, 2) father and son not wanting to personally show up their friend Bud Selig, 3) neither wanting to rub Selig or the rest of MLB the wrong way knowing that they’ll need them in the future regarding either a loan or approval of new limited partners, or 4) they didn’t want to pay what would then be a quiet hefty fine.

    Somehow I think it’s the first three for but then, when losing money is concerned, I wouldn’t put anything past Fred and Jeff regarding number four, either. Now granted, that’s a lot of pressure put on ownership and they were indeed put into a corner but no matter what we think of him, I do feel the late George Steinbrenner would have told Selig, MLB and New-Era to f*ck off and would have gone ahead anyway.

    • Yep, this is one of those days I wish I were still a working journo.

      Questions I’d want to know right off the bat:

      1. How much would the fine have been?
      2. How much does New Era give to charity from sales of the caps with flags on them?

      And once again:

      3. There are really goons who are empowered to take David Wright’s hat in the middle of a game?

  • Dak442

    MLB definitely owes the Mets one for obeying Selig’s Hatwa. Hopefully that one will be Piazza wearing the suddenly sacrosanct Met hat on his plaque in a couple of years.

    Too bad Wright is so respectful of authority. I mean, what was the MLB Suit gonna do, grab the hat off his head? David could have stuffed the schnook into a locker!

    Also too bad David doesn’t have the ability to rise to the moment that the previous Franchise Icon did. Not one but TWO chances to win the game, and he comes up small.

  • The NFL, ever so slightly, relaxed its uniform policy for the day. If the National Fascist League (which thinks socialism is okay for its revenue-sharing deal) can do it, why can’t MLB?

    It could have been worse: At least it had ONE of New York’s teams scheduled to be at home on the day. They could’ve sent both on the road.

  • Joe D.

    Todd Zeile weighed in on Sunday night about the MLB ban on wearing the first-responder hats, and expressed satisfaction David Wright and a handful of teammates at least wore them in the dugout.

    “I find it ironic 10 years later and they still can’t get it passed for one day of tribute,” said Zeile, who attended the Citi Field ceremony. “I guess they feel it’s a slippery slope or something. I saw David still wearing it in the dugout paying homage. … The hats meant more than what they said on the top. I was wearing one from a kid that had lost his dad. And some of the other hats that we were wearing were hats that we traded with some rescue workers while we were down at Ground Zero. It wasn’t like they came out of a hat box. We felt that was the best way to align ourselves with those guys that were working 24/7 while we were still out trying to play baseball. I don’t think anybody expected it would have the kind of reaction, but the fact that MLB wanted to stop us, and then we decided to do it anyway, I think made it even more significant to the members of the city.”

  • Will in Central NJ

    Some spontaneous show of cojones by the Met players would’ve been appreciated. Whipped cream pies be damned.

    It’s a cliche, but it’s worth dusting off: better to ask forgiveness sometimes than to ask permission.

  • […] Joe Torre aided and abetted such behavior before his current noble service as Bud Selig’s chief hat inspector.) Reyes is so much fun to watch on a baseball diamond that we imagine him playing the game on […]

  • […] much says it all. The stirring tenth-anniversary ceremonies of 9/11/11 were overshadowed by the cap debacle that saw the Mets’ heads get slapped by the likes of Joe Torre acting as front hack for MLB. But […]