The Chicago Cubs on Sunday beat the New York Mets 10-6 in 11 innings. But that wasn’t the story.
That trumped tribute included former players from the 2001 team, Mike Piazza and John Franco, tossing out the first pitch, Marc Anthony singing the national anthem — just like he did ten year’s ago when the Mets played the first professional sporting event in NYC 10 days after the attacks — and, according to the New York Times, “a procession of 204 first responders filled the field, with the droning accompaniment of 93 bagpipe players, an American flag, 300 by 100 feet, large enough to cover the outfield grass, was unfurled under the dimmed stadium lights and fans in the crowd of 33,502 observed a moment of silence, holding aloft electric candles that lighted the stands.” It was breathtaking.
No, the story from Sunday’s game won’t be that ceremony. It will be that of Major League Baseball “vehemently” denying the Mets’ request to wear the hats of the city’s first responders during the game at Citi Field against the Chicago Cubs. The Mets were seeking to replicate the gesture of the 2001 team, which defied baseball’s edict and wore the first responders’ hats, in that first game played after the attacks.
“They contacted the club and said it’s an absolute ‘no chance’ at all,” Mets player rep Josh Thole told reporters, USA Today reports. “I guess the fines would be (prohibitive). I spoke with some of the guys and with (manager) Terry (Collins) and he said the same thing. They came down on the club very hard and there’s nothing we can do.
“They sent out a big memo that was very adamant about what they wanted done.”
What MLB wanted done was to have every team in baseball wearing their club’s hat with a small flag on the side as part of the day’s commemoration. Hats emblazoned with NYPD or NYFD were strictly prohibited.
“Certainly it’s not a lack of respect,” Joe Torre, MLB’s vice president of baseball operations, told the Associated Press. “We just felt all the major league teams are honoring the same way with the American flag on the uniform and the cap. This is a unanimity thing.”
A unanimity thing.
Compare MLB’s response to the one by the NFL which allowed players, specifically Lance Briggs, to wear specially designed American flag cleats and gloves, even though it was strictly against the uniform regulations. The NFL made the exception because they recognized it was important to certain players.
As a bone-tossing measure, MLB did allow Mets players to wear the NYPD or FDNY hats before the games. How thoughtful.
John Franco and Todd Zeile, members of that 2001, said the current players should have just worn the hats and dared MLB to make them pay the fines. “I find it ironic 10 years later and they still can’t get it passed for one day of tribute,” said Zeile. “I guess they feel it’s a slippery slope or something.”
It’s fairly ridiculous of MLB to insist on unanimity or that allowing this tribute on this particular day would have a slippery slope affect. Clearly this is a bigger-than-average moment for the country, and for the role sports plays in our daily lives. There are times when “unanimity” and code of conduct should take a back seat to thoughtfulness and tribute, and Bud Selig’s office once again took a called strike right down the middle.