Skip to content

Should Robinson Canó Get to Wear Willie Mays’s Number?

The Mets mortgaged their future for a 36-year-old PED user completed their trade for Robinson Canó yesterday. The ink on the contract was barely dry when it was announced that Canó will wear No. 24, which quickly led to a lot of discussion in the Twitter-verse. I’d like to address that here today.

As the more Mets-fluent among you probably know, 24 has become a loaded number in the team’s history since Willie Mays wore it during his brief stint with the team in 1972 and ’73 — the final two years of his career. The party line is that then-owner Joan Payson (who had been minority owner of the New York Giants when Mays played for them) promised Mays after he retired that no other Met would wear 24. Although the number was never officially retired, only two Mets have worn it since then: outfielder Kelvin Torve, who wore it for a couple of games in 1990 before the team took it back and had him wear No. 39 instead (additional info here and here), and outfielder Rickey Henderson, who wore it in 1999 and 2000 (which Mays wasn’t happy about). So there was some grumbling yesterday about Canó getting to wear No. 24. Some folks said the Mets should go ahead and officially retire the number for Mays already. Others have been saying this, on and off, for many years.

Now, I like Willie Mays. Who doesn’t? Probably the greatest all-around player who ever lived. I was eight years old when he was traded to the Mets in 1972, and even at that age I knew enough to understand that it was exciting to have him on my team. I went to the library and pored over the new issue of Sports Illustrated that had him on the cover. In ’73, I got to see him hit a home run in a game that I attended. The Mets and Mays went to the World Series that year. What’s not to like?


Willie Mays played only 135 games for the Mets over those two seasons. And most of them, frankly, were not good games. I’ll spare you the litany of statistics, but you can see the numbers for yourself, and they’re not pretty. By any reasonable measure, Mays was a marginal major leaguer at best in ’73. The sad reality is that his most significant moment in a Mets uniform was probably when he lost a ball in the sun and fell down during a key moment of the ’73 World Series. (I was watching in my grandmother’s living room and can still remember how queasy I felt when that happened.)

But even if he’d played well for the Mets, we’re still talking about only 135 games. Retiring 24 for Mays, whether officially or unofficially, is essentially a dishonest attempt to claim him as a significant component of Mets history. He’s not. Suggesting otherwise doesn’t honor him; it actually cheapens his legacy, and also cheapens the Mets, cheapens the number, and cheapens the concept of retired numbers. So I have no problem with Canó wearing No. 24. On the contrary, I welcome it, because maybe it’ll finally put an end to this foolishness.

A few people on the other side of this debate pointed out the parallels between Mays and Hank Aaron. Aaron, like Mays, finished his career with two lackluster seasons in the city where his career began (Milwaukee in Aaron’s case, New York in Mays’s), and then the Brewers retired his No. 44. So why shouldn’t the Mets do the same for Mays?

For one thing, the parallels aren’t as close as they initially appear. When the Brewers retired Aaron’s number at the end of the 1976 season, the team had only existed for seven years and had never had a winning season, so retiring the all-time home run king’s number provided at least a scrap of gravitas for a franchise badly in need of it. It was a transparently rinky-dink move — a child’s attempt to look like a grown-up. The Mets, by contrast, had already won a World Series and been to another by the time Mays retired, so they had no need to engage in those types of parlor games.

Also, Aaron’s best years were in Milwaukee (before the Braves decamped for Atlanta), so a case could be made for Milwaukee honoring him. Mays, meanwhile, had his best years in San Francisco. So again, the parallels don’t hold up under scrutiny.

Finally, amidst all of this chatter about Mays, here’s something to consider: Robinson Canó was named after Jackie Robinson. That’s why he likes to wear No. 24 — it’s the inverse of Jackie’s 42. He wore 22 in Seattle because 24 had been retired for Junior Griffey, but now he’s reclaiming it, and his reason for doing so seems a lot more noble than keeping the number out of circulation for a player who’s little more than a footnote in Mets history, even if a former owner made a promise to him that, let’s face it, should never have been made.

• • • • •

• • • • •

Click to enlarge

NHL Seattle contest results: The results of my latest Uni Watch design challenge, to create an identity for the new NHL franchise in Seattle, will be posted on today (not yesterday, as I originally thought). We received a lot of really excellent entries for this one, including Michael Jarvie Jr.’s concept for the Seattle Greys, shown above.

Update: The ESPN piece is now up. Enjoy.

• • • • •

• • • • •

Question Time reminder: In case you missed it on Monday, I’m gearing up for a new round of Question Time, the AMA-style forum where you can submit questions about whatever you like and I’ll do my best to answer them.

In case you’ve forgotten, here’s how it works: Send one question to the Question Time address (please note that this is not the usual Uni Watch email address). Your question can be about uniforms, sports, or anything else, although I reserve the right not to answer questions that are too personal. One question per person — this rule will be strictly enforced! And if you want to see which questions I’ve already answered, you can see the previous eight installments of Question Time here.

I’ll answer this latest round of questions either later this month or in early January. Thanks!

• • • • •

• • • • •

Collector’s Corner
By Brinke Guthrie

Starting off, got a couple items here for the Montreal Canadiens. First, a 1960s bobblehead that is NIB (that’s “new in box,” kids) And we also have a No. 30 goalie equipment bag from the 1960s-1970s. Vive les Habitants!

Now for the rest of this week’s picks:

• Here’s a can of 1960s Rawlings Glovolium. They still make this product today, but the package isn’t as nice. The seller says there’s still an ounce or two inside, so you can use it to soften up your glove. [I used a can exactly like this one to break in my first glove in the early 1970s. — PL]

• You say you want a little late-1970s retro NFL helmet action? Step right this way: These are called Fasson Crack ‘N Peel NFL helmet stickers. All 28 teams (at the time) are shown — NFC helmets pointing left, AFC pointing right. Each sticker is 4″ by 4.25″.

• Here’s something I’ve never seen — something called a light-up car medallion. This one is for the Dodgers, and you apparently wired it up somehow and stuck it on your car grille.

• As far as retro baseball programs go, it doesn’t get much better than this 1970 MLB All-Star Game program at the brand new Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati. Riverfront opened on June 30, 1970, and the All-Star Game was just two weeks later! Now that is cutting it close. I’m sure all the bathrooms worked.

• Here’s another 1970 game program, this time for the Buffalo Sabres.

• Chiefs fans, tag your bicycles with this 1970s Dixie NFL team bike tag.

• This classic-looking Oakland Raiders varsity jacket sure has a Sears NFL Shop vibe to it, but this one has no Sears branding. Instead, the label reads, “Sir Jac.”

• This Packers zip-front sweater is from Sears, with the label reading “Put On Shop.”

• Nice collection of 1970s NFL helmet medallions right here.

• This 1960s NHL glass has all the teams of the period on it.

Seen an item on eBay that would be good for Collector’s Corner? Send any submissions here.

• • • • •

• • • • •

The Ticker
By Alex Hider

Baseball News:  The union representing the workers at New Era’s factory in Derby, N.Y., says the company has not yet filed a required 60-day notice to close the plant and claims the business could remain viable if another company decides to manufacture there (from @PhillyPartTwo). … Thanks to a little uniform detective work, it’s been determined that this photo is probably one of the few surviving from the first-ever game played at an incomplete stadium that would eventually become known as Washington’s Griffith Park. Full details here (from @pchpaman and Jeff Ash).

Football News Marty and McGee, an ESPN talk radio pair, have a new centerpiece for their set: A football helmet with the show’s logo (from James Gilbert). … A shot from the Raymond James Stadium tunnel offered a good look at the Bucs’ reflective numbers on Sunday. They’re also hinting that they’ll wear those same uniforms again on Sunday (from John Sabol). … Lots of people are noting that Notre Dame will become the first non-Nike team in the College Football Playoff. In addition, Oklahoma will wear the Jordan logo, although that’s still a Nike sub-brand.

Hockey News: Predators G Pekka Rinne broke a skate blade after he hit it against the left post during last night’s game against the Sabres, leading to a stoppage so the equipment staff could replace the blade (from @Version3_0_0). … The Seattle Times published a comprehensive history of pro hockey in Seattle on Sunday, including a graphic of team uniforms through the years (from John Kimmerlein). … The manufacturer’s logo on Sabres D Zach Bogosian’s helmet is pretty worn out (from Jonathan Hanna). … Both the Edmonton Oil Kings and the Vancouver Giants of the WHL will wear one-off uniforms for upcoming teddy bear toss games (from Wade Heidt and Art Mah). … Notre Dame teased their outdoor game uniforms on Twitter yesterday (from Robert Caplette). … Another Reddy Kilowatt sighting: These commemorative jerseys will honor the players from the 1945 Granite Falls High School (Minnesota) hockey team. More on that team here (from Alan D. Poff).

NBA NewsCeltics G Terry Rozier is being sued for copyright infringement for selling Scary Terry merchandise with the famous Scream mask (from Mike Chamernik). … The Wisconsin Herd of the D League will wear camo uniforms on Dec. 7.

Soccer News: New third jerseys that feature a goat’s head design for Chivas of Mexico’s Liga MX (from Ed Zelaski). … Vélez Sarsfield of Argentina’s Primera División has a new throwback jersey honoring the club’s first title in 1968 (also from Ed Zelaski).

Grab BagGeorge H.W. Bush was a self-proclaimed sock guy, and he’ll wear a special pair honoring his service as a Navy pilot (WaPo link) to his final resting place (from Michael Rich). … Speaking of Bush, this specially painted locomotive will lead a funeral train that will carry his body from Houston to his final resting place in College Station, Texas, later this week (from Igancio Salazar). … The Buffalo Bandits of the National Lacrosse League are wearing retro jerseys full-time this season (from Dave Buchanan). … I highly recommend this entire five-part documentary about the history of MMA if you have the time, but this portion discusses the economic impact of the UFC’s apparel deal with Reebok signed in 2015. … The Scottish Rite of Freemasons Northern Masonic Jurisdiction updated its brand logos and wordmarks back in August (from @TweetsTweeds).

Comments (76)

    I was not aware of the Mets giving Cano #24. I only saw a cartoon on MLB’s Instagram, and I thought it would turn out wrong. Looks like I missed a piece of news.
    But Paul, you missed the first part of Cano’s number story. After a brief spell in #14 in 2005 (had no idea), he took #22 (granted, Tino Martinez was on that team), and Cano stayed in 22 until Roger Clemens came back in the late-ish part of 2007. It’s not like Cano was itching to get into 24–he came to it through some circumstances. So, even though you say Cano moved away from 24 in Seattle because of Griffey, I would argue he came back to 22 in Seattle. Which doubled my surprise that Cano received 24 for the Mets. Not only is there the weird Mays angle, but I thought Cano was a 22 at heart.

    I just watched the press conference. 24 looks great on him. I love Willie Mays, but he was a broken down publicity stunt for the Mets in ’72-’73.

    Having said all that, Rickey had no business wearing it because, well he’s a creep (playing poker during a postseason game, I’ll just leave that out there).

    And I won’t comment on Paul’s “cynicism” comment at the start of the post, because I’m all for this trade. However this is a Uni-Site, not a sports debate blog.

    Totally agree with PL in that 24 should not be retired (nor kept out of circulation) for Mays by the Mets, and yes, he certainly had better numbers for SF (due to the number of years with them out west vs. really only 5 1/2 years with NYG), but his numbers in NY were link. The Giants franchise, rightfully so, has retired his number, but the Mets never should.

    Mays was every bit as great as a NY Giant as he was in San Francisco. Aaron was also pretty damn great in Atlanta.

    I’m a life long Mets fan and I agree 100% with Paul. #24 should not be kept out of circulation or retired for Willie Mays. He had his best years in a Giants uniform, whether it was here in New York or out in SF (he did win the 1954 title as a member of the NY Giants). However, as Paul noted, Mays played 135 unremarkable games for the Mets and is remembered more for his poor play.

    For a franchise that has been accused of honoring the Dodgers more than the Mets and has retired #37 for a Yankees manager (sorry, Stengel’s Mets history of losing or NY baseball history does not warrant a Mets number retirement in my book), why add to that by retiring #24 for a Giants great? What’s next, retiring #8 for Yogi Berra?

    I’m happy to see Cano take #24 and I hope after Cano’s stint on the Mets is over, that number will be fully back in circulation. I am not optimistic that happens because it didn’t happen after Rickey Henderson left the Mets as a player.

    I also felt it somewhat odd when the Colorado Avalanche retired Ray Bourque’s number after playing just a season and change for that team. I realize they won the Stanley Cup with him there, but it just seemed wrong to me.

    very agreed re: Ray

    not quite the same level, but the Broncos’ unretirement of 18 for Manning and then re-retiring it as both Tripucka’s and his was pretty wacky. At least there were four seasons there though.

    The logo on that Raiders’ jacket looks so weird with the wrong typeface and mixed case. SirJac must have been asleep at the switch!

    The Fasson crack ‘n peel stickers…..

    The Bucs logo is backwards. Didn’t we just have a conversation about that. ;^)

    Robinson Cano and any player who wants it should get a chance to wear #24 for the Mets. Should not be taken out of circulation because of Willie Mays.

    “….offered a good look at the Bucs’ reflective numbers ”

    Adding to the digital alarm clock mystique!

    By the way, #24 on the Mets also brings up discussion of #8 and #17 for the Mets. That’s two more numbers the Mets have kept out of circulation for over a decade. There’s more of an argument for those two numbers since Carter and Hernandez are Mets greats who won a title here. But, what are they waiting for? It’s odd to see a franchise hold out 3 numbers like that for decades.

    Close enough. It was last assigned 10 years ago and Tatis last wore it 8 years ago, but I think the point is made.

    Either way, what are the Mets waiting for with #17?

    I believe the Mets policy was that you had to be in the HOF as a Met, which is why 8 & 17 have been unofficial.

    But I doubt the Captain makes the hall, but am certain they’ll retire his number. So once they break that barrier wit 5, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more numbers follow, especially 8.

    The Dodgers have held out 34 for Fernando without retiring it, as well as 11 for Mota. So it’s not unprecedented for a team to not issue a number and yet not retire it.

    Retiring numbers has gotten out of control. It’d be great if teams just did a Ring of Honor type deal instead of taking numbers out of circulation.

    I love it when a player wears a number to emulate or honor a player.

    Also, tons of great numbers are no longer available. Take the Bears. They have now maxed out retired numbers (Ditka’s 89 was the last one a few years ago). Now what happens if another all-time great plays for them? Oh well!

    I’m okay with another player using those old numbers. Jumping the pond, look at a club like Barcelona. You get Leo Messi in the 10 shirt, following in the footsteps of Ronaldinho, Maradona, Romario, Rivaldo, Stoichkov, et. Al. Keeping the legendary number in circulation keeps it alive. (I’m not certain, but there may be league rules keeping it from being retired, as well)

    Not sure if you know this, but Napoli actually did retire No. 10 for Maradona.

    Italy accounts for most prominent examples of number retirements in soccer. It’s not that it’s not allowed (I think) elsewhere, but it’s not commonly done except for those who pass away as active players.

    100% in agreement with this. It is getting ridiculous how many numbers have been taken permanently out of circulation, with all future generations of players banned from ever even honring those greats whow ore them, let alone any other reason they might have for wearing them.

    The very first retired number, Lou Gehrig’s 4, was a great idea, because the man himself was taken before his time, and Yankees fans would immediately feel his absence. Nowadays teams reitre numbers that are hardly even seen (Joe Torre’s 6 comes to mind) and those which aren’t even worn at all (Milwaukee’s disgraceful retirement of the number 1 for an executive who never played an inning).

    I say let each team have one single retired number at a time, and when you want to honor someone new, you bring the old retired number back in circulation. This plan would also make it easier for teams to honor a specific recently-retired, or deceased, player for a single year.

    We do expect our sports leagues and teams to continue to exist for many decades and centuries, don’t we? Retiring numbers at the rate we do now is disrepsectful to all the future generations of players that will someday play for the team.

    Either retire a number or don’t. This “unofficially retired” stuff is bs. The Orioles have “unofficially retired” 7 and 44 for Cal Sr. and Elrod Hendricks. Either officially honor them, or allow the numbers into circulation. Right now, they’re basically forgotten numbers.

    Agreed. Plus, Cal Sr. wore #47 before Cal Jr. joined the team and Elrod wore #10 in his playing days.
    I believe the Orioles and the Ravens only “officially retire” numbers of those who’ve been inducted into the HOF.
    The Ravens have the Ring Of Honor and the O’s have the “Orioles Hall of Fame” which also includes non-HOF personnel.
    Not sure, but I believe the ‘Skins don’t “officialy retire” numbers (?) I seem to remember some controversey when Duane Thomas wanted to wear Sammy Baugh’s #33.

    The Pittsburgh Steelers don’t retire numbers, but quite a few are unofficially retired, like 12, 32, 36, 58, etc.

    I’m a Mariners fan…and I thought Cano was 22 forever, even in New York. I MIGHT even have a card with him as 22, but I’m not sure

    I don’t think Mays’ time as a Met rises to the level of number retirement.

    And Sparky Chewbarky’s Seattle SeaLions entry is one of the best entries for one of these contests I’ve seen.

    Retiring numbers has lost its luster because it seems like there’s another one being retired every week. I say, sure, why not? The genie’s already out of the bottle. And it gives Mays a chance to be honored in New York, where he had a great deal of success early in his career.

    After reading that NY Post article in the link, Mays seems to be acting like a baby. Not impressed.

    In this age of increasing standardization of so many things, the different approaches that teams take to retiring numbers is refreshing, especially some of the quirkier ones. I hope they all get to continue to go in their own directions.

    I’m of the opinion that numbers should not be retired. My favorite team, the Chicago Bears, has enough numbers retired that it might become a problem at some point. The Cowboys Ring of Honor is a good way to do it.

    I like the idea of numbers being “honored” and having special meaning.

    A current player wearing the number of an all time great as a way to honor them is a good way to link the past to present. I’m probably not expressing this well, but I don’t think that just anyone should wear some great players number. The use of the number should be purposeful.

    In Willie’s case, his number with the Mets is not special. Given the reasoning behind Cano’s wearing of 24, I’m fine with it.

    Agreed. My Raiders, with plenty of Hall of Fame players and all-time greats, have no retired numbers. I guess Jim Otto’s 00 is kind of retired, but only because of the NFL uniform rules, not because of the team.

    I mentioned the Bears above. They are done retiring numbers after Ditka’s 89. There are twelve retired numbers in total. Coincidentally, twelve Bears wore 89 after Ditka. There was not a massive outcry by the fanbase because the likes of Matt Spaeth and Ryan Wetnight donned the 89.

    Heaven forfend any current player rocks the 56 of Bill Hewitt, the 61 of Bill George, or the 28 of Willie Galimore!

    The Boston Bruins have way too many retired numbers. I love Rick Middleton but come on already. I guess Chara’s 33, Bergeron’s 37 and Marchand’s 63 are sure things.

    I’d never really considered the end of Mays’ career much, but I noticed that he made the All Star team in his final year. Obviously that was a “lifetime achievement” selection, but I think you’d be hard pressed to find too many All Star selections with worse numbers at the break. His line at the All Star break was .214 BA, 4 homes, 15 RBI, and a .643 OPS.

    What’s interesting is that it looks like Mays had ALREADY been given the “lifetime achievement” All Star nod the year before, in 1972. In that year, at the break Mays was hitting .233 with 4 homers, 15 RBI, and a .754 OPS in 60 games.

    The only comparable player I can think of was Cal Ripken.

    Last night when I saw that Cano was going to be wearing #24 my first reaction was pretty negative. I think the original intention was to honor what Mays did for National League baseball in New York regardless of team. Mets history begins in 1962 but they took on some of the traditions of their New York National League forebearers. Sure, Mays only played at Shea for two mediocre years but it was more of symbolic gesture.

    That’s the same reason Jackie Robinson is so prominently featured in Citi Field. Of course he never played with the Mets but he also never played in Los Angeles and Jackie Robinson represents something that transcends franchises and his entire career unfolded here in Brooklyn.

    Regardless of whether Joan Peyson should have promised Mays to retire his number or not, she did. To go against that is wrong. Mays is one of the greatest players in the history of the game, and he is the greatest player to ever play National League baseball in New York. To go against a promise that was gave to Mays to give that number to a PED user at the end of his career is insane.

    I totally understand the argument presented here but at the same time a promise is a promise.

    Sometimes a single word can brighten up an entire day. Today that word is Glovolium. Thanks Brinke.

    I don’t know enough about the Mets to have a real opinion, but would love to know more about this section:
    The party line is that then-owner Joan Payson (who had been minority owner of the New York Giants when Mays played for them) promised Mays after he retired that no other Met would wear 24.

    Did Payson truly make the promise? If so, why is it up for debate?
    Also, who initiated the promise? What was the exact rationale at the time?
    Whether it should or shouldn’t have been made, if there really was a promise by the owner (who I know nothing about, or her tenure), that should at least be considered, in my opinion.


    If she no longer owns the Mets (I know she is deceased), does she stil retain the right to keep every future Met from wearing a number? Should all future owners in perpetuity have to honor a promise of something so valuable given away so cheaply?

    (Yes, I remember Bobby Bonilla and know that the Mets are no strangers to such deals.)

    I think it’s a bit odd that Mays was genuinely upset when somebody else wore #24. Seems pretty petty.

    I enjoyed the NHL Seattle Design results, but I was a bit surprised no one went with a Supersonics based design.

    Krackens would a be pretty awesome nickname, especially for a hockey team.

    I was surprised by the lack of Sonics entries as well.

    Also: Nobody submitted a Krakens entry; just Kraken (without the “s”).

    Seattle fans probably wouldn’t dream of using the Sonics for hockey, because that would be interpreted by the rest of the country that they’ve given up on that name returning to the NBA.

    In my (albeit limited) online experience, I have yet to come across anyone who doesn’t want Seattle to get back their Sonics. So in a general sense we’re all fans, no matter where we live.

    I would chuckle if Seattle went with the Pilots moniker. You’d have:

    Seattle Pilots (MLB) -> Seattle Pilots (NHL)
    Colorado Rockies (NHL) -> Colorado Rockies (MLB)

    When I see #24 for the Giants I think of no one but ‘cousin’ Willie. When I see #24 for the Mets I don’t. Free the 24!

    Wow, amazing work by everyone on the Seattle design challenge, glad I wasn’t the one who had to whittle it down to just a few winners. Probably a dozen entries that could go on the ice tomorrow and be one of the best designs in the league. I’ll add a special salute those who still apply colored pencil to paper (particularly the kids, great to have a new generation getting involved). A couple of the very polished entries that stood out for me were Sean McCarthy’s take on the Pilots and jpsh poe’s logo that used the top of the Space Needle to form one of the T’s in Seattle. And I’m a really big fan of the Avavitors design by Adam Hanesfurther, a very deserving winner.

    #24 for the Mariners was simply not issued from 2000-08 and again from 2011 until it was retired the same year Griffey was inducted into Cooperstown. Robinson Cano’s first season with the Mariners was 2014 and the Mariners didn’t retire Griffey’s number until 2016.

    It used to be the top 3 HR hitters all started and ended their careers in the same cities, but with different teams.
    Aaron-Milwaukee Braves to Milwaukee Brewers (via Atlanta)
    Ruth-Boston Red Sox to Boston Braves (via New York)
    Mays-New York Giants to New York Mets (via San Francisco)

    My thoughts. Since last year, when it became fine for a team to wear whatever uniform they want at home, colour vs. colour in the NBA is not really so rare anymore that it is worth mentioning.


    Hey, Paul— One interesting difference was the Lakers v. Mavs game. The Lake Show wore the Magic Johnson alts at home (purple) while the Mavs wore white as the visitors.

    UNI alert….on ESPN Classic right now.
    1989 NC State vs. Wake Forest. The Wolfpack are wearing the “unitards”


    The Tampa Bay Devil Rays retired Wade Boggs’ #12 after he spent his final 2 years there. He collected hit #3,000 in a Devil Rays uniform (becoming the 1st to do so with a home run) and played 213 games over those 2 years. Boggs hit a decent .289, but that’s way below his career .328. They finished 51 and 29 games out of first place in his two years there.

    Even as a 16-year-old still learning about sports history, I didn’t understand why the Devil Rays retired his number 2000. His contributions to that team were minimal. He’s known for a hundred things before being known as a Devil Ray. They repeated the practice in 2015, retiring Don Zimmer’s number. As it stands, three numbers have been retired by the franchise: 12 for Boggs, 66 for Zimmer, and 42 for Jackie Robinson.

    and cheapens the concept of retired numbers

    Major League Baseball done did that already with the whole “No one will ever wear 42 again…wait…now, *everyone* will wear 42!” fiasco.

    But let’s not make things even worse. Let Cano wear 24.

    The games where everybody wears #42 kind of proves that, unlike for football and basketball, baseball players don’t need to wear numbers at all.

    “Aaron, like Mays, finished his career with two lackluster seasons in the city where his career began…”
    Trivia- What other Baseball HOFer started and ended his career in the same city but with different franchises?

    In addition to wearing his namesake’s numbers in reverse, Robinson Cano is carrying on the tradition of 24 being worn by legendary ballplayers that stamped their tickets to Cooperstown long before they arrived in Queens.

    As long as 1 is being worn by someone not named Mookie Wilson, I have no problem with 24 being worn by someone not named Willie Mays or Rickey Henderson or Kelvin Torve or Art Shamsky or Ed Charles or…

    On the one hand,Paul has certainly made a good argument in favor of Robinson Cano wearing 24 for the Mets. And it seems most readers agree. I feel the issue is more complex and that the one comment that disagrees bears some expansion.

    There’s a couple of issues at stake here. One is one that has bothered me for a long time and that is franchise vs. place (people/community). And who has the right to heritage, memory, etc. For example, Johnny Unitas has no real /psychic/spiritual value in Indianapolis. Any honor for Johnny U belongs in Baltimore. I’m always upset when I see the LA Lakers with MPLS on their chest. The spirit of George Mikan et al belongs to Minneapolis. If the OKC Thunder tried coming out in Sonics Unis, there’d be a militia from Seattle on the way in minutes. The 1955 Series banner is rightfully back in Brooklyn, it’s virtually meaningless in LA. I could go on. Players should be honored where people invested their hearts and souls in them. Fans of relocated franchises usually begin their emotional allegiance with the teams’s first year in the city and nothing before. What I’m saying is that the argument that Willie Mays’ best years were not with the Mets franchise is not definitive for me.

    Wille Mays was at one point an iconic embodiment of perhaps the golden era of New York baseball, “WIllie, Mickey and the Duke…”The “Say Hey” kid running out from underneath his hat, “the catch” at the Polo Grounds, the mythic stories of an irrepressible Willie playing stickball in the streets of Harlem. He was , for awhile, woven into the fabric of the city. What Ms. Payson sought to honor was Willie’s connection to a city, not to a franchise. (Therefore I don’t agree with your final line about “…a promise that never should have been made..”

    The Mets at their birth set themselves up to be the inheritors of their preceding two NL teams legacies. Thus the Dodger blue, Giants orange and adoption of the Giants version of an interlocking NY. And greatly influenced their expansion draft picks. So there’s at least a makeable case for the Mets honoring that legacy.

    In reality, the Brooklyn Dodgers have survived better than the New York Giants. The Brooklyn “B” hat is still iconic for Brooklynites. The Mets Cyclones farm team uses the Brooklyn B as part of its logo and identity. There’s a statue of Pee Wee and Jackie outside the stadium and a mini Dodgers museum. The Cyclones regularly honor former Dodgers and retire their numbers (5 so far….) The Mets now play in a fauxback Ebbets Rotunda fronted ballpark with a giant 42 inside and lots of Jackie/Dodgers photos. (Yes, of course, where else, but the visual effect is striking….) No wonder Mets fans were taken aback when Citifield opened.

    (As a note of irony, this Ebbets fauxback sits just about where Robert Moses wanted the Dodgers to be. He got the final word.. And the old Ebbets Field flag pole is in front of a basketball arena where O’Malley wanted his domed baseball stadium.)

    Not only WiIlie but a whole New York Giants history is vanishing. Christy Mathewson and Mel Ott and John McGraw and Dusty Rhodes have nothing to do with San Francisco. Bobby Thompson’s shot heard round the world and Russ Hodges’ hoarse ‘The Giants win the pennant” were a quintessential New York moment. ( At least we’ve got Don Delillo’s “Pafko at the Wall” and Underworld…). The Giants do make small gestures like visiting Harlem with their world series trophy and bringing mementos to Barney Greengrass, “the Sturgeon King,” on the Upper West Side (Another baseball story for another time…) But there’s not much left.

    I feel like somewhere at Citifield should be a New York National League Museum,since the Mets claimed this ancestry. I suspect some of the negative reaction comes from fans who grew up as Mets fans with no connection to either previous team and the desire for the Mets narrative to be free from being weighted down by history that has no emotional connection to the last 47 years of baseball history. I can understand a Mets and only Mets perspective.

    Nevertheless, Joan Payson was not necessarily wrong for wanting to honor Willie for who he was, where he was in the only way she could. I suspect that meant something to him too.

    Bob Brashear

Comments are closed.