In case you missed it, on Saturday, the New York Mets finally retired Number 24 for Willie Mays, one of baseball’s greatest players. This was a surprise move by the team, who concurrently held their first “Old Timers” Day since 1994. Some of you may be saying, “What took them so long?” That question could apply both to the return of Old Timers Day and Mays’ number retirement.
Mays was a New York icon, having broken in with the New York Giants in 1951 as a 20-year old rookie (who won the Rookie of the Year Award that season). He played a portion of the 1952 season before entering military service, returning to the Giants full-time in 1954. He would play a total of six seasons in New York for the Giants, before the team moved west to San Francisco, where he played until 1972. At the age of 41, Mays was traded from the Giants back to New York, where he played the remainder of that season, and the entire 1973 season — which culminated in a World Series appearance — with the New York Mets.
Normally, I’d say, “Mays is an all time great, Hall of Famer, and legend, but there’s NO WAY he deserves his number retired by the Mets, for whom he played less than two seasons.” And it wasn’t like Mays put up great numbers or did Amazin’ things with the Mets. In those two seasons, he batted .238, with 14 homers and 44 rib-eye steaks. Sure, he “helped” the team make the 1973 World Series, and brought some thrills and joy to fans in Queens and New York, many of whom still had some very cherished memories of Mays doing incredible baseball things at the Polo Grounds with the Giants. He was, in short, a conquering hero returning home.
But while he may have been a New York National League baseball God, he wasn’t a very good player for the Mets; at least not one deserving of having his number retired. Or so I always thought.
Before Mays got to the Mets, six different players wore the number 24. Mays was the seventh. You’d have thought if the Mets were going to retire his number, they’d 1) have done so a long time ago; and, 2) they’d at least have held it out of circulation. But no, that’s not what happened: while the team didn’t issue #24 to any player for almost 27 years, somehow the team issued it to the legendary Kelvin Torve (who?) in 1990. He had it for all of 10 days. Rickey Henderson (another baseball legend and Hall of Famer) joined the Mets in 1999, and he wore #24. He’d wear it for two seasons (and then again for a short stint with the team in 2007). Finally, disgraced PED-abuser Robinson Cano was given the number in 2019, and he wore it until the team finally DFA’ed him earlier this season.
So, almost 50 years passed and three additional players wore #24 before the Mets finally retired it for Mays on Saturday.
Why didn’t the Mets retire Mays’ number back following his retirement after the 1973 season? Well, they had actually planned to: Mets charter owner Joan Whitney Payson told Mays he would be the last player in franchise history to wear #24. (It may have even been one of the reasons why Mays agreed to the trade back to New York). But Payson died in 1975, not long after Mays’ retirement in 1973. And that’s where the team dropped the proverbial ball. According to SABR, “After Joan Payson died in 1975, her shares were bought by her husband Charles Payson, making him the majority stockholder with nearly 90 shares. Mr. Payson was not really much of a baseball fan, preferring instead to remain involved in his own businesses and occasionally going out bird hunting at their home on the Florida Gulf Coast.” Charles Payson, who owned the team until 1980, never bothered to retire Mays’ #24, per his wife’s agreement with Mays, and neither did the next few owners of the Mets.
Through Nelson Doubleday and later Fred and Jeff Wilpon, the team seemed ambivalent towards honoring the late Mrs. Payson’s wishes. The Mets had only retired four numbers: two for managers (Casey Stengel and Gil Hodges) and two for players (Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza). There was a strict retirement policy in place: only players who entered the Hall of Fame as Mets would have their numbers retired. That’s fine, and I have no problem with those criteria. But that all changed when Steve Cohen purchased the team in 2020.
Cohen decided the criteria for retired numbers was too strict, and last season, the team retired #36 for Jerry Koosman — a great player, but not a Hall of Famer. Earlier this year, the team retired Keith Hernandez’ #17 (Hernandez was also a great player, although he played for the Mets for only a little more than six seasons). One can be fairly certain there will be more number retirements ahead.
Then came Saturday’s announcement of the retirement of #24 for Mays.
It was a great moment, to be sure, and a fitting tribute on the Mets first Old Timers Day in almost 20 years. And it honored Payson’s commitment to Mays (although her promise was that no other Met would wear #24 — not necessarily that the Mets would retire the number). But since the Mets let that horse out of the barn long ago, pretty much the only way to “honor” Mrs. Payson’s wishes would be to retire the number for him.
My pop took me to a couple Mets games in 1972 and 1973, so I actually got to see Mays play in a Mets uniform. I remember the applause he got from the crowd when he came to bat. He wasn’t my favorite player, but my dad spoke glowingly of him. I have nothing but respect for everything he did in baseball, and agree he was one of the Top 10 (probably top 5) players of all time. But did he deserve to have his number retired by the Mets?
If it were any other player, I’d say no. But I’m torn here. As long as the Mets new number retirement protocol has changed, I can think of a few players who are probably deserving of the honor. Mays doesn’t really make that short list. But Mays was also incredibly important to New York (if not necessarily the Mets). And if this means that no Met will ever wear #24 again, then it’s definitely for the best.
If there was ever a player whose tenure and stats with a team didn’t merit number retirement status, Mays was surely one — but there was so much more that Mays meant to baseball and to New York that perhaps it was time to finally put his number up in the rafters.
I think retiring #24 not only honors Willie Mays, but honors Joan Payson, which is why it was a great thing that the Mets did.
As a Mets fan born in 1984, I have long been aware of Mrs. Payson’s promise to Mays (I became aware of it when the team assigned Rickey #24 in 1999, and my dad was outraged). By retiring Mays’s number, it shows that the Mets have a great appreciation for their history, even promises made by past ownership. I’m 100% for it.
All time great, but not with the Mets. As a Mets fan since 1978, I do not like this at all.
I’ve also wondered for a very long time why Casey Stengel’s number was retired. Was it because of his unique personality? Because it certainly wasn’t because of the performance of his team.
It’s retired for his time with the Giants. It’s well deserved
Great we are the Mets…not Giants
ok fine, it was retired for National League baseball in New York…
You have to understand New York baseball as a whole to appreciate this. Maybe you just aren’t old enough too (I am in my 60s). Willie was special to New York even after he left. He was/is my favorite baseball player even though I am a Mets fan.
Phil, thanks for this thoughtful post. As a fellow long-time Mets fan, I’ve felt that their retirement number policy has been too strict, and was very glad to see 17 get retired earlier this year. I also like the retirement of Mays’s number because it is always a good thing to fulfill a promise. I view the retirement of his number like that of Casey Stengel’s: honoring the New York baseball tradition of which they were a part rather than their (lack of) accomplishments with the Mets.
I think it’s definitely deserved. He meant so much to the city of New York. Its the same as Hank Aaron’s number retired with the Brewers. He was only with them for his last 2 years in the twilight of his career, but he meant so much to the city of Milwaukee for his time with the Milwaukee Braves.
And if you want to go even more extreme, Pete Maravich has is number retired by the Pelicans despite never even playing for the Franchise. This is because he meant so much to the city of New Orleans for his time with the New Orleans Jazz in the 70s.
I think they’re all deserved. However when you look at the Heat retiring 23 for Jordan I think that’s incredibly dumb.
Basically as long as a player was a star in the city and the original team relocated, I think it would be okay to retire their number. For example if Montreal was granted an expansion team and they didn’t get the Expos history back, I think they should still retire Gary Carter’s number 8.
It’s uncanny how much Mays’ situation parallels Aaron’s. But Milwaukee probably needs Hank Aaron more than New York needs Willie Mays.
You’re not off base. Retiring numbers can get out of hand (i.e. Yankees), but it’s ultimately up to whomever is in charge at the time. The Mets could retire Bobby Bonilla’s # if they wanted to, but I guess he is technically still on the payroll.
Makes no sense. The common sense test I would apply is “does it seem odd to see someone else where [all time great’s] uni? Does anyone really think twice when a Met wears 24, thinking “that’s not the Say Hey Kid!?” I think that’s a hard no.
The list of analogous cases is long. Have the Braves retired Babe Ruth’s #3? Did the Dodgers retire Frank Robinson’s #36 (Don Sutton had #20 when he joined the team). And how about the Mets and Nolan Ryan?
If it’s ok to do this, then we are facing a very slippery slope.
I agree about the slippery slope argument. If this were a legend playing out the string at the end (Namath with the Rams, Karl Malone with the Lakers), this would be a hard no. However, I think this is a case of honoring Mays’s career playing in New York. The Giants retired it for his feats in NYC and San Francisco with the franchise. This is analogous to Casey Stengel with the Mets and Hank Aaron with the Brewers, for what they did in those cities with their original teams.
There can’t be too many similar situations left in MLB. I can’t see the Phillies honoring Jimmie Foxx or the Cardinals honoring any St Louis Browns (Eddie Gaedel’s 1/8 would be it).
None of the examples you bring up equates with the way he matters to a couple of generations of New York baseball fans. If he had been able to come the ovation would have been thunderous.
It makes sense because it honors the legacy of the New York Giants. However, it also opens a can of worms. Do you retire the numbers of other famous NY Giants? What about Brooklyn Dodgers? (IMO, the Dodgers have done a better job of bridging the connection between Brookly and LA. SF Giants feel like a fresh start and NY Giants feel like a cased colors.)
I remember when the Giants won the World Series they came to Finnerty’s in the City and brought the trophy for fans to take pictures with. SF embraces their NYC roots.
This is very similar to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays retiring Wade Boggs #12. He spent 2 seasons with the franchise and though he hit the first HR for the franchise and had his 3000th hit as a DRay, if those accomplishments happen to someone that isn’t a hall of famer and hometown hero they are probably footnotes in the team history and not a retired uniform.
There’s already precedent here with Hank Aaron having his #44 retired by the Brewers, obviously more for what he did as a member of the Milwaukee Braves. I take no issue with the Mays retirement.
“[Mays] was one of the Top 10 (probably top 5) players of all time”.
You’re insane. Willie Mays is the greatest player in MLB history. Period.
Obviously the retirement of his number serves the legacy of Joan Payson, Mays’ contribution to the sport of baseball, and the city & heritage of New York.
I’m a Met fan dating back to 1969. I think it’s lovely that they have retired Willie’s #, and a stroke of genius for Steve Cohen to announce it, as a surprise, as part of the exciting day– putting Old Timer’s Day back on the map and bringing so many old favorite players back to Queens. I was a diehard during Willie’s two seasons with the Mets, and attended the night in his honor at Shea in September 1973, in the heat of the pennant race. Of course he was not an impact hitter during those seasons, and we are all left with a sad memory of his failings in the sun in Oakland. But I factor in a few things that make it a fitting honor:
Willie, of course, is THAT BIG (think Ruth, Aaron), and his ties to New York (google “Willie Mays, stickball”) that consequential;
Folks who care about NY Giants history have complained that Citi Field does much more to honor the ties to the Dodgers than the Giants. This is a great way to take a step to recognize our ties to the Giants;
Gil Hodges died suddenly in April 1972, and Willie’s arrival shortly thereafter really meant a lot to the Mets and their fans during that difficult time– good energy that sort of channeled into the magic of winning the NL pennant in 1973.
As for recognizing Joan Payson, maybe it’s time to put her name up, as they did for Bill Shea.
The Kelvin Torve matter was an accident, which is why he wore it for all of a few days before the Mets changed his number. I am pretty certain Ricky sought, and was granted, permission from Willie Mays to wear it. I also know those two have a relationship and for awhile (if not still today) they lived in the same neighborhood. I cannot remember if Cano got permission.
Rickey and Cano asked and got permission per Mets announcer Gary Cohen.
A strict policy seems appropriate juxtaposed with Yankees policy of retiring any fan favorite. The Yankees are especially irritating because most are deserving, either for being Yankee hall of famers, or dying while the number was still theirs.(Munson, Gehrig)
However, there is no reason for O’Neill, Posada, Williams, Guidry, or Pettitte to have their numbers retired.
O’Neill’s # being retired I agree too much. Surprised that we didn’t hear more about how George loved Pauly leading up to the retirement.
Guidry is before my time.
But Posada and Williams are boarder line HOF’ers in my book, and Pettitte would have been in the same category minus PEDs. I’m fine with their numbers retired.
I agree with you on Posada, O’Neill, and Guidry. They’re plaque players, sure. But they shouldn’t have their numbers retired. However Bernie Williams is 100% deserving for where he sits k the franchise’s history books, as it Pettitte numbers-wise (though his career obviously had the steroid taint)
I could make a case for Posada and Bernie. The others, not so much. O’Neill is particularly galling. He’s a borderline call for the Hall of Very Good. Paul O’Neill in Monument Park is a joke, when he now sits with Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle. This is Pau Gasol hanging #16 next to Kobe, Magic, Kareem, West and Baylor. A standard has been set.
Pettitte has a way stronger case for Yankees number retirement than Posada IMO.
I Wouldn’t mind if they entire league retired 24 in honor of Mays. He was that damn good.
Hard pass on this idea. Not disagreeing with the ability of Mays, the most pronounced 5 tool player in MLB history, but Mays exists because of Jackie-that’s why 42 is retired league wide.
I’m fine with the Mets retiring #24 for Mays, and generally OK with any team/league retiring any number they choose for any reason/criteria they chose.
However, to me that means said number should stay retired…no un-retiring because, say, a team has acquired a player who’d like to wear it or for (Insert-Player-Name-Here)Day; it cheapens the honor IMO.
Stop retiring numbers, its ridiculous. No player should ever have a number retired, except Jackie Robinson. Put the player in a ring of honor, team hall of fame or whatever, but stop retiring numbers.
I’m sorry you (or anyone) feels that way. We all understand time marches on, but to see the number of a franchise favorite out there on an average guy is a little disheartening.
Eh. The Yankees have retired numbers for a lot dumber reasons than what the Mets used for Mays.
I’m fine with the Mays retirement given his connection to National League baseball in New York. And I’m particularly fine with it the new ownership seemed to make a point of honoring him before it was a memoriam rather than an homage.
However, not even being remotely a Mets fan I can identify several others whose career with the team merited a number retirement. Ed Kranepool, Gary Carter, Bud Harrelson just to name three.
Reggie Jackson , with ONLY 4 years with the Yankee$ has retired as a YANKEE ? If thats okay , then Mays is okay having his number retired as a met.
Also, why havent the Red sox Retired Babe Ruths number as a Hall of Fame pitching career ? Ruth is a HomeGrown RED SOX .
Because he never wore a number with the Red Sox?
My general rule is if you are one of the first names a sport’s fan thinks of when you mention a team, then it should be considered for retirement. For example, the Padres: Who do you think of first in terms of non-active Padres? Tony Gwynn, right? Perhaps Trevor Hoffman or Dave Winfield, if you’re a certain age. (All three of whom had their numbers retired by the Padres.) What about Steve Garvey? Sure, there was that key HR in the ‘84 playoffs, and those Steve Garvey Is My Padre bumper stickers when it turned out he wasn’t so squeaky clean as he tried to con people into thinking. But a all-time great Padre? Hardly. Yet, his #6 is retired by the Padres. Under my rule, it shouldn’t be.
I would make an exception to this rule for Mays and likewise Henry Aaron with the Brewers, because of how beloved they were by their fan base and how their original teams (the Giants and Braves) were perhaps unfairly relocated out of NYC and Milwaukee respectively. Both were brought “home” by the replacement team owners (Payson and Bud Selig) who were minority owners of Mays’ and Aaron’s old teams and were opposed to the relocation.
Also, I would have to dig up my old copies of the NL Green Book, but I could swear that Mays’ #24 was listed as being retired by the Mets in the late ‘70’s.
Ironically, for me the first name I think of when you mentioned the Padres is actually Benito Santiago.
I’m a Yankee fan but have been attending Mets games since ‘62. Retiring Willie’s number recognizes that the NY Giants are part of the Mets DNA. Mrs. Payson understood that.
Mets should retire Cleon Jones #21 and Jay Horowitz glasses
I agree with you about Cleon Jones.
At the risk of getting all sorts of angry comments, I’m going to agree with Aron Cramer and argue that the Mets should not have retired No. 24 for Willie Mays. Furthermore, there are already way too many retired numbers in sports. Many of them have been retired for players who are not Hall of Famers or have faded from memory: How many people know why no one can wear No. 19 for the Dodgers? Or why the Astros retired No. 32? Or why the Dallas Mavericks retired No. 15?
I recall that Paul Lukas and Chris Creamer had a podcast in which they discussed ways in which teams could honor players without taking the numbers out of circulation forever. As practiced too often now, a retirement ceremony is little more than a feel-good exercise that lasts for a day, and then the player slowly disappears from living memory — in part because his number is no longer in use.
A suggestion: When a player goes into the Hall of Fame, retire his (or her) number for 10, 20 or 25 years with a big ceremony. Then, at the end of that period, have another ceremony honoring the player by bringing the number back into circulation as a special Hall of Fame number, with an commemorative shoulder patch or something. It could become a special badge of honor for whoever wears the number.
The Koosmans, Keith Hernandezes (and Jim Gilliam, No. 19 of the Dodgers; Jim Umbricht, No. 32 for the Astros; and Brad Davis, No. 15 of the Mavs) can have a place in the team’s history, with their names and numbers on the wall of honor. The excessive use of retired numbers by Yankees, Celtics, White Sox, Canadiens, Bears and Duke basketball, for instance, leads to all kinds of numbering problems for later generations of players.
By the way, this idea is nothing new. In the following article, Jack Silverstein recommends that numbers be unretired after 50 years, noting that the Chicago Bears cannot issue No. 56 because it was permanently retired for Bill Hewitt, who last played for the team in 1936. Bill who?
Here’s another piece by Joe Knowles of the Chicago Tribune, arguing that retiring of numbers is a ridiculous practice that should stop: Numbers belong to the team, not the player. link
This of course is left to the discretion of the team and acknowledgment of the fans. You are probably too young to understand what Willie meant to a couple of generations of New York baseball fans. If had been able to be there you would have been able to see for yourself how beloved he is.
Richard, I agree with all of this, particularly this part: “the player slowly disappears from living memory — in part because his number is no longer in use”.
Wouldn’t it be better to see future players choosing the numbers of past stars as tributes to them? As a young fan I learned a lot about, and came to admire, Roberto Clemente in part because Sammy Sosa chose his number — something he couldn’t have done if Sammy had been a Pirate, or if all of baseball had retired it, something that was being discussed a few years ago.
And we do expect our teams to continue playing for decades if not centuries into the future, don’t we? And we expect many more great players (and managers) to take the field for them. Are we expecting that the children of the 2100s will watch teams whose players all wear numbers in the 60s and 70s because everything lower is permanently banned?
I’d much rather see a system where a team only has one retired number at a time, and when the next honoree is chosen, the previous one’s number comes back into circulation. You would still have a list of past honorees for whom you could display statues and plaques, but you would also have a team full of normal-looking jersey numbers with only one missing.
This system would also enable teams to give this honor to players who have recently retired and aren’t going to be going to the Hall of Fame and probably aren’t all-time greats but who mean a lot to the team. Same for players who die suddenly. As it is we’re dooming future generations of fans to see uglier and uglier numbers with each passing decade.
24 resides in a circle of one. So glad that circle will now be visible for all Mets fans to see, salute and love
If the agreement was there, then who am I to disagree.
Looking at WAR, though, one of these things is not like the other.
Seaver – 12 years as a Met / 76.0 WAR during those years
Koosman – 12 years / 39.4 WAR
Hernandez – 7 years / 26.6 WAR
Piazza – 8 years / 24.6 WAR
Mays – 2 years / 1.6 WAR (all in 1972)
For a more apples to apples comparison:
Aaron – 2 years as a Brewer / 0.5 WAR
So it’s the not the most ridiculous retirement, but for reference, these players had/have Met WARs higher than Piazza and Hernandez:
Wright – 14 years / 49.2 WAR
Gooden – 11 years / 41.6 WAR
de Grom – 9 years / 40.7 WAR
Strawberry – 8 years / 36.6 WAR
Beltran – 7 years / 31.1 WAR
Alfonzo – 8 years / 29.6 WAR
Reyes – 12 years / 28.2 WAR
Leiter – 7 years / 28.0 WAR
Fernandez – 10 years / 27.7 WAR
I actually liked the HOF standard for number retirement. I would’ve kept that but added a ring of honor like football teams do for the players who were good but not worthy of number retirement.
I think the HOF standard is a good baseline to have, but I also think that there has to be wiggle room because occasionally non-Hall of Fame players are much more meaningful to the teams they played for than even some Hall of Famers who’ve played for said teams. Mattingly for the Yankees, Wright eventually for the Mets, etc.
Agreed. Jersey retirement for Hall of Famers. Ring of Honor for the others.
For a lot of New Yorkers Willie represented a great time for baseball in this town. I was 13 when he became a Met and I was thrilled. Even got to meet him as a guest instructor at my baseball camp. He did a hitting demonstration in his socks and dress pants! Signed autographs and had a game that night. I can tell you he hit his last homer that night..too bad my signed ball is not dated! I’m happy the Mets retired his number.
The Orioles have the same number retirement policy as the Mets had. “Only Hall of Famers” is a SUPER strict guideline, but it certainly is a way to end discussion when someone asks “what about THIS guy?”.
I think the Mets’ “bending the rules” for players of Mays’ calibre (even if they didn’t do much as Mets) is fine. Look at is this way: It’s a nice problem to have, isn’t it?
After reading the post and the comments, my opinion is irrelevant, and so is everybody else’s. The teams will do what they want to do for whatever reason they choose. It is interesting to read how people arrive at their conclusions, though.
There is ample precedent for retiring Mays’ number. Hank Aaron, Wade Boggs and Frank Robinson all played two undistinguished final seasons with teams other than the ones they were best known for, yet all had their numbers retired by their final teams (Boggs as part of a slimy deal that he would go into the HOF as a Devil Ray because he got his 3000th hit with them; the HOF refused to honor the agreement). I’m sure that Robinson’s number retirement by the Indians/Guardians had more to do with his being the first black manager in the majors.
Mays meant much to the CITY of New York, more than his tenure with the Mets. I wholeheartedly agree that this was WAY overdue.
I can see #’s 18, 16, 5 and 8 being retired by the Mets in the next few years. Maybe even #45 – twice.
I think it was right to retire #24. I also agree with Koosman and Hernandez. Hernandez may eventually get into the HoF through the veterans committee. Mets fans are some of the most loyal fans in all of sports. No matter how the team is doing the fans come out to watch. Mays, Koosman, and Hernandez were more than just great players. They were icons to Mets fans. Mays’s tenure in a Mets uniform was a fitting bookend to cement NL baseball in NY again. Koosman was a staple of two Mets World Series teams and a fan favorite. Hernandez was the anchor which was built around for the team’s 3rd WS appearance and historic playoff run. Above all else, though, those 3 guys made NY their home. Mays is forever linked to NL baseball in NY. Koosman made multiple appearances at Mets games after his retirement (his trade to the Twins also got them Jesse Orosco) and Hernandez has been part of the broadcast team for almost 20 years. The impact they left with Mets fans during their time in the orange and blue is ingrained in the memories of people going to the games to see those guys. It wouldn’t surprise me if eventually Gary Carter’s #8 and maybe even John Franco’s #45. I don’t believe 8 has been worn by a Mets player since 2002, possibly in anticipation of him going into the HoF as a Met instead of an Expo. Lee Mazzilli would be nice but he shared his numbers with two other Mets greats (Darling and Gooden). His #13 in his 2nd stint is shared by a lot of people.
Final thought. Unlike the Doubledays and Wilpons, Steve Cohen is actually a fan of the game of baseball and the Mets. He cares about the team as a team, not just his bottom line. He is motivated by fan happiness, not profit margins.
Appreciate hearing your thoughts on this, Phil. Would love to read Paul’s thoughts when he is back too.
What if the Mets flex and retire all worthy NYG and Brooklyn Dodgers? Use the team colors, but maybe have the background look flannel, and include the interlocking NY and the B logos—that’s a pretty easy way to give them context, distinct from the numbers hanging in California where they never (or barely) played.
I’m not a Mets fan, so at the end of the day my opinion on this is even more irrelevant than most. I have no issue with the Mets retiring Willie’s number for the reasons laid out by others. That said, I can understand some being peeved that the Mets retired Mays before say Wright, Carter, or Strawberry, all of whom are more iconic AS METS and (at least the first two) seem like locks to have their number retired under the new policy.
As a Met fan of over 50 years, I would not have retired 24 for one and a half years of a former great player. I also am not 100% sure of this “agreement” between Payson and Mays to retire 24. It seems like Met radio announcer Howie Rose has advanced this notion, last year in a poll and at the ceremony as well. Howie is usually correct on Met history, but I have not heard this before. Mays came to NY for financial security…why would he care if a team he never played for up until then retired his number? Surely the Giants were going to.
Count me as a Yes for #24. Saw Mays play when I was a kid and remember how my Dad would talk about him. As a NY and baseball legend, all for this. My 23 year old son has an appreciation for who Mays is and his place in baseball. By retiring his number, maybe his future kid will be at Citi Field one day and will see the number at the top of the stadium and will ask about and learn of the legend that Willie is. Just too bad the Mets waited so long that Willie wasn’t able to be there in person.
Overdue is the word, they should have done it right after he retired. While not being amazing as a Met, he was one of the best players ever and played for NY in the NL for a long time. So it is a good thing the current owner of the Mets is honoring him, even if it is sadly posthumous. As for retiring numbers in general I have a different take: season ticket holding fans should vote on it. Not decided by owners, not by the media but by the paying customers of a team. And if they decide that enough is enough (as my guess is season ticket holders in the Bronx and Celtics fans would have done at one point to avoid future numbering problems) that is it for numbers getting retired by their team for the time being.
Mays is still alive.
Ohhhhhhh, my bad! Thanks for setting me straight! I thought he passed away years ago…
I am not a Mets fan so do not really have a horse in this race.
As a baseball fan I think this is OK. Mays is a candidate for greatest player ever, certainly top 5. And while he only played the very end of his career with the Mets and was no longer great, he is associated with New York and the team he played for is no longer there.
Given that, this seems appropriate so that he is honored in New York
In the early 90’s the two best young players in baseball were Ken Griffey Jr and Barry Bonds. Both chose 24 as their uniform number instead of choosing either of their their father’s former numbers. Another testament to Mays’ greatness.
I am sure you already know this, but Mays is Bond’s godfather.
Mets fan here. I am NOT a fan of retiring #24 for Mays. He is baseball royalty and an all time great. One of the best players ever. However, he belongs to the NY/SF Giants. He is not a Met. His prior connection to New York is not relevant when it comes to the NY Mets. He played two seasons for them at the end of his career. Hardly a basis to retire a number.
As a Mets fan, I am very annoyed that we have #24 retired for a Giant, #37 retired for a Yankee, and a rotunda of the stadium named for a Dodger. We are the NY Mets. It is Mets history that should be honored. If the Mets want to honor Jackie Robinson, that can be done in another part of their stadium. Same with Mays. I understand the Mets were created as the love child in the wake of the departure of the Giants and Dodgers, but we honored that by taking the colors of blue and orange.
In my opinion, Joan Payson’s promise does not matter. Mays was her favorite player, but so what? The Marlins retired #5 for Carl Barger because his favorite player was Joe DiMaggio and then they appropriately unretired it because it’s a stupid metric to retire a number. Joan Payson’s personal preferences should not matter. Mays’ number was held out for 50 years except for Torve (by accident), Henderson, and Cano. It was my hope the Mets would let #24 back into full circulation once Willie Mays passed (which I hope does not happen for many many years).
I don’t like this move by the Mets to retire a flurry of numbers. We are becoming the Astros where we’re going to have a bunch of questionable retired numbers. Jerry Koosman was a great player for the Mets, but I don’t think #36 should be retired. As a Mets fan, the only Mets retired numbers should be:
5, 14, 17, 31, and 41 (42 is retired leaguewide obviously). Seaver represents the 69 team and is one of the pitchers ever. Hernandez represents the 86 team plus he’s a team icon when you factor in his Mets broadcasting career.
The Mets are now keeping #7 and #8 out of circulation. Love Gary Carter, but he should not have his number retired. I don’t know why #7 is being kept out, but Kranepool and/or Reyes should not have theirs retired either.
At first, I really liked Aron Cramersays’ criteria: “does it seem odd to see someone else wear [all time great’s] uni? Now, I’m not so sure.
It did feel odd seeing other Mets wear 17 after Keith. It also felt odd seeing other players wear #8, which now if not officially retired, I’d be surprised to see worn again by a Met. I can’t figure out why–at least for me–retiring 17 seems right, but retiring 8 doesn’t.
Does anyone disagree that #5 is going to be retired? Regardless of whether it is, does anyone think it shouldn’t be?
Thank you for being the voice of reason on this. I like that Mets had a strict protocol around retired numbers. Do we want to be the Yankees? I’m too young to see Koosman so I’ll defer to the experts on whether that was a good call or not.
Jerry Koosman’s career numbers actually qualify him for the Hall of Fame. Several lesser pitchers are enshrined. Koosman just had the bad fortune to pitch most of his great career in the shadow of the even-greater Tom Seaver.
I am all for retiring Willie’s number. I thought they should have just done it on Willie Mays night back in 1973. The Brewers subsequently did it for Hank Aaron with the same justification. It is in recognition of his contributions to the fans of the city. Nothing wrong with the late career hurrah. I a, old enough to have been able to see Willie as a Met. 1972 was the first year that I followed baseball and it was exciting to 7 year old me to experience an all time great getting traded to my favorite team. I have always cherished his time with the Mets and had tears flowing down my cheek standing at Citi Field when the announcement was made on Saturday. As others have said, we have the huge tribute to Jackie Robinson in the lobby. At least Willie actually played for the Mets and was part of a World Series with them. And as for the lazy “tripping in the World Series” story line, Joe Rudi and Reggie Jackson also lost balls in the brutal sun and fell that afternoon. That is an unjust story line used to make Willie look bad for some silly reason. As with Gil Hodges’ Hall of Fame induction, it was a moment that I had been waiting decades for. Well done Steve Cohen.
Mrs. Payson’s promise, Mays’ career body of work, and Mays’ contribution to National League baseball in New York are each, alone, reason enough for honoring Mays in this way.
But how about this? The Mets organization does not need anyone else’s input or approval to do this! If the organization believes it appropriate, that’s enough. No one else gets a vote. Personally, I believe it is deserved; but that’s just my opinion. I’ll continue to be a Mets fan. But if you disagree strongly about this, go support some other team. No one is holding a gun to your head.
I am 61 yrs old and Willie Mays was and still is my favorite baseball player. I was born in Brooklyn and when we played baseball I would run the bases and knock my cap off my head imitating Willie flying around the bases. Yes I was a Yankees fan then Mets and eventually Astros when we moved to Houston in 1968 but the excitement of Willie coming back to the Mets in 1972 and then going to the World Series was a highlight for me. Glad the Mets did this.
I guess I’m in the minority here, but doesn’t it seem kind of lame for the Mets to attempt to co-op the career of Willie Mays? Retiring his number sends the message that the Mets consider Mays to be one of their great players, and, simply put, he wasn’t.
Should the Chargers retire the #19 of Johnny Unitas? Should the Seahawks do likewise for Franco Harris’ #32? Maybe the Mets could add Yogi Berra’s number to the wall as well?
The SanDiego should not honor Johnny Unitas, but that’s not the same as New York honoring Willie Mays
Football doesn’t retire as many numbers because of strict numbering systems and l,imited avaliability, but did you know that Johnny Unitas was in the Ravens Ring of Honor? And he never even played for them
Besides Mays, what other HOFers started and ended their careers in the same city with 2 different franchises? (one is easy, the other not so much)
They’re both easy. Aaron in Milwaukee. Ruth in Boston.
And Hornsby in St. Louis — that’s the one people forget (or didn’t know).
Aaron, Ruth, Hornsby
Would be like the Wizards retiring #23 for Jordan. Mays was a legendary incredible player, but NOT with the Mets. He was a shell of his former superstar self by ‘72 and ‘73. Strange move by the Mets. I would expect this from some perennial losing team with zero history looking to draw attention and generate buzz. This move cheapens the honor for other great Mets like Seaver, etc.
It’s a little ridiculous that 24 goes up before 8. Gary Carter’s number retirement is LONG overdue. The only acceptable excuse would be they did not want to do Hernandez and Carter in the same year.
I think they wanted to do Willie as part of the large Old Timers Day contingent present. Carter deserves his own day for his family like Keith had and I am confident that will happen next year based upon how Cohen has been doing things. I would be shocked if there is not a Carter ceremony in the near future.
I see the retirement of Mays’ number almost as much of a tribute to Joan Payson and her impact upon the creation of the Mets, and who was disgracefully ignored by the Wilpons. Willie Mays was beloved in New York at that time, but so was Joan Payson.
Willie Mays should be recognized in a New York National League stadium, and chartacterizing it as honoring Joan Payson’s wish is both a nod to Mays and a important nod to Mets history in Joan Payson.
Football may be a little better in this area with the highly visible Ring of Honor recognition instead of retired numbers
The other day I found out that “Gotham’s Giants” has no relation to the New York Giants, insanity! Now I gotta change my fantasy team name sheesh.