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How About Letting the Mets Name Their Stadium?

Mike SteffanosWednesday, August 30, 2006
By Mike Steffanos


George Vecsey and Billie Jean King feel that they can tell the Mets what to name the new ballpark? Apparently, it would be "the right thing" and a "no-brainer" for the club to forgo an estimated $10 million in naming rights to honor pioneer and former Mets great Jackie Robinson. As most of you know, Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier when he came up to the Mets as a 28-year-old rookie in 1947. Jackie went on to play his entire 10 year professional career with the Mets, and will be forever identified with that franchise. Other great Mets players from that era include Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider, Don Newcombe and Gil Hodges, who went on to manage some other expansion team whose name escapes me right now.

Also, because Vecsey and King understand that they are asking the Wilpons to forgo a lot of money to honor the former Mets great, both will donate a large sum of money to the Mets to facilitate this gesture that they both so strongly believe in. George and Billie Jean point out that they have made a substantial amount of money in their chosen professions, and understand that it's somewhat hypocritical to ask someone to endure financial loss without being willing to share in that loss.

Please don't mistake the above paragraphs as any attempt to belittle Jackie Robinson, nor what he endured to open major-league baseball to all who are good enough to compete at that level. It was fitting and proper to retire Robinson's number across all of baseball, and the New York City area is full of things which were named after the former Brooklyn Dodgers great. I am not in favor of segregation nor prejudice in any manner. However, if Fred Wilpon caves in to those who are attempting to pressure him into naming his stadium after a player who had absolutely no connection at all to the New York Mets, he will be a fool.

For too many years, the Mets have made their franchise subservient to the two teams who callously abandoned their fans when they chased dollar signs 3,000 miles away. By the way, this happened almost 50 years ago. While I understand the love that fans a few years older than me still feel for those franchises, I don't feel this team needs to do any more to honor that love. Time to move on folks -- or simply move yourselves to Los Angeles or San Francisco. This team is closing in on 45 years of existence, and still struggles to find its own identity -- but it's important to lifelong fans of this club that we be allowed to do so. In a way, it's the lack of a strong Mets identity that allows folks such as Vecsey and King feel they have the right to dictate to the club what they should do. However, we are getting there, and we don't need to name our stadium after someone who never played or coached or worked in the front office of the New York Mets.

Jackie Robinson deserves every honor he gets. What he accomplished will never fade away, but he was not a Met, and the New York Mets are under no ethical obligation to the whims of others to honor him in the naming of their stadium. Vecsey, King and the others who are pushing this have put the Wilpons in an unenviable position. If they refuse to cave in, it looks like they are refusing to honor Robinson, in essence looking like racially insensitive men chasing a buck. If they do cave in, they lose $10 million that will need to come from somewhere else -- our pockets -- and the team's stadium will carry a name that has absolutely nothing at all to do with the New York Metropolitan baseball club.

Others who have weighed in on this issue
What opinion I've seen so far seems to be of the same mind:

MetsBlog:

...that being said, i have to be honest, while i respect and admire robinson, believe me i do, umm, he was a dodger...sorry...he was...i mean, it already irks me that the new stadium will be some kind of homage to ebbets field, where the old brooklyn dodgers played...now it will be named for one of their greatest players...will he have the dodgers hat on in pictures around the stadium...doesn't that seem strange to you...teams have a lineage, and he's a player in the lineage of another team...

Metstradamus:

But for a team that has been noted to avoid their own history to name their ballpark after an old Dodger would be another move that would be a small P.R. disaster amongst their fan base. And to name your park after Jackie Robinson because Billie Jean King thinks it's a good idea is asinine. I'm all for honoring Jackie Robinson, but as a friend of mine noted today: It's not like Jackie Robinson hasn't been honored...it's not like he's flown under the radar since his retirement like, say, Larry Doby has. His uniform number will never be worn again! That's a pretty gosh darn significant note of his significance.

Mets Guy in Michigan:

If the team takes the speculated $10 million from some corporation for naming rights, it will be painted as greedy despite the fact that every new yard built since Oriole Park at Camden Yards has held a corporate moniker - and many built before Camden Yards have since sold their names. I'm not saying I like it, but it's the reality. If you want stuff like Barry Zito under your Christmas tree this off season, you can't begrudge the team for trying to do things that generate money without raising ticket prices even higher.

And if the Mets do something nice, like add a statue of Robinson, every columnist will break out with lines reading how it is a lesser tribute because the team took the money for the naming rights.

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Comments (19)

Mike, I agree totally with your statements about the naming of the new stadium, and you have to look no further than that good old Brooklyn Dodger fanatic, Fred Wilpon, to blame for those who feel they have the right to opine about it. Fred has never shied away from his adoration of the old Dodgers, from copying the new stadium after Ebbets Field, to his long-time friendship with Sandy Koufax. That kind of homage-paying opens one up to that kind of pressure. I'm not saying two wrongs make a right, and Vecsey and King have no right to put pressure on the Mets, but maybe if Wilpon didn't drool all over the old Dodgers so openly, people wouldn't say these kinds of things. Hey, the Mets are going to have a new-fangled Ebbets Field, why not name it after one of the great players that played there?(UGH!) Time to make a clean break and start by honoring former Met players and management and stop fawning over all things associated with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Mike, so that no one gets the wrong idea (or takes what I said in my post above the wrong way), my father was a huge Brooklyn Dodger fan and his brother an equally huge NY Giant fan; in fact, the first 2 Met games I ever saw were a 1962 Met-Dodger game and a 1963 Met-Giant game. I have a great admiration for that team and Jackie Robinson's greatness and place in history, but these are the NY Mets, not the Brooklyn Dodgers! Oh, by the way, why aren't Vecsey and King asking the Yankees and Steinbrenner to name their stadium after Robinson? What's the difference, they're a NY team after all.

While Jackie Robinson deserves a prominent ackowledgement within/around the new Mets stadium (a statue, street, etc), I'd prefer combination of a corporate name with a real geographic location, such as "Citicorp Field at Willets Point". This way, even if the corporate sponsors change from era to era, at least the geographic address will remain. Much in the way nobody ever refers to the Baltimore stadium as "Oriole Park", but as simply "Camden Yards", the new Mets home would be commonly known as "Willets Point" or "The Point"... I also agree that the Mets need to celebrate their own colorful history and heritage. We're not merely stepbrothers to the Dodgers & Giants...

Mike, you're dead on about Jackie. I feel that he has been well represented across baseball, while it would be a nice tribute to name the stadium after him, he doesn't have a direct association with the club. Why don't the LA Dodgers rename Dodgers Stadium to Jackie Robinson Stadium, that would make more sense.

That said, I still would prefer a non-corporate name unless we got lucky with Met Life. I liked Matt's suggestion to call it Bob Murphy Stadium, it just has a nice ring to it. Any name that had a real connection to the Mets would be welcome.

iM ALREADY PISSED OFF that our new stadium is like the the doggers oled stomping grounds. If they name the stadium after a dogger this will be the biggest slap in the face to mets fans. This is just bull shit.!!!! Can we please celibrate out own history...I mean am I asking to much? Im a mets fan that wants to go to a mets stadium that celebrates mets acheivements...I was born in in 1982, so all i know is that the mets are their own team. I dont think of the giants, or the doggers when i watch my team play. ..........SORRY FOR THE RANT. I just find this retarded.

Mike, right on about the stadium name. As a devoted fan and season ticket holder, I don't relish the thought of going to a stadium named after a Dodger. Things might be a little different if the Dodgers no longer existed as an organization. Since they still exist, Dodger Stadium should be renamed in honor of Jackie.

I would rather take the corporate income from naming rights and sign a decent player or help defray game costs.

Here we go again...the media and Billie Jean King (a Giants fan) are telling the Wilpons how to name their stadium. The Dodgers and Giants abandoned NY after the 1957 season and never looked back. For Brooklyn, it was a particularly crushing blow and apparently one that Fred Wilpon never really got over. As a result, he has made sure the new stadium evokes Ebbets Field. His call and his money. Nothing wrong with a little nostalgia. As for more odes to the those NY entries from days past, I say NO WAY!

Jackie's #42 is retired and on the wall of virtually every ballpark in the major leagues. If anything, the Dodgers should have something named after him. Since the Mets have had only one truly great player, Seaver, who only played 11 seasons for them due to M. Donald, he is the only player that the stadium or some section of it should be named after. Perhaps a special area could also be named for Gil Hodges.

Frankly, I would like to see the Wilpons be able to continue to import quality players, coaches and front office personnel, and most importantly, create the best damn minor league system in baseball. That takes real bucks and real bucks come from selling advertsing and everything else. In fact, if calling it Met Life Park at Willets Point and replacing Mr. Met with Snoopy brings $6-$10 million annually, and keeps ticket prices a little more reasonable, so be it.

It should be called Gil Hodges Field. What did Jackie Robinson do for the Mets. Major League Baseball has done enough for him in regard to his number being retired from baseball. Gil Hodges led the Mets to a WS and has never recieved any recognition for his career or what he did for the Mets.

George -- I understood what you meant completely. I have nothing against honoring baseball's past. If they want to rename the Cyclone's ballpark after Jackie Robinson, that would be much more appropriate. Like you said, these are the Mets, not the Brooklyn Dodgers.
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DollarBill -- I like your idea for naming the place.
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Hot Foot -- I'd love to go the non-corporate route, too, and also liked Matt's idea. I think it's more realistic to accept the fact that there will be a corporate name on the new stadium.
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Anonymous -- I'm almost 48, and the Dodgers never played a game in Brooklyn in my lifetime, either. The majority of Mets fans have no direct connection to the Giants or Dodgers.
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Joe -- I'm with you on Dodger stadium. Funny no one feels they can pressure LA to rename their stadium after their own player.
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Dave -- I kind of like the idea of Met Life Park, it's almost too perfect.
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Rob -- I certainly think the Mets should do something to honor Hodges, and it would make more sense.

So when LA comes to play the Mets in 2008, do Vecsey and Billie Jean want the Dodgers to occupy the first base dugout and get last licks? REE-diculous!

NostraDennis -- I know that their thinking is that Robinson transcends the Dodgers, but I'm with you that he has no identity with the Mets.

I am a old Brooklyn Dodger fan. They got me started in baseball. I had fist fights in high school defending them, but when they turned thier back on us and went to L.A. I turned my back on them. When the Mets were born, I fell in love with them and became a true Met fan. Jackie Robinson came to our school to visit and speak to us.Chelsea Voc.H.S in Manhattan by the Holland Tunnel,in 1956, he was a Dodger then and still is. I rooted for him when I was a Dodger fan, but the team left me and when it did everything was over.There was a big void in my teenage life. The Mets filled that void. WE played in other teams stadiums untill we got Shea built. We have been eating other teams dust in this city for awhile and now we are starting to chip our name into this city and you want us to put a Brooklyn Dodger's name on our new stadium. What are you freakin nuts. If your going to pass on 10 mill. to name it, name it New York Mets Stadium.

I like that Rev, short and sweet.

The entire situation reminds me of a scene in the movie "Heist" when Gene Hackman's character is talking to Danny Devito's, and Hackman says something like, "If you're good enough, you could even steal Ebbets Field..." and Devito says back, "Ebbets Field's gone." Hackman replies, "What'd I tell ya?"

Ladies and gentlemen, I believe we've found those responsible.

I hate corporate sponsershit. Hate hate hate it. So i'm saying right now, that any name will be better than a corporate sponser, including this one, with the possible exception of "Met life park."

I'll Amend my comment to say that it'd be acceptable to name it "Citicorp Field at Willets Point." That at least is decent. But if it's named "gyco field," I'm not gonna be happy.

Good one, Matt
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Nick -- I'd actually prefer corporate sponsorship to naming the park after someone who never played here, because then you're just telling the world that your own team's history doesn't matter. However, I agree with you (and DollarBill) on some variation like "Citicorp Field at Willets Point" over just a straight corporate name.

I didnt think of it but why not call it 'Bob Murphy stadium'....
It wont happen ... whatever it is it will be top dollar ... Im sure it will be nice but guys like me will still have to watch it on tv... Thats ok.. im realing starting to enjoy the 3 guys in the booth..makes it fun to watch the game.....

Bean -- I'd be in favor of naming the stadium after Murph, but we both know that's a pipe dream.

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