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Why I Picked On Mookie (And Don't Regret It)

Mike SteffanosSunday, October 29, 2006
By Mike Steffanos

I've been taking a little heat for voicing some displeasure with Mookie Wilson for his choice to wear the Cardinals clothing while cheering on his stepson Preston during the World Series. I voiced this opinion in this paragraph from my Saturday post:
Yes, I know. Mookie is cute and cuddly. He's mad at the Mets because they didn't choose to pick up his son, and they haven't offered him the job he wants. However, Mookie has never been shy about making a buck off the continued love of Mets fans. I never held that against him, but if there is anyone who should have been careful not to alienate Mets fans, it's Mookie. I don't begrudge him cheering for his stepson's team to win, but his choice to wear all the St. Louis gear while cheering him on is somewhat of an insult to Mets fans who supported him all these years. I don't hate him or anything, but I'll honestly never look at him the same way again, and I wouldn't pay a dime for a Mookie appearance or piece of merchandise.

Where I think I went wrong here was failing to be specific enough in saying this was my opinion and certainly not the opinion of all Mets fans. I never pretend to speak for anyone other than myself in this space. However, I stand by my feeling that his choice of wearing the Cardinals sweatshirt and hat was somewhat of an insult to Mets fans who have supported him over the years, even though the way I worded it probably gave a mistaken impression that I felt all Mets fans were insulted by this, and that's certainly not the case. I thought this comment by fellow Mets blogger Mets Grrl summarized fairly well the thoughts of those who were not insulted:

What I think everyone forgets is that the minute Mookie showed up, he stopped being our Mookie Wilson and started being Preston's dad.

I posted this on Metstradamus and I still feel strongly about it: we don't own these people. We need to evaluate his actions based on him being a father and not on his role in our myth.

If he had to think about who to let down - his son, or thousands of Mets fans? I'm not a parent, but I'd be destroyed if my father took the side of his former employer over me at one of the biggest moments in my life.

I understand loyalty. I have a fierce, old-fashioned concept of what that means. And if you can prove to me beyond the shadow of a doubt - and that would have to be a quote from Mookie himself - that Mookie donning Cardinal red was some kind of f-u to the mets, I'll climb on this bandwagon.

I have no problem with Mookie being Preston's dad, and I specifically stated I had no problem with Mookie rooting for the Cards, not even when they played the Mets. That would be silly. Nevertheless, with due respect to Mets Grrl and those who didn't find anything wrong with the Cardinals gear, let me explain to you why I and some other long time Mets fans that I've talked to have a problem with it.

Mookie was the only New York Met who played for the team during the entire decade of the 1980s. This ten year stretch spanned awful teams early in the decade to the strong teams later on. Most of the players on the 1986 champs spent many years playing for other teams. Keith Hernandez spent most of his career in St. Louis, Gary Carter in Montreal. Dykstra finished in Philadelphia and Darling pitched for years in Oakland. But Mookie showed up in 1980 as a raw 24-year-old rookie and stayed until that dark day in 1989 when he was traded t0 the Blue Jays. To some of us who lived and died with the Mets during that extraordinary decade, Mookie became somewhat more than a ballplayer -- he became a symbol of that team. It was Mookie who will forever be identified with Game 6 of that lone World Series win.

But wait, you say. Mookie didn't chose to be a symbol. He was just a ballplayer that gave us all he had on the field, and owes us nothing else.

A fair point, except that Mookie Wilson has spent the intervening years cashing in quite nicely on that special place he has in some of our hearts. As I said in the original post, I don't begrudge him that. Ballplayers didn't make the kind of money then that they do now. But if you are going to cash in on being a symbol, you also need to accept that some responsibility goes along with the money you make for appearances and memorabilia sales.

No, we don't own Mookie Wilson. Also, I state again unequivocally, I have no problem with Mookie rooting for Preston's Cardinals, including when they were playing the Mets. Can I state that any more clearly? Mookie was right to root for his son, and only a lunatic would begrudge him that.

But for someone who played for the team in the 1980s, Mookie has to understand how long-time Mets fans feel about the Cardinals. That team, and the self-righteous crimson-clad lemmings that cheer them on, were our absolute arch-rivals in that decade. 1985 and 1987 still sting to this day. Mookie is not a stupid man. He understands this well enough that he didn't wear that Cardinals gear during the Mets-Cardinals NLCS. He was able to cheer on his son during the NL championship series without donning the logo gear. So why did it become so important to wear during the Series? I only watched a few innings of those 5 World Series games and saw several shots of Wilson, and it felt like an unnecessary slap in the face to me, and also to some others I talked to.

After I wrote that post, I found a link on Can't Stop The Bleeding to something Steve from the Eddie Kranepool Society wrote on the subject that was more strongly worded than what I wrote. Steve is right when he says that Mookie could have supported Preston without wearing the Cardinals gear. By choosing to do so, he was making a choice -- and that choice has alienated some of us who have had a special place in our hearts for Wilson which has allowed him to make a comfortable living over the years. Therefore, while I will not beat the drum here trying to get others to feel as I do, with respect I tell you that no one really has the right to tell me that the way I feel isn't valid. To me, Mookie Wilson has compromised his place as a symbol of this franchise, and I'm not the only one who feels this way. I'll never really feel the same way about him again. If some feel that I am being unreasonable, so be it.

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Comments (10)

No offense but I think this whole Mookie thing is silly. I'm a long time diehard, but don't we have more important things to do than worry about who wears what hat and cap; and then feel personally offended as if someone in our real lives hurt us?

I agree with Mets Grll; this is some delusional fantasy some have...where personal wounds outside baseball leak into the process and cloud reality. Is this a feeding frenzy on abandoment and betrayal issues? Baseball's a game,
baseball's a business; for fans this one-way perverse
window into players' lives makes some lose sight that
when it comes to family, we're not their's real term.

Though it was strange to see Mookie don Cards gear, I
wasn't offended or think any less of him. He was reveling in his son, fully understanding the rare and unique
opportunity to cherish what may well be a once in a lifetime experience; the very same thing that Mookie experienced 20 years ago. Jared Weaver was there too in the
stands crying in joy for his brother even though they play in the majors, on different teams. And no, he wasn't wearing Cards gear, but Mookie, with no current ties to the Mets, is not compelled to follow our projected beliefs.

Let's get over ourselves and this obsessive fascination with these players; a fascination that deludes us into thinking we have more rights and ownership to their loyalty as defined by us as some sort of inanimate object. Heal your inner wounds where they orginated long ago outside of baseball and I assure you all, Mookie's personal choice would mean far less than it does.

You know, I was respectful of the opinions of those who didn't feel the way I do. Too bad you couldn't find it in yourself to do the same. My feelings are hardly a "delusional fantasy", as I carefully spelled out what I feel. I'll make a deal with you -- I'll try to "heal my inner wounds" if you feel you can try to be less of a pompous ass. How's that sound?

You should have did what I did after the NLCS. I didn't watch one inning of the WS, not the highlites, recaps or any discussion. Somtimes ignorance is bliss.

I am with you on this one Mike. I can almost forgive Mookie if Preston was with the Cards for an extended period of time. But he wasn't. He was with them for less that half a damn season. Mookie knows better. It's well documented what kind of rivalry existed between the Mets and Cards when he was a ballplayer. To play stupid in regards to the subject is insulting. I was there this year for the reunion and Keith singled out Mookie as the lone Met who went through the lean years and was rewarded with a championship. To paraphrase Keith, he said Mookie embodied what a Mets fan went through during the 80's. So I don't care whether or not it was by circumstance of the Buckner error, or by choice, but it was Mookie's responsibility to be diplomatic. He wasn't plain and simple. To see him in Cardinal red was salt in the wound. The only shame is that next time he makes and appearance at Shea he will think the chants he is hearing is "moooooook" when it will actually be "boooooo." I guess "Mookie Sucks" will do.

Think about this for a minute. Mookie Wilson *should* support the team his son represents, to the fullest of his ability, especially if he's no longer employed by the Mets. This is his son we're talking about, and blood is thicker than business. Secondly, it's not like the Mets have done Mookie, and many of their former heroes, many favors over the years. As it pertains to Mookie, the Mets gave up on *him* in '89 when they traded him away. They also gave up on *him* when they cut him as a coach a few years back, as well as in other capacities. I equate it very similarly with the Mets giving up on Tom Seaver in the late '70s. Mets myth dictates that they're supposed to be a different type of ball club than the ruthless Yankees - more family-oriented - but this really is more myth than reality. It's really the fans who keep that outlook because the major leagues, today more than ever, are about business first and "what have you done for me lately." In short, Preston Wilson plays for the Cardinals. Mookie's Preston's dad. If Mookie wants to wear Cards gear, then it's choice. It shouldn't tarnish the image we have of Mookie as a Mets hero, because he will always be one. I mean, did we hate Mookie when he started playing for the Blue Jays and wore their uniform? I hope I didn't insult anyone with this post but I don't think we should be so sensitive regarding these guys. Mel Stottlemeyer and Lee Mazzilli, for instance, weren't offered jobs by the Mets and the Yankees made them offers. Are they bad guys for taking those jobs? No. They're smart for keeping their careers in the game going. If anything, the Mets were idiots for not signing them. The same goes for Mookie. He's a good man, a kind man and a great baseball guy. He's also a Mets legend. The Mets gave up on him. ~cc~

I have no problem with him rooting for his son or whatever team he plays for. It'd be messed up if Mookie wore card's gear or any team's gear to shea, but he didn't. He should wear the cards gear everywhere else though, it is his duty as a father to support his son and he is doing that well.

JJE - You have a point on that one.
Chris - I wouldn't boo him if I was there. I don't feel the same way about him, but this is a case of losing warm feelings rather than really developing hard feelings.
=Chuck=, Gehoff - I don't feel that wearing team logo gear is required to support your son playing in the W.S. I'm not talking about Mookie's relationship with the Mets, but rather with the fan. In any case, I'm not trying to talk anyone into feeling the way I do. I'm just explaining it.

I also feel the same way, that Mookie Wilson has compromised his place as a symbol of this franchise.

As far as I am concerned he is now a Cardinal fan. And I guess he will be a fan of any team his son is voted on. Good luck, and good bye.

Baseball's is a game, and also a business, for the owners, but not for the fans.

And just as Mookie did what his heart felt, then the Met fans can do the same. Take him out of our hearts. I say this and I am sure that many other Met fans also feel it the same way.

The Mets will go on fine without him.

And for the fans who feel that when they traded him away in 89, and then cut him as a coach that the team gave up on him, are fools. The team was not winning then so they had to adjust their game plan. And comparing this to Seaver is just another foolish remark. Seaver had to go, because he wanted to run the club. He was ordering the owners to do what he wanted them to do, and players do not have that right.

And to say that today more than ever, that the Mets are about business first. I say so what is the big deal about that? The one who puts up the money (a business thing) must have a reason why they do the deals they do. Should they depend on the fans in order to make a decision?

Hi Mike- I have to say i agree with you here-it's not like Preston was a career Cardinal - he was picked up off the trash heap after Houston gave him his release. If Preston has been with St Louis as long as Mookie had been with Mets I could even understand the donning of the Cardianls gear-especially since I feel the Mets front office treated Mookie poorly while he was a coach.
However-Preston was a Cardinal for 5 minutes, it seemed kind of ridiculous to drape himself in red and white. He should have worn the National League stuff from the All-Star game if you ask me.

fredsaid - I don't even think it was a conscious decision to take him out of my heart, just a consequence of his choice of apparel. Actions have consequences.
Shari - I have a feeling Mookie won't be working for the Mets as a coach again. Not because of this, I think the Mets are approaching their choice of coaches from a more professional standpoint these days.

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