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.