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Jackie Robinson and the Mets

Barry DuchanSunday, January 21, 2007
By Barry Duchan

Editor's Note: We will publish a post from Barry Duchan every Sunday covering some aspect of Mets history. This piece was originally posted in September 2006. - M.S.

Jackie RobinsonWith the wildcard race still so close that it seems premature to look at the Mets' most likely first round opposition, I'll leave that for next week and instead focus on what seemed to be a hot issue for a day or two since my perspective is a little different from what I've read elsewhere.

Even though it makes perfectly good sense for the Mets to sell the naming rights to their new stadium, a bunch of sports luminaries among others have voiced their opinion that the new park should be named after Jackie Robinson. Well, most of those that oppose the idea (financial considerations aside) argue that Robinson had nothing to do with the Mets. So, let me correct that.

In 1962, the Mets' first year, the radio pre and postgame shows on WABC 770 were done by Howard Cosell and JACKIE ROBINSON. Both Cosell and particularly Robinson were extremely critical of manager Casey Stengel, accusing him of sleeping on the bench, having no rapport with his players, treating the whole job as a joke and more. Robinson, in fact, had a fairly public feud with Stengel, leading Casey to reply to one of Robinson's criticisms - "He's Chock Full O'Nuts", a reference to a chain of lunch counter and coffee shops that Robinson was once involved with. And, if I remember correctly Robinson's best retort was something like "I don't work for them anymore".

So, yes, Jackie Robinson does have some connection to the Mets. But not a positive one. And I don't think the stadium should be named for him. As Yogi Berra might say "If Casey Stengel were alive today, he'd be turning over in his grave". And I don't think comparisons to naming the Tennis Stadium after Arthur Ashe are appropriate, because tennis is an individual sport. The new ballpark is not just a baseball stadium that happens to be in the city where Robinson played, it is the METS' ballpark. And would anyone think of naming it Willie Mays Stadium? At least Mays played for the Mets. Just sell the naming rights, and hope for something fitting like Met Life Park.

Note: More of Barry Duchan's writings can be found on his own Metscentric blog.

About Barry Duchan: I've been following the Mets since 1962. Have to admit I was a Yankee fan as a kid, but I found it to be so much more interesting to see how a young team could build itself up rather than following a team where the season didn't really begin until October. I remember them all - Casey, Marv, ChooChoo, Don Bosch, The Stork, etc. As the years went on, I became more and more of a Mets fan, and a Yankee hater once Steinbrenner and Billy Martin entered the picture.   Read More -->

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Comments (2)

I can back Jackie Robinson up on one point. When I went to my first game at Shea, my dad let me look through his binoculars into the Mets dugout. I saw Stengel sleeping, in the middle of the game, with my own eyes. I was too young to evaluate Stengel's managing but I can see where Robinson, a very serious and intense person from what I've read, might have had a lot of trouble with the whole Stengel phenomenon. What I mean is that, without any baseball success to report upon, the media focused too much on what they called the "clownish antics" of the colorful manager. This made it harder, I think, for people to take the Mets seriously as a competitive baseball team. I remember my parents saying, as early as 1964, that the person who really should be managing the Mets was someone like the serious and focused Gil Hodges.

Cosell and Robinson were allies on Casey. Neither was a fan. Let's not forget Jackie went up against Casey as manager of the Yankees all those Octobers. Probably a little ill will there.

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