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.
With 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.