Danny Abriano, SNY.tv | Twitter |
In the days after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Mets played a role in helping the city heal. Some of their players visited ground zero, and Shea Stadium's parking lot served as a staging area. Once games resumed, the team wore first responder hats representing the various city agencies that were impacted by the horrific events.
On Sept. 21, 2001, with the Mets still wearing the first responder hats -- in defiance of the league's efforts to stop them -- and with Mike Piazza having placed an 'NYPD' patch over the 'NY' insignia on his catching helmet -- Piazza hit an emotional, go-ahead and decisive eighth-inning home run at Shea Stadium against the Braves during what was the first game played in New York City after the attacks.
The Mets have tried to wear the first responder hats in-game on the anniversary of Sept. 11 numerous times since 2001, and have been denied by the league and/or threatened with fines.
Pete Alonso said the team was shut down when he came up with the idea of creating custom first responder hats for Sept. 11 this year that they could wear in-game.
"Originally I wanted to do some hats for us," Alonso said last week. "I wanted to do custom hats with whatever group of first responders -- if someone wanted to do FDNY or Port Authority they had the choice. Unfortunately there's a lot of red tape with Major League Baseball, and they kind of shot that idea down. I think it's kind of sad that guys weren't allowed to -- since that day the first game back, they kind of shut it down every year since. I think that's really unfortunate."
The Mets wore the first-responder hats before the game on Sept. 11, but switched to their regular hats before the game started. In order to still recognize the first responders, Alonso had custom cleats made for everyone on the team and the players wore them without asking permission.
The issue came back to the forefront on Sunday when Joe Torre -- MLB's Chief Baseball Officer -- gave his reasoning as to why the league won't allow the hats to be worn in-game.
For MLB, part of their position has been that they don't want to be in the business of ranking tragedies, with one example being their refusal to let the Nationals wear Virginia Tech hats after a gunman slaughtered 32 people on campus on April 16, 2007.
And while speaking on Sunday, Torre's reasoning was in line with the above.
"We try to keep the hats the way they are because every team could really have a legitimate reason to want to wear a different hat to honor something that happened in their particular area," Torre said. "And we just try to keep it consistent with the uniform."
Torre's response drew the ire of Piazza, who said the reasoning was understandable but that Sept. 11 is not "analogous" with other tragedies.
"For what it's worth I strongly disagree with @MLB policy on not allowing the @Mets or any other team to wear police or first responder hats for 9/11 games," Piazza tweeted. "Understand their argument but non analogous with respect to other tragedies, and/or other events. We were directly affected and did not play for a week.The Mets and Yankees for that matter were extremely close to many lost, I hope and pray something can be worked out."
Piazza's response shines further light on how emotional the first responder hat situation is for many, and it's fair to say an exception should've been made by MLB years ago to allow the Mets to wear the first responder hats in-game each Sept. 11.
Whether you agree with the league's position or not when it comes to not wanting to place an emphasis on certain tragedies, it can be argued that what took place on Sept. 11, the aftermath, and the reverberations that are still happening nearly two decades later place it in a category of its own.
But if the league is as worried as they say they are about "uniformity" and are not willing to make what most feel would be a common sense exception when it comes to the Mets wearing first-responder hats in-game each Sept. 11, they can simply allow every Major League team the option of wearing first responder hats or other similar hats of their choice every year on Sept. 11.
The hats would likely need to be manufactured by New Era, and if the league put this plan in motion, they would have roughly a year to figure it all out -- certainly more than enough time.
One other thing the league could do in the above scenario: Mass produce and sell the hats (just like they do for all of the other weekends/days they recognize and monetize), but donate every last cent of profit to charity. For the New York teams, the money generated can go to Sept. 11 charities. For other teams, the money generated can go to worthy causes in their areas.
While implementing the above policy, MLB should put one other thing in place as well: the Mets and Yankees should always play on Sept. 11, and they should always be home.
The hunch here is that if MLB does not give the Mets the go-ahead to wear the first responder hats in-game next season that they'll just do it anyway. But it shouldn't have to come to that. The time seems right for this to finally get resolved in a smart, collaborative way.