Friday, June 5, 2009
Now this is what I'm talking about. The American Cancer Society is raising funds to try to get the Mets to clean up there act and start wearing their traditional colors. This means the blue hat (both home and away, see photo) and the pinstripe shirt/pants. All white jerseys are acceptable, too. They're asking that you join their team and pledge $1 for each game the Mets wear an acceptable uniform. We here at Mandatory Mustache have been pushing for this for years, and we couldn't be more excited. Find more information here.
Why are they doing this? Well, they've got a great explanation on their site, which I've pasted below. I couldn't have said it better myself.
Founded in 1962 to bring National League baseball back to New York City, the Mets were named for the New York Metropolitans who played in New York in the 1880's. New York's new team was an homage to its old; they wore the blue of the Brooklyn Dodgers and the orange logo of the New York Giants. In short, the Mets were an effort to keep alive the great traditions of New York baseball.
As the Mets played their first two seasons in the Giants old home, the Polo Grounds, while waiting for the new Shea Stadium to be built, fans who saw the blue and orange knew that those colors meant something. It meant that, yes, National League baseball in New York had a long and glorious past, but now, with the Mets, it also had a future.
Fast forward to the late 1990's, when, for the last few years, the Mets hadn't been doing so well on the field, and sales of their merchandise started to suffer. According to Dave Howard, the Mets’ executive vice president of business operations, market research at the time showed that black sporting merchandise sold better. Younger generations were more likely to buy black baseball hats and jerseys, irregardless of the team that was on it. So just like that, the Mets began to sell out over 100 years of baseball history in an effort to make more merchandise sales.
As one blogger poetically put it: "The Mets, always seeking new ways to alienate their loyal fanbase," are "taking a sport steeped in tradition and taking a dump on it."
And to a certain extent, this is perfectly understandable. Alternate uniforms, particularly black ones, sell. (And many teams started to figure this out. At one point, it seemed that every single professional sports team, from the Detriot Lions to the Kansas City Royals, had alternate black uniforms.) But people can wear black Mets hats and shirts all they'd like. I'm not going to argue with you that blue and orange are easier to match with street clothes than black is...But plenty of organizations sell "alternate" colors without actually wearing them. Check out MLB.com, and you can buy a Yankees or Dodgers hat in black, or just about any color. In fact, I ran into a friend of mine today with a black Yankees cap on. "I like to wear black." he said, "but I would kill them if they ever wore this during a game."
The difference is, on the field, you respect the history and tradition of the organization. What uniforms never look dated? Uniforms like the Yankees, Giants, Dodgers, and Red Sox. They're the same (more or less) as they've always been, and they'll never go out of style. They look as good now as they did in the 1940's and as good as they will in 2040.
What uniforms are the most embarrassing? When teams follow fashion trends, only to be left with horribly outdated uniforms ten years later (see: the White Sox and Astros of the 80's). The black uniform trend of the late 90's, when it seemed like every baseball team wore black, are already starting to look dated; even the Royals have figured that out.
Much like modern architecture would in the heart of Paris, wearing trendy uniforms doesn't make us look cool, it makes us look like we don't understand the importance of the history that surrounds us.
To me, there's a big difference between teams who take their history seriously (see: Yankees, Giants, Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals, Red Sox, Tigers) from expansion, small market, or small budgeted teams who are desperate to sell merchandise anyway they can (see: Orioles, Blue Jays, A's, Marlins, Pirates, Diamondbacks, and Rockies, all who have alternate black uniforms.)
Which do the Mets want to be?
And this seems to be representative of a larger problem within this organization. The Mets are a storied franchise with a history to be proud of, and instead we act like an expansion team who's more interested current gimmicks and trends, as if we have no traditions or history to celebrate, and are desperately vying for anyone's attention.
We don’t use our own theme song anymore (though we'll save the Sweet Caroline discussion for another website), there’s nothing in the stadium dedicated to the team or its championships, we’re, perhaps, the only team in Major League Baseball who has their pennants hidden from sight, and we can’t even wear our own uniforms or proper colors anymore. Quite frankly, its embarrassing.
Tradition is not something that’s innate; it needs to be learned and passed down from generation to generation. And right now, its falling through the cracks. It saddens me to think that we’re loosing an entire generation to marketing and trends.
(If we must wear alternates, may I suggest doing what the Phillies and Indians do, and make them "throwbacks" and a nod to history. Wear them, but as alternates, that is, one day a week. That way the Mets can sell more uniforms, but still respect tradition.)
I look back on the 47 years of Mets pinstriped history, from the first team picture in the Polo Grounds, to the '69 and '86 championship teams, and feel immense pride. The blue caps with the best logo in baseball, the orange NY, a symbol of New York's National League baseball tradition started in 1883 that we continue on today.
Then, I look at today's team in black and blue caps and black jerseys in an effort to look trendy and cool, and feel confused and saddened. I'm not an old man. In fact, I'm too young to even remember the Mets winning a World Series (I was three in 1986), but its the sense of history and tradition that makes baseball so special, and separates it from every other professional sport in America.
We as baseball fans are lucky to have it. We as New Yorkers are even luckier than most. Why deny ourselves of it?
The Mets are a first class baseball organization, both with our play on the field, and our continuation of over 125 years of National League baseball in New York City. Let's start acting, and dressing, like it.
Remember, "The fans stay true to the orange and blue!"