Toppermost of the Poppermost

I was in Pittsburgh over the weekend where I attended my first Pirates home game in more than 20 years. To say they improved the stadium since then is an understatement: PNC Park is even nicer than it looks on television. The scale is just right, the atmosphere and views and neighborhood and service are terrific, it doesn’t appear to radically alter the balance of offense and defense in any way, it owes more to history than gimmickry, good seats were affordable and the scoreboard doesn’t come off as an anchor for surrounding ads. In other words, it’s just about everything CitiField is not. And I might be dense but never realized until I sat there what a ripoff of Pittsburgh the “Shea Bridge” is. I know the Mets admired this park and endeavored to use it in some ways to inform their park, but boy did they swing and miss.

Here’s something I liked. Whenever a Pirate batter first came to the plate, the scoreboard graphic introduced him by panning across a “mural” of former Pirates (and Homestead Grays of the Negro League) in period unis, from which the current batter appeared to “step out” from. While I was running downtown the next morning, I came across the actual mural, which I since learned is a billboard-sized reproduction of a painting by a local artist.

You’ll recognize Willie Stagell in the gold jersey and in the shot of a statue outside the stadium I snapped here. The Pirates rightly retired his No. 8 jersey, which brings to mind another contrast getting a lot of sudden attention recently, and that’s a well-intentioned but ultimately wrongheaded campaign for the Mets to retire No. 8 in honor of Gary Carter.

The news about The Kid’s health is heartbreaking and tragic. But it doesn’t make him the Mets’ equivalent of Willie Stargell, much less Tom Seaver, the only Mets player to have been honored with a retired jersey. As argued here before, retiring No. 8 — obviously a topic the Mets have long considered given their reluctance to have issued the jersey since Desi Relaford last wore it in 2002 — would surely require an accompanying retirement of 17 for Keith Hernandez, 16 for Dwight Gooden, 18 for Darryl Strawberry, 1 for Mookie Wilson and perhaps, 5 for Davey Johnson and 50 for Sid Fernandez. That’s before considering what it will say about Jerry Koosman, Bud Harrelson, Ed Kranepool, Howard Johnson, Jerry Grote, Edgardo Alfonzo and other players who played more than Gary Carter’s five years for the Mets, and had more than Gary Carter’s two good years for the Mets.

The Mets have appropriately enshrined Carter in the team’s Hall of Fame, which if they’d only made an effort to promote all these years, could serve as appropriate salve for those determined to interpret a failure to retire a uniform number as an act of disrespect (and to a cancer patient at that). Subjective it may be, but its long been our stance here that retired numbers should be reserved for the true greats and not the Hall of Famers who pass through, no matter how charasmatic (or tragic). Stargell for the Pirates? a No-Brainer. He spent his entire career with the Pirates and is most closely associated with them. The best way to honor Carter — and his teammates — might be a symbolic retirement of the never-worn jersey No. 86, and for them to honor Carter’s memory by issuing No. 8 to the next energetic, powerful catcher who comes along.

Stuff I missed until now: The return of Lucas Duda and No. 77, DJ Carrasco and accompanying reassignments of Nick Evans and Dale Thayer.

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  1. Jon Springer says:

    Submitted by Michael (not verified) on Thu, 06/16/2011 – 8:11am.
    You could not be more right on, with your assessment of PNC Park. I have been to every MLB stadium in North America, and I can tell you that PNC is the best, just edging out AT&T Park & Camden Yards.
    The worst? Easily, it is Citi Field. Why? More than half of the seats have sight-line issues. You can never see who is warming up, because there is a Xerox sign blocking the fence looking into the bullpens (one, of what, 1000 ads around the ballpark). The skyline from the Shea scoreboard is buried on the Shake Shack, in dead center, unviewable by 90% of the patrons. There is no explanation on whose numbers are retired and the championship banners are haphazardly thrown up on the wall. They build a beautiful rotunda to honor a guy who never played for the Mets, or in Queens. They build a stadium with 13000 less seats, pretty much pricing out thousands upon thousands of fans. The concourses are too small, cluttered with cash registers from the concessions stands. There is no Mets player’s food stand, similar to Boog Powell in Baltimore, Greg Luzinski in Philadelphia, & Manny Sanguillen in Pittsburgh. You’re telling me, they couldn’t get Rusty Staub to open up a ribs stand? And, if I may digress, they are doing NOTING to honor their 50th season, or the 25th anniversary of the ’86 Mets. I could go on and on. Oh, wait. The bathroooms are very nice.


    Submitted by gored82 on Thu, 06/16/2011 – 9:27pm.
    Actually, Michael, Citi Field has the Keith Hernandez Grill.


    Submitted by gored82 on Sun, 06/19/2011 – 9:10am.
    What’s the significance of the headline, “Toppermost of the Poppermost?”

    Please Please Me

    Submitted by Jon Springer on Sun, 06/19/2011 – 8:32pm.
    I was trying to make a pun on Stargell who was known as “Pops” — the expression was used by the Beatles back in the early 60s.


    Submitted by 9th string_catcher (not verified) on Tue, 06/21/2011 – 10:42am.
    I think you’re overvaluing longevity. Bud Harrelson was a Met for 200 years and I wouldn’t retire his number. The difference here is that a) the Mets do not win ’86 without him. Carter was the missing, and most important piece offensively, defensively, in leadership, being clutch and played the most difficult position on the field. Given that the last Mets championship was 25 years ago, that contribution, whether it was five years long or 5 months long cannot be underestimated. B) He is an actual hall of famer, the best player the Mets ever had with the only exception being Tom Seaver, whose number is also retired, and who only a Met 6 years longer than Carter. I think that making him wait until getting into the Hall was appropriate given his relative short Mets career, but he’s waited long enough. Do it.


    Submitted by gored82 on Tue, 06/21/2011 – 12:17pm.
    Carter’s 2-out, 2-strike single in the bottom of the 10th inning of Game Six may be the most clutch hit in Mets history.

  2. […] been on record before defending the team’s stinginess when it comes to uni-number retirement. That the Mets are […]

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