Not a lot to cheer about at last night’s Mets/Pirates game, but at least Phil and I looked … uh, weird. No, I didn’t flip the image — those are the sdrawkcab jerseys that David “Frosty” Frost made for us a few months back (if you’re skeptical, check out the guy in the blue shirt in the background of this shot). And no, I didn’t suddenly grow a pot belly. My jersey’s just a little oversized.
Phil, incidentally, accessorized his look with Mets prototype stirrups and orange sannies (no long hose for me, as I was wearing shorts). But the best outfit of the night was sported by this Pirates fan I saw in the parking lot before the game. “Nice look,” I said. “Arrrrr!” he responded.
One thing Phil and I talked about for a bit — and I promise this won’t all be about the Mets, although it’s going to start there — is this Gary Carter number-retirement thing, which is spiraling out of control. Bloggers are talking about it, the Post is lobbying for it, it’s a hot topic on Twitter (or so I’m told), blah-blah-blah.
In yesterday’s Ticker, I mentioned that I’m opposed to the team retiring Carter’s number, for three primary reasons: He played only five years for the Mets; his numbers in three of those years were well below average (I don’t mean just below average for him — I mean below average for a big league catcher); and a person’s illness, however terrible, is not a reason to retire his number. That prompted a note from my friend Tyler Kepner, one of the best baseball writers in the country. He wrote:
[T]he Phillies, as you probably know, have a strict policy that you have to be a Hall of Famer to have them retire your number. Hence, they have only five retired numbers, for Bunning, Ashburn, Roberts, Carlton and Schmidt. As for the Mets, I know Gil Hodges is not a HOFer, but Seaver and Stengel are, and so is Carter. Yes, he only spent five years [with the Mets], but so did Reggie with [the Yankees]. And it’s always struck me as a shame that nobody from that memorable 1986 team has his number retired. Why not Carter, who fits the Hall of Fame criteria even though he hit only .249 for the Mets?
As for retiring it because he has cancer, well, not that it makes it right, but there are plenty of similar precedents with other teams (Astros have a couple, and the Celtics have Reggie Lewis). Plus, and you hate to say this, but wouldn’t you rather retire his number while he is still alive? I don’t see a downside.
Tyler raises some interesting points about standards for retired numbers. I’d like to discuss a few of them here:
• This notion of a “Hall of Fame standard” for number retirees (which is also used by the Red Sox, incidentally) has always struck me as silly. If it were that simple, Gary Carter never would have worn No. 8 for the Mets in the first place, because the team would already have retired it in honor of Yogi Berra, who played, coached, and managed for the Mets for 11 seasons, skippered the team to a World Series appearance in 1973, and is arguably a larger figure in Mets history than Carter.
• While we’re at it, Duke Snider, Warren Spahn, Nolan Ryan, Willie Mays, and Rickey Henderson all played for the Mets — Hall of Famers, one and all — and I don’t hear anyone clamoring for the Mets to retire their numbers. Hell, Rickey played for 11 teams. Should they all retire his number? What about the nine teams Gaylord Perry pitched for?
• Personally, I think a much better standard for number retirement is the player’s performance with, and connection to, the team. Kent Hrbek isn’t a Hall of Famer, but would anyone seriously argue that the Twins were wrong to retire his number? Similarly, Ed Kranepool is nobody’s idea of an all-time great, but he played in all of the Mets’ first 18 seasons — by far the longest-serving original Met — a unique distinction that, in my mind, merited taking his No. 7 out of circulation. (Now, of course, it’s too late, because Jose Reyes has made that number his own.) Kranepool on his best day wasn’t the player Carter was at his peak, but he’s a much larger figure in the team’s history.
• Just because the Yankees were self-aggrandizing enough to retire Reggie Jackson’s number, even though he only spent five years in the Bronx, that doesn’t mean other teams should use that as a yardstick. Now, you could make a case that Jackson’s tenure in pinstripes was the defining chapter in his career, a historic run that included multiple World Series championships, a record-setting Series performance in ’77, a larger-than-life public profile, and a candy bar. You could also argue that his time with the A’s was more definitive. Either way, you can’t say the same about Carter’s five years at Shea.
I’m not suggesting that there should be some over/under threshold for how long a player needs to be with a team for his number to be retired — this is obviously all quite subjective, one of those “I know it when I feel it” kind of things. But for those of us whose conception of Carter in a Mets uniform extends beyond a few 1986 highlight reels — in other words, for anyone who actually watched Carter struggle through three of his five seasons with the Mets — it’s an easy call. An all-time great catcher? Clearly. An all-time great Met? Seriously, people, it’s not even close.
One other thought: As someone whose family has been decimated by cancer, I can’t say I’m thrilled with the way Carter’s illness is driving the pro-retirement side of this discussion. Whether in Terms of Endearment or in real life, cancer is the ultimate clichéd plot device. Carter is no more (or less) deserving of number retirement today than he was the day before his tumors were discovered. If cancer is the kind of thing that motivates you, that’s great — donate some money to these folks, sponsor someone in a walk-a-thon, or go on one yourself. Any of those things would honor Carter a lot more than treating his life like some hokey Pride of the Yankees remake, where we all get to have a good cry during the heartbreaking stadium ceremony and then go back to our own little circumscribed lives.
We put in synthetic lanes down at the bowl. Tore out the old pin decks [that’s the part where the pins stand at the end of the lane — PL] and installed new ones as well. We’ve given away all the old decks to our regulars who wanted one, and they’ve turned them into tables, hobby benches, etc. I have one left, and I was thinking maybe there’s a Uni Watcher who’d like to have it, so I’ll make it available to your readers.
You handle who gets it, and I’ll hand it over to the recipient. One catch: it has to be picked up here at the bowl. They weigh around 125 lbs. and I’m really not interested in packing them up for shipping anywhere.
Pretty cool, right? Damn generous, too. If you want to get your hands on this piece of bowling hardware — and if you’re actually in a position to pick it up from Scott in person — send me a note explaining what you’d do with it. I’ll select the best ideas as finalists and then do a random drawing from there.
Membership update: Lots of new membership card designs — including several sign-ups from last month’s Purple Amnesty Day, such as Demetruis Perry’s LSU jersey treatment, shown at right — have been added to the membership design gallery. Printed/laminated versions of these cards (along with Uni Watch stirrups for the first nine members who signed up on May 17) will mail out by this weekend.
As always, you can make the membership scene by signing up here.
Thrashers redesign reminder: I’m running a contest to come up with a new team name, logo, and uniform set for the team formerly known as the Thrashers. Details here.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Here’s how the Stanley Cup Final(s) patch looks on the Bruins and Canucks. … Speaking of which, that incredibly annoying ad on the Rogers Arena ceiling sorta looks like a word balloon or thought balloon when captured by the goal camera, which I guess was the idea. … Speaking of retired numbers, the Lakers will retire Shaq’s. No word on whether Kareem plans to protest. … The new Bills uniforms, which everyone already knows about, will be officially unveiled on the evening of June 24. … Jeff Barack has written a survey of the Thrashers’ jeseys. … New logo for East Texas Baptist University. Further details here (with thanks to Seth Hubbard). … Even after all the ridicule, the Nats still can’t spell John Lannan’s name (with thanks to William Yurasko). … Excellent catch by Jeff Scott who noticed that Miguel Batista had some sort of sticker on his belt on Monday. Jeff thinks it might be an MLB hologram decal, but I think it looks a bit too big for that. Then again, I’ve never seen a hologram on a belt, so what do I know? … Uni changes in the works for the Florida Panthers. … The final round of voting is underway for the Charlotte MLL team’s name and logo (with thanks to Ryan Rearick). … One of Matt Powers’s students doesn’t play favorites when it comes to corporate logos. … Hmmm, hadn’t recalled that Livan Hernandez used to do the Bonds-style pant-cuff stirrup loop thing until Shawn Bleiler reminded me. … Ben Karnish notes that Clay Mortenson of the Rockies was wearing a Colorado hoodie without the “O” at the end on Tuesday night. And no, the wayward letter isn’t hiding under a flap of fabric — I took that screen shot myself and saw Mortenson move around a bit. The letter really was missing. … Graham Bakay spotted a few shots of former Leafs great Borje Salming wearing his uni number on the front of his helmet. Unusual. … “Amidst all the discussion about the Dodgers and the letters on their jerseys, it’s worth mentioning the old practice of some English rugby teams to use letters instead of numbers,” writes Gareth Aubrey. “A good history of that can be found here, and some discussion about a recent throwback to it is here.” … Got a piece of sports memorabilia that you think might have value? Our friends at Grey Flannel Auctions are running a free appraisal fair this Saturday at the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum in Baltimore. Details here. … The Winnipeg Goldeyes — that’s a minor league baseball team, not the new name for the Thrashers — honored some local youngsters who serve as school patrols by wearing patrol-style jerseys (thanks, Teebz). … Ed Westfield Jr. reports that the George Washington statue in Boston has been decked out in a Bruins jersey. … Here’s a really wonderful piece aboput the Canucks’ team name and Johnny Canuck mascot (big thanks to Alan Kreit). … And here’s yet another blog looking back at the Thrashers’ uniforms (with thanks to Anthony Emerson). … Everyone’s buzzing over an upside-down letter on a Cubs logo in the bowels Wrigley, although it just seems like a cheap prank to me. … Here’s something I hadn’t been aware of: USA Rugby apparently cribbed its logo from the Thrashers. “Amazed that this never went to court,” says Caleb Borchers. … Meanwhile, an Australian rugby player is challenging the sports governing authorities so that he can wear boxing headgear while playing (with thanks to Murray Conallin). … A designer named Michael Weinstein has created some very nice NBA logo redesigns (as spotted by Ryan Hossner). … Just the world needs: a purple football field (blame Chris Chaussee). … New uniforms for the Chicago Express (with thanks to Kenn Tomasch). … Oooh, I like this: a baseball with four different Giants jersey designs printed on it, and the belt on the sweet spot is a nice touch. Logan Rockmore saw it at a Giants shop the other day. Anyone know if there’s a version of this for every MLB team? … Maybe this has been going on for a while and I just never noticed, but Yahoo Sports is doing something really nauseating on their home page. In their boxes for the NBA Finals and the Stanley Cup Final(s), where they link to all their coverage of the two series, they’ve included two merch links. Naturally, both links lead to Yahoo merchandising pages. You know, if you want to put an ad there, then put a fucking ad there and have the balls to label it as such, instead of making the link look like the rest of your editorial content, which is completely inappropriate. I know some of you have issues with ESPN, but I don’t think they’d ever do anything like this. Or at least I hope not.