The Mets Have to Do The Museum Right

By now you should have read this weekend’s press release:  Mets Expand Club Presence at Citi Field

This is, of course, important news for all of us who have been waiting to see if the team was going to respond to one of the most significant reasons for fan discontent with the new stadium.  It is good news to hear that the history, heritage, and symbols of the Mets will no longer appear to have been intentionally excluded from Citi Field.

As anyone familiar with my blog and books will anticipate, I won’t thank the Mets for commemorating important figures in Mets history by naming VIP entrances after them.  The VIP entrances still stick in my craw.  I don’t care what they call them.  They can name one the M. Donald Grant VIP Entrance, another the Bernard Madoff VIP entrance, and the third the FOX News Fair and Balanced VIP Entrance for all I care.  Since I will never spend more than $100 (in 2009 money) for a ticket to a regular season baseball game, I will be forever excluded from the status of a VIP when I go to Citi Field.  I could live to be 110 and be the last person to remember the first Mets game, I could write 10 books about them, and I will not be a VIP.  I will never be anything more than a P.  

I do thank the Mets for naming the bridge by the old home run apple the Shea bridge.  That’s nice.  I am also jazzed (doesn’t take much to jazz me but it takes something) by the fact that those dreary staircases are going to be painted blue and orange and by the fact that there are going to be full-color banners and logos all over the place.  That could be wonderful and it could drown out or at least compete with all the visual noise from the ads that have grown out of the attractive little stadium like alien fungi.

The really important news, of course, is that there is going to be a Mets museum.  Not just a Hall of Fame, which we’ve been promised for a while, but a Hall of Fame and Museum.   This is crucially important.  And it is crucially important that the Mets do the museum right.

They might do it right and they might not.  Those of us who care about such things need to watch what happens carefully.  One reason I am hopeful is that Gary Cohen and Howie Rose have been put on “The Mets Hall of Fame Committee.”  If I had to choose two individuals to serve as the custodians of the history and heritage of the Mets, it would be Gary and Howie.  I trust these guys to make sure that Mets fans get something meaningful, rather than something corporate or cliched.  What has me a little worried is that although the press release refers to the “Mets Hall of Fame and Museum,” all it talks about is the Hall of Fame.    Talking about the Committee, Jeff Wilpon is quoted as saying:

“The re-formation of the Mets Hall of Fame Committee is central to our concerted efforts to better connect our present and future to our past,” said Wilpon. “It reinforces the organization’s and our fans’ shared desire to recognize our greatest players. With our 2010 opening of the Mets Hall of Fame & Museum at Citi Field, now was the time to bring this group together.”

The Mets should honor their greatest players, with information, memorabilia, sculpture, etc.  I look forward eagerly to seeing a vital Mets Hall of Fame.  But the Mets need to realize that if they just have a Hall of Fame commemorating important Mets, they will not have done enough.  A museum needs to be more than a hall of fame.  It needs to honor not only our heroes, but the experience of the millions of people, alive and dead, who have given a chunk of their lives to following the exploits of these heroes and all other kinds of players the Mets have had as well.   The Mets are not the heroes.  The Mets are the bond between the millions and the Mets, heroes and non-heroes.  This is what needs to be commemorated in the museum.  It has to tell the story not just of the Hall of Fame greatness of Seaver’s pitching and Piazza’s hitting.  It has to tell the story of the people who hung the banners and marched with them on the field on Banner Day.  It has to tell the story of the people who ran onto the field in the sixties, who knew it was spring when Bob Murphy’s voice told them it was, who stuck with the team when there was no rational reason to do so.  It has to tell people about the Curley Shuffle, Jane Jarvis, the Sign Man, and Doris from Rego Park.  It has to honor our songs and chants and apples and baseball-headed mascot.  It has to remind us or teach us about the moments that will never be forgotten:  Seaver’s almost-perfect game, Jones dropping to his knees, Tug’s September of Belief, the ball that found its way through Buckner’s legs, the Grand Slam single, Endy’s catch, the final ceremony at Shea:  the moments that took our breath away and never gave it back.  If the museum does not do this, it will not have done its work.  Citi Field will still not be able to tell us who we are or why we’re here. 

Please don’t just give us what used to be in the entrance area of the Diamond Club.  Please don’t just give us statues and trophies.  Please give us the history and the poetry of the Mets.  Please give us the sense that we’re still the New Breed, we’re still the loudest most emotional fans of all, the ones who made the Upper Deck of Shea feel like an earthquake.  Give the museum enough space.  And fill it with care, emotion, and imagination.

Please.  Mets fans deserve this.  All of us.

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Please come and hear me read from The Last Days of Shea on:

December 1 at 7 pm at the Hillside Library in New Hyde Park, LI

December 2 at 11:30 am at the Hofstra Bookstore in the Hofstra Student Center

I’d love to meet you.

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