It was just a simple gesture but the impact it had was greater than anyone could have expected. In the games following the 9/11 attacks once the baseball season resumed, Mets players began donning special caps to honor and remember the fallen from the tragedy. Some players had firefighter caps and others wore police caps. Mike Piazza, then Mets Catcher, even donned the initials NYPD on the back of his catcher’s helmet.
The Mets doing this was the absolute and ultimate sign of respect for the officers and love or hate the Mets, everyone around the league rallied around them and New York in the this time of fear and uncertainty in the weeks following 9.11.01.
Contrary to what many believed or at least what many believed before reading any form of news today, the Mets players were not allowed to wear these commemorative 9/11 caps but they did it anyway. After trading their Mets caps for the police and fire ones, the players were told they were only allowed to wear the hats during the pregame ceremonies. Sure enough, the players donned them at the ceremonies but then took to the field without changing their hats. The MLB had a problem with it and they even threatened punishment but the Mets didn’t care. The first baseman at the time even said that the only way he would remove his hat was if the MLB officials would literally storm the field and rip it off of his head. All of his teammates echoed this sentiment and as a result, MLB did not do a thing to punish or fine the players.
It was a wonderful idea by the Mets and I think MLB was stupid not to allow them to wear the caps. Unfortunately ten years later, the MLB did not change their minds.
The Mets petitioned MLB to allow them to wear what I’m calling, “caps of honor,” during the tenth anniversary celebrations and during the home game but MLB said no. In what may go down as the worst decision made by the Selig Administration, the Mets were forbidden to wear the hats. MLB even cited ridiculous reasons including that they were afraid it would become a publicity stunt designed to give attention to a team and that it was against the rules and policy for uniforms. To make matters worse for the MLB, it was VP of Operations and former Yankee manager during 2001, that vetoed this decision. You would think as a Yankee at the time of the attacks, that Torre would know better than anyone that the want to wear these caps was nothing but respectful.
When the Mets first wore the caps in 2001, it was not seen as a publicity stunt. MLB may have disagreed with it but the fans in New York and across the USA, absolutely loved it. Even families and friends of those who lost their lives in the tragedies thought it was a beautiful gesture and were not offended in the slightest.
Since the MLB made its decision, they have been ripped by almost every single media outlet available. New York newspapers, various websites and ESPN and other sports channels are all talking about how MLB made a mistake and have made themselves look bad as a result.
For a MLB Administration that has not been looked upon favorably for some time due to the steroid scandal and the recent umpiring controversies, this is not the kind of bad press they can afford.
The big question however is why?
Why was it so important for MLB to block the wearing of these caps? They allow other caps and uniforms that go against the policy so why not these?
The Padres are allowed to wear camouflage uniforms at times, the Brewers sometimes wear gold and all of the teams have had St. Patrick’s Day uniforms. The teams also all have three variations of red, white and blue caps. If not allowing the “caps of honor,” why not at least allow the teams to wear these? Also, it wasn’t as if every team wanted to do it, just the Mets, the team from New York. Would it really have been so hard for Selig to let them wear them? I mean it was only for one game, for one day, to remember one tragic event and honor its heroes. It is not as if wearing the caps was going to hurt anybody or break some age old baseball convention. Besides, a little good press among scandal could have only done the MLB good. Now instead of people looking on the wonderful gesture the Mets and MLB did for 9/11, they will just be shaking their heads and questioning Selig’s decision.
One fan’s sign said it best, “baseball has players, America has heroes.” Why not let those players pay tribute to and honor those players?