Where Amazin' Happens: Mr. Wilpon, It's Time to Embrace Our Past
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Nothing in life seems to invoke more nostalgia than an ending.
In sports, things such as the demolition of an old stadium or arena, watching an athlete leave a team for another, or seeing a sports franchise relocate are all things that usually spark vivid memories, both positive and negative.
Unfortunately in real life, what makes us embark on that proverbial stroll down memory lane more than any other event in our lives is death. In a world that seems to get ever more hectic as the years pass, a death is still the one thing that makes us take a break from whatever we are doing, no matter how important, and reflect on the past.
This week, sports took a cue from the real world, as it sometimes does, when it was announced that Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter passed away at the age of 57, after an eight-month battle with brain cancer.
The sports world as a whole took a step back from all of its "Linsanity" to stop and reflect on the career of a great baseball player who was taken from this world way too soon.
Sports talk radio programs were full of former players and analysts speaking about Gary Carter and his contributions to their lives, both professionally and personally. Numerous articles were written in an effort to give a proper perspective on the life of a grown man who was called "Kid."
There was a moment of silence at Madison Square Garden prior to the Knicks game Friday night, the same night the lights atop the Empire State Building shone blue and orange, all in honor of the man who refused to make the last out in the 1986 World Series, thus sparking one of the greatest Fall Classic comebacks ever.
After not writing for almost a year, mostly due to time constraints and the fact that I felt my beloved Mets' struggles rendered them a topic no longer worth discussing, Carter's death invoked me to reflect as well, as I shared my story of meeting him as a child on this site upon hearing of his passing.
Should the Mets retire Gary Carter's No. 8 this year?
After feeling the satisfaction of sharing my thoughts with the world again, I began thinking that it was a shame it took the death of my childhood hero to remind me what I was missing.
Then, as the old saying goes, I thought to myself, better late than never.
As I have reflected, and watched so many of my fellow Mets fans reflect on the past greatness of our favorite baseball squad, something else crossed my mind. I wondered if the people who run the Mets were doing the same.
As disheartening as that may be, it's a valid question that over the years has needed to be asked of Mr. Fred Wilpon and the rest of the Mets' hierarchy.
Sure they may have an extra half-century of history and 25 more championships than the Mets, but take a step in Yankee Stadium and there is a definitive sense of pride. It's almost like a museum that just happens to have a ball game being played in it.
To be fair, Mr. Wilpon has tried to embrace more of the Mets' history in recent years after seemingly trying to distance the team from most of it, especially from those teams in the mid-to-late 1980s, the same teams that Gary Carter co-captained.
The Yankees retired Babe Ruth's number, despite his documented hard-living ways. They did the same for Mickey Mantle. Hell, they even did so for Reggie Jackson, a great slugger whose five-year tenure with the Bronx Bombers can be remembered as much for his conflicts with teammates and the media as it can be for that three-homer game in the World Series.
Sure, many of the Mets from the 1980s embarrassed themselves and the franchise with some of their off-the-field antics. They earned their "bad boy" reputation, and many of them, such as Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry, a duo who once seemed destined for Cooperstown, have paid a hefty price.
Still, those men represent the most successful period in the Mets' history, and rather than seeing their numbers hanging on Citi Field's wall next to Tom Seaver's No. 41, Casey Stengel's No. 37 and Gil Hodges' No. 14, the fans have had to see Gooden's No. 16 on the back of Hideo Nomo, Strawberry's No. 18 worn by washed-up Moises Alou, and "The Kid"'s No. 8 on Carlos Baerga, just to name a few.
Those men, as well as guys like Keith Hernandez, Ed Kranepool, John Franco and Ron Darling, are Mets immortals, period, and need to be honored. Tom Seaver should not be the only Mets player to have his number retired.
The first of those men needs to be Gary Carter, the man who was the final piece to a championship puzzle in 1986, a man who played the game the way it should be played, with a youthful enthusiasm that looked more at home in Williamsport, PA than in Queens, NY.
Carter not only never disgraced the Mets brand, but his teammates never heard him utter a swear word, except for that fateful Game 6 in the 1986 World Series, where he turned to his first base coach and said "There's no way I'm making the last out of this (expletive) World Series."
So Mr. Wilpon, if you or someone in your circle is reading this, consider this a plea from Mets fans, to make sure that no "Carlos Baerga" ever dons that blue and orange No. 8 again. Please think of what Gary Carter meant to your organization, to the fans of your team, and to the many lives he touched.
Please, when the dog days of summer roll around, and this rebuilding team is struggling, and Mets fans are getting restless, and the Carter family is still mourning, please give us all something to reflect on later as we proudly watch you unveil that blue and orange No. 8 on Citi Field's new left field wall.
While he may no longer be alive to see it, it's time to give back to his family and fans for everything he gave your organization—It's time to give us all a "Gary Carter Day."
Remember Mr. Wilpon, "better late than never".
Where Amazin' Happens will be my new weekly column discussing anything Mets related. Please feel free to let me know what you think.
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