Opinion

Major League Baseball short-hops 9/11 tribute

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Eric McErlain
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      Eric McErlain

      Eric McErlain blogs at Off Wing Opinion, a Forbes “Best of the Web” winner. In 2006 he wrote a "bloggers bill of rights" to help integrate bloggers into the Washington Capitals' press box. Eric has also written for Deadspin, NBC Sports and the Sporting News, and covers sports television for The TV News.

One of the more indelible images from the world of sport in the days following the 9/11 attacks came courtesy of the New York Mets. Wanting to find some way to honor the memory of the firefighters, police officers and paramedics who had died while evacuating the World Trade Center, the team took to the field for the first time after the attacks wearing baseball caps embossed with the logos of those first responders.

Last night in New York, the Mets were scheduled to play on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Several months ahead of time, as part of a larger pre-game ceremony remembering the tragedy, the organization asked Major League Baseball (MLB) if it could play that game against the Chicago Cubs wearing those same hats. You’d think the answer here was a no-brainer, but you’d be wrong.  MLB said no, with the league warning that there would be heavy fines if any player or the organization as a whole defied its decision.

Delivering the perplexing news was MLB Executive Vice President for Baseball Operations, and native New Yorker, Joe Torre. Apparently, MLB based its decision on “unanimity,” as the rest of the league’s teams had agreed to honor the memory of 9/11 by wearing American flags on their caps and uniforms. For good measure, Torre also mentioned that MLB had made an equally outrageous decision earlier this season, when it denied a request from the Washington Nationals to wear caps honoring U.S. Navy Seals after 22 members of the unit had died in an August helicopter crash in Afghanistan.

Excuse me, but is the fact that MLB followed up one outrageous decision with another supposed to make me feel better?

This wasn’t the first time that the league proved to be tone deaf when it came to commemorating 9/11. Back in 2001, Major League Baseball also threatened the Mets with fines if they went ahead with the plan to wear the hats on the field. Fortunately, Mets players, with the active help of then-manager Bobby Valentine, had other ideas. Here’s how Valentine recalled the story to The New York Daily News:

“That’s what they told us, we couldn’t wear the hats,” Valentine said. “We were getting ready to wear them in Pittsburgh for our first game back, when [General Manager] Steve [Phillips] came in and said, ‘You can’t wear them.’

“I said, ‘Oh, OK, and I called a meeting and said, ‘Hey, guys, you can’t wear the hats.’ Then Steve went upstairs, and as the guys came down the runway to the dugout, I stood there, handing out the caps we weren’t supposed to wear.”

Apparently, Mets players had put together a plan to defy MLB once again, but were foiled by the league when a representative collected the hats the team had worn on the field during a pre-game ceremony. Meanwhile, just across the river in New Jersey at MetLife Stadium, the National Football League was proving there was no reason to let a uniform policy get in the way of remembering the greatest tragedy in American history. There, on national television, head coaches Rex Ryan of the New York Jets and Jason Garret of the Dallas Cowboys both wore hats emblazoned with the letters FDNY. Here’s hoping somebody sends MLB Commissioner Bud Selig his own FDNY hat sometime in the next few days. Maybe by then he’ll get it.

Eric McErlain blogs at Off Wing Opinion, a Forbes “Best of the Web” winner. In 2006 he wrote a “bloggers bill of rights” to help integrate bloggers into the Washington Capitals’ press box. Eric has also written for Deadspin, NBC Sports and the Sporting News, and covers sports television for The TV News. Follow Eric on Twitter.