NEW YORK – Word is my mom had a Brooklyn Dodgers hat when she was a kid. I’m not sure why she had a Brooklyn cap, nor if she actually could name a player on those Brooklyn teams – she has three brothers so maybe it was a hand-me-down or something.
Who knows, maybe she just likes the shade of Dodger Blue?
But here’s the point: my mom is a grandmother. She’s a baby boomer born not too long after my grandfather got back from the Army in the European Theatre during World War II. By the time the Dodgers left Brooklyn and moved to Los Angeles, she was getting ready for the second grade.
In other words, there aren’t too many grandmothers around anymore who remember the Brooklyn Dodgers. In fact, for my mom a more memorable moment was driving from Lancaster, Pa. to Flushing Meadows to go to the 1964 World’s Fair. Along with old black-and-white snapshots next to the giant Unisphere, there was one photo of the ultra-sleek and uniquely colored Shea Stadium.
For people my mom’s age, Shea Stadium was significant because that’s where The Beatles performed in the first-ever outdoor stadium concert. Moreover, it was post-modern and was a big part of urban planner Robert Moses’ grand vision of cities. See, to Moses, the car was king. He built all those freeways, bridges and tunnels, uprooted neighborhoods and displaced folks from their homes and wrecked historical buildings in favor of places like Shea Stadium.
Hell, want to know why the Dodgers left Brooklyn for Los Angeles? Read up on Robert Moses.
Anyway, a ballpark in Flushing, Queens was Moses’ dream. He felt the folks from the suburbs would come out to the park in droves because of all the access roads heading toward the Unisphere. The problem was he didn’t anticipate the traffic on the BQE or the Belt Parkway.
What self-respecting urban planner doesn’t anticipate traffic?
Nevertheless, we are now into the third/fourth generation of people who know New York only as a baseball town that supports the Yankees and the Mets. The New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers are ancient history. Those teams are a grainy black-and-white images from a documentary where really old men talk about a game that kind of looks like the baseball we see these days.
As a result of this post-modern world dreamed up and planted firmly in Queens, New York, there is a sizable and interesting history for the New York Mets. Sure, it only begins in 1962, but think about the history that has occurred in those 47 years. Think about how much the world has changed, or what was here and then gone in a fleeting and impactful moment.
Imagine what they would think about the Internet in 1962. Shoot, imagine what they would think about the Internet in 1986 – the last time the Mets won the World Series.
So yes, history has occurred on that spans of dreaded real estate near LaGuardia Airport and Flushing Bay. The Miracle Mets won in ’69, they snuck into the big dance in ’73, Buckner missed the ball in ’86, Piazza won a game after the towers came down in September of ’01 and even Eric Bruntlett became an accidental footnote in history in a baseball game against the Mets.
As far as baseball goes, Shea has been the site of some monumental moments. Certainly some bits of time that are no less significant than have occurred in Los Angeles, Chicago or Philadelphia.
Yet for some reason the folks responsible for building the New York Mets new ballpark where all these historical moments occurred chose to memorialize the Dodgers. You know, the very same Dodgers that knocked the Mets out of the playoffs in 1988 and lead the NL West today.
See, CitiField has an uncanny resemblance (on the outside at least) to old Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. That’s right… the same Ebbets Field the Dodgers abandoned because they didn’t want their new stadium to be built in Flushing, Queens. Better yet, the new CitiField comes complete with the classic rotunda as a grand entrance very much like the one Ebbets Field had.
And to memorialize the rotunda in the ballpark modeled after the Dodgers’ stadium, the Mets gave the site the name of a player who was a famous Dodger. No, this is not to belittle naming it the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, because the man was the most important ballplayer ever to play the game.
But Robinson was a Dodger through and through. Robinson might have gone to Los Angeles with the Dodgers, but just before the 1957 season he was traded to the New York Giants. Rather than play for a team other than the Dodgers, Robinson quit and never played again.
If he couldn’t play for the Dodgers, Robinson didn’t want to play at all.
The rotunda is a stately and elegant feature of the ballpark. It’s kind of a regal oasis in a maelstrom of spilled beer, curses and lost ballgames. But it is absolutely devoid of anything to commemorate the ballclub it hosts. The Dodgers? Check.
The Mets? Well, the Mets are on the field.
Maybe it gets back to something else moms and grandmothers like to say – if one projects a strong self worth, others will view the person in the same light. It is with this self-loathing that the Mets are viewed around all five boroughs. The Yankees reign in New York – it is their town above any other team.
The Mets aren’t just the ugly stepchild – they are the ugly stepchild that intentionally carves up its own skin like an angst-filled teen aged girl. Maybe the answer is for an intervention where the team brass is assured that it will all be OK and that people like them.
It’s OK if they like themselves, too.