When Jay Hook threw out a ceremonial first pitch to Mike Piazza on Saturday evening, it confirmed off the Mets’ newfound capability to have fun the whole thing of the franchise’s 60-year historical past in a single large occasion.
The pitch, which got here forward of the crew’s 3-0 win over the Colorado Rockies, was thrown by the primary pitcher to win a sport in Mets historical past and it was obtained by a catcher who’s sporting a Mets cap on his Corridor of Fame plaque. It put a tidy bow on the membership’s first Previous-Timers’ Day since 1994.
Saturday’s occasion welcomed Mets greats from each technology to Citi Subject and featured a three-inning exhibition with fan favorites like Dwight Gooden, Keith Hernandez, Darryl Strawberry, Pedro Martinez and Ed Kranepool. The packed crowd of Mets followers, young and old, obtained an additional deal with after they witnessed the shock retirement of Willie Mays’s No. 24 jersey.
The festivities served to highlight simply how a lot historical past the Mets need to cherish — and the way not often they did so earlier than Steven Cohen took over because the crew’s proprietor.
“I’m pleased for the group. I’m pleased for Steve and his spouse, Alex,” Strawberry mentioned. “I’m pleased with what they’re doing right here, actually bringing a special ambiance into Queens. I believe it’s vital if you play in New York Metropolis, your crew be marketed the proper manner. I believe they’re doing that by having an occasion like this.”
A lot of Mets alums shared Strawberry’s sentiments. Bobby Valentine, the crew’s supervisor from 1996 to 2002, referred to as the day “overdue,” whereas Ron Swoboda, an outfielder from the 1969 Miracle Mets, referred to as it “a lacking piece.”
“In case your crew doesn’t have a connection to its legacy, what are ya?” Swoboda requested. “This new possession, with Steve Cohen, has embraced this once more, and I’m tickled to dying as a result of I’m a fan of all these guys.”
Whereas most ex-Mets prevented direct implications, the subtext behind a lot of the dialogue of Previous-Timers’ Day was a comparability to how issues had been dealt with beneath the Wilpon household, the crew’s earlier majority house owners, who not often honored the crew’s former gamers.
“It’s nice to see as a result of he’s finished what the followers need,” Gooden mentioned of Cohen. “He will get it, and that’s what it’s all about. You are feeling such as you’re part of one thing.”
Gooden mentioned he didn’t wish to take pictures at anyone. However “now, possession is extra invested in every little thing.”
Not everybody was so well mannered. Ray Knight, the third baseman who scored the successful run in Sport 6 of the 1986 World Sequence, was blunt in his evaluation. “I like the New York Mets,” he mentioned. “I don’t just like the Wilpons.”
Knight, who was named most respected participant of that World Sequence, recalled his departure from the Mets and the way it left a bitter style in his mouth. He remembered being referred to as into Basic Supervisor Frank Cashen’s workplace earlier than that yr’s championship parade. Cashen provided him solely a $5,000 elevate, which Knight didn’t suppose mirrored his postseason heroics or his sturdy common season.
Knight wound up in Baltimore with a $600,000 deal in 1987 and completed his profession in Detroit in 1988.
On Saturday, Knight admitted that the way in which his Mets profession ended nonetheless hurts him. However he additionally sees a completely new operation in Flushing, and he eagerly accepted his Previous-Timers’ Day invite.
“This group is completely totally different than it was once I was right here,” Knight mentioned. “There’s new children on the town, little doubt about it. It begins on the high. It all the time begins on the high.”
Whereas a lot of the old-timers talked a couple of newfound appreciation for the previous, Hook got here to the Wilpons’ protection, at the very least partially, after he spoke to Fred Wilpon, the household’s patriarch, earlier than the occasion.
“They cared about that form of factor, too,” Hook mentioned when requested if Cohen’s Mets pay extra consideration to the previous than the earlier possession. “It’s simply, who makes the suggestion that you’ve one thing like this, you understand? I believe Cohen did as a result of he had individuals complaining or one thing.”
Hook, 85, attended Citi Subject for the primary time on Saturday.
There isn’t any query that Cohen has gone all in on nostalgia — along with spending — since finishing his buy of the crew. The Mets have lately held days hailing Hernandez and Gil Hodges and the crew honored Jay Horowitz, the crew’s longtime public relations director. The Mets additionally held an elaborate ceremony to unveil Tom Seaver’s statue at Citi Subject in April, although that statue was commissioned beneath the Wilpons.
Cohen has even engaged in smaller acts of fan service, like bringing again the black jerseys the crew had launched in 1998.
“They’re reaching to their followers and saying we’ve got plenty of historical past right here,” Strawberry mentioned. “It’s important to embrace that, and I believe that’s what they’re doing.”
Saturday was all the time going to perform that, however the Mets took an additional step after they retired Mays’s jersey quantity. The choice, which was not introduced earlier than the sport, got here with a tribute video and a message from the Corridor of Famer, who couldn’t attend after present process a hip substitute a couple of months in the past. Mays’s son, Michael, stuffed in and mentioned the transfer was a “very long time coming.”
A famous person outfielder for the Giants, each in New York and San Francisco, Mays solely spent the 1972 and 1973 seasons with the Mets earlier than retiring. However Joan Payson, a Mets co-founder, needed Mays to complete his profession in New York Metropolis, and she or he promised the Mets would retire his quantity. She died in 1975, leaving her promise unfulfilled till now.
“There was a 50-year hole, if you’ll, between a promise made and a promise stored,” mentioned Sandy Alderson, the president of the Mets. “And we felt that on this event at this time, in mild of all of the gamers that we had right here, all of the generations, that this was the time to maintain that promise.”
Added Michael Mays: “Her guarantees to him had been vital, so for it to come back to fruition like this, one thing undone is completed.”
Mets followers, and the gathered old-timers, may say the identical in regards to the franchise leaning in on its previous.
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