Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Statue of Limitations

Earlier this week, the Baltimore Orioles announced that in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the opening of their ballpark at Camden Yards, six bronze statues will be unveiled honoring each of the team's Hall of Famers, all of whom have had their numbers retired by the team.

The Orioles are not the first team to honor their greatest players and managers with statues.  In fact, many teams have bestowed that honor to its greatest representatives.  This past August, the Chicago Cubs dedicated a statue to the late Ron Santo, who was recently selected by the Veterans Committee for Hall of Fame enshrinement.  Santo's statue joined the sculptures of other Cub greats outside Wrigley Field such as Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and broadcaster Harry Caray.

Other teams with statues of their greatest players include the Pittsburgh Pirates (Honus Wagner, Willie Stargell, Roberto Clemente), San Francisco Giants (Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda) and Atlanta Braves (Warren Spahn, Hank Aaron, Phil Niekro).  Those franchises have been in existence far longer than the Mets, but there are other clubs who haven't been in the league as long as the Amazins that have statues of their best players.

For example, the San Diego Padres have a Tony Gwynn statue outside Petco Park while the Milwaukee Brewers have a Robin Yount sculpture welcoming fans to Miller Park.  Both Gwynn and Yount are members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.  The Houston Astros, on the other hand, have statues of Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell outside Minute Maid Park.  As of this writing, neither player has been inducted to Cooperstown.  (Bagwell received 41% of the vote last year and Biggio is not yet eligible.)

All four players mentioned in the previous paragraph played their entire major league career with the teams that immortalized them in bronze.  But some teams have chosen to honor some of its best players with statues despite the fact that these players played less than half of their careers with these teams.  One particular name comes to mind immediately.  Nolan Ryan played five of his 27 seasons with the Texas Rangers, but who's statue stands beyond the center field fence?  Of course, it's the Ryan Express. 

In addition to statues of its best players, some teams have other baseball-related busts.  The Colorado Rockies have a statue outside Coors Field dedicated to "The Player".  In Arizona, a statue of a player with his fans stands outside Chase Field.

So why am I making all this hubbub about statues?  Perhaps it's because the Mets don't have one outside Citi Field.  Of anyone.  Even though there's a certain "Franchise" player who received the greatest percentage of Hall of Fame votes in history.

 Strike a pose, Tom.  Perhaps someday this one will be bronzed for all eternity.

As of now, the Mets are one of only five teams without a sculpture of any kind to honor its best players and personnel.  (The others are the Rays, A's, Marlins and Dodgers.)  Why don't the Mets have anything other than the third base VIP entrance dedicated to Tom Seaver?  When fans enter Citi Field, they should be greeted by Tom Terrific in bronze form.  Not only is he the greatest pitcher in franchise history, but he is also the sole Mets player in the Hall of Fame and the only player whose number has been retired by the team (Casey Stengel and Gil Hodges both had their numbers retired for what they accomplished as managers).

The lack of a statue to honor the man known as "The Franchise" when some teams have statues dedicated to non-Hall of Famers and other teams have sculptures for players despite having a shorter history than the Mets is an absolute shame.

The Mets should have a Tom Seaver statue at Citi Field.  In addition, they should also have a statue of Jesse Orosco's iconic pose after striking out Marty Barrett to end the 1986 World Series.  It's time for the Mets to be proud of their history, not hide from it.

We want "The Franchise" at Citi Field.  Not just for an occasional ceremonial first pitch, but forever.  A life-sized bronze statue of Tom Seaver would ensure that.  It took until Citi Field's second season for the Wilpons to make the ballpark look like it belonged to the Mets.  Hopefully, it won't take them much longer to realize that Tom Seaver should be immortalized with a statue at the park they built.  After all, it's their "Franchise", is it not?


Anonymous said...

"After all, it's their "Franchise", is it not?"

Maybe not for long?

Ray said...

But.... but.... he never played for the Brooklyn Dodgers.