10 years later, bagpipes and baseball
NEW YORK -- The Mets are in their 50th season and their third ballpark. They're wearing their umpteenth different set of uniforms, some with black touches, and their games appear on their own network. No more WOR. Rheingold has been replaced -- first by Schaefer and then by Bud. "Meet the Mets" was rearranged, and even Mr. Met has been given a makeover.
Amid the ongoing variations in the inanimate components of the franchise, one constant stands -- the franchise logo. It appears today as it did in November 1961, when it was unveiled, five months before the team's first game. It is colorful, representative of their five-borough city and, within the game, unique.
The logo features a contrived horizon of New York City skyscrapers and the team's nickname in cursive script. Aside from the addition of some black a few years back -- it since has been removed -- the logo has remained unchanged through decades that have altered the city's skyline and landscape.
The same can't be said for the actual city skyline, of course. As it stands today, it is merely 10 years old and without two vertical elements that were most conspicuous by their presence for nearly 30 years. Now and forever, both are conspicuous by their absence, eliminated by an evil force that also took thousands of wrong-time, wrong-place citizens and scores of first, second and third responders.
A third skyline came into play on Sunday night during the Mets' well-staged observance of the 10th anniversary of The Unfathomable, a skyline that matches the one that stood atop the scoreboard beyond right-center field at Shea Stadium from late September 2001 through the ballpark's final days.
It is a part of Citi Field, situated well beyond the center-field scoreboard and the beloved Home Run Apple, resting atop two popular concession stands. And it features a symbolic, red, white and blue ribbon affixed to the replicas of the Twin Towers.
Though mostly hidden from the grandstands, the ribbon is a nice and appropriate touch that acknowledges the event that placed a second date in American infamy, created scars as yet unhealed and mandated upper-case treatment for the term "Ground Zero." In a way, it is a double-edged sword -- a salute but also a reminder.
The Mets do a splendid job in such matters. The ceremonies that preceded the "first game back" in New York following 9/11 made the evening of Sept. 21 a breathtaking and uplifting experience -- even before the signature moment of Mike Piazza's career. Those of us in attendance that night cherish the memories. The evening nudged the City and its communities closer to normalcy; not that we had a notion of what normalcy would turn out to be. It helped us all exhale.
And the 10th anniversary ceremonies at Citi Field on Sunday night were equally well done. Understandably, fewer people were in attendance, the wounds were not nearly so fresh and the emotions not nearly so raw. But the slogan and scoreboard logo said "We remember," and the bagpipes and the rat-tat-tat of the drumsticks on the rims of drums guaranteed that we did.
Soft chants of "USA ... USA ... USA ..." were heard. What they lacked in decibels was offset by the sentiments that prompted them. The gigantic flag that concealed most of the outfield -- about 350 hands were needed to unfold it and keep it taut -- was a visual for a blimp. Piazza and John Franco led the scores of first responders onto the field. Rusty Staub and Steve Trachsel served as bookends for the queues that formed on the baselines. Who better than Staub, who has done so much to assist the widows and children of the city's fallen police and firemen for far more than 10 years?
Franco and Piazza formed a battery once again. They embraced after the first pitch. The crowd, announced as 33,502, embraced them and all the evening had presented.
The Mets aren't the best team in the Big City, haven't been for a while. They have enough troubles to fill the Polo Grounds, Shea and the Big Citi. On nights such as this one, though, they are winners. Their immediate future is one of uncertainty and, probably, making do. They won't be any sort of champion in 2011, but they know how to champion a cause. They will win no crown but they know what to wear on their heads.
The 2011 team wanted to follow the players of 10 years ago and wear caps saluting the civil servants -- NYPD, FDNY, EMS, Port Authority Police Department and others. Major League Baseball decreed that all players wear regulation caps. After the players met and expressed a preference, Josh Thole communicated their feelings to Terry Collins. It went no further. The special caps were worn pregame only.
Players who had defied MLB in 2001 were in attendance -- Franco, Piazza, Robin Ventura, Todd Zeile, Edgardo Alfonzo, Trachsel and Joe McEwing. Zeile was the player rep then and provided rhetoric to the defiance.
"They'll have to rip them off our heads," he said.
On Sunday night, Zeile explained some of the caps worn after 9/11 were those players acquired at Ground Zero from those working.
"They had blood and sweat on them," he said.
But he also acknowledged, "things are different now."
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.