We Shall Not Forget (Provided You Pay)

For four years, MLB has exploited all the in-season holidays – Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day – plus on many occasions 9/11, by having all players wear special caps. Today, caps with an American flag patch stitched on the back, to the left of the inviolable MLB logo, were worn by all clubs and all players.

So, in New York, where in 2001 first the Mets and then the Yankees honored the fallen members of – and the heroic and selfless acts of – the New York Police Department, the New York Fire Department, New York EMS, Port Authority Police, New York Sanitation, and several others by wearing their caps during the games of the weeks after the attacks, Major League Baseball denied the Mets the opportunity to wear those caps again, just for tonight’s anniversary game, the only one being played within a thirty minute ride to the World Trade Center.

According to team Player Representative Josh Thole, the Mets players debated violating the dictum and wearing them anyway. Thole told reporters shortly thereafter that the league was adamant and it was a “no-go.” It is meaningful to realize that only three current Mets were even in the majors a decade ago: Miguel Batista, Willie Harris, and Jason Isringhausen. Evidently the Commissioner’s representative reminded them that the punishment – a heavy fine – would be meted out on ownership, not them (and for all we know, a major fine might cause this team to go out of business before noon tomorrow). For his part, David Wright wore a Police cap on the bench, but even he resisted the temptation to wear it on the field and incur the wrath of the Bean Counters in the Commissioner’s Office.

Those bloodless MLB individuals have been down this path before. Ten years ago, Bud Selig’s initially ruled the Mets and Yankees could not wear the caps during games. The Mets ignored the threat, and MLB decided to give them a pass for a game or two, and then the Mets kept wearing them, and MLB wisely backed off their nonsensical decision. Tonight’s ruling reminded everybody that at the moment of the nation’s greatest grief, MLB’s money-making instinct was unhindered by the blood and destruction and fear.

At least in 2001 the sport was smart enough to shut up. Not this year. MLB first blocked the Washington Nationals from wearing military caps in tribute after a disaster in Afghanistan last month. Then came this decision, complete with in the kind of stupidity that would make a megalomaniac proud: they blamed it on MLB Vice President Joe Torre, the native New Yorker who wore these caps at the end of the 2001 season. So if it hadn’t been shameful already, pinning it on Torre made it doubly shameful.

As an aside, I should note that I actually got a tweet from an idiot who wondered why I thought wearing the NYPD/NYFD/PAPD/EMS caps was somehow “patriotic.” It never crossed my mind. It has nothing to do with patriotism. 343 firefighters and paramedics died that day. 23 New York policemen did. And 47 from the Port Authority Police. This is about remembering them – and acknowledging what all those who survived did for this city and the wounds they still have. For me, as the grandson of a New York fireman, and the descendant of several others, and many NYPD and regional PD, this is something deeper than patriotism.

CitiField is, of course, ringed with commemorations and in particular the “We Shall Not Forget” logo placed in the ad right behind the batter’s box. And it has all been rendered utterly hollow because of the crassness of the decision about the NYPD/FD/EMS caps. If you still haven’t figured out why MLB is permitting this public relations disaster to happen; why Commissioner Bud Selig didn’t get on the phone and tell the Mets they could wear those caps right away and damn the consequences, the answer is to be found here.

In case you don’t want to follow the link, here’s your answer: this is available as of tonight directly from MLB for just $36.99.

I guess we should be happy it has an American flag, and that MLB just didn’t sell the space to the highest bidder.


  1. L.

    Nitpick: ‘policemen’ should be ‘police officers’ (Moira Smith was among the 23 lost). Great post. Can’t believe they did that.

  2. Adam Goldberg

    Good to know that MLB only respects the all mighty dollar and nothing else. What a shame. I wonder how the NFL responded today?

  3. Scott N

    The NFL responded by saying that players wouldn’t be fined for wearing gear that was patriotic (as long as it was Reebok). Sure, sponsorship still applies but it was better than nothing. Also, the coaching staffs are wearing caps on both sidelines, which are clearly not Reebok made.

    • Jon Clement

      I know what MLB was wrong, but how does that make what NFL better? They still mandated what could be worn… Baseball still had their costly version. I’m really tired of people trying to make the NFL look good. They are no better!

  4. Corey Hedberg

    Well said Keith and thank you for writing about this autrocity. The almighty dollar wins again and common decency loses.

    Here is one vote for not purchasing this hat or anything else from the MLB shop ever again.

  5. Joe

    I’m continually disappointed in the money-grubbing leadership in MLB. It seems that everything in the sport is done with an eye towards the question “how much can we make on merchandising?”

  6. Serbingood

    $36.99 says the hats are CHINA made. Seems like everything I have that is official MLB is China made. That is totally offensive and reflective if the stupidity of the MLB front office. Wear the hats, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.

  7. dyhrdmet

    well said Keith. I know you weren’t the only person in the media who was outraged by this matter, and so were lots of my Mets-fan friens.

    It should have been no big deal for the Mets and Yankees to honor FDNY, NYPD, PAPD, OEM, etc. and for the Nationals to honor the Pentagon version of those groups for Sunday’s games. God Ble$$ Ameri¢a.

  8. Pingback: Major League Baseball Blocks Mets From Wearing NYPD, NYFD Caps «ScrollPost.com
  9. BPalm (@BPalmTheGreat)

    Great job Keith. Perfectly stated. FYI, according to RA Dickey the hat you mentioned David Wright was wearing on the bench was confiscated in the 4th inning by MLB officials. That’s right confiscated. What was he a bad kid playing with a toy during class? What a joke.

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  11. Patricia Powell Couvillion

    At a recent garage sale, there were hoards of new baseball caps…and they were all fifty cents each. It looks like the baby got thrown out with the bath water! One has to have a head to remember…or to wear a cap. Where is theirs? 😉

  12. azchumley

    Don’t forget to mention this. It could cloud your view of the story.
    “A portion of the proceeds will be donated to:
    9/11 Memorial and Museum
    Flight 93 Memorial
    Pentagon Memorial”

  13. Steve

    Incidentally, Joe Torre’s Yankees did NOT wear the caps at the end of all of 2001. They stayed in uniform. They had some explanation that the “interlocking NY” was originally from a police officer’s logo or something, and that was tribute enough. Maybe they wore them during BP, but would not wear them during games (tho’ they could have).

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  15. Oscar

    The Mets could have and SHOULD have defied the MLB cap edict. That they didn’t is just another example of how this franchise has diminished itself over recent years. Any fine would have been meaningless. It would be, basically MLB fining itself, since they have already extended financial aid to the club _ here, take some of your own money back – now may we borrow some more? Management should have stepped up to the plate on this one and taken the heat for the players, who clearly wanted to wear the NYPD/NYFD caps as a tribute. And for MLB to fob off to Joe Torre the job of putting a name on its shameless corporate decision is a slap in the face to the entire city. Torre’s own team (which shall go nameless here) wouldn’t even wear the caps in 2001 (using the lame excuses others have already noted) when they choked away the World Series that fall _ and even team management publicly sniped at the Mets for their public efforts to help the city’s relief efforts. Bottom line – just like you can lose respect for a team for not standing up for players who get thrown at (Mike Piazza and David Wright for example) the Mets lost some of my respect for not standing up for their city last night.

  16. Joseph Cooter, Jr.

    Somehow, I don’t think we’ve recieved the entire story on what actually happened. Part of me believes the mets are trying to exploit this for thier own purposes, so that they can “claim” that other teams are somehow less patriotic than they themselves are. I heard them talk about it on there company owned broadcast of their game againsts the Nats on SNY. Personally, I agree with Mike Francesca, which is a first for me, when he says that he finds it awfully hard to get worked up over hats.

    Btw, Olberman’s blogs is almost a verbatim transcript of his special comment that he delivered on this topic this evening. It doesn’t seem as if he bothered to edit it.

  17. Joseph Cooter, Jr.

    Personally, I believe Kieth should have gotten more worked up over the Jet’s Ceremony last night which featured a known War Criminal in President Bush. Kieth spends an inordinate amout of time criticizing the Bush administrations handling of the Iraq War and their decision use torture against pows. Yet when the NFL endorses these policies by inviting President Bush to the Pregame Ceremony, Kieth is silent. Could it be because he worked on the Pre-game for NBC’s coverage of the NFL?

    Personally, I was more offended when the Yankees invited Donald Rumsfeld to their commemorative ceremony last week.

  18. Joseph Cooter, Jr.

    Dear Sir you seem to get a few facts WRONG. IN my humble Opinion when you invite a public figure to participate in a ceremony, YOU ARE endorsing there policies. Like it or not. That is just the way that it is. Which is why i am disturbed by the Yanks accepting advertising from Fox News.

    My problem with Olberman is mostly Journalistic, in that he doesn’t seem to get his facts straight. I tuned into the game last night during the 8th inning and Wright was wearing a hat the had FDNY on it. This was well after the forth inning when it is alledged that Baseball took it away. He also failed to mention in his special comment that baseball was donating procedes from the sale of these caps to Charity If tyou listen to his special comment in its entirety, you’d get the impression that the sole purpose was to make money. Whether or not Baseball is actually profiting from the sale of these caps, I don’t really know. But I have heard it reported on ESPN that the caps were being sold to raise money for charity. But olberman doesn’t mention this in his Special Comment. He makes it sound as if Baseball is keeping all of the sales for themselves. That is not a fact, mearly a statement of his own opinion. We must be careful not to confuse opion with fact, which Olbermans special comment seems to have forgotten.

    Dear Sir I notices you mentined the Late Edwin R. Murrow in your post. Unfortunately, Murrow was not quite the committed journalist that everyone remembers. The first thing he did when he left CBS to work for JFK in the 60’s was to ask the BBC to not show

  19. Joseph Cooter, Jr.

    HHarvest of shame because it negatively reflected on the Image the US wanted to project to the rest of the world.

  20. Joseph Cooter, Jr.

    Dear sir I am not trying to down play “patriotism” or the lose of life that occured in New York. However, New York was not the only City hit by that Tradgedy. Lets not forget that over 200 people lost their lives when one of the planes crashed into the Pentagon. Nor should we forget that the folks of flight 93 lost their lives in rural Pennsylvania while trying to liberate the plane from terrorist. This tradgedy affected the entire nation, not just New York. I don’t think I am being insenstive.

  21. Jim Eggers

    On the flip side, I wonder if you had heard that Dirk Hayhurst was released. He put some of his gear on ebay and is going to donate the proceeds to various charities. I am proud to be the new owner of a new pair of baseball cleats, I overpaid for them, but the concept and the previous owner are the reason I did so. His new book is coming out in April, I believe, and I will buy a stack for all my baseball loving friends.

  22. Joseph Cooter, Jr.

    I never said he didn’t have any journalistic integrity. What I am claiming is that he made factual mistakes. For example Wright was wearing the hat that was taken away from him in the 8th inning. Plus listening to his commentary, you’d think that Baseball was keeping all of the procedes when they are actually are giving the money away to Charity. It seems in his outrage, he forgot to check his facts. I’m not saying he isn’t a good journalist or anything, I’m just saying he’s made some mistakes.

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  24. Sam

    Last night Gary Cohen, the outstanding play-by-play announcer for the Mets on SNY, also criticized MLB for this move with Olbermann-like eloquence.

  25. Joseph Cooter, Jr.

    For the last time, I am not questioning his integrity. I’m simply documenting factual errors that He HAS made. 1. Josh Tole tweeted that they took away David Wrights cap in the fourth inning, yet when I tuned into the game in the 8th Wright was wearing the cap that was alledge to have taken away from him. Olberman made it sound like they took the cap and didn’t give it back. I watched his “special Commentary” last night and believe me that is how it sounded. Also, Olbermen made it sound as if Baseball is having players wear these caps simply so they make money, even after it was reported that they do this so they can raise money for charity. This is the sort of thing that he rightly criticizes Bill-O’Rielley and Fox new for all the time. In my CPHO, two wrongs do NOT make a right. Just because the competition does it, doesn’t mean you have to do it too. Get you facts straight before reporting on a story. That’s what I was taught when studying for MY degree in Journalism.

  26. Carl

    While I agree with the sentiments about this situation I can’t help but be struck by how much more of an outcry this symbolic issue has generated than the very real betrayal our government committed by first promising that all medical costs of the first responders would be covered then failing to deliver. I imagine that all of those firemen, police officers, EMTs and other responders and their families would gladly trade wearing a baseball cap for one day 10 years after for very real medical care. If only the same people so upset with this had instead voted out the politicians who turned their backs on these heroes while still claiming to care about them and calling up the images of 9/11 to get re-elected.

    Never underestimate the power to rile up the American public with a symbol to deflect attention from a very real problem.

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  28. Joseph Cooter, Jr.

    I don’ know what percentages the charities get. However, my point is that when you watch the commentary you get the impression that Baseball is keeping one hundred percent of the profits from the sale of these caps. Unfortunately, that is misleading because the whole point of these hats is to sell them for charity afterwords. Also if they took away the hats in the forth inning, how come David Wright was wearing one in the Eighth Inning. It is on the game broadcast and you can see it for yourself. I simply think that Olbermen should have done a little bit of fact checking before hand, because he bases most of his complain on Josh Tole’s twitter post. and Only Josh Tole’s Twitter post. Sorry, you need to do a better job.

    Btw, I actually happen to agree with him on 95%of what he actually says on the air. I usually start disagreeiing with him when he talks about sports, which makes him look like just another Talking Head.

  29. Patricia Powell Couvillion

    The ol’ English teachers sees lots of errors in these comments. Somebody had a little Meurlot or did not go to Cornell. 😉

  30. Oscar Gabriel

    @ English “teacher” – I didn’t go to Cornell, but I noticed at least two major spelling errors in your very brief post – including the mangling of the word merlot. Perhaps spending more time studying and less time criticizing would better serve both you – and those you “teach.”

    • Patricia Powell Couvillion

      I was trying to fit in, Oscar. Merlot will still need a capital letter, as it is a proper noun. I don’t study anymore. Don’t teach much anymore, either. You are right, sir! Will do!

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  32. Oscar Gabriel

    To those who Have their knickers in a bunch over the exchange between Patricia and me on spelling, I suggest that instead of resorting to name calling and the like (oooh, troll!) – you look at what I directed to her personally AND her response. If you do, you will see that she responded to my playful jab graciously and with good humor – and I respect her for that. My advice to those who are getting worked up over that and not the issue at hand is to chill – and think before – AND after – you type. Maybe you’ll catch a few more typos – and a LOT more misguided opinions before they are shared with others.

  33. Patricia Powell Couvillion

    My turn. Heehee. I am truly sorry for any pain I inflicted on anyone. MS with cognitive loss makes it somewhat of a crap shoot every single time I go to make a comment or do some freelance writing. But I love it so much! When the TV station makes an error, I call and say, “This is the spelling police.” Then I reveal the error. They laugh and appreciate it and fix it before the next news program. History, I love your comments, and in my old age, I realize that spelling is not everything. Don’t anyone let me hurt you. I am so about peace and love and joy. Keith has been a hero of mine for many years. I was fired unfairly from teaching years ago, and his quest for truth is what has kept me going. My hearing is finally coming up after ten long years! There might be some justice for me. Please forgive me, and know that my intentions are good. Like the song says, “Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.” Hugs all around! xo

  34. Patricia Powell Couvillion

    You are right, History! I can’t even kill a roach! I love KO and there are some great comments here! I have learned so much from Baseball Nerd! Just today I was watching the Yankees and the Red Sox and thinking…I even wanna chew gum like those guys! I can’t bring myself to spit, though! heehee Hugs!

  35. Patricia Powell Couvillion

    It was meant to be. I wish I could have had him in my gifted class! Without even testing him, I can tell you he is gifted. His ability to make connections is marvelous! Genius! I love that he cares about the poor and those who are unfairly treated. He could have taken all his money and retreated! But he didn’t. I often wonder what I would have done without him during the past ten years. Every day I would take heart, knowing that there was still somebody in the world like Keith who cared. Thank God for my family and for him. He is the best thing since Junior Mints in your popcorn at the movies! (We bring our own…too expensive at the theatre. Shhh. ;o)

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