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Major League Baseball allowed Virginia Tech tribute hats in 2007

Sep 12, 2011, 8:25 AM EDT

I’m still shocked at Major League Baseball’s refusal to allow the Mets to wear NYPD and FDNY caps in last night’s game against the Cubs.  I’m still curious to hear some rationale from Joe Torre apart from some regurgitation of baseball’s rule against allowing teams to wear unofficial caps.  And there needs to be another reason because sometimes baseball does allow unofficial caps.

As Marc Carig reminded us this morning, four years ago the Nationals were given formal approval to wear Virginia Tech caps following the shooting rampage that occurred on Virginia Tech’s campus, leaving 32 people dead and 25 injured. As Carig himself reported at the time, those caps were obtained, just hours before the game, from sporting goods stores in the Washington, D.C. suburbs. But their use was officially approved by Major League Baseball.

If that was OK, why not the Mets’ request? My cynical side looks at Joe Torre’s reference to the fact that all teams wore caps with little flags on them and wonders if there are less-innocuous reason than “it’s a unanimity thing” for baseball’s refusal. Like, for example, the fact that one of baseball’s merchandising partners is selling caps with the little flags on them. Did some vendor object to there being something that takes away from the 9/11 cap?

I hope that’s not the case. I hope that this is all really Major League Baseball being myopic and tone deaf. Because if this was really all about making sure that the Mets didn’t take away a marketing opportunity for one of its business partners during last night’s telecast, it would be pretty sad indeed.

  1. stoutfiles - Sep 12, 2011 at 8:30 AM

    The VT caps were for an event that had recently happened. 9/11 happened ten years ago. If it was just after 9/11/01 then they’d be wearing the caps. I hope you see the difference between an event and an anniversary of the event.

    • indaburg - Sep 12, 2011 at 8:48 AM

      I hope you can see the difference between a world history altering event (9/11), and the actions of a sole deranged gunman at a college campus. This has absolutely nothing to do with how long ago the events happened. Ten years in terms of a historical event of that scale is a blink of an eye. The repercussions of 9/11 are still being felt on a world wide scale. Not to belittle the tragedy at Virginia Tech, but there is just no comparison in magnitude to the catastrophic occurrences of 9/11. The Mets, and any team that wanted to, should have been permitted to wear the special NYPD/FDNY caps. My cynical side says the reason the Mets were denied is all about the benjamins.

      • stoutfiles - Sep 12, 2011 at 9:12 AM

        Can they wear them next year? And every year after?

        What about honoring the Pentagon people? I’d like to honor both, so can I wear D.C. caps the next day? Don’t forgot the other plane that crashed, so another day of caps.

        I don’t want to wear just a cap, I’d like to wear a fireman’s outfit. How dare you say I can’t! I’m honoring an important historical event!

        MLB is taking a couple days of backlash to set a precedent that only preplanned events should change the uniforms on the field. While you may not agree, uniform integrity lives on. 9/11 was honored respectfully with the pregame and the caps were sold to fans to wear. Needing to change the uniforms as well is unnecessary overkill.

      • indaburg - Sep 12, 2011 at 9:31 AM

        Ah, the slippery slope argument. My favorite of the fallacious arguments. One thing does not necessarily lead to another. This isn’t a court of law and there is no precedent set. Each individual event can be judged on its own merits, just like MLB judged it was okay to wear special VT caps for that one event. Obviously, something ridiculous like wanting to wear a fireman’s outfit would not be allowed because it would clearly interfere with the ability to play the game.

        It all comes down to money. If MLB had figured out a way to tie in those NYPD/FDNY (and Pentagon caps, if they exist) to a money making opportunity, they would have done it.

      • jimbo1949 - Sep 12, 2011 at 9:32 AM

        I would think that the VT cap affair was a blip on the radar. MLB screwed up (from their point of view) and missed out on a marketing coup. As an example, last month the Nationals were forbidden to wear Armed Forces caps when they honored the Seals, who were killed in the Afghan helicopter crash, along with others who served. This was also a one time deal for a recent event but MLB, having seen the error (marketing opportunity) of their ways, refused to yield. Buck Selig strikes again.

    • ncmetsfan86 - Sep 13, 2011 at 11:21 AM

      Actually, MLB also told the Mets they couldn’t wear the caps back in 2001 as well but that team decided to ignore the league and wear them anyway. So there’s no argument for recent event vs. anniversary here. Bottom line is that MLB is likely bowing to New Era caps not wanting caps other their own being worn by the players. Very sad indicment of MLB that it’s more important to keep a vendor happy rather than do the right thing and let a team honor the victims and heroes in their own way. How much could possibly be lost in allowing the Mets to wear “unauthorized” hats for ONE game?

  2. yankeesfanlen - Sep 12, 2011 at 8:37 AM

    New Era is apparently suffocating under it’s new-found business beauracracy. MLB’s contract must say something about three weeks notice to produce special events hats. Will it take them a month to produce Yankees 28 World Champions caps? I think not. There again, they’ve had proper notice.

    • stoutfiles - Sep 12, 2011 at 8:46 AM

      It has nothing to do with notice. If they start letting teams wear hats for anniversaries, they better start wearing D-Day hats, many people died that day too. Should they wear the hats 20 years from now? 30? At what point do we say the anniversary is too old to not even acknowledge it like D-Day? Note that D-Day can be substituted for any important day in history.

      It’s called “opening the floodgates”. How can MLB fairly say “Oh, your anniversary isn’t as important as this one?” You can’t, not fairly. Maybe let fans vote a couple days each year to honor. It has to be fair or else everyone starts complaining.

      • yankeesfanlen - Sep 12, 2011 at 8:55 AM

        I was being somewht facetious (how rare!), but think of it this way:MLB itself sanctioned ALL the commenerative events in ALL ballparks (so did NFL) and to my eye they were planned and orchestrated well. Caps would have been just another small token of that spirit.
        It looks like another Not-Invented-Here philosophy that nothing happens if it doesn’t come out of MLB’s boardroom , pre-programmed dogma.

      • easports82 - Sep 12, 2011 at 9:04 AM

        MLB already makes a decision about what displays are sanctioned and which aren’t (pink accessories on Mother’s Day, blue accessories on Father’s day, american flag hats on Memorial and Independence day). The difference? The cynic in me says it’s the money. All the other gear is licensed for sale; I’d bet if a deal was made where MLB, New Era, Majestic, or whoever got their cut, the hats would’ve been worn and thrown up on MLB Shop for sale immediately.

        MLB screwed this one up huge. This opens no flood gate. Every park held commemorations for 9/11. “G-d Bless America” was played during every 7th inning stretch. They can’t claim to be a major part of the American identity and then pull some stupid stunt like this on a team that, from many accounts, did a hell of a lot to help the city heal and the nation move forward.

      • kellyb9 - Sep 12, 2011 at 9:19 AM

        Just wear the same hats as the fourth…. problem solved.

      • CJ - Sep 12, 2011 at 9:22 AM

        stoutfiles…

        I’m not one for hurling insults, but are you really as dumb as you sound?

        The MLB already “opened the floodgates” in several instances in the past, as noted in the article which I presume you read. The fact that some were current events and this pertains to an anniversary from a significant event in the past is absolutely meaningless.

        Besides I don’t think anyone needs to point out the differences between 9-11 and D Day or the VT shooting. Be it the significance of where the attacks took place, the number of civillian casualties, the reality that in many ways it sparked a war that we’re still fighting today and UBL was taken out earlier this year which reopened wounds many Americans were just starting to try to forget about.

        Anyone that takes the MLB’s side on this is either, Selig, Torre, a buffoon, or some combination thereof.

      • stoutfiles - Sep 12, 2011 at 9:40 AM

        @CJ

        Insulting people is childish. You can make your point without doing so.

        Yes, the mood of an event and an anniversary are completely different. If you remember, sports completely stopped. Fear and mourning are stringer than remembrance. Obviously, VT is trumped by 9/11. I’m not debating that. I’m saying that the week of the VT shootings trumps a ten year anniversary of 9/11. A current event beats an anniversary.

        Had the Mets wanted to wear the caps that badly, they wouldn’t have waited till the last moment to decide they cared. Why didn’t they do this at the beginning of the year? Was it only important when they saw that the anniversary was a big event this year?

        People get caught up in recent things. You’re mad about this now, but a week from now you won’t care. You’ll be talking about the Phillies or Yankees. That’s how people are. They get caught up in the moment of something but then let it go. MLB didn’t screw up if no one will be complaining a week from now. Nobody will boycott baseball because, while they had a respectful pregame ceremony, they didnt let a team wear whatever they wanted that day.

      • Matt - Sep 12, 2011 at 10:23 AM

        Too bad a 10 year anniversary of 9/11 can’t beat the actual event…then we could have quite the game of roshambo!

    • Panda Claus - Sep 12, 2011 at 9:05 AM

      Don’t worry about that. New Era still has a few years notice before having to make those “28” caps.

  3. natstowngreg - Sep 12, 2011 at 8:46 AM

    I was at RFK that night. The VT caps didn’t come out until the Nats took the field for the top of the 2nd. The caps were in 3-4 different styles, reflecting the fact that they were scrounged from a number of stores.

    Myopic, tone deaf, or greedy, the result is the same. Once again, MLB looks petty.

  4. dmccarrie - Sep 12, 2011 at 8:51 AM

    Craig, I hope you’re not holding your breath waiting for an explanation from Torre and MLB about the NYPD hats.

    They’ve shown time and time again that they feel like they don’t have to explain themselves to likes of the fans.

  5. halladaysbiceps - Sep 12, 2011 at 9:01 AM

    I’m not sure why people are outraged by this. The whole nation, the NFL and MLB had fitting tributes to recognize the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Are we seriously concerned that MLB didn’t allow the Mets players to wear police and fireman caps? My God, MLB is such a bunch of bastards! I’m goint to mail a letter today to the MLB’s Commisioners office to give them a piece of my mind. I may never go to another baseball game again.

    • easports82 - Sep 12, 2011 at 9:06 AM

      The NFL was about to fine players who wore stars and stripes gloves and cleats until it got publicized.

    • CJ - Sep 12, 2011 at 9:36 AM

      I wouldn’t say I’m outraged, but I’d say it’s stupid and shallow on their part not to. Unless they just want to make sure everyone’s talking about baseball on this lovely Monday morning and not that other sport that just had their opening weekend…

    • halladaysbiceps - Sep 12, 2011 at 9:43 AM

      Here’s another thing. I have read that many of the Mets players were upset that they couldn’t wear the hats. If you really want to honor FDNY/NYPD responders who perished on 9/11, each of these players can make a substantial donation to the children they left behind to put into a college fund or something to that effect. That would have a much larger impact than wearing some damn hat. I guess I see things differently.

  6. dohpey28 - Sep 12, 2011 at 9:06 AM

    MLB can’t sell the FDNY/NYPD hats and make any money. Instead, they stuck flags on the side of the hats, and made sure to let everyone know that these ‘special’ hats where now on sale on mlb.com

    It’s all about the money.

  7. Panda Claus - Sep 12, 2011 at 9:13 AM

    Craig, when you typed the words “Joe Torre”, “rationale” and “baseball” all in the same sentence, were you able to do that with a straight face? I doubt that you were.

  8. Chris St. John - Sep 12, 2011 at 9:18 AM

    To me (unless someone else can prove different) the reason MLB didn’t let the Mets wear the hats is because of the marketing opportunity for the “special hats.” But why couldn’t they switch hats every other inning or wear the FDNY/NYPD hats to begin the game and the “special” hats to end it?

  9. Jonny 5 - Sep 12, 2011 at 9:58 AM

    I’m shocked!!!

    But MLB would eventually have no choice but to have this become a money making event because the new “special 9/11 commemorative hat” would have to be sold to the masses due to a huge demand by fans. Eventually becoming an “MLB is making money from this disaster campaign!” by some.

    I’m shocked they didn’t use this as an opportunity to put the proceeds towards families in need, who’ve lost their loved ones (breadwinners). College funds, debt relief, etc…. They really could help if they want to.

    • Matt - Sep 12, 2011 at 10:26 AM

      Why make a real difference in people’s lives when they can profit from an empty gesture?

  10. JB (the original) - Sep 12, 2011 at 10:14 AM

    Maybe the MLB needs to start having a “casual Friday” for hats day, where all the players, coaches, etc. can wear whatever goddamn hat they want to (barring violence or sexual inference), no questions asked. Tribute to someone/some organization, fine, camo hunting hat, fine, favorite college team, great. But for one day only. I think it would give everyone a chance to give props/media to their favorite charity if they so chose, or to be just goofy with the idea.

  11. kirkmack - Sep 12, 2011 at 10:38 AM

    The conspiracy theorist in me feels like if the whole New Era marketing angle isn’t enough, the fact that the Mets were the only team with a home game in NYC and that if the Yankees were at home and wanted to wear different hats, they would have been able to. Because everyone knows that the Yankees are kings and get what they want and only the Yankees and their fans were affected by 9/11. If the Yankees get to have a 15 minute 7th inning stretch to sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame, God Bless America, God Bless the USA, Inna Gadda Da Vida, etc. and not suffer any repercussions, then they obviously could get to wear their own choice of caps… The Mets might as well play in Delaware or something…

    • jimbo1949 - Sep 12, 2011 at 12:15 PM

      RSS
      .
      .
      Redheaded Step-child Syndrome
      .
      .
      Get over it

  12. hittfamily - Sep 12, 2011 at 10:56 AM

    The Rays wore “Brayser” caps last year. One of their road trip costumes were plaid blu blazers, that they called “braysers”. MLB allowed them to wear plaid billed caps, not to honor anyone, just simply to generate more profit. “When money is involved, wear any cap you want.” — MLB policy

    http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/blog/big_league_stew/post/Joe-Maddon-would-love-to-see-Tropicana-Field-pl?urn=mlb-274641

  13. clydeserra - Sep 12, 2011 at 2:35 PM

    Serious question I don’t want to google myself:

    Do any proceeds from the New Era Caps go to 9/11 charities?

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