Willie Mays 24 Should Not Be Retired By Mets
Yes, this is raining on the parade. It’s a contrarian opinion on a celebrated moment. All that said, when you actually look at it, Willie Mays number 24 should not be retired by the New York Mets.
If this was 1973, you could understand it. The Mets were around for all of a decade, and they had little history. The franchise had already retired Casey Stengel’s 37, which had much more to do with his New Yankees tenure than anything.
However, Joan Payson, as much as she loved Mays (justifiably so), did not retire his number. Yes, she took it out of circulation, but she opted not to retire it.
Keep in mind, she ran the Mets until her death, which was two years after Mays retired. As much as people want to reframe history now, this wasn’t she never got around to doing it.
It’s now 2022, and the Mets have a 60 year history. One way to look at it is the Mets have existed for about as long as the Yankees had when the Mets were founded.
This is now a franchise with a real history. There are two World Series titles and five pennants. There are two Hall of Famers with Carlos Beltran joining this group maybe later this year, and Jacob deGrom going there one day.
It’s a team with their own Hall of Fame. While oft overlooked, it has 30 members. Of note, Mays was never inducted as a member. Now, he has his number retired.
The former was the more correct position when viewed through the lense of the New York Mets franchise.
Mays was a Met for two seasons playing 135 games total amassing a 1.6 WAR. He hit .238/.352/.394 with 19 doubles, one triple, 14 homers, and 44 RBI.
In the postseason, he was 3-for-10 with two RBI. It was his last postseason game winning RBI. That postseason would also mark the lowest point of his career serving as a juxtaposition to his catch robbing Vic Wertz.
All told, Mays is arguably the best player who ever lived. He’s New York baseball royalty lyrically memorialized by Terry Cashman as THE part of “Willie, Mickey, and the Duke.” (Say Hey! Say Hey!”). He’s just not Mets royalty.
As an aside, Duke Snider was a Hall of Fame center fielder in the above referenced song. He was a beloved Brooklyn Dodger, who was part of the 1955 Dodgers. He returned to play with the Mets in 1963, and no one even mentions retiring his 4.
The reason they don’t say that about Snider is because he wasn’t a great Met. Snider, as a Met, didn’t deserve the honor. It’s the same for Mays.
Despite that, the Mets opted to gild the lily. Yes, it was popular, but it was unnecessary. Mays was not a Mets great. Meanwhile, true Mets greats who will never get their number retired watched on.
There are many injustices Steve Cohen corrected since taking over from the Wilpons. This wasn’t one of them. It was unnecessary, and in some ways, actually overlooked Mets history on a day it was being celebrated.