The New York Times around a week ago put up this wonderful 31-year-old image from Chester Higgins, Jr. as part of a post on their baseball blog (which also ran in the printed paper) setting up a contest for entries in the Banner Day that is no more, winners of which can be found here.
It's a real trip down memory lane for me which I had to comment on.
Banner Day was a uniquely Mets promotion. Between days of a doubleheader, fans could parade their banner on the field to be judged by a distinguished jury which might include some obscure person with a Mets connection, a radio host for a show I never listened to, and maybe an actual celebrity or half celebrity.
It was a wonderful day which exists no longer.
For one, it was a doubleheader. The Mets continued to schedule a Banner Day doubleheader well into the 1980s at a time when doubleheaders were no longer scheduled. While it was once quite common for teams to play two, it fell out of favor for many reasons. Attendance grew and baseball became a bigger business, so giving up a gate was unpopular with management. Games got longer, which meant a doubleheader could become a very long day at the office. It just wasn't done. And oftentimes, as businesses get bigger their skins get thinner, so letting the fans have their say becomes less and less appealing.
For a year or two the Mets had a non-doubleheader Banner Day, and then it went away.
It was a fun day. Two baseball games, the old-fashioned charm of the banner parade. I miss it.
I love looking at the original Shea Stadium scoreboard, which was very state of the art when the stadium opened in 1964 but which came to be very old, fickle, crotchety, etc. with ancient relays that sometimes did not want to go to the right letter or number. I'm almost surprised looking at it in 1978 that everything appears in its proper place because my memories of it from not too many years later are of watching it struggle valiantly to display each "r."
You'll note the line score for that game and for the AL out of town games had a "1G" column for the first game scores. Because certainly when the scoreboard was installed in 1964 and for many years thereafter, you would often have a doubleheader and need a place for the first game score when the second game had started. You don't see that any more.
The out of town, line score, and lineup areas were all dedicated, even space for the umpires, and a little space for official scoring so you could tell if something was a wild pitch or a passed ball, an E2 error on the throw or an E4 on the catch at second base. Before the game, during the game, between innings, no matter when you could see who was playing where for which team and what was happening out of town. Now, even some stadiums that have a good out-of-town scoreboard, like in Seattle, it will often disappear for advertising or some other message at various points in the game. Even the new Yankee Stadium doesn't post both lineups at the same time. I loved the out-of-town board at Shea. Many of the newer stadiums have these fancier set-ups where you can see the pitch count, how many runners are on base, all kinds of stuff, but it's so busy that it's hard to just focus on keeping track of the scores. Shea, you could see at a glance who was up, who was pitching, what the score was, without it taking major mental effort. This photo doesn't capture the little red dots in the line-up and out-of-town scores that told you who was up. And goodness, the idea of keeping score is kind of old-fashioned now, even I've stopped though I inspired my friend Mark who still keeps a good scorecard, so the idea that a stadium will make it easy for somebody attending the game to know what to mark in the scorecard is totally Not Done any more.
This was 1978. In 1982 the Mets introduced Diamond Vision, a video board in left field, and then the central part of the old scoreboard was covered up with a Budweiser sign. A little bit later the creaky ancient balky old scoreboard you see above was replaced with a modern video board. The 24/7 out-of-town and line-up sections were retained but replaced with newer equipment that actually worked. The line-score section was replaced with a slightly taller video board that alternated the line score with rah rah scoreboard stuff. Neither had a "1G" space! There was still a Budweiser sign. The NY skyline that was taken across to the new stadium and overlooks the Shake Shack was installed.
Can you still buy Schaefer? Manny Hanny was merged into Chemical Bank and then Chemical merged into Chase. Before computerized ticketing, there was a brief time when you could buy Mets tickets at a Manny Hanny branch. Somebody would call the Mets ticket office, give information on available seats, and this would be written out for you at the bank branch. Now we have uniquely barcoded print at home. Pepsi is now served at CitiField.
Not every picture is worth a thousand words, but the moment I saw this one in the NY Times last week all these memories and more just started to flow in a big big rush.