Saturday, May 20, 2017

30 Years As a Mets Fan - Banner Day

30 Years As a Mets Fan – Part 10

Banner Day

For those of you who don’t remember the old tradition, the Mets, for many years, once a season would allow their fans to parade around the outfield warning track showing off homemade signs showing messages of support for the New York Mets players. This event would take place in between games of a doubleheader at Shea Stadium and fans at home would be able to see the hundreds of entries on WOR TV. Fans would use whatever media they could find, from poster boards to bed sheets, to convey their message. Some were simple and some were creative. The banners were judged and winners were given prizes. This was a tradition inspired by the early Mets fans at the Polo Grounds and original Mets manager Casey Stengel, who would spend time looking in the stands at the “placards” during the game. This tradition carried on for over 30 years, into the mid-1990s.

I never entered it myself, or even attended the Banner Day Doubleheader in person. As a kid, I knew of Banner Day but don’t really remember even watching it. I was around for the last few seasons the Mets held it. Maybe inside those last 2 sentences is the reason why it was eventually cancelled.

The Mets brought it back in 2012, in part because of some stirring among the fan community as an idea of how to celebrate the team’s 50th anniversary. The return of Banner Day had become known as “Banner Day 2.0” among some fans. In the internet age, fans could be part of the judging among 4 finalists chosen by Mets-connected people (broadcasters and alumni) during the game with the winner announced and shown off during the 7th inning.

My creative juices started flowing. The same could be said for about 300 other fans who lined up outside Citi Field early that Sunday morning. This new Banner Day parade wasn’t quite the same as it was in the old days. There are no longer scheduled doubleheaders, and you can’t really disrupt the game in order to hold the parade of banners for judging. The Mets opted to have the parade start shortly after the ballpark opened, which would be 11:10am for a 1:10pm game (one year it might have been a later start, but always an afternoon game). It wasn’t ideal for bringing in big crowds to support the banners. SNY (or PIX11 in some cases) wasn’t coming on the air that early (about 90 minutes earlier than the regular pregame show) to show the festivities to the fans at home. The second year saw the Mets introduce a pre-Banner Day online contest separate from the traditional parade. That second contest lasted only 1 year. But overall, interest was waning and the team stopped promoting Banner Day, allowing it to die a slow death after only 4 seasons.

It’s a shame that it didn’t catch on and become a marquee event like in the old days, especially since the Mets were starting to get good around 2012 and 2013 (eventually winning the NL Pennant in the final season of Banner Day 2.0). The interest wasn’t there and the promotion (from the team or television) wasn’t there either.

I loved being part of it. It was a different and creative way in which I could express my Mets fandom. It was better than trying to come up with 140 character tweets or post thoughts about a recent game or recent struggles/successes on Facebook or a blog or fan forum. We could use imagery, colors. We could make it large. Someone had moving parts. And I had some wild ideas. For some of it, I was winging it (am I using the right medium – different types of poster board as opposed to a bed sheet or something vinyl), but I didn’t really care. Each year, I’d have my idea well before the season got underway, with Banner Day taking place sometime in the first half of the season (usually May, but once it was in June), and I’d tell people I’d have the winning banner (I was never a finalist, but there was one year where I really felt cheated by that statement). I’ve covered each of my entries on this blog before, so I won’t go into detail, but I will mention them here with links to my original posts.

2012 was an idea that a friend nicknamed “the parade float” because it had so much stuff in it. It came out as a tribute to banners and signs from Shea Stadium, which was sort of homage to past Banner Days to mark the occasion of its return. The original idea was to put some of those tributes on top of a picture/drawing of an empty Shea Stadium (in its full 1990s colorful glory), but I couldn’t quite figure out how to convey or execute that idea.

2013 was the year they introduced the online contest, with entries due about a week before the real banner day. I took my original idea (“Citi Field Squares” – a Hollywood Squares knockoff that was Mets-themed), made a small version of it (regular sized printer paper instead of big poster board) and submitted it online and decided to make something else for the parade. Citi Field was hosting the All-Star Game that year so I played along with that theme (“Take me out to the All-Star Game”), and then included all of the Mets All-Star Game starters, even foreshadowing Matt Harvey’s All-Star Game start. A friend convinced me to bring both banners to the parade. It was fun to show off, but I think it confused the judges.

2014 was the 50th anniversary of Shea Stadium, and I had my biggest idea yet – to create a large and detailed “Shea Stadium Monopoly” board. It was a big idea in my head and I just didn’t know if I could get it to come together, but if I could, it would be perfect for the judges. It was big and it was detailed. It was better than what I had in my head. I still don’t know how I didn’t win. But creating it and parading with it is one of the things I’m most proud of in life.

Not knowing that 2015 would be the final year, I ended up closing on a simple but maybe appropriate note. Casey Stengel was the inspiration for Banner Day, and I came up with the “Stengelese Dictionary”. It wasn’t quite what I had in my head, but it was simple and to the point.

Unfortunately, 2015 was the last time the Mets held Banner Day. It’s a shame because 2016 had 3 different themes that fans could have used (30th anniversary of the 1986 World Championship, Mets were defending NL Champions, and Mike Piazza is going into the Baseball Hall of Fame as a Met with his number getting retired by the Mets). And I had several ideas that I had accumulated along the way and never got to execute, sometimes bumping an idea down in the list for a better idea which I ended up using. So here, I believe for the first time, I present my list of unused Banner Day ideas. Some of these ideas were written on a piece of paper (based on the date I wrote down) after returning home from Banner Day in 2013, and never made the cut.

  • Meet the Mets: Mr. Met’s Family Portrait – featuring Mr. Met, Mrs. Met, their kids (younger versions of Mr. and Mrs. Met), original Mr. Met, Florida Mr. Met (the Mr. Met variant used by the St. Lucie Mets), and Mr. Met, Sr. (an old man version of Mr. Met). Given the 2016 themes, this was probably in line for 2017.
  • Mets Scrabble. This came on the heels of “Citi Field Squares” where I had board games in my head.
  • Mets Word Jumble. I think a crossword puzzle would have been too much.
  • Mets Monopoly. Subconsciously, this idea was spun off as “Shea Stadium Monopoly” the year after I wrote this down. I didn’t remember it until I found that list very recently.
  • Mets Board Game/DVD/Bookshelf – think of board game boxes stacked on a shelf, using names of Mets-themed board games without having to create the entire game board
  • Mets postcards – Tradition Field (as it was then known), Shea Stadium, Citi Field
Being part of Banner Day 2.0 was fun. I wish I could have been part of the original incarnation. I really hope the Mets find a way to have Banner Day 3.0 (or even 2.5) and then make it work with 20,000 fans cheering everyone on.