#Shortstops: Heroes’ hat

Written by: Pam Cummings

All of us who are old enough can still remember the horror, sadness and anger we felt on Sept. 11, 2001.

For Brooklyn native and New York Mets player John Franco, it was truly personal. Franco and the Mets had been scheduled to play in Pittsburgh against the Pirates that night, so were out of town. With air travel canceled and the shock of the attacks, Major League Baseball postponed all games until Sept. 17. Franco and his teammates returned home by bus, a ride of more than eight hours. What they saw shocked them.

“I felt like we were in a war-torn country,” wrote Franco in an article in the New York Daily News to commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

Their home park, Shea Stadium, had turned into a drop-off station for donations for rescuers at Ground Zero. Players loaded trucks with supplies. They visited the site themselves to give the rescuers support. While there they traded Mets shirts and caps for police and firefighter hats, including one now a part of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s collection. According to Franco he is “proud of the many things our team did that September, but wearing the hats was something special.”

Baseball was something special to the country at the time too. When it returned, it provided the country with an outlet to show unity. Fans who were not normally Mets or Yankees fans cheered them. When Hall of Famer Mike Piazza hit a home run in the bottom of the eighth inning that ultimately gave the Mets the win over the Atlanta Braves in their first game back at home, fans erupted. There were chants of “USA! USA!” and flags waving. And, to many, it was a sign that New York and the country might be down, but we would come back.

The FDNY cap that John Franco wore the night of Sept. 21, 2001, came to live in the Museum as a reminder of the importance of baseball as both a healer and a unifier in times of trouble in the United States.

“We [the Mets] helped New York City be a better place,” Franco said, “and that is more important than any ring or championship.”

Pam Cummings was the 2022 manuscript archives intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development
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