Yesterday Nancy Seaver, the wife of Hall-of-Fame Mets pitcher Tom Seaver, called out the New York Mets for not having statues outside of Citi Field to honor the team's former greats. The stadium was once criticized for failing to honor the rich history of the team upon opening back in 2009, but they have since corrected that oversight with plenty of memorabilia and a museum inside the stadium–but no statues. Now that the question has been broached across the Mets fanbase, I wonder what Yankees fans might think. Should the Yankees have statues at Yankee Stadium?
Teams having statues at their stadiums has become a pretty common practice all across the league. Most teams have a large assortment of them that they spread about the grounds, from outside the stadium, to inside the park's thoroughfares to give fans a place to take pictures, or simply be reminded of a legendary player. A few ballparks only have one or two, some don't even honor an actual player. The Athletics, Rays, Dodgers, and Mets don't have any, while the Yankees do kind of have two, one of Don Larsen pitching, and another of Yogi Berra catching the ball in the Yankees Museum, but it's debatable whether or not they even count. The Walt Disney-style statue of George Steinbrenner down in Tampa definitely does not count.
Establishing a Criteria
Of course, if the Yankees were to commission statues to be set up around Yankee Stadium, the first thing that would need to be established is a criteria for getting one. Nancy Seaver specifically mentioned the players with retired numbers getting statues, and while that makes sense for the Mets and their four guys, the Yankees have far too many players that would be eligible.
Then there's the matter of Hall of Fame enshrinement. If they went by this requirement, Thurmon Munson and Don Mattingly wouldn't be eligible, but players like Goose Gossage and Reggie Jackson would be. Does that sound right to you? The Yankees could simply decide to play fast and loose with their requirements, allowing them to choose the players that best define the team.
Who to Honor
The problem with making statues for your former players is that you have to decide who makes the cut and who doesn't. Obviously, legends like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, and Mickey Mantle would be easy representatives, but how many more would there be? There are stadiums out there with more than 10 statues, but in an era where Tino Martinez was given a plaque in Monument Park, where does a team like the Yankees stop? If they wanted to introduce new monuments over the next few years, they could include players like Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, Thurmon Munson, Don Mattingly, but that's when it starts to get dicey.
Beyond these eight we have an entire collection of players who could fill another stadium with statues. Phil Rizzuto is a endeared by Yankees fans, but does he get a statue over someone like Ron Guidry or Elston Howard? What about Joe Torre or even Bob Sheppard? That says nothing about Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and the Core Four era of players getting their numbers retired. They have 53 people in the Hall of Fame noted for their time with the franchise, and have retired 21 numbers. There's no way they can include all of them in this gesture. If everyone gets their number retired, if everyone gets a plaque, then what's even the point of adding statues? It'll be hard, but they should try to limit how many they make.
Where to Put Them
Some stadiums have statues outside the park, some have them inside, and others have them all over the place. If the Yankees were to have them outside, it would make sense to erect them in front of Gates 4 and 6 because they serve as the main entrances to the stadium and have plenty of sidewalk space, while Gates 2 and 8 are a lot more like back entrances. Yankee Stadium doesn't have the open air grounds that a place like Camden Yards has, so it might not be as grandiose to have these statues cooped up in the hallways. Maybe a combination of outdoors in the plaza and indoors inside the Great Hall would be a great way to attract fans while offering ticket holders premium sights to see that you won't get from simply walking by.
Regardless of who they choose and where they put them, deciding which Yankees deserve statues at Yankee Stadium sounds like a difficult job. Who would you go with?