It was a statement on the Mets' condition that last night marked arguably the biggest outpouring of the phrase "I Like Ike" in more than 50 years.
Mets fans haven't given up. In contrast, they are desperately hungry for hope. Ike Davis brings that. I liked the chart in Newsday today, detailing how other Mets phenoms did in their debuts. In most cases--with the exception of Gregg Jeffries' start in 1988--the Mets were in rough straits and needed a huge pick-me-up. That was especially true of Darryl Strawberry's arrival on May 6, 1983. Mets fans will recall that the club had wanted to keep the phenom (seen at the time to have Ted Williams potential) in the minors as long as possible, but it just couldn't help itself. Would more seasoning have helped? Who knows?
Anyway, the pertinent history lesson of last night is how much people embraced the old expression "I Like Ike." It was, of course, a famous button during Dwight Eisenhower's successful campaign for the presidency.
But how did it start? Hard to say.
The most easily traced explanation comes from the 1950 Broadway show. "Call Me Madam." Irving Berlin, an Eisenhower fan, wrote a song entitled "They Like Ike." One of they lyrics was "I like Ike."
A Baltimore Sun story in 2009, though, said some people claimed to have made "I Like Ike" buttons in 1948.
A former Eisenhower staffer, Douglas R. Price, traced the slogan to a pair of Long Island businessmen. Stanley M. Rumbough Jr. and Charles F. Willis Jr. were World War II veterans who became interested in an Eisenwhower candidacy after having seen Gov. Thomas Dewey lose in 1944 and 1948. They sported "We Want Ike" buttons in 1951. A New York State Republican Party official had seen "Call Me Madam" the night before he met with the two Long Island Eisenhower advocates and suggested they switch the slogan to "I Like Ike."
In any case, the roots of Ike Davis' popularity, with two hits and an RBI last night, are much better chronicled.