He did not come out and say anything as blunt as "it's about time." But he did make his point that Mets tradition is worth acknowledging. He finds it vital to the franchise, and to The Franchise.

Tom Seaver was part of a small symbolic ceremony Thursday in which the two VIP entrances to Citi Field were officially named after Seaver and Gil Hodges. It is his considered opinion that symbols matter. One year after Mets fans vigorously demanded that the team honor its heritage more in the new ballpark's design, Seaver agreed.

"It's imperative that they do it and I think that they went a long time in not understanding how important an organization's history is," said the Hall of Fame pitcher, known as The Franchise.

"It's important to me and it's important to them as well," he said of the Mets. "It's important to see how the history grows within this organization. It's a large picture. I put it in the context of the Hall of Fame, because baseball is today and it's also history."

The entrances have been redesigned to include large lettering honoring Seaver and Hodges. In each lobby, there are photos and busts of the Mets' greatest pitcher and its first championship- winning manager.

Those are additional small touches for a franchise that has heeded its fans' requests by reviving an alumni organization and opening a Mets Hall of Fame at Citi Field.

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Hodges' widow, Joan, her son Gil Jr. and other family members took a private tour of the latter facility before last night's game against the Cubs (after being warmly greeted by Cubs manager Lou Piniella, who was on his way in). Joan seemed moved. Her voice caught when she said, "Of course I'm very, very pleased, truly honored. The word Hall of Fame itself . . . "

When someone asked her if the initiative was long overdue, she wouldn't take the bait. "I'm not going to say that," she said with a smile.

Seaver shared some of his favorite stories about Gil, such as the time he semi-intentionally walked a batter and Hodges later said that if he had known Seaver was going to strike out the next batter on three pitches, "I wouldn't have wasted my time walking to the mound."

The Franchise mocked a black-and-white photo of himself from the late 1960s: "That boy needs a haircut." To him, it is like a family album that can make a young person proud to be part of the family: "It is such a game that ties generations."

He recalled that after the defending champion Mets failed to make the postseason in 1970, instead of heading right home to California, he took his wife to Cooperstown to honor players who were "the foundations of the game."

"That's the same thing that I feel the Mets are finally starting to really fully understand," he said. "That's one of the most important parts of the game for a franchise."