During their first 35 seasons of play the Mets made several changes to their jersey, but virtually none to their cap. The cap that combined designs of the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants hats worn during the 1950s became one of the most iconic looks in baseball history. It was worn almost exclusively through the 1996 season, and has always served as the team's primary hat. But as more teams began introducing alternate jerseys and hats during the 1990s, the Mets decided to do the same in 1997.
That year, the Mets introduced white hats to be worn as the team's inaugural alternate hat. The hats, which were worn with a "snow white" alternate jersey, featured a blue and orange interlocking "NY" and a blue brim on an otherwise barren white hat. The hats were dubbed the "Ice Cream Man Caps" by fans for their bright white look. When coupled with a white jersey, one could see why the uniforms drew that comparison. The new white hats were worn a handful of times as alternates throughout the season, but never gained much popular support from Mets fans.
If none of this rings a bell, it is probably because these caps did not last for very long. The Mets abandoned them after just one season, and decided to go an entirely different uniform route the following year. They introduced their controversial black uniforms before the 1998 season, and wore them fairly regularly until 2011. So although the black Mets hats are often remembered as the team's first "new" hats, it was actually the white ones that earned the distinction a season earlier.
For the Mets, 1997 was a memorable year for many other reason. It was the year of Jackie Robinson's number retirement ceremony at Shea Stadium. It was Bobby Valentine's first full season as manager. It was the Mets' first winning season in seven years. But these caps have become a forgotten piece of Mets history, and have drifted into relative obscurity.
The white Mets hats were by no means beloved, but were not exactly hated either. Other sports uniform changes that never took off, like the Islanders' failed "Fisherman" logo or the White Sox experimentation with shorts are often remembered vividly by fans for the wrong reasons. The white Mets hats are hardly remembered at all, so don't expect to see the Mets wearing them as throwbacks anytime soon.
In case you were wondering, the hats are still available for sale on New Era's website, though it is hard to imagine they appear on any best-seller list.