Almost all of these memorials are cut and pasted from AP and ESPN other sources who know how to write the proper obituary with quotes included. This one is written by me a long time Mets fan who said good bye to the stadium I knew so well from several visits a season, and the countless games I watched on television.
Shea Stadium along with Yankee Stadium closed its doors this year, and while the history around the stadium in the Bronx is unquestioned there were plenty of special moments at the one in Queens too, and while it may not have been aesthetically pleasing, Shea Stadium was special in that way only a true Met fan could understand.
It was hear that miracles were made, and Rock and Roll changed forever, it was here where Broadway Joe became a legend, and Tom Seaver was always terrific. Where Dr. K operated, and Darryl Strawberry sent balls into orbit. It's where Mike Piazza allowed New Yorkers to cheer again, after 10 days mourning the events of September 11th.
The escalators may have not worked properly and the neon baseball players may have been tacky, but I would not have it any way. When Yankee Stadium rocked, it was out of relief, when Shea rocked it rocked, Con Edison could take the nights off when that happened because the electricity generated by Met fans could have lit up the entire Big Apple.
Built on a track to swing around for football, the stands would literally shake at times almost fell as if it were going to fall. On an unusually warm March 31st day in 1998 it was Alberto Castillo that made those stands rock, as he drove in the only run in a 14-inning opening day marathon against the Phillies.
In 43 years Shea Stadium only hosted the All-Star Game once, and even that was special as the Phillies Johnny Callison won the game with a Walk off homer run, that was one of the many great events in that first year Shea Stadium opened in 1964, with the paint still fresh on the seats and on the walls. That same year Jim Bunning pitched the only perfect game in the history of Shea Stadium on Father's Day, as even Mets fans rooted for the Phillies hurler to make history by the end of the game.
History was made here in 1965 when the Beatles stopped by and played at the top of the baseball diamond. Though it lasted less then an hour, it may as well lasted forever, as all other rock concerts would have to live up to the Fab Four's standards.
Eventually the early Mets would grow into winners and develop pitchers capable of hurling there own no hitters, but some how they never did it while wearing the blue and orange of the Mets, maybe it would have been too much for old Shea to handle. Though at Shea nothing was impossible as the Mets pulled off a feat that seemed even more impossible then NASA landing a man on the moon, as they went from laughing stock, to champions in one swoop, led by Manager Gil Hodges.
Four years later the Mets nearly pulled off another miracle, and the turnaround was even quicker that season, as the Mets who spent much of the summer in last place, went on a September hot streak inspired by the simple words from Tug McGraw "You Gotta Believe." A bounce here and a play there and despite a mediocre 83-78 record the Mets stunned the Big Red Machine and took the Oakland A's to a seventh game, perhaps if that Game 7 was at Shea the Mets would have completed the miracle.
The Mets were not the only tenant at Shea Stadium, as the Yankees played here for two years, while Yankee Stadium was given an extreme make over. The Jets also called Shea Stadium for home for 20 years, but perhaps like wind shear it held them down, as Joe Namath's numbers were greatly affected by the swirling winds off Flushing Bay.
Then there was 1975 when Shea Stadium was busier then Grand Central Station, as the Giants played their home games here along with the Jets, Mets and Yankees, as they waited for their home in Jersey to be completed.
After 1975 Shea Stadium took some abuse as the Mets and Jets suffered some lean years, as fans stood away, turning the stands into a ghost town, with no electricity to be found. However, come the 80s the Magic would be back as the diamond vision was added and the HR apple appeared.
The 1986 Mets played a far different role the 1969 club, as the Mets were the favorites this time around, as they proudly walked with a villainous swagger. The wave was not uncommon in those days, as Dwight Gooden hit 100mph and the Mets played Baseball Like it Oughta Be. Of course those Mets needed their own miracle as they faced heartbreak down to the last out in Game 6 of the World Series, but like Lazarus the Mets came back to life, and nearly brought Shea Stadium down when the ball went through Bill Buckner's legs.
Shea Stadium was also the place where baseball honored Jackie Robinson by retiring #42 through out the entire sport.
The Mets have yet to win a third World Series, but in the last 20 years Shea Stadium still had some magical moments, like Robin Ventura's Grand Slam Single, and Todd Pratt's NLDS walk off. But the true star those later Mets teams was Mike Piazza, who fit right into New York City, and became a true Met the first time he put on the uniform in 1998, that's why his post 9/11 home run in 2001 for a Mets team that made a late run so special, as rescue workers who were invited to sit in the picnic area were seen jumping up and down for joy, letting us all know it was ok to cheer again.
One day Mike Piazza will be in the Hall of Fame, as Tom Seaver is now, and several other Mets had similarly good careers. Though no matter whom they were anybody could be a hero at Shea Stadium even the gangly George "The Stork" Theodore. So we may not have had Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio or Mantle, we did for one day have Willie, Mickey and the Duke, as a picture of the great trio walking out the Centerfield Fence, inspired Terry Cashman's nostalgic 1981 song.
Ok maybe it's not much, and yes Shea Stadium was a dump, from its flooded bathrooms, to its poor sightlines, to its dark concourses. But it was our dump, and that is all that was ever important.