You may have noticed at the local bookstore that there are a pile of books offering a proper genuflection to Yankee Stadium, now officially a relic and awaiting the wrecking ball once the details about divvying up the demolished remains can be worked out.
That the storied history in the South Bronx would be so thoroughly recorded is understandable, even appropriate, but couldn’t we have saved a couple of spots on the shelves for a crocodile tear or two about Shea’s passing?
(“Seaver’s One-Hitter” by Bill Purdom, www.goodsportsart.com, is shown above.)
I know, I know, the historical records of the two edifices are quite different. For one thing, Yankee Stadium was twice as old as Shea. And yeah, the Yankees have a few more World Series banners than the Mets do, but that’s no reason to completely diss the Flushing Meadows Marvel.
I was at Shea Stadium in 1964 when it first opened, and believe it or not it was once one of the great architectural triumphs of the Western Hemisphere – at least to this 14-year-old kid anyway.
It may have seemed like a grimy, grey mausoleum at the end, but when it first opened in 1964 it was as imposing and impressive a facility as any of the kazillion-dollar uberstadiums that we’ve welcomed over the last 20 years. Plus, the World’s Fair was right next door as it opened, so the whole neighborhood, LaGuardia flight path and discarded automobile graveyards aside, was gussied up as never before.
From various perches, ranging from the nosebleed wind tunnel in the upper deck to occasionally spectacular seats only rows from the field that we encamped upon sans technical permission, we watched our Metsies … admittedly with often predictably calamitous results.
As I suppose modern fans in what we euphemistically call “small-market” teams nowadays can understand, in the beginning we were there to see the visitors – the greatest array of National League talent ever assembled – almost as much as we were there to root for the home team.
For older fans, it meant an opportunity to see some of their former heroes – Willie Mays, Duke Snider, Gil Hodges – playing now in the uniforms of the cities that so rudely stole them away a few years earlier. For me, it meant a chance to see Henry Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Sandy Koufax and Co., which to me seemed vastly superior to any brand of baseball being undertaken just miles away in the Bronx.
Like a lot of Mets fans, my memories are most vivid from a period when they used to lose with what would otherwise have seemed like a depressing inevitability. It was only odd timing that propelled me overseas as the Miracle descended upon Queens in 1969, and when they won again in 1973 I was a full-time college student with a full-time job as well, so there were few visits to the City.
Our very own hobby has helped enormously in filling those gaps, thank you.