One year ago today, on September 28, 2008, the Mets played their last game at Shea Stadium. A day that fans were hoping to celebrate a playoff spot ended with a sad goodbye to the season and the ballpark. I wasn’t writing for MMO back then, so I never got a chance to share my thoughts on Shea’s final day. I was sitting in my usual Sunday seats (Mezzanine Section 7, Row E, Seats 16 and 17) and reflecting on what the ballpark meant to me over the years.
Now, one year after Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza closed the doors to Shea Stadium, I’d like to share something with our readers that I wrote last year after I got home from the final game. Please feel free to share your memories of Shea after you read this. I’d love to hear your favorite moments and how you feel about it one year later.
Why do inanimate objects have such a profound effect on our lives? For some people, it’s a family heirloom. For others, it’s something as mundane as a car. Heck, even for Linus Van Pelt, it was his security blanket. For me, in addition to my Mets rally bears (who are the most animated inanimate objects you’ll ever see), it’s Shea Stadium.
I attended my first game at Shea on June 15, 1983. I went with the rest of my Little League team. That was also the same day the Mets acquired Keith Hernandez from the St. Louis Cardinals. I remember how happy the crowd was when the news was flashed on DiamondVision and how confused I was at the same time that the biggest cheer of the night was reserved for the “big TV screen in left field” rather than events taking place on the field.
The Mets lost that game to the Chicago Cubs in 10 innings by the score of 7-4. If I remember correctly, Bill Buckner drove in the go-ahead run in the 10th. Who knew that he would play such an important role in Mets history just a few years later when the little roller went behind the bag?
It didn’t matter that the Mets had lost that game. It was one of 94 games they lost that season anyway. That day was important to me for more than just a game. That day began my love affair with Shea Stadium.
I have many memories at Shea. I had my first real date at Shea (the Mets won that game…yay!). I saw four bench-clearing brawls, including one in 1996 where Cubs’ first baseman Mark Grace accidentally punched me in my left cheek (that’ll teach me to get too close to the action to take a picture. By the way, the Mets won that game on a homer by Rico Brogna in the bottom of the ninth). I witnessed numerous walk-off wins and dramatic comebacks (the 10-run eighth inning against the Braves on 6/30/00 and the 5-run ninth inning on 5/17/07 against the Cubs come to mind), experienced division clinchers and postseason games (9/18/06 against the Marlins and three playoff games that same year, all Mets victories) and enjoyed many great times from my Sunday seats with family and friends. I even purchased my beloved Mets rally bear, Joey, in the Mets Clubhouse Shop behind home plate (see photo of Joey standing outside his “home” below).
Not all memories are fond ones. I’ve been at Shea for numerous heartbreakers, including each of the last two seasons when the Mets lost to the Marlins on the final day of the season to eliminate them from playoff contention.
Even the moment I refer to as the greatest moment of my life is a Shea Stadium moment. Does Game 6 of the 1986 World Series ring a bell? I was home with my parents watching that game in their bedroom with them. My mother had a habit of holding a ceramic elephant facing away from the TV when she wanted the Mets to rally for a victory. After the first two outs were recorded in the tenth inning of that game, she tossed the elephant away. I immediately picked it up and held it facing away from the TV as she did. Then Gary Carter got a hit, followed by Kevin Mitchell. Then it was Ray Knight’s turn to get a hit. Then Bob Stanley came into the game to pitch and promptly threw a wild pitch to Mookie Wilson. Then came the immortal twenty words uttered by broadcaster Vin Scully.
“Little roller up along first…behind the bag! It gets through Buckner! Here comes Knight and the Mets win it!”
In my excitement, I threw the elephant up into the air and it hit the ceiling at full speed. Then it came back down and bounced on the bed. Despite the fact that it was a ceramic elephant, it did not break. Just as the Mets did that Saturday night, the elephant lived to see another day.
But now Shea Stadium doesn’t live to see another day. The Mets have played their last game there and Shea has closed its doors. I will never set foot inside its doors again (and Joey will never enter his first home again). Citi Field is the new home of the Mets and many new memories will take place there. But I will never forget Shea Stadium. From my first game there to my last, it will always be my second home. It gave me joy, it gave me tears, but it will always be a place where I can come back to in my mind and in my heart and I can always relive some of the best days of my life.
Goodbye Shea. I will never forget you and I will always love you…