Greg, welcome to the other side. We were beginning to wonder if we’d ever see you in these parts, but we’re glad you’re here.
The description of Shea I offer curious baseball fans who’ve never been there is that it’s like a DMV with a ballgame somewhere inside it. A couple of years ago I had my pregame ritual down to a dismal science: Get upstairs somehow, dodge the credit-card hawkers, wait for one of the three squat, murderous-looking women who do nothing but man the DiGiorno pizza line (three?) to shift her gaze from outer space to us saps in line, trouble her to also get me an amazingly expensive soda, wait half an hour for her to shuffle back from this taxing mission, loudly identify which kind of bill I’m giving her because I’ve seen too many disputes over this after the fact, scamper for my seat before the victuals cool back into inedibility, and hope that my seat is a) not occupied by a drunk or a violent mental defective; and b) isn’t being dripped on by some combination of water, rust, beer, jet fuel, pigeon urine, and blood that’s been making its way through the cracks in the upper deck since 1964.
Once I achieved vague acceptance of this ritual, they had to go mess it up, replacing the dispiriting but edible DiGiorno’s mini-pizza with a lank, oddly colored slice of something. As for the bathrooms, I just pray that I won’t have to wade. And the staff? I once tried to get in to the bleachers on a Wednesday night, clutching the now-empty bottle of Pepsi I’d bought. The Human Fight and I were five people too late, prompting the lumpy cop manning the gate to say farewell to the rest of us: “That’s it, getouttaheah.”
Par for the course at Shea: If I ever heard an “enjoy the game” or even an “I’m sorry this entire level is out of condiments, sir — we’re rushing to get some more” I think I’d die of shock.
Plus they can’t do anything right at Shea. The stats are wrong, the pop-culture quizzes insipid, the cameramen inevitably take their crowd stills as some yahoo sticks a Yankee cap in front of the subject’s face, and “Around the Majors” delights in showing you groundouts from the first two innings of a Milwaukee-Colorado matinee even when you’re in a pennant race. And not only did they lose the leaf on the apple but it was missing for several years until someone found it in a storeroom.
And the surroundings? Yankee Stadium is a locus of Satanism and full of louts, but it is near actual stores, bars and other places inhabited by humans. (OK, by bipeds.) Shea has a highway, a Soviet park or two, and an area of the city that does not have paved roads.
The Vet contained a jail and was surrounded by a parking lot (bad) and then Philadelphia (worse). And it was better than Shea, at least until you got to the field.
The only thing that used to save Shea was that field, and the fact that it’s grass. (As in, “at least it’s grass.”) But now every NL stadium has grass — and few of them have a rusting, creaking concrete donut surrounding that grass and apparently doomed to be there forever.
This is not the way things have to be. It’s not even the way things have to be in Wilponland — Keyspan Park is bare-bones concrete, but it has nice touches, staffers who don’t always act like orange-vested prisoners on county work detail, and good food. Not good as in “I can choke this down if I think happy thoughts” but good as in, “Should I get three more dogs or just two?”
And the worst part is we’re stuck together, we and Shea. The city can only absorb one new park in a generation, and it’s not going to be ours. Ironically, this is the only reason I’m against the West Side Stadium: If it gets built, we get nothing. Even if it doesn’t, we probably get nothing. You know the Yankees will get their park, because they’re the Yankees. Us? We’ll be sitting there getting dripped on until the last member of the Pepsi Party Patrol fires the last Brian McRae T-shirt into the facade of the section above us, bringing it down on our heads.