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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Fred, Shea & The Inevitable Conversation

“Mr. Wilpon? You wanted to see me?”

“Yes, Shea. Come in. Have a seat.”

“Sure thing, Mr. Wilpon. Say, that was a tough break last night. Real tough game.”

“Well you know, Shea. Those things happen.”

“Yeah, but the kid pitched his heart out.”

“Sure did, Shea. Sure did.”

“Y’know, Mr. Wilpon, I was thinkin’.”

“Yes, Shea?”

“Well, the boys seem to have some real problems with fellas on the other team named Ryan.”

“They do?”

“Well, yeah. There’s that Ryan Langerhans on the Braves and Ryan Howard on the Phils and now this Ryan Zimmerman with the Washington club.”

“Hmm. I hadn’t noticed that before.”

“You know, Mr. Wilpon, it never worked the other way. We didn’t get nothin’ out of Ryan Thompson.”

“I suppose we didn’t, Shea.”

“And Nolan Ryan? We probably shouldn’ta traded him when we did.”

“No, Shea, I guess we shouldn’t have.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Wilpon. I just get so excited about a new season and upset when we lose that I forget that it was you who called me to come to see you and that you’re a busy man. I almost thought we had a day game the way I saw so many people file in here this morning. But I checked my magnetic schedule and we don’t play ’til tonight. I’m relieved ’cause I gotta fix a few things. I don’t think my sound system was quite right last night, ’cause I blasted ‘Enter Sandman’ as loud as I could and it didn’t seem to help. Kinda chilly, though, for a night game this time’a year. I miss the April day games, but you know best, Mr. Wilpon.”

“No Shea, there was no day game today. We were having a press conference.”

“A press conference? Did we get another free agent? I read somewhere the other day that we might sign Roger Clemens, but then I remembered it was April Fools Day and I gotta tell ya, Mr. Wilpon, I was glad because I don’t really care for that fella.”

“No, Shea. We didn’t sign a free agent.”

“Yeah, I guess it’s not really the time’a year for that. I really do like those wintertime press conferences though. It’s nice to have some company after baseball season. Hasn’t been the same here since Mr. Hess took the Jets away. They were rough on my grass, but a ballpark like me is always happier with people in it. I like those holiday parties, too, though I suppose Mrs. Benson was kind of inappropriate at the last one. Say, that was too bad that the new fella in the bullpen, the one we got from Baltimore for Mrs. Benson’s husband didn’t work out neither last night.”

“Yes, Shea, too bad.”

“Aw, but it’s one game. That ain’t it, is it, Mr. Wilpon? You weren’t having one of those press conferences to announce you’re getting rid of somebody? Because Mr. Minaya and Mr. Randolph, they don’t always make the right moves, but they try awful hard, and…”

“No, Shea, no person in this organization is being replaced.”

“Oh that’s a relief. Those press conferences where you replace somebody are always the hardest. Doesn’t matter who. Mr. Valentine, Mr. Phillips, Mr. Howe. I hate to see anybody connected to the club go. So what was it all about if it wasn’t that?”

“Well, Shea. I guess it’s time you knew that we’re gonna go ahead and build a new ballpark.”

“Oh, ya mean like a new Keyspan Park? Hey, Mr. Wilpon, congratulations! I know how much you and your son love that place in Brooklyn and how successful it’s been. I’ve seen the pictures. I’d go myself but it’s, you know, tough for me to hop on the 7. Anyway, that’s great news for all of us! Where ya gonna build your new minor league ballpark? On the Island? That same league as the Ducks? Hey, maybe you could bring back Mr. Harrelson. I always liked him.”

“No, Shea, we’re not building it on Long Island.”

“Oh, I thought with all the people who were here today that it must be something that’s going on pretty close by.”

“It will be close by, Shea.”

“You’re gonna build another minor league ballpark near here? Closer than Coney Island? Say, you’re gonna bring back the Queens Kings, aren’tcha?”

“Shea, you’re not making this any easier.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Wilpon. I know I’m always yammering on about this or that. It’s just that you and me, we’ve been together for going on 27 seasons now and I’ve never forgotten how good you and Mr. Doubleday were to me when you fellas came here in 1980. Not that I didn’t like Mrs. Payson’s daughters, but they didn’t really know what they were doing. But you and Mr. Doubleday gave me that great new paint job and you took off those strange shingles and gave me a real exterior and added that shiny DiamondVision and that big top hat out there over the fence…well, that made me feel like a real swell.”

“Please, Shea! Just stop talking already. I have to tell you something.”

“I will, Mr. Wilpon, I promise. But I just want to thank you again if I haven’t lately for taking such good care of me all these years. I know I’m not the newest or prettiest ballpark in the National League, but every year you and your marketing department are out there making a big deal over how great it is to come see a ballgame here and then everybody comes and, well, it just means a lot to me.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Now I’ll shut up. What did you want to tell me?”

“Shea, you’re being replaced.”

“Sorry? I didn’t catch that. Delta Flight 1986 was taking off for Fort Lauderdale. Say, 1986, that sure was a good year around here, Mr. Wilpon, wasn’t it?”

“I said, Shea, you’re being replaced.”

“Some routine maintenance, eh? Oh, well that’s always nice to hear. I could use it at my age. I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, but I actually have a list of some escalators that don’t always work the way they should…of course I’ll just let the guys from the Parks Department know about it, but it was real nice of you to tell me yourself, Mr. Wilpon, but you’re a busy man and you shouldn’t be wasting your time with such picayune details as replacing a few lightbulbs on the scoreboard, because after last night, you know that Mr. Delgado’s gonna be busting up more’n a few, huh?”

“Shea…”

“Yes, Mr. Wilpon?”

“This isn’t routine maintenance we’re talking about.”

“No?”

“No, Shea. We’re building a new ballpark that is going to replace you.”

“What do you mean replace me? I’m the home of the Mets.”

“Nothing is forever, Shea.”

“I don’t understand. I’m the home of the Mets.”

“Time marches on, Shea, and we have to keep in step with it.”

“I’m sure that’s all true, Mr. Wilpon, but I’m the home of the Mets.”

“Shea, sometimes we move to new homes.”

“The Mets are leaving New York?”

“No Shea, we’re staying. It’s just that you won’t be here anymore.”

I’m leaving New York? Am I going to be the Jets’ new stadium? I haven’t done football since 1983 but I guess I could. We still have that old Jets locker room down here somewhere. Wait, do I have to go to Jersey? ‘Cause I don’t even have EZPass.”

“Shea, for the love of Pete Flynn, would you please be quiet and let me explain what’s going to happen.”

“OK…”

“Shea, the Mets this year will break ground on an innovative state-of-the-art facility designed specifically for baseball in the outfield parking lot between Shea Stadium and 126th Street. The Mets expect to complete construction of the new ballpark by Opening Day 2009, to usher in a new era of unprecedented sightlines, amenities, and comfort for Mets fans, sports fans and visitors to the New York Metropolitan area. Here, just click on this and you’ll see all the details.”

“I don’t understand, Mr. Wilpon.”

“What don’t you understand, Shea?”

“It looks very nice, but I don’t see me anywhere in 2009. Where will I be? And what will all the Mets fans be doing in that new place on Opening Day? We’re gonna have a ballgame on Opening Day 2009, right here like we do every year, right, Mr. Wilpon?”

“No, Shea. The new ballpark is going to be where the Mets play on Opening Day 2009 if all goes as planned.”

“Planned? You mean it could change?”

“At worst it could be delayed. This is New York.”

“So there’s a chance you won’t have a new ballpark?”

“No Shea, there’s no chance of that.”

“But what will you use it for?”

“Shea, don’t make this any harder than it has to be.”

Sigh. I see.”

“I hoped you would.”

“You’re going to stage some exhibition games in that new ballpark for when the Mets are on the road because you don’t want any damage to happen to my field. I appreciate that, Mr. Wilpon, but I can handle a few high school championships and the like. I always have.”

“Shea, snap out of it. You’re in denial.”

“No, Mr. Wilpon. I’m in Flushing! Just like I’ve been ever since 1964. I’m right here where the Mets play. I’m the home of the Mets!”

“Stop saying that, Shea. You’re making this more difficult.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Wilpon. But you haven’t told me what happens to me if you’re going to have this new ballpark. Am I going to be used for football? Soccer? Wrestling? Concerts? Conventions? Revival meetings? Are they going to put a roof over me like they said they would when I was born? That wouldn’t be too bad, actually, because between you and me, it can get kind of cold around here in April, though I wouldn’t mention that in the commercials or anything.”

“Shea, when I say we’re replacing you, I mean you’re not going to be around anymore.”

“Not around here?”

“Not around at all.”

“Not at all?”

“Shea, there’s going to be a parking lot where you are.”

“But we have plenty of parking already. Why, we were one of the first new ballparks to take into account the automobile! Remember, Mr. Wilpon, how when we came here from the Polo Grounds and how one of the reasons we set up shop was it was closer to Long Island and all those people who preferred to drive to games, so we had plenty of parking? But we also had the train and the subway and even the World’s Fair Marina. The World’s Fair…gosh, that was fun, wasn’t it? Remember how people from out of town came to the Fair but ended up crossing over the boardwalk to see the Mets and Mr. Stengel? We had the All-Star Game and Mr. Hunt started…those were good times, Mr. Wilpon, weren’t they?”

“I wasn’t here then, Shea.”

“No…no, I guess you weren’t. Just my memory playing tricks on me.”

“Now Shea, we’re going to have a nice severance package for you.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Wilpon, I couldn’t hear you. US Airways Flight 1969 just came in for landing from Charlotte. Hey, 1969! Boy, that was a good year around here. I think I still have some shoe polish downstairs…”

“…a fair and generous severance package…”

“…remember how Mr. Hodges came out of the dugout with that ball with the shoe polish? Say, I’ll have to remember to mention that to Mr. Robinson when the Nationals come back tonight. He’s still a little bitter about that, but what do we care, huh, Mr. Wilpon?”

“…you’re going to get three more seasons, retroactive to Monday, which was Opening Day of the 2006 season, in which to serve as primary residence of the Metropolitan Baseball Club of New York Incorporated, Subsidiary of Sterling Equities…”

“…and then Mr. Jones caught that ball in left field off of Mr. Johnson and it was like a riot! A riot! But I didn’t mind. I didn’t even mind when everybody ran on my grass in 1986 when we clinched the division. Liked it better than the horses, truth be told. I used to kid Mr. Johnson that he made the last out of the 1969 Series. He was kind of bitter about that until we won in ’86. Boy, those were both good times, weren’t they, Mr. Wilpon?”

“Shea, I’m giving you your final notice.”

“Mr. Wilpon! What do you mean?”

“Shea, listen closely. The Mets are going to play here for the remainder of 2006 and 2007 and 2008. We are breaking ground on the new ballpark that will be where the parking lot is now and we have every intention of playing in it from 2009 forward.”

“And me?”

“You’ll be the new parking lot.”

“The parking lot? But I’m a ballpark. It’s in my job description. It actually says multipurpose stadium, but I’m really a ballpark.”

“Well, there will be a parking lot where you are.”

“I still don’t understand where I fit in.”

“You don’t. You won’t.”

“You mean…?”

“Shea, it’s been a satisfactory and productive 42 seasons to date, but as I tried to say earlier, time marches on.”

“What do you mean?”

“Take a look on DiamondVision some night when we do the National League highlights, Shea. Look where the footage is coming from. Coors Field, PNC Park, Citizens Bank Park, the one in San Francisco named after the phone company…”

“What does that have to do with me?”

“You’re not one of them, Shea.”

“I can try. Give me some bricks! I can wear bricks!”

“Shea…”

“So what if I’m not them?”

“You’re old, Shea. Old and outmoded.”

“OLD? OLD? I’M GOING TO BE 45 YEARS OLD WHEN YOU TEAR ME DOWN!”

“Shea, calm down. You don’t want me to have call an usher.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Wilpon. I don’t mean to raise my voice, but I’m not that old. Wrigley Field is, what, more than 90 years old and nobody’s tearing it down. If anything, they’re copying it.”

“Shea, you’re not Wrigley Field.”

“I never said I was. I thought I didn’t have to be. The whole idea when they built me was I was modern.”

“You’re not modern anymore.”

“That’s not my fault. Nobody told me to be anything more than I was. You’re the one who painted me and said I was a great place to play.”

“Shea, we do what we can to sell tickets to an old place like this. You said yourself that you’re one of the oldest ballparks in the National League.”

“Respectfully, Mr. Wilpon, I never said that.”

“Well, you are. You’ve been around since 1964. Only Wrigley and Dodger Stadium have been in continuous use longer.”

“Wrigley is great! Dodger Stadium is great!”

“Shea, you’re not Dodger Stadium. Dodger Stadium is immaculate.”

“Mr. Wilpon, I can’t pick up after myself.”

“Shea, I’m not saying everything is your fault, but we do have to make business decisions and I’m afraid this is one of them.”

“That’s all it is, huh? Business…”

“I assure you, Shea, it’s nothing personal.”

“Nothing personal…”

“No, nothing personal.”

“Due respect, Mr. Wilpon, I don’t know how you can say you’re going to tear down a ballpark and say it’s nothing personal. More than 54,000 persons came in here on Monday because they love baseball and love the Mets and maybe some of them love me. Every one of them looked forward throughout the winter to Opening Day. They sat here in the cold under a threat of rain because it is personal. You wouldn’t have a business if it weren’t personal. More than 2.8 million persons attended Mets games here last year…”

“That’s tickets sold, Shea, and you know it.”

“Please, Mr. Wilpon, let me make my point.”

“Go ahead.”

“It doesn’t matter how many persons — how many people, how many men and women and boys and girls, moms and dad and their little kids who grow up to be moms and dads and their little kids — are here on any given day or night. No matter how many, it is personal for each and every one of them, whether it’s their first Mets game or their three-hundredth Mets game.”

“Are you through?”

“Maybe in 2009, but not yet. Look, I know I ain’t the prettiest ballpark on the block or in the division or in the whole league. I know I sometimes break down at the wrong time or I shake too much or I let it get cramped in my concourses and that my plumbing don’t always work so good. But you’ve had millions and millions and millions and millions of Mets fans come here and love it. Some of them say they’d rather have a new place, that they’ve been to Pittsburgh or San Francisco and how much better it is there, that they’re sick of walking up escalators that don’t move and standing in lines that don’t move and sitting behind some jerk who won’t move…”

“Shea, I have a meeting with my real estate company, so if you could wrap this up?”

“Mr. Wilpon, I’ve given the Mets every bit of myself since 1964. I was here for Tom Seaver and I was here for Tom Hausman and I’m here for Tom Glavine. I was where everybody wanted to be in ’69 and ’73 and ’86 and ’88 and ’99 and 2000. Were there some lean years? Sure there were. But I did my best. A kid who came here and bought a field box ticket with his paper route money in 1977 when we were 20 or 30 games out of first place is the same kid who came here 25 years later after a long day at work to sit through a doubleheader loss to the Braves at the end of a season when we were 20 or 30 games out of first place again. You can’t ask a guy like that to forget me, to act happy that you’re getting rid of me. And you can’t ask me to forget what I’ve seen. You can’t ask me to forget the shoe polish ball and the ground ball through the legs and the ball that was a grand slam before it was a single.”

“Shea…”

“You can’t ask me not to look at our kids and not think what it would be like to see David and Jose grow up here, really grow up here, and give us another bunch of Octobers, or at least one more. You can’t ask me to go through nights like last night — whether it was young Anderson flopping around on the ground and coming up with that incredible catch or young Brian making us all think we were gonna get that no-hitter at last or Mr. Lo Duca doing such an admirable job and filling such big shoes or even Mr. Wagner trying his damnedest and not coming up big — and tell me to be happy that I’ve only got so many nights left.”

“Shea, are you done?”

“I sure hope not, Mr. Wilpon. If all I’ve got left is three years, then I’m going to give you the three best years of my life. Now if you’ll excuse me, sir, I’ve got a game tonight.”

“I’m sorry, Shea. I couldn’t hear a thing you just said. American Flight 2009 just passed overhead.”

12 comments to Fred, Shea & The Inevitable Conversation

  • Anonymous

    Very nice, Greg…

  • Anonymous

    Sure Greg – drive me to the verge of tears….

  • Anonymous

    “Give me some bricks! I can wear bricks!”
    great line.

  • Anonymous

    i thought i hated shea.
    but now i love him.
    waa.

  • Anonymous

    That last game in 2008 is going to be tough. -snif-
    Nice job.

  • Anonymous

    Gosh, Larry “chipper” Jones will have to rename his kid. Reason enough to knock the old feller down

  • Anonymous

    As excited as I am about the new ballpark plans, I'm going to miss the old concrete doughnut. Oh, and this line was just brilliant:
    “Shea, snap out of it. You're in denial.”
    “No, Mr. Wilpon. I'm in Flushing!”

  • Anonymous

    Brilliant….wiping away the tears….you know, you should be a writer….!

  • Anonymous

    Well done old boy, well done. I am really looking forward to the new place, but I've been going to Shea since 1969 and I am really going to miss the place. You had me choked up and laughing both…..very enjoyable touching piece.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks all for the kind words. The truth is I'm as pro-new as my partner, but yesterday didn't seem like a good time to forget or dismiss what has come before. I make my 2006 Shea debut tomorrow. We'll see if I'm still willing to voice the William A. namesake's angst after a long, cold, crowded afternoon inside it (especially if Dontrelle is on and Glavine ain't).

  • Anonymous

    Great article, Greg. I really enjoyed it. Shea took it a lot harder than I thought, but he's been a good company soldier all these years, and I think he knows what he has to do. I'll miss Shea, but after looking at those pictures, I'm in love with the new park.

  • Anonymous

    I had to re-read this again this morning. Greg, this is required reeading for any Mets fan and certainly for guys and gals who grew up at Shea. Beautifully written, a classic. This should have made your book.
    Ed