Shea Stadium is as different from the average ball park as a jet plane is from the contraption the Wright brothers flew at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1903.
So reported a very early Mets yearbook, which also said Shea would be opening in the summer of '63 and that it would be “the greatest ball park ever built”. Well, we know Shea was different, we know it didn't open until April of '64 and, as far it being the greatest ball park ever built, did we mention…
• That the 21 runs of escalators will mean “no jamming before or after ball games”?
• That you can “forget your parking problems,” thanks to the 45 acres of parking spaces and $110,000,000 expressway program?
• That the subway station's pedestrian overpass measures “the width of a highway”?
• That taxis “go right to entrances” (provided you pretend to work there)?
• That eventually “the stadium will be domed in so that it will be an all weather stadium and rain checks will be a thing of the past”?
• That “for once you won't have to crane your neck or imitate a giraffe to follow all the action” because you will find “a perfect view from every seat”?
I'm sold. Shea Stadium was and is indeed a jet among prop planes, the greatest ball park ever built as long as you don't forget to consider the joy you've experienced there, the thrills you've received there, the memories you've made there. Take that into account and, yes, Shea has been indisputably the greatest.
Let us, then, bring in the greatest to honor it. And to do that, we are asking your help.
Perhaps you've noticed that when some other ballparks have had their final seasons, the resident ballclub has indulged in a delightful daily ceremony in which for every game remaining, a number has been removed from the outfield fence, 81 through 1. What makes it so enjoyable is seeing from game to game whom a team calls on to remove a given number — what individual or group gets to be announced to that crowd one more time, walk on that field one more time, soak in applause for an accomplishment or association with that ballpark one more time. It's a living history played out in 81 chapters.
We haven't heard if the Mets are doing anything like this in 2008 to mark the final season of Shea Stadium. We kind of assume they are, but only to the extent that we kind of assume the Mets will do anything we think they should do but don't (like retire uniforms…or induct Hall of Fame members…or hold Old Timers Days…or heat their pretzels). We don't know if the Mets will do a countdown or, if they do, count down to our satisfaction.
Hence, we are going to do it for them. All of us here.
During the course of March, Jason and I plan to unveil the Shea Stadium Final Season Countdown, offering up the Faith and Fear slate of number-removers a few at a time. We want to have our countdown done before Opening Day. We want it to be the Shea countdown like it oughta be. And for it to live up to that lofty goal, we want your input.
What we are asking of you, FAFIF reader, is to compile your own list of who you would like to see take down a number from Shea Stadium's outfield wall in 2008. You can send us one name. You can send us more than one. You can send us as many as you care to. You can suggest pairings or groupings. You can match individuals to specific numbers if you like. You can give us your reasons if you think an explanation is in order. We will take your suggestions under advisement, toss them into the horseshoe-shaped pot with our own ideas and begin our countdown during the first week of March. The only parameter we insist on is an undeniable connection to Shea Stadium, the greatest ball park ever built.
Give it some thought and e-mail us your ideas at email@example.com by Thursday, February 28. There are no wrong answers except to let the occasion of Shea's final season go by without conducting a proper farewell.
Thanks as usual to Joe Dubin for scanning and sending along those enthusiastic pages from the 1962 and 1963 Mets yearbooks, one of which is headlined, “You name it…SHEA STADIUM has it.”