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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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The Shea Stadium Final Season Countdown

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 faithandfear@gmail.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.”

10 comments to The Shea Stadium Final Season Countdown

  • Anonymous

    Great idea and a fun exercise, guys.
    But it's not without its perils.
    Or maybe it's just my nature to become depressed upon realizing my actual thought was “Well, Mazzlli's a lock but I'm on the fence about Joel Youngblood.”

  • Anonymous

    The obvious choices are mbtn-esque, such as Tom Seaver for 41, Jerry Koosman for 36, etc.
    Mookie would be a perfect 1, both for his number and his part in one of the biggest miracles that Shea has ever witnessed.

  • Anonymous

    Since this is a 'virtual' list, may we nominate those who have gone to the big ballpark in the sky? (Iowa notwithstanding)

  • Anonymous

    Greg,
    You forgot to mention that besides a dome, “Flushing Meadows Stadium” was to eventually be expanded to seat 85,000 fans. Can you imagine how erie a near empty, indoor 85,000 seat stadium would have felt during the dark days of Grant's Tomb?
    As far as the list, besides the obvious ones like Seaver, Koozman, Hernandez, etc., Jack Fischer needs to be included since he started the very first game ever played at Shea. Ed Bauta wound up losing it in the ninth so maybe he should get honorable mention (I think he has since passed on).
    A member of the Agee family should be here to represent the only Met to hit a fair ball in the upper deck.
    And, if the list includes non-Mets, then former Pirate catcher Jim Pagliarano should be invited, as he was the first player tossed out of a ballgame at Shea.

  • Anonymous

    Anything that isn't expressly prohibited (like the dissemination of this broadcast for commercial use) is okey-doke. Just as long as they're Sheaworthy.

  • Anonymous

    Great post.
    I can think of plenty of players, staff, front office, etc.
    But how about one of you guys, or both, or some representation of Met fan. You know, the ones who have paid the salaries and kept coming back to Shea for more punishment year after year.
    I say have a contest each game where one fan wins and gets to flip the number. We've earned it. We're the ones who will miss it for all of the nostalgia it represents. I know it's not the “other” stadium, but the memories are countless.
    If not, is Doc out of prison yet?

  • Anonymous

    Since this is a 'virtual' list, may we nominate those who have gone to the big ballpark in the sky? (Iowa notwithstanding)

    In that case, I would like to nominate John Lennon for #65 and George Harrison for #66

  • Anonymous

    For 73, Pete Rose, but he has to do it sliding cleats-high.
    For 69, the black cat.

  • Anonymous

    Tug McGraw for #45

  • Anonymous

    Greg-
    Let's just meet the end with a quiet dignity..and a Pennant. Let this team give the proper celebration-preferably in October..