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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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Jonathon with an 0, Shea with an F

Good things about Shea Stadium when you’re absolutely sick of it from having been there all week (and you’re sick while you’re there):

Jon Niese, who, if he were sold at the concessions, would be the freshest thing in the house.

• Section 36, Row F of Upper Deck which gives you — and this is a compliment — a real Shea view of things. You can’t see the left field corner but you’re right on a line with the boardwalk to the LIRR. You really know where you are when you’re in Section 36. I was able to watch Port Washington trains pull in and out, which I never did before. I never will again. (Thanks to Mike and Lisa of the Mike’s Mets‘ Mike and Lisa for the throwback locale…and for indulging my bronchial escapades.)

• An old-fashioned, you don’t have to leave between games doubleheader, allowing one who has a cold or virus or infection or perhaps just pennant fever to pick and choose one’s entrance time safe in the knowledge there’ll be baseball whenever you show up (top of the fifth, first game) and you’ll have seen plenty when your insides have had enough (end of six, second game). The Log is contented.

• Unscheduled second games. There was a well-done fireworks gala far beyond Citi Field, slated for a Saturday evening when nobody would be at Shea. But there we were, with our own Grucciesque action to distract us between pitches. We wouldn’t have seen Shea’s last fireworks night if we hadn’t been rescheduled. We wouldn’t have been sneaking one in on the sly, seeing a game we weren’t supposed to see (except this was a makeup of Friday night’s rainout and I was supposed to see that). Ever come across an episode of all-but-cancelled syndicated talk show on Channel 11 at three in the morning? One of those episodes they’re airing ’cause they’ve got to burn them off? That’s what a second game of a doubleheader on a Saturday night feels like. I didn’t know Vicki Lawrence still had a talk show!

• Did I mention Niese? Damn he was fine, especially that curve ball, coming around the bend like the 9:36 to Penn Station.

Bad things about Shea Stadium when you can’t get enough of it even though you’ve been there all week (and you’re sick while you’re there):

The Mets’ refusal to score in the bottom of the sixth in the first game despite loading the bases with no one out.

• The decision to stick with Santana into the eighth. I thought Jerry gave him just a little too much rope. Then again, these were the BrAAAves he was facing and he is Johan Santana. He should have been given more runs with which to work, but that’s an oldie if baddie.

• The strikeout board wasn’t working. Did Azek not pay its bill?

• Luis Castillo.

• Last 29,000 in the ballpark are rotten eggs! I didn’t really want the olive drab Military Appreciation cap they were handing out to the first 25,000 fans, even if I do appreciate the military. And I knew that by being the 2008 version of Petticoat Junction‘s Uncle Joe — movin’ kinda slow at the junction — from whatever ails me, I wouldn’t sniff a cap. But what a cheap-bastard policy to which the Mets hew.

• Speaking of policy, there was a ten-minute window between games that had me ready to take the axe to Beloved Shea. Every Upper Deck concession had a prohibitive line, which I found curious since half the 54,000 had bailed. But I guess there was nothing else to do but queue up. OK, I’ll go down to Mezzanine…but same deal. Long lines for every worthless item. It occurred to me how I generally refuse to stand in any line more than three people long at Shea and how there’s usually something that isn’t a wait. But it just wasn’t happening between games. Hell with it, I’ll ride the escalator upstairs, find something if I can and get back to my seat either way. The right field escalator, however, was blocked off by the orangeshirts. It was running, it was running upward, it was running upward ’cause there was another game, yet I was told I couldn’t take it. This wasn’t postgame when they want to indemnify themselves against lawsuits when drunken morons kill themselves screwing around. This was keeping people from using the escalators for the function for which they were designed. “Can I take the escalator up?” I asked. No, I was told; take those ramps over there. This infuriated me to the point I needed to turn around and walk away (and back toward one of the many escalators that wasn’t obstructed by an idiot in an orange shirt). Yeah, I know where the ramp is. I’m Shea Stadium’s de facto last season ticket holder. I’m here as much as you are. I really came close to snapping until I decided I’m not communing with Shea all September to get into bureaucratic hassles.

• Part II within the ten-minute window was when I wound up at a no-frills stand, right near Section 36, with loads of pretzels on display. There were only two parties in front of me. 1) Two girls buying two hot dogs and one souvenir soda, and I exaggerate not one iota when I say their transaction took five minutes. 2) Two guys buying two beers until the second guy ordered separately a third beer, causing the vendor to demand to know why he didn’t order it before when the ID’s were out (I was on the side of neither of these dolts in this debate). Finally, my turn.

“One pretzel please.”

“The pretzels aren’t ready.”

I stared at him for a beat and walked away, even angrier than I was about the escalators — not because my pretzelhole was going unfilled but because WHAT THE FUCK? YOU’VE BEEN HERE SIX HOURS FOR WHAT? TO NOT HAVE THE FUCKING PRETZELS READY WHEN PEOPLE WANT TO BUY THEM?

Jon Niese calmed me down pretty soon, what with his eight shutout innings and seven Azek-free strikeouts, but I’m still beyond comprehending how Shea Stadium managed to operate for 45 seasons. I’d like to see more of Niese this year and next. I want to see nobody who currently works in a non-baseball capacity at World Class Citi Field next year. Seriously, fire everybody and start anew. The food is not worth standing in line for, as we all know. It’s amazing what we’ve put up with for decades. Food’s not the main attraction, but if you’re going to keep customers on the premises for two games, it’s customer-unfriendly to sell horrible product at an exorbitant price, and do it in a perfunctory manner at best. It’s that manner that bugs me more than the lousy, expensive food.

That’s why when they make the pregame Fan Magic presentations once a month to honor their top employees (I go to enough games to know about stuff like that), I boo as if Pat Burrell, Yadier Molina and Idi Amin are due up in the top of the first. Fire everybody who works at Shea. I know there are some decent people putting themselves through school and such. I know there are men who have been showing fans to their seats since the ’60s. I don’t care. Everybody must go. Clean out the culture. The Daily News can run sob stories next April about the poor usher who had only his job at Shea to live for and now he’s been replaced by World Class Citi Field’s secret team of customer service specialists who were Disney-trained at a secret underground facility outside of Binghamton in the summer of 2008. I will stand and cheer and I won’t feel the slightest twinge of empathy despite being an otherwise empathetic soul.

The Mets’ ballpark isn’t for them. It’s for me. It’s for us. Yet it’s been run like a fucking gulag as long as I can remember. And we accept it because it’s a part of us, because we don’t know any better, because we’re junkies aching for the fix. We are told we can’t walk there, we can’t buy this, the pretzels aren’t ready and when they are they’ll be absurdly marked up. And it all comes with a straight face.

Cut ’em all. Cut the vendors, cut the guards, cut the ushers, cut all the worthless supervisors who have been giving out these rancid marching orders. If it all stems from the top, then the city should massively fine somebody who’s been making them run a ballpark this way. It should be the best place on Earth. Most times it is if you know what to avoid. Yet it occurs to me late in Shea’s life that you shouldn’t be in an atmosphere where you’re cognizant of avoiding things. You should be embracing things at a ballpark. You should love all of it.

Shea was wonderful. Shea I related to. But never once in 36 seasons did I have a notably positive encounter with anybody who worked there. At best, it was adequate. Let’s aim higher in the new joint.

17 comments to Jonathon with an 0, Shea with an F

  • Anonymous

    I want them to be proud of working there. I want them to be proud of the ballpark. I want them to be happy to be working there.
    This isn't the only employment opportunity in the five boroughs. If you don't like working here and dealing with the public is a burden, then GO GET ANOTHER JOB.
    We had a cranky usher while we were waiting out the rain delay on Friday. Who in their right mind is checking tickets during a rain delay? Of course people are going to go sit up under the part of the mezzanine that's covered and you should encourage them to do that.
    finally: THE PRETZELS ARE NEVER READY. Ever. Because they would be too hot for them to handle if they actually heated them up enough to make them edible.
    we're doing the entire last week, monday-sunday. i'm already losing patience

  • Anonymous

    I'm thinkin' this is the homestand to get all the bile out of my system. Next one is for keeps. I refused to go out on a low note.

  • Anonymous

    as a friend and sheagoer — today's game among them — i have been wondering how long it would take the ballpark workers' unique blend of indifference, pettiness and incompetence to breach whatever pleasures would come in attending all the september games.
    who's to say you didn't catch your bug — and get well soon, yhear? — from that staff infection?
    shea: the antidote for nostalgia.

  • Anonymous

    I'm anticipating sitting next to an ill and bile-filled Greg today….
    I do have one nice Shea vendor story. It's sad that after all of these years I can only come up with one. But here it is.
    In 1987 my husband and I had a Tuesday/Friday season ticket plan. I was working at my first post-grad school job, where the only redeeming value was the great view from my office. After a rough day at work, I took the 7 train to Shea and wanted to get something at the concession stand. I don't remember what it was, but it was not expensive, and I only had a $20 on me. I apologized to the grandmotherly woman working the concession stand, and she said, “That's ok. Harry M. Stevens always has change!” That was the nicest thing that happened to me that day.
    So she can stay (if she's still here 21 years later). You can replace the rest with the Disney-trained secret staff.

  • Anonymous

    How's this for a Shea-ism: In the Upper Deck and on the mezz we heard this twice: They wouldn't sell us Carvel ice cream “because it is in between games. We will start selling again when the game starts.”
    “But when the game starts I want to be watching the game.”
    “Too bad.”
    The combination of stupidity and rudeness was absolutely the pinnacle of Shea employee behavior. The Mets' Fan Assistance guy was pretty empathetic and said it will be duly noted but, of course, he added, it's Aramark, not the Mets so unless they get rid of Aramark…
    (To put some actual blame on Mets employees: My wife also tried telling an employee in the ladies room that there was some minor flooding going on. The woman said–while puffing on a cigarette in her smoke-free facility–“that's someone else's job”)

  • Anonymous

    If the Mets really want to do right by the fans, they should take a page from – wait for it… – the Phillies. Granted, it's one of my only non-Shea experiences, but during my several sojourns there I have encountered really delightful employees there. From the genuinely friendly man who sold me my scorecard to the lovely female usher who let my friends and I sneak down to lower seats for the 9th inning. I've heard I'm not alone in this knowledge about the CBP staff, and I hope someone communicates this to Wilpon and Co.

  • Anonymous

    We had a nasty soda-spill on the stairs leading up to our seats, creating a very slippery walking situation.
    I went to try to find someone to fix it. First encounter with maintenance person went something like this
    Me: “We had a whole cup of soda spill on the stairs by our seats. It's really slippery. Can you help me.”
    Him: “Sure, we'll take care of it.”
    (basically shoos me away, starts talking to someone about who knows what)
    Me: “Um…don't you wanna know what section I sit in? Section 3.”
    Him: “Oh yeah… sure…we'll get someone to come over.”
    Needless to say, no one did.
    Thankfully, no slippings of a nasty nature the rest of the game.

  • Anonymous

    You're 100% correct. Even bedecked in Mets gear, no one at that ballpark who works there has been anything but exceedingly polite at a minimum, and pleasant most of the time.
    I was saying this on another thread – i've got 11 ballparks under my belt now. with the exception of the house of evil, *everywhere else* is staffed by folks who really want to be working there and treat you like a guest. it doesn't need to be Disney.
    However, I just don't ever see it happening. I will bet a substantial sum of money that next year on the other side of the wall is worse.

  • Anonymous

    Greg,
    You're not the only with a virus – both Mary Jane and I are stuck with one as well. After reading everyone's experience at Shea yesterday it sounds as if the entire crew came down ill – that's the only way to account for such group bitchyness.
    BTW – the pretzels they sell are so salty that I stopped eating them.

  • Anonymous

    Part II within the ten-minute window was when I wound up at a no-frills stand, right near Section 36, with loads of pretzels on display. There were only two parties in front of me. 1) Two girls buying two hot dogs and one souvenir soda, and I exaggerate not one iota when I say their transaction took five minutes. 2) Two guys buying two beers until the second guy ordered separately a third beer, causing the vendor to demand to know why he didn't order it before when the ID's were out (I was on the side of neither of these dolts in this debate). Finally, my turn.
    No one who has dealt with Shea concessions would believe you've exaggerated one iota.
    Reading your posts is often akin to watching Reyes run out a triple.
    Just perfect.

  • Anonymous

    “Harry M. Stevens always has change”
    Aramark doesn't. 6th inning of the second game yesterday, I went to get some food. My change was due to be $4.75. “We don't have any singles, only quarters,” I was told. You're going to give me 19 quarters? Are you kidding me? F.U. Keep your overpriced junk, I'll gnaw off an appendage instead.

  • Anonymous

    OK, a dissenting view. Sure, most of the Mets food service people couldn't care less if you live or die.
    But there's one guy who always puts a smile on my face. He works the French Fries booth behind home plate in the Upper deck, usually the register closed to the edge of the stadium. My son and I always share an overpriced chicken tenders and fries. He's always chatty, and clearly just glad to be there. He always asks to make sure we've got the right sauce. I hope he makes it over to Citi.

  • Anonymous

    All right, he can come.

  • Anonymous

    As much as I love Shea, I hate virtually every useless, disinterested, slackjawed moron who works there in a non-baseball capacity (and today, some of them in the baseball business). The glacial concessionaires and their bosses who can't manage inventory (People want coffee on a cold April night, who'd a thunk?!). The idiot vendors who stand in your view for ten minutes to dispense a hot dog, or take your order and get it wrong. “Security” which ignores bad behavior but won't let you stand in a runway for two minutes. The slothful Diamond Club/Barroom waitstaff (“Can I get my fucking check please? There's a game coming!”). The management tools who come up with policies like shutting escalators and only giving out 20,000 bobbleheads.
    Above all I hate that most useless of Shea denizens (well, besides Met relievers): the Usher. The worthless old coot who will sprint to you so he can “guide” you to a seat you've sat in twenty times and wipe it down with a filthy rag, and then balefully stare expecting money for his trouble. Who is then nowhere to be found when the drunk in front of you is swearing like an entire Mamet cast or is throwing shit into the mezzanine, or if some dingbat can't find his seat and wants yours. However, they sure are easy to find if you try to improve your seat in the 7th inning of a blowout, or take shelter from the elements in an empty section. Then this previously inert old pus-bag will swoop down on you like Batman and chase you back from whence you came, unless you slip him a tenner.
    Of course, there's an exception to this. And I know this will sound offensive no matter how delicately I try to frame it (and I honestly mean malice to noone, I'm just stating what I've seen dozens and dozens of times); there is selective enforcement of this rule. I have been chased, I see families chased, business people, kids. Other demographics? Not so much.
    I have as little to do with these employees as possible, and stiff them gladly. I shoo away the usher, even if I don't know where my seat is. I passed Geography, I'll find it. Whenever possible I bring my own food, water and snacks. I drink outside. Screw all these jerks. Leave them in Shea when they knock it down.
    Surplus surliness today for three reasons: the Mets suck, the Phillies don't, and according to the Daily News, number four on the Mets' alltime HR list is apparently too busy fishing or whatever to make it to Shea on 9/28. WTF?!!

  • Anonymous

    I have to counter that on a frigid night in May, in a blowout situation, some demographic types (to use your phrasing) — a father, two sons — sat themselves in row A of a Loge section for about a minute in the eighth inning. They were chased by an usher.
    Shea Stadium: Customer-unfriendly to all.

  • Anonymous

    Absolutely agree with both of you on CBP. And that's Philadelphia…y'know?

  • Anonymous

    Families (of any sort): fair game for the ushers. A bunch of young guys: the ushers have other things to do. Last game I was at the usher was an equal-opportunity douchebag, rushing to toss from field-level seats all comers: hispanic couple with kids, interracial couple with young daughter, two guys with yarmulke and tzitzis and one of their sons, various others. He was yukking it up the whole time, as if we thought he was just swell. Then four tough-looking guys in their twenties made themselves at home and usher developed a surprise blind spot. What a tool.