- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

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 [1], 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 [2]‘ Mike and Lisa for the throwback locale…and for indulging my bronchial escapades.)

• An old-fashioned, you don’t have to leave between games [3] 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 [4] 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 [5]. 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.