I couldn’t leave. Eventually I did, but for a few moments, I just could not. I was a runner caught off second — frozen, absolutely frozen. My intention was to turn and exit the Upper Deck, the kind of task I’d accomplished with aplomb who knows how many times on how many levels of where I used to go to baseball games. I couldn’t do it. I was physically unable to leave when it was all over. And it was all over.
The game was over.
The season was over.
The race was over.
The ceremony was over.
Shea Stadium (April 17, 1964 – September 28, 2008) was over.
But I couldn’t leave behind what I was looking at. I couldn’t turn away from it. I knew that when I turned away, it would be gone forever. Only by standing and staring at its field and at its seats and at its memories could I and I alone keep it hooked up to the respirator. Only I could assure it breath. Only I could keep it alive. As long as I stood there, as long as I refused to leave, Shea Stadium could continue to exist.
But I did leave and now it no longer exists. You can still drive by it on the Grand Central, you can still approach it from the Whitestone Expressway, you can still peek out the window on your flight in or out of LaGuardia, and a couple of transit lines will still ferry you past it. 123-01 Roosevelt Avenue is on the map for a little while longer. But it’s not there. Maybe here (points to the head), definitely here (points to the heart), but not there where it counts.
It’s not a ballpark anymore. A ballpark has ballgames. A ballpark has a ballclub. The club that used to play ball at Shea Stadium doesn’t live there anymore. Neither do I. Nor do any of us. Without baseball and without the New York Mets there is — temporary physical evidence notwithstanding — no Shea Stadium.
There is no Shea Stadium.
Contemplate that, would you? Consider the width, breadth and depth of that statement. Shea Stadium was. Not is, but was. Shea Stadium constructs all its sentences for the rest of time in the past tense. Shea Stadium was over there. Shea Stadium was where we went. I used to go to Shea Stadium.
This is a situation unlike any I can fathom. I cannot fathom this situation at all. I saw it end. I heard it end. The gates all but shut in my wake. It’s no longer where I go. It’s where I went. It’s unfathomable.
Shea Stadium’s not there. I didn’t want to leave it, but it was going no matter what I did.