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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
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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Take Me Out to Shea Stadium

Welcome to Flashback Friday: Take Me Out to 34 Ballparks, a celebration, critique and countdown of every major league ballpark one baseball fan has been fortunate enough to visit in a lifetime of going to ballgames.

BALLPARK: Shea Stadium
HOME TEAM: New York Mets
VISITS: 402 regular-season games, 13 postseason games, 5 rainouts, 2 exhibition games, 1 intrasquad game, 1 card show, 1 concert
FIRST VISITED: July 11, 1973
CHRONOLOGY: 1st of 34
RANKING: 6th of 34

How many Favorite Ballpark lists have you come across that rank Shea Stadium ahead of Fenway Park?

I’m not going for shock value. I’m being true to my heart here. I wrote about Fenway last week and was reminded that despite admiring the hell out of it, it just couldn’t beat Shea. My first Fenway trip came one night after attending my 37th game at Shea. This is great, I thought in Boston, but I like Shea better. As if to confirm that I wasn’t deluding myself, my second Fenway trip took place two nights after attending my 155th game at Shea. Fenway’s still great, but I’d still rather be at Shea.

Neither Shea Game No. 37 nor Shea Game No. 155 was extraordinarily special, but they didn’t have to be. They were Shea.

What did it mean to be at Shea, for me? It meant exciting and it meant comfortable. It meant soothing as much as it meant electric. It meant simple and it meant brilliant.

It meant home.

Actually, in its way, it was better than home. You need a literal home, but you also need a place you just want to be…y’know? Home carries certain responsibilities, not all of them desirable, depending on what else is going on in your life. The place where you just want to be is there for you, free and clear of baggage.

That was my Shea. I sought it out and it accepted me. Every time I needed to be, I could be there.

When it was great, which was usually, I didn’t have to think about it. It was Shea being Shea. When it wasn’t, which was occasionally (and logistically), I could just write it off as, well, there goes Shea being Shea. I didn’t have to make excuses for it. Spend 400-some games with a ballpark, it will eventually explain itself.

Within the context of this countdown, it makes sense that the Dowager Queen from 1912 takes a back seat to our Municipal Mary from 1964. Fenway Park is the absolute best ballpark I’ve been to…of those that didn’t appeal to me as much as Shea did. It was just an instinctive feel. No knock on Fenway (not even with 1986 in our corner). No knock on the parks directly behind Fenway either. I admire the new classics like Pac Bell and Turner and Coors, but as alluring as they were, they couldn’t lure me from Shea if Shea was on one side of the street and one of those modern contrivances was on the other. I loved visiting that which beckoned and glittered, but I could never imagine wanting to stay away from Shea Stadium to spend more time in those places.

I wish I could spend more time at Shea right now. Two seasons of Citi Field haven’t dulled that desire. I’ve only recently managed to automatically go to Citi in my mind when I think “Mets game,” and it’s not instantly automatic. Sometimes it’s still Shea. In November, when I think of baseball, when I think of Mets, I think of orange seats and blue walls and perfect symmetry. I think of the speckles that preceded the 1980 makeover, like sprinkles on the cupcake I just had to take a bite out of the first time I eyed it from the Grand Central. I think of the murmur that began to pulsate with a runner on first and nobody out in the bottom of the ninth, the Mets down a run. I think of the likes of Lenny Harris being showered with plaudits for breaking the career pinch-hit record at the tail end of 2001 because when we speckled Shea, we were sincere in overdoing our appreciation for modest Met accomplishments.

I think of the aforementioned Game 37, from 1985. Rick Aguilera gave up a single in the first and then mowed down Expos inning after inning. When Tim Wallach doubled to lead off the eighth, there was a palpable awww in the stands. My god, we’re disappointed because our pitcher lost his bid for a ONE-HITTER. That felt uniquely Shea to me even though, until the next night, I’d never seen a game anywhere else.

I think of the aforementioned Game 155, a Thursday afternoon in 1999 against the Marlins, an appetizer for my mini-vacation in Boston. Took a half-day from work, barely made my train from Penn Station, got to my seat just after the game started. I remember I had brought an apple. Four-hundred plus games at Shea, and I never did that before or again. But it was lunchtime and I was on a fruit kick. I’m just gonna sit here and eat my apple and wait for the Mets to get the big hit they’ve been getting almost every game lately. One apple, one John Olerud double and one Robin Ventura single later, the Mets took the lead. Mostly I remember the apple, the serenity and the first good thing I ever saw Melvin Mora do. He made a splendid catch near the left field line of a fly ball struck by great-hitting pitcher Liván Hernandez. At the time, Mora was batting .000, so it was good to see him contribute.

Three months later, I’d see Melvin Mora define my favorite Shea Stadium game ever. I think of that, too. I think of the game behind it, Todd Pratt, same year, same month…same week. I think of 1999 when I think of Shea. I think of 2000 and 2006; and 1986 and 1985; and my first game in 1973; and my last game — its last game — in 2008.

I can’t think of all that and not think Shea beats almost everywhere I’ve ever been.


Aside from being my Home Plus (and the permanent repository for my Big Love), Shea serves in this countdown as a true dividing line. It’s No. 6. So you’d have to figure that anything I see fit to place above Shea Stadium would have be to something extraordinary. And by my reckoning, five ballparks fit that description. They are the places that, on their given day, I decided I’d prefer to be instead of Shea.

Imagine that…I’d theoretically cross Roosevelt Avenue and willingly spend a game somewhere besides Shea Stadium. It’s true. It’s not an anti-Shea thing. It’s a ballpark thing. Five ballparks were just that captivating to me. I look forward to sharing my stories from those magical venues starting next week.

In the meantime, I’ll settle in at Shea, if only in my mind.


There were approximately 55,300 seats in Shea Stadium, and it feels like I’ve written that many appreciations of it and tributes to it ever since the announcement of April 6, 2006 that served to herald its death sentence. The following is an excerpt from one of those appreciations and tributes, first published on November 14, 2006.


Whether Shea Stadium is afforded the cachet in death it’s been deprived in life remains to be seen. Its backstory — a municipal stadium situated among the parkways, amenable to several types of events, ideal for none — is 410 feet removed from the musty tatters of the Polo Grounds and Ebbets Field (former home of the Brooklyn Dodgers, in case you hadn’t heard). Shea probably won’t be bygone enough in our time to evoke objective wistfulness. The second the Mets can’t gin up nostalgia to sell everything from it that would otherwise go into a Dumpster, they’ll barely mention it. Thus, it’s on those of us who sat in it, stood in it, leaped in it and high-fived in it to give it the round of applause it’s earned…to love it in the present-tense while we still can.

We know the superb and the supernatural have occurred here. You can run down the catechism with minimal prompting, Casey to Mookie, Rocky to Robin, Agee to Endy, Del Unser to Delgado, John Lennon and Paul McCartney to John Maine and Paul Lo Duca (not to mention Jim Bunning to Jeff Suppan…sigh). We all know, too, our own histories: the first time we were brought here as kids; the first or last time we took our loved ones; that time it was so cold or so warm (sometimes in the course of the same week or same game, depending on your ticket); and, oh, that time it was so much fun. Say Shea and you’ve probably said all you need to say to conjure countless memories and umpteen emotions.

What I think is easy to overlook is how well we — counting us as Mets — and it go together. Hell, by the end of Game Six against St. Louis, I couldn’t tell us apart. Where was that corporate vibe that was going to quiet everybody and everything in October because every other fanny in every other seat would belong to a well-connected frontrunner? The place was more alive than I’d ever heard it or felt it. After Billy Wagner put out his final fire of 2006, we were sweating, we were trembling, we were barely able to stand. In other words, we were Shea and Shea was us. In tandem, we were just trying to hang on for one night more than we’d been told we had left.

Into each life a little rain must fall. Rain pours on Shea. Wind howls into it. It was allegedly supposed to be covered by a dome or at least be closed off. It didn’t and it wasn’t. If you believe Robert Caro’s assertion that Shea was Robert Moses’ “answer to the Colosseum of the Caesars,” it was never going to.

Hence, Shea is immune to nothing. Nor are we. We sit outside too long. We sniffle. We hurt. We don’t hold up perfectly in the course of a long year. Our calves go south at the worst possible juncture. Whether we throw or we house or we cheer, we’re all bound to be a little rickety in our forties.

But we are who we are. We don’t march in lockstep. We are not of one mind. We don’t all don navy windbreakers or red caps. We’re a little raggedy around the edges. We are individuals with our own quirks. Half a row loves the Met who’s at bat, the other half is actively demanding he be packed off to Seattle ASAP. The bon mots share vocal space with the You Sucks. We are individuals woven together for common cause. Shea, in that sense, is one of us.

I don’t see a cookie cutter — unless a chunk of cookie got stuck in the pan. Quick, how many other stadia have looked like Shea? Even in the multipurpose ’60s, nobody else mimicked the Colosseum. Credit/blame the vision of master builder Moses or architects Praeger-Kavanaugh-Waterbury or Mayor Wagner for spending $25 million and getting a three-quarters complete facility a year late for New York taxpayers’ money (John Franco, who grew up in the Marlboro Houses of Bensonhurst and knows a little something about such handiwork, suggested anything built by the city wasn’t going to be all that nice). Shea may not measure up to the antiquities its generation replaced in terms of stone originality, but it was also never the Vet or Three Rivers. It was open. It was inviting. It was distinctive, even.

Before the Cardinals built the current Busch Stadium, they toyed with renovating the old one, specifically ripping open the outfield to provide a good glimpse of the Mississippi. Some computer models were worked up, one of which was dismissed by management as looking “too much like Shea Stadium.”

As if that could be a bad thing.

To really get Shea, sit in the Upper Deck, in left field. From high on in Section 36, say, as I did on a July afternoon seven years ago. From there, you see it all. You see why we’re where we’ve been since 1964. You see the lush green Moses yearned to develop into New York City’s premier park…the highways that link to create the heart of the Metropolitan area…the Long Island Rail Road station — “your steel thruway to the Fair gateway,” as it was advertised in the 1964 yearbook — originally opened to usher visitors to baseball over here and Peace Through Understanding over there…the IRT, also known as the 7 train, because, well, this was a City field.

That day, as prelude to Matt Franco zinging Mariano Rivera, I understood as I never did before the great truth of Shea Stadium. It was built for us. It was built for us kids, many of whom had parents who moved east, from Brooklyn, from Queens. It was meant to be our playground, our day care center. “I used to say,” Ron Swoboda once recalled, “that the Mets were the biggest babysitting service in the city.”

We raised a fuss and made a racket, but that was all right because we helped drown out the planes (does anybody even still notice the planes?). There’s a reason, I decided, home plate more or less faced Long Island — Great Neck, maybe — without decisive obstruction. It was gesturing toward us kids to come on over and come on in and come play. It was big but not daunting. It was colorful: yellows, later oranges. It had to be designed for or by children. “Tinker Toy architecture,” George Vecsey described it. The ballpark, like the team, was a gift to us, the kids who toddled out of the early ’60s. Did it have to be left open at one end? Let’s just infer that Mr. Moses and Mr. Wagner simply didn’t finish wrapping it in time for Christmas morning, April 17, 1964, and we were too anxious to wait another minute.

Shea’s youthful exuberance, even in middle age, remains its charm. Where else could have…






…taken off as it did in 2006? Jose Reyes heard those chants in Japan. He said they reminded him of Shea Stadium. So did Manny Acta. So did Ryan Howard, not altogether cheerfully.

That’s how we roll. We’ve never needed ThunderStix. We don’t really require the cues from DiamondVision. We know enough to get out of our chairs and go to the window, as it were. It’s what we do. We brought the ethic of Roger Angell’s “’Go!’ Shouters” over from the Polo Grounds and expanded upon it.

Has there ever been a purer exhortation of faith than LET’S GO METS!? It’s concise without being neat, raucous without being threatening. It can’t be contained, which is why it’s ideal for a horseshoe like Shea. It’s three easy syllables, perfect for the kids and the kid in each of us. The scoreboard need never rev it up again for it to be generated twenty times a game. It rises when we’re hitting and when we’re fielding. It squirts out with nobody on and it rocks the Queens night when the bases are loaded. It’s ours. I’m sure it will survive the trek across the parking lot but I can’t imagine it will ever translate to as much a part of home after 2008.

William A. Shea, the superlawyer whose Continental League machinations led to the formation of the Metropolitan Baseball Club of New York (we should really name something after that guy), was a renowned mover and shaker. That makes sense because if you’ve sat in the upper deck for a playoff game, you know it moves and it shakes. I stood still for it in 2000, frozen when I assumed my demise awaited me below, somewhere in the mezzanine. But we survived. When things started quaking again this October, I joined in the jumping. If me adding my full force to a condemned structure couldn’t kill it, what could?

Oh yeah. Progress. We’re back to that.

32 comments to Take Me Out to Shea Stadium

  • J

    Sniff. I’m sorry. I’ve got something in my eyes.

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by You Gotta Believe!, Greg Prince. Greg Prince said: This Flashback Friday, It's Memories of Home: Take Me Out to Shea Stadium #Mets […]

  • That was almost our first game together: you made your Shea-but a mere 5 days after I did.

  • Jim

    As my e-mail name attests I love Shea Stadium, It was always fun to visit other baseball parks and while I have not been to as many as you, I have had my share. Visiting Wrigley was cool (They have pennants on the roof signifying all the years the Cubs won something (including 1969 when they won Jack Squat. Are they still in denial?) Visiting Fenway was a dream come true since I was always enamored with that place since I first saw it in 75. Montreal was the worst of the parks but it looked much more cozier in 2004 and much more expansive in 2009. All these parks and the others (Camden, The Vet,Citizens Bank were all a thrill to visit) and even after avoiding the Bronx for years until the Mets graced it with it’s presence as much as I wanted to hate the place as much as I hate the team I had to admit this is a nice place. But while these are nice places to visit they are not home. Shea is and always will be, Citi Field simply does not do it for me as Shea did. It’s a nice place but it is just not Shea. People say to me it is only a building but for me,you and everyone who understands it was and always will be as you said, “The Emerald Kingdom” a place where we went to see our dreams come true and even when those dreams turned dark and grim it may have made us upset at the Mets but never took the Magic from Shea. I don’t feel cheated when it comes to Shea, Yes I was upset when the Mets choked in 2007 and 2008 and failed to give Shea one last October, Yes I was upset that the Yankees beat the Mets (Game 4) in the only World Series I got to see there or that Yadier Molina ruined Game 7 in 2006 but I was and always will be grateful for the 13 playoff games I did see. Baseball and the Mets will dissapoint us and we just have to live it but when the Glory comes it is awesome. Every year I pick the Mets for one reason, They are my team but many years reality steps in and the Mets fall short,but soon the year will come when reality and fantasy will mesh together again and I and all Met fans will be have a joy and happiness that no Yankee fan could ever experience despite (as they will always remind us of their 27 titles) and it will be cool to see Citi Field get her first but I suspect a bit of sadness of the thought how much cooler if it was at Shea. If I ever become a billionaire (Don’t hold your breath) I am going to buy the Mets tear down Citi and rebuild Shea!

  • Florida Met Fan Rich

    My best memory and one of the my best baseball moments happened at Shea.

    June 21,1964 Jim Bunning’s perfect game on fathers day!..I was 8 years old there with my father. I even remember Johnny Stephenson making the last out.

    But rating Shea 6 out of 34 for ballparks might be a stretch!!

  • Stan

    I was in the upper deck for game 1 of the 2006 LDS. If you ever wanted to feel that upper deck literally move, you should have been up there for a certain play where two Dodgers were tagged out at the plate on the same play.

  • March'62

    I grew up about a mile from Shea and my friends and I would walk/sprint there all the time. Unfortunately, my prime years were mid-70s to mid-80s and I saw a lot of losing over those years. Ironically, my only WS game was game 2 of 1986 when Gooden got shellacked and the place was empty by like the 7th inning which is the way I was used to it.

    It may be heresy to say it on this site but my love of Shea comes from the football games I went to there. Seeing it for the first time all turned around to accomodate the gridiron was like seeing your blonde wife wearing a brunette wig for the first time. You just stare and stare and try to figure out how something could look so different and yet be the same. I remember going to a Jets playoff game against Buffalo where I could swear the stadium was bouncing completely off the ground.

    I’m just glad they put the new stadium in the same spot and didn’t move it to Long Island or Manhattan. I hope new memories of winning big games will create a bond with Citi Field for the Mets and their fans. And hopefully it will happen soon. Let us say Amen.

    • Greg

      They should have moved the park closer to the heart of NYC, and definitely closer to Brooklyn.

      They’ve managed to get it looking like Ebbets, but it’s not enough.

      When NY lost two teams, the Giants fans at least had the Yankees, if they wanted to see a game, a half mile away.

      Brooklyn fans, by contrast, must first take public transportation all the way into Manhattan, and then all the way back out to Flushing.

      If you move out of NYC, it should be your lot in life to figure out how to get to an urban event. If you live in NYC, and particular if you’re a baseball fan in Brooklyn, it shouldn’t have to take 1.5 hours to get home by subway. Farther than Yankee Stadium! How were Brooklyn fans appeased?

      As for Shea, it was the wave of the future, the new cookie cutter stadium. It was situated in a place which has no life: a dead zone. It’s still a dead zone. It’s the difference between the Cubs and White Sox. The Cubs play in a neighborhood. The Yankees play in a neighborhood, never left it, in the ‘white flight’ panic.

      Even though Shea was a disaster, I would rather have renovated it than built the new ballpark. The perfect circular stands had an elegance to them, even if they were looking out on chop shops. They could have reimagined it, reinvented it.

      I like Citifield, don’t get me wrong, but the forced contours in the OF make me feel like I’m at any of the new cookie-cutter suburban baseball parks. They took the prevailing ideas and regurgitated them, with some Brooklyn nostalgia and local food.

      All in all, Shea was not optimized to baseball, and that’s one reason it’s gone.

  • Joe D.

    I’m an original New Breeder who went from the Polo Grounds to Shea to (finally this season) Citi Field and I think you all know what my feelings are about our former home.

    As Greg mentioned, Shea underwent a face lift in 1980 and though that wasn’t so bad (I still preferred the speckled squares hanging from the rods) the drastic changes that followed ruined our home instead of enhancing it by not keeping Shea simple. The beautiful simplicity of Shea was it’s best asset. Beautiful skyline views not blocked by giant Budweisser signs and those on the light towers. No cluttering of pictures all over the place allowing one to see through the skeleton of the park both from within and without. The bright, yellow field level boxes creating cheerfulness instead of the dark drab orange.

    And then the Wilpons just let it rot in the ground.

    Yes, we were further away from the action but at least we were able to see all the field. And what a beautiful field that was.

    I wish the Mets would rebuild Shea exactly as was back in 1964 on the very spot that it was and tear down Citi Field. I’d even donate my prized Shea Stadium brick to help the cause.

  • Jon Shafran

    My favorite moment at Shea was Todd Pratt’s playoff Home Run just over Steve Finley’s grasp but my favorite play was the triple play that the Giants hit into which started with Olerud fielding a smash from I believe JT Snow, looking Bonds back to 3rd throwing to Ordonez for the 1st out who threw back to 1st and Olerud catching the 2nd out and turning to nail Bonds at the plate. Remarkable !!

  • Lenny65

    I miss the old girl, I really do. Driving down the highway, passing the airport area and getting that first clear glimpse of that big blue bowl was always so exciting. Sure, the bowels of Shea were sort of grimy and somewhat unpleasant but once you went through the tunnel and saw the field, it was home and that’s all it ever needed to be. Shea was a place you went to see the Mets play ball, there were no fancy eateries or swank taverns or modern gift emporiums to distract you from the issue at hand: a Mets game. It was weird and quirky in an organic sort of way, unlike Citi Field with its pretentious, weird-for-the-sake-of-weird little artificial quirks. I really miss the old scoreboard, I remember being there in Sept. 2008 and not being able to imagine a home game without it as a backdrop.

    The first time I ever went to Shea when it was truly rocking was in 1985, a Saturday Game Of the Week (vs. Chicago) with Doc on the mound. Up to that point my only Shea trips had been to games during the cellar-dwelling late 70’s & early 80’s. There was no crowd like a jacked-up full house at Shea, the place just had a vibe when things were going well.

  • *sigh* That pretty much says it all.

    I can’t wait until 2038 when Citi Field is torn down and we get our replica of Shea with all the modern amenities.

  • Metsadhd

    Was there for the perfect game, there for the pennant in 2000, memories I will take to the grave.

  • beautiful piece Greg! just beautiful, as was Shea.

  • Frank

    I was 13 when Shea opened. What anticipation…what a difference from the old Polo Grounds. I couldn’t play hookey (nor get tickets) for opening day, but I did go to game 2……and thanks to my son…I went to the last game at Shea.
    I saw many meaningless games there but a lot of really famous games in Met history….but the old girl never shook as much nor was as loud as for game 7-1986.
    In a sense, my kids grew up there also. No matter what our differences were or whatever lack of communication there was (at one point all four were teenagers)…we always had the Mets and Shea. Even today, though they are all adults and scattered, we meet at Citifield, visit our brick, and watch the Mets.
    It was home, a place I truly felt comfortable in. It was a part of my life that no other building or inanimate object ever came close to.
    It really is hard to explain. I know she was past her prime, I know she was ridiculed by other fans…but she was mine and I still miss her…..go figure.

    • Joe D.

      Hi Frank,

      Always great to read from another original new breeder. While others have joined us over the years, there is nothing like the originals, just like with the Mets.

      I was able to see Shea Stadium from my parent’s bedroom window from our apartment across the East River in the Bronx – we had an open and clear view and often saw it through a pair of binoculars Was in school that first Friday and we also saw it from our home room window – wondering if it would collapse from the weight of the crowd because there were no pillars to hold it up.

      Citi Field might have the same type of sentiment for those kids just getting into the Mets at this time, but I wonder if it will still have the same mystic, being the Mets were only three years old and Shea was one of the first born of the modern era.

  • Frank

    Hey Joe D…
    A lot of these posters really make me feel old. I guess not too many rememember 1962 and the Polo Grounds. OMG, pretty soon 50 years!
    I don’t know if this generation of kids will have the same feelings we do when Citifield is gone. There is so much more to occupy them.
    All I needed was $1.30 for a ticket, subway fare, and my mom’s sandwich and I was set. I practically lived at Shea as a kid (I also needed one of my mom’s old bedsheets).

  • Tom

    Hey guys, just a question. Looking at the 1973 program cover (and even though I had one, who would have thought to keep THAT? Jeez, I was only 11 years old):
    The photo looks like a mound meeting: Berra, Harrelson, Dyer, a lefty (cannot tell from here, but is that Koosman?)…and…Cleon Jones?

    What would the left fielder be doing at a meeting on the mound, or are my eyes playing tricks on me?

    Tom from Mets On Deck

  • Bobby F.

    I’m reminded of Piazza referring more than once to that unique Shea roar, ‘like a locomotive,’ when the Mets were rallying.

    I live 3,000 miles away now, in the city which houses the current world champs. But I still watch just about all 162 Mets’ games. At a glance, from nearby or afar, I always knew when it was Shea on the screen. Not so now — at least not yet — with Citi. Too often I confuse our current home with the park in Denver, or the beautiful, new field in Pittsburgh, or ….

    Here’s hoping Citi becomes as unique as Shea was to all Mets fans — from the Moseses to the Caroses to the Murphys.

  • […] Me Out to Wrigley Field by Greg Prince on 19 November 2010 6:00 am Welcome to Flashback Friday: Take Me Out to 34 Ballparks, a celebration, critique and countdown of every major league ballpark one baseball fan has been […]

  • […] me to love a ballpark more (or at least rate it higher) than Shea, there has to be one instant very early in my immersion inside it when, without my brain doing […]

  • […] what I’m really getting at…what I suppose I’m always getting at…is why the hell did Shea Stadium have to […]

  • […] of mine. Whether it’s six innings one unplanned evening far from home; or thirty-six seasons in what you considered your home; or the throwback field exponentially enhanced by an ingeniously resuscitated warehouse; or the […]

  • DGW

    “Actually, in its way, it was better than home. You need a literal home, but you also need a place you just want to be…y’know? Home carries certain responsibilities, not all of them desirable, depending on what else is going on in your life. The place where you just want to be is there for you, free and clear of baggage.”

    That was my shea, too.

    Sniff – I have something in my eye…