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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.

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Reporting from Brand New Shea Stadium

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the opening of Shea Stadium, I thought I’d reprint my post from April 17, 1964, in case you missed it the first time around.

Well, you can’t say it isn’t big. Or bright. They said it would be both and it surely is.

I’m just not sure it feels like home yet.

Listen, we’ve all known this place has been coming for more than two years, but that doesn’t make Shea Stadium any less shocking upon entering it for the first time. It’s not just the structure, which is so obviously different from our beloved Polo Grounds. It’s the location. Now when I want to go to a game, I have to go to Queens.

Queens? Who goes to Queens? Unless you’re catching a flight, who makes Queens their destination? The Beatles came to Queens in February, but it’s not like they hung around. They vamoosed to Manhattan, just like we used to. The World’s Fair is in Queens (and won’t we know it from the traffic?), but that’s temporary. Soon enough, the “World” will move on, but the Mets will still be there.

In Flushing. Now that I’m compelled to stare at it, that’s not exactly the most enticing-sounding of locales. Of course “sound” is all relevant when you take into account all those planes heading into and out of neighboring LaGuardia. Yup, a lot of people are still catching flights in Queens and you’ll hear all about it, especially when you’re sitting in the top section of the stadium as I was. You can hear the planes. You can hear the trains. You can hear the organ, which is pretty nice, actually. And if you squint real hard, you can see Casey Stengel.

Wake up, Case. We’ve got a new stadium.

Shea (can we just call it that for short?) is more dazzling than comforting, though I suppose familiarity will come with time. True to the propaganda, I wasn’t stuck behind a post. I was stuck in front of some idiot taunting Ed Bauta, “Hey, BAUTA, you shouldn’ta BOUGHT A house! Just rent!” Clever the first time, not so much the twentieth time.

Hearing yourself think at Shea will be a challenge, but not as much as tuning out the occasional rotten apple. Goodness I hope that guy or his spiritual equivalent doesn’t happen every time I go to a game.

The game itself, you might have heard over WHN, was a Mets game, which is to say it was a Mets loss, no big surprise there. New plot of real estate, same plot in the standings. Three games into the season, still no wins. Ceremonial folderol notwithstanding (whose idea was that square Guy Lombardo?), the real christening was provided by Willie Stargell homering over the green fence in the second inning to put the Pirates out in front with the first run in the history of Shea Stadium. Stargell would probably hit a lot of home runs if he played half his games at Shea…except they wouldn’t let him face Jack Fisher, so never mind that. We did get a lead in the fifth — ignited by Ron Hunt; gosh, I love Ron Hunt — but could it last? Can anything last with this team?

Shea Stadium appears built to last. Like I said, it’s huge. You don’t plant something like that upon a meadow and expect it not to be there someday. They probably said something similar about the Polo Grounds, but progress said something different. Shea feels very progressive, though, like this is where we’re headed, if I can get sociological for a minute. That big globe at the World’s Fair, this big stadium with its space-age scoreboard, those enormous blue and orange speckles on the side and all the stuff that just shouts “NOW!” There’s an unfinishedness to it all, but that’s all right. There’s an unfinishedness to our civilization (unless Barry Goldwater finishes us all off). There’s certainly an unfinishedness to our ballclub.

There’s gotta be. There’s gotta be more to the Mets than what we’ve seen through two years plus three games. We do have Hunt. We do have Hickman, who I think is gonna come around one of these years. Kranepool pinch-hit (hard to remember he’s not even twenty yet). Gonder is up to .444 and Fisher is only 25, which isn’t really that old. Jerk behind me had a point about Bauta’s housing plans (gave up five hits in two-and-a-third for the loss), but there’s supposed to be some real talent somewhere in this system.

Then again, that’s what they’ve been telling us since 1962. Considering they’re charging an outrageous $3.50 for box seats, it would be nice if the talk could turn into action by, I don’t know, the end of this decade maybe? I don’t mean to be an impatient New Yorker, but I’m an impatient New Yorker. If they can build a stadium inside of three years, even accounting for construction delays, why can’t they build the Mets into something sooner?

Sorry, I shouldn’t be so cynical on the day we were presented with this new and impressive ballpark. To be fair (if not worldly), I can see virtually the entire field at Shea but I can’t see the future. Still, think how much bigger and brighter it would look if we could win a few games. Or one.

At least the escalators work, the staff is unfailingly friendly and the men’s rooms are clean and efficient. If that’s not progress, I don’t know what is.

17 comments to Reporting from Brand New Shea Stadium

  • Mike K

    This was a great read. But where did you post this back in the day? What medium was it presented in? Did you really write this in 1964?

  • Mike K

    Hahaha!! Awesome!

  • Ken K. in NJ

    I was there, Loge seats, no view of fly balls. In fact today I exchanged E mails with my HS pal Jay who I went with. Our only shared vivid recollection was Stargell’s Home Run, line drive to Right. We both seem to recall it went into the mezzzanine stands rether than over the green fence, but if there’s video out there that says otherwise, I’ll defer to that.

    We certainly didn’t recall that Jesse Gonder batted cleanup. Yet, if any current Met was batting .444 he’d be batting cleanup too. I just looked it up, and based on that hot 4 for 9 start he started fairly regularly for the next 10 days or so, by which time his average was down to exactly half that, .222.

    Great report, thanks!

    PS: It’s esculators, not escalators….

  • Parth

    Funny stuff- Hard to believe we’re going into our 6th season at Citi- I remember the relentless attacks on WFAN of what we give up by having seats closer to the field at Citi-implication was the Yankees did it right, and we cut corners- complete BS- most Yankee fans give us credit for superior ballpark and announcers.

  • Dave

    You could have sold this off as a real article if you didn’t talk about clean men’s rooms at Shea. That’s where you can’t possibly fool anyone.

    Still our spiritual home until something happens elsewhere.

  • Seth

    Just. Brilliant. My brother was actually at this game, at age 13. Yet poignant, as 50 years later the building is, in fact, not there anymore.

  • Kevin From Flushing

    Happy 50 Shea!

    This is exactly the kind of reaction I imagine most of us would give to Shea coming from the Polo Grounds. Makes me hope we’ll all grow to love Citi in its own right one day, but… well, it’s hard to imagine. I mean, they’ve been losing at Citi from Day One.

  • Scott M.

    When the team was good, Shea was great. When they weren’t good, Shea was terrible.

    I’ll never forget that last season – they just let the building run down to the ground. Overflowing toilets out into the concourse. Hardly anywhere to walk.

    I miss the good times at Shea but look forward to better days at City (not giving them free advertising…)

  • Ryan

    I heard they were still painting outfield fences the morning of the game!* Typical Paysons.

    *this is true

    • Ryan

      Also, where’s the orange and blue? I… oh, I’ve just been informed it’s all over the outside of the stadium.

  • rich porricelli

    the exterior took an ugly turn in the 80’s..that neon was not welcomed by me!! the orange and blue tiles where so simple and perfect- that was the classic Shea look! the place was really so simple but it still had those little nooks and blind spots and glimpses of those first few early years..they parked ( the players ) under the scoreboard or where dropped off by there wifes or girl friends we got autographs and spoke to them..you rattled around in the place on summer days before or during the games…God it was great!!!

  • Nestornajwa

    Robert Moses was a huge Guy Lombardo fan, so I’m certain that had something to do with it. Moses tended to get what he wanted. Not sure how he felt about the Beatles.

    I loved Shea. I loved the noise, the big-game feel, the parking (except during that damn tennis nonsense), even the neon additions in the 80s. Only RFK was louder, and only when the Skins were winning. I hate this place. I don’t think that will ever change, even if they win something here.

  • Fart_Trapped_In_Couch

    I loved Shea. I never thought it was a dump. It was always beautiful to me.

  • Lou

    Clever. Yes it’s a great ballpark. It should be here for centuries. :)