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Reporting from Brand New Shea Stadium

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the opening of Shea Stadium [1], I thought I’d reprint my post from April 17, 1964 [2], 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 [3].

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 [4], “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 [5] 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 [6], so never mind that. We did get a lead in the fifth — ignited by Ron Hunt [7]; 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.