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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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The Things I Miss the Most

Exactly one year after we left it for the last time, I think I miss the enormity of the place most of all. It was big. I don't think I realized how big until I noticed how relatively small the new place is. You wouldn't think a humongous stadium would be something you'd miss in an era when intimacy is supposed to be prized. But I knew that when I was there I was somewhere.

I miss the grandeur, which I consider a different quality than sheer bigness. I miss the sense that I'm sitting before a grand stage, about to be party to something magnificent. Even though I understand what felt magnificent going in often wound up mundane coming out, I loved the anticipation. And I miss that.

I miss, in a way, not knowing where I was staring when I stared into the crowd. These days I can identify everything and everybody at a glance. There's no mystery to it. The transparency is nice, I suppose, but it's another reminder of how small everything feels. I didn't know, without counting off blocks of seats, which section was which. It was a little game I'd play with myself. “I was in Section 36 when Matt Franco singled off Mariano Rivera — if Section 48 is the last one, let me work my way back from there and see if I can find where I was sitting.” Silly, I know, but I did it now and then.

I miss linking the spots I found to the great games I saw. Of course I haven't seen any great games in the new place. None have been played.

I miss the symmetry. Symmetry went out of style the same time as bigness, but it just made so much more sense. If a ball was heading out, it was heading out; no guessing games regarding fence height and effect on play. If it was in the gap, the gap was ascertainable. I miss the honesty of the symmetry. 410 to center, 338 down the lines, 371 in the gaps…it was true every time.

I miss watching the game. There weren't distractions everywhere, though I admit I could decide not to be distracted if I really didn't want to be. I miss there being little temptation to get up and wander around, though I could decide not to get up and wander around if I really didn't want to. I miss the focus a symmetrical, few-frills facility filled with memories could give you, even on a lousy night.

I miss the sightlines. I don't think we ever appreciated the sightlines. Even before the new place, there was always this “it wasn't built exclusively for any one sport, therefore it isn't ideal for any” meme we all accepted as gospel. I realize now that was nonsense. If not ideal, it was suitable for following a ball and a fielder and a runner. The new place is not. I've sampled all kinds of seats in the place — titled seats, no less — and unless you hit the jackpot, it absolutely sucks for watching a baseball game. I miss taking for granted that I could watch the game pretty easily. From the back of Loge and Mezzanine you would lose sight of a fly ball. From the corners of the Upper Deck, you were watching ants at play. From down the lines on Field Level you could find yourself at a bit of a neck-craning loss. But ultimately you were, if not “on top of the action,” on top of the game. I'm surprised how much I don't see in the new place. I'm surprised how much I saw in the old place.

I miss the crowd as it was. I hate to admit it since quite often I couldn't stand the booing and the drunkenness and the forays into fighting, but without the booing and the drunkenness and the forays into fighting, it's missing something. Is it possible the 13,000 missing seats all belonged to the people you wouldn't want sitting near you yet were part of the tapestry of what made a ballgame a ballgame? Let's be clear: There are still idiots. It would be hard to gather the most modest sea of humanity and not have idiocy break out in some pocket, but the current lagoon doesn't have the flair it once did. I don't really miss the people who booed, drank and fought, but I miss, on some intangible level, their presence.

I miss there being a game and nothing else. I miss that except for the beer, bathroom and chow lines, there was nowhere else for people to be. I miss the game being the magnet that attracted people.

I miss the backdrop that was perfect scenery before it began to be obstructed by the new place. I miss that sense of place, that sense that we didn't have to be shielded from the outside world. We see some stuff now, but those feel like incidental, accidental sightings. I miss the integration of the foreground and the background.

I miss the ramps. Those were grand, communal exits. I miss how the ramps wound and the game that just concluded continued as long as you were winding your way down and around them. You were still talking and chanting and living the game. It stayed with you. It doesn't as much anymore.

I miss the letter-perfect scoreboard, no matter how imperfect its letters and lightbulbs made it sometimes. Everything you needed to know was always there. It's something that was set up beautifully at the beginning and it was something that worked wonderfully right to the end, save perhaps for some final scores.

I miss the color scheme. It was unapologetically tacky. It was us.

I miss the pathways in the middle of the levels. I miss reading the t-shirts and the uniform tops. I miss the signs and the banners carried forth. I miss being able to spot the vendors and calculating how long it would take their journey to reach my row. I miss that you could be getting up and leaving and still be watching the game.

I miss the network of runways, section after section, that revealed to you, as you walked through one, the shocking green grass below and the utter grandeur of the stage that awaited you. One minute you were on the cusp of a ballgame. Next minute, you were immersed in it. It wasn't dainty. It hit you right away.

I miss knowing I can, on a whim, show up at almost any time to a box office window, hand over a relatively small amount of money and get a perfectly representative ticket for three hours of enjoyment. I understand I can do something similar on a computer, with a credit card, with a touch more advance planning, but it's not the same.

I miss the name. I miss that it was quick and easy, one syllable that said it all. I miss that even without knowing what it stood for, it stood for us, for our team, for our experience. Once you found out the name belonged to somebody who moved mountains to make sure you had a team and a stadium to call your own, you felt even better about it. I miss the name and not having to think about it. I miss the name from when it wasn't a contrarian statement, from when it was just the name.

I miss its being. I regret that no matter how much of it I remember, my memories of it will inevitably get fuzzier. Its existence grows ever more remote from the present. I miss it existing in the present, being the place I go to.

Exactly one year after we left it for the last time, there's plenty I don't miss. I don't miss the distance from the subway to its nearest available entrance. I don't miss the escalators that broke down once per homestand. I don't miss the epic floods in and around the men's rooms. I don't miss the food that wasn't up to third grade cafeteria snuff. I don't miss the iron bars in the box seats. I don't miss the lack of lateral movement in those same sections. I don't miss the furtive cigarettes sneaked among the seated patrons long after that sort of thing was prohibited. I don't miss the vertigo in certain spots. I don't miss the lunatic policies that kept you with a ticket from anywhere else away from the Field Level. I don't miss the sense we were being left behind while everybody else's fans were moving ahead.

Then we moved ahead, and in many ways it was fine, even improved, but in many ways, the concept proved overrated. Progress wasn't what it was made out to be. I couldn't be convinced progress was producing for me a better experience than I received in the past. I felt pulled into a future I didn't ask for.

There was a moment this season when I couldn't have been more disconsolate about what the future had become. I sought solace in a DVD recording of the final game ever played in the old place. Before I was overwhelmed by the result of the game itself, I took in the bigness and the grandeur and the life that was in the old place. Upon that viewing, I made my mind up. If I could do it, I'd make the trade in a literal heartbeat. I'd trade the new place for the old place. No questions asked — just bring me back what I had, shortcomings and all. I had resisted this reaction for months, wanting to be fair and open to change and progress-oriented. But I was done with that.

I wanted the new place out of my life. I wanted the old place returned to me.

That was while I watched the DVD and sulked. The next night, upon my next visit to the new place (which, for something I didn't like, I sure found my way to a lot), I expected my remorse to envelop me. Yet it didn't. It felt OK that where I was now was where I was now. It's what was here and would be here going forward. The old place wasn't here. It was gone and remains so. I like to remember and explore the past, but living in it has never appealed to me. The old place was the past. I couldn't move back in. It sunk in that the new place, whatever flaws I found or perceived in it, was here to stay. I already knew that on every logical plane, but spiritually it took a while to click. I could let go of the old place at last.

Which doesn't mean I don't miss it.

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19 comments to The Things I Miss the Most

  • Anonymous

    Good post. I've been one of the guys that's loved the new place, and definitely love it more than any other stadium within a 400 miles radius (haven't been to Camden Yards yet)
    A lot of the things you/we miss about Shea are things that we haven't experienced at Citi…because of the team. Because of the injuries. Because there have been no meaningful games. A lot of the fights and rowdiness that we miss but don't miss don't happen when there is no passion, and there is little passion following this team lately. The same could be said for the distractions. The distractions, due to the newness of it all, and the quality of play on the field, has been great. But you take that game one year ago and move it into Citi Field, and I suspect it'd be much the same.
    I just miss the feel of Shea. The feel of home. I identify Citi Field as home, but it doesn't feel christened yet. The faults haven't become homey yet. (nothing, no stadium, is perfect. it is what is.) There's no one out there saying “I lost Wright's double down the line, and I turned to watch Castillo rounding third with the game winning run. The Mets have clinched the division!” type moments. There's someone out there “I was in the back row of the loge..I couldn't follow the path of Pratt's hit, but I saw Finley jump…and then the stadium, gradually, exploded.”
    Citi Field has a lot to show us yet..then again, so do the 2010 Mets.

  • Anonymous

    Except for the fact that my 'old place' still stands, you've pretty much described what I felt at the end of the 2000 season, when the Giants moved from Candlestick Park to Pacific Bell/SBC/AT&T Park. And I haven't stepped foot in the old place since the 1999 season. It was a dump, but it was our dump.
    I miss the place for many of the same reasons that you miss Shea. Since it still stands, I can still go back and visit, but since it's conversion to a football-only facility there's no way to recapture the feeling of it being a baseball stadium. The only view that looks the same is the view of the park from outside, in the parking lot.
    Thanks for a good read.

  • Anonymous

    Of course I haven't seen any great games in the new place. None of have been played.

    We differ only slightly on this point, Greg.
    I'd classify the “Tatis Grand Slam” game vs. the Rockies as a “great” game, one that brought back — however briefly — the feel of the old place and the hope that better days might lie ahead.
    I dig the new joint. I miss the old one.

  • Anonymous

    I was there for that, Charlie. It was a fine game during the most encouraging stretch of the year, the brief Wild Card illusion of late July and early August. What I remember most about it, however, was walking out of Ebbets Club seats and into the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, my eye reflexively drawn to the Brooklyn Dodgers highlights on the screen when I had just seen the New York Mets win one of their most exhilarating games of the season.

  • Anonymous

    Point taken.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Greg,
    Beautiful words and I'm glad to know you feel that way.
    You know my feelings. Shea was once a beautiful and cheeful place before the Wilpons let it rot into the ground. There was nothing that a few mops, daily maintenance, some spackle and coats of paint couldn't fix.
    For all it's faults, Shea was built so fans could see all the action accompanied by a panaramic backdrop of bridges, Queens and Long Island (especially when lit at night).
    The modern amenities of Citifield? I can take a quick drive to New Rochelle or White Plains anytime I want to see a shopping pavilion.

  • Anonymous

    We're in total agreement until the end. I'd still take Shea back. Don't get me wrong, I accept that Citi is our new home, and I'm trying to have it grow on me, but there's no question I'd choose Shea over it.

  • Anonymous

    If so offered, I'd take it. It's just that I finally came to understand the offer would never be made.

  • Anonymous

    Shea Stadium at Citi Field. I've seen worse.
    How hard is that, Dave Howard and the SkillSets?

  • Anonymous

    I'll say this. You know that I've always been an advocate of the new stadium, and by and large I'm pleased with the place. But the thing I miss most is the view as one is approaching the stadium. Citi Field is just there, but Shea was majestic as one saw it from the train or by car.

  • Anonymous

    Greg, I visit F&FinF everyday but have been unable to do the survey. I look forward to your post everyday and sometimes you hit me squarely in the heart!! I miss Shea too…always will.

  • Anonymous

    Much appreciated, valued reader. My own clicking on of the survey has been a little funky as well. Try it here. Apologies for the inconvenience.

  • Anonymous

    The biggest thing, beyond seating and views and memories, is that it's now Mets owned, instead of City owned. (Mets management jokes aside) This coupled with the much higher 'guaranteed' revenue that comes from season tickets/corporate boxes, sponsorship deals allows the Mets a cushion. It's one less level of red tape involved with renovations, fixing things, construction, etc etc. Hopefully this keeps Citi Field in good condition, where Shea sorta deteriorated.
    Think about where the Mets would be right now, if Citi Field wasn't built. No one would've been there the second half of this year. The revenue from those corporate seats would've been much less. no $20 million from Citi Group. Maddoff probably would have gotten even more money (the money spent on construction) from the Wilpons and we wouldn't be talking about how much more the Mets could spend next year but would be looking to see how many young prospects we could get for Beltran and Santana.

  • Anonymous

    The city's maintenance was not what you'd call shipshape and Bristol fashion. Nor was that of the ownership group that preceded Nelson Doubleday and Fred Wilpon.
    The Mets' timing in bottoming out in 2009 (one hopes this is bottom) was fortuitous, indeed. They were lucky to have sold as many tickets on new park curiosity as they did, and never will again. Another season like this, and Citi Field will, at last, have one thing in common with PNC Park: attendance.
    All that said, a baseball franchise in New York shouldn't be teetering on the brink of hypothetical financial disaster, new park or old. It shouldn't be experiencing it on an artistic level, either, but those are the breaks of the game sometimes.

  • Anonymous

    Nope, they should be able to make a killing financially, no matter what.
    My point was that an 'empty' Citi Field makes them millions more than an 'empty' Shea. Even not counting the naming rights.
    That should mean always being able to spend to improve the team, but I guess it could just as easily mean the Wilpons won't feel the pressure to win to make money either.

  • Anonymous

    Greg, I miss the colors and their contrast. Something I wrote about in my series on my last games at Shea, I wanted pictures of “empty Shea” to capture the colors before people were in the seats. I never bought into the Mets propganda about Shea not serving either sport (baseball or football) well. I never saw it for football, but it served baseball well in my days. And they could have fixed things to make it serve better. They had 25 years. And I think you're right about the game no longer being the attraction. Sponsors and distractions (including clubs and restaurants) are the attraction. The game is secondary – just watch it from your seat and you can tell that the view wasn't the first thought. I have a great photo in my photo set from the finale of the crowd on the ramps on 4 or 5 levels all watching over Doc Gooden's return to shea from the pregame time – great community experience. You miss the name? “They're on their feet at Shea” “It's Opening Day at Shea”. Can't say that any more.

  • Anonymous

    CharlieH – I was sitting with you at that game. That was probably one of those games I am happy to look back on (if you remember correctly, I was whining that I missed Shea THAT NIGHT) – but with it came the quirks of CitiField – due to our seats, we had to actually view the play on the TV and follow the sound of the crowd to see if the ball went out. It was fun, it was interesting and it could have been a turning point for the rest of the season. But right now, we are in mourning b/c Citifield is not yet our home, we haven't had the emotional attachment and Shea is a year gone. It's sad that we can't even have the comfort of home waiting for us anyway.

  • Anonymous

    Other than the GS, having you join Jimmy & me in our seatrs was the highlight of the night!
    Of course I remember you feeling all misty about our former home — One woman's “whining” is another man's “wistful.”

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