Monday, September 29, 2008

Farewell to Shea

A lot of my kid memories are tied up in the New York Mets. I was born too late to care about the Dodgers and Giants moving outta town, but I remember how cool it was to have a brand-new baseball team and 10 teams in the National League instead of just eight. I remember sitting on the living room floor with the Newark Evening News, reviewing the baseball standings and the weekly summary of all the individual hitters and pitchers statistics.

I remember watching Tom Seaver almost get a perfect game except for Jim Qualls, who had only 31 major-league hits but one of them went down in history. And the planes flying overhead while Lindsay Nelson, Bob Murphy and Ralph Kiner were trying to call a ballgame. And the little grin on Cleon Jones' face as he caught the final out of Game 5 — it's hard to see that look under the cap on what is now a grainy film from that day.

Shea Stadium was, as Newsday put it today, a "blue collar arena for blue collar fans." You went to that other New York baseball stadium for the shrine stuff and the "team of destiny" crap. You went to Shea for the players who worked as hard as you to cut themselves a break, and when they got one — such as the all-time greatest baseball moment in 1969 — it was glorious.

Here's a great memorial to the stadium, too. I missed the whole thing, but it sounds like the farewell to Shea Stadium was a terrific ceremony, one that completely washed away the bad taste left by the 2008 Mets' disappointing finish. I don't follow the Mets like I did when I was a kid, but I've got a little lump in the throat over the demise of Shea Stadium. It wasn't a grand old ballpark, I suppose, but it was where the Mets played, and that was enough.



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