(Long Island, NY) Badly in need of a new place to play, the New York Mets announced that they will build a brand new ballpark in the shadows of Shea Stadium, to be ready by opening day 2009. While that is outstanding news, seeing that old cookie cutter being destroyed will be a sad day.
Obviously not held in the same regard as a classic place such as Ebbets Field, the sadness will be different from when the baseball painted wrecking ball broke up the foundation of professional baseball in Brooklyn. Of course, that gloomy day in 1961 was apples and oranges because the Dodgers had already left town four years earlier. The Mets are upgrading, not abandoning. But when Shea is lying in rubble, we all are going to remember that first day when we walked through the tunnel to find our seat as a child to watch our heroes in person for the first time.
Personally, I never had a problem with the current stadium. Going to both Mets and Jets games starting in the 1970s, I thought it was a great place. Maybe not as impressive as Yankee Stadium, but it felt like home. Too many people knock it, but it does have some good attributes.
How many great moments happened at the ballpark in Flushing? From Jim Bunting’s perfect game on Father’s Day 1964 to Mike Hampton’s complete game pennant clincher in 2000, this stadium has seen some exciting games. Win or lose.
The Miracle Mets in 1969, the 1973 come back, the dominance that was 1986, the series changing home run by Mike Scoscia off Doc in the NLCS. Even the lean years had some moments. Lee Mazzilli playing centerfield a few subway stops from home, Darryl Strawberry becoming a force in 1983, the huge home runs by Mike Piazza, including the game winner versus Atlanta the first game back after the tragedy that was September 11th. Nothing can take that away.
Maybe Mets owner Fred Wilpon is giving back a little that was taken away when the Dodgers moved by emulating that beautiful ballpark with a rotunda that will make fans think they have stepped back into time. The retro look the new stadium will have is an honor to the game of the past. If the Shea Stadium that I have known and loved must be replaced, it may as well be reminiscent of the one stadium I wish I could have attended.