I went to a Queens Catholic school in the 70’s/80’s. My school never went on organized trips to Shea but there always seemed to be many thousands of other kids who went to the games. In uniform. And often with nuns and priests in clerical garb.
The few nuns we had at my school were huge Met fans. All this led me to two conclusions:
- The Mets were God’s chosen team and therefore
- The Yankees were the team of the Devil.
Years later, we all know these two conclusions are, indeed, true.
But I didn’t know until recently that Bill Shea helped stack the deck thanks to his philanthropic spirit.
In Peter Golenbock’s book “Amazin” the oral history of the Mets, there’s a story about a nun from a Queens Catholic school who called Bill Shea’s office in 1964 and asked for tickets. He happily donated a package of tickets for the school. Word got out and soon other schools and charities began soliciting tickets, under the mistaken impression that Bill Shea actually OWNED Shea Stadium and could give away as many seats as he cared to.
Shea was a pretty wealthy attorney, so he didn’t mind buying and donating tickets. In fact, as time went on, he also kicked in $2 for each child. The money would be given to every child in an envelope and each kid could buy whatever food he or she wanted. This was because when he was a kid sneaking into Ebbetts Field, he couldn’t afford to buy snacks himself and believed every kid should get a chance to eat a hot dog or popcorn at a game.
According to the book, one nun refused to let the kids buy junk food because it would make them sick. “Even if they get sick, that’s part of the experience,” Shea said and refused to donate the tickets until the nun agreed to let the children fatten up on whatever they wanted. The nun lost.
As prices went up, Bill Shea’s $2 envelopes became $4 envelopes. There was never much PR fuss made about Shea’s donations and few people knew why the stands were often overpopulated with parochial school kids and health-crazed nuns.
So the next time you get sick at Shea, remember: Bill Shea would want it that way!
BTW Faith and Fear in Flushing spun some of the other great yarns about Shea from Golenbock’s book awhile back.
Happy Birthday Shea!
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April 16, 1964: The Day Before The Creation
When The Shea Walls Come Down
About Loge13: Tracking the last days of Shea