April 17, 1964. Shea opens its doors to the public for the first time. 50,312 fans watch the Mets lose to the Pirates 4–3 but who cares. The Mets finally have their own home.
Bob Friend gets the win for the Pirates while Ed Bauta takes the loss. Among the many firsts that day:
FIRST BATTER – Dick Schofield.
FIRST MET BATTER – Tim Harkness
FIRST HIT – Willie Stargell, which was also the FIRST HOME RUN.
FIRST SINGLE – Bob Bailyey, Pirates.
FIRST DOUBLE – Ron Hunt.
FIRST TRIPLE – Roberto Clemente.
FIRST STRIKEOUT – Roberto Clemente.
Shea Stadium was more than just a building: it was the incentive that cajoled Major League Baseball to return a National League team to New York after the abrupt departures of the Giants and Dodgers. Mayor Robert Wagner had established a committee in the late 1950’s to figure out how to get another team back into NY, and appointed attorney William Shea the chairman. Shea tried to convince the Reds and Pirates to move, but they refused. Shea then formed a third baseball league as a way to gain leverage with Major League Baseball.
The Continental League would try and compete with the National and American Leagues. Shea knew the third league was doomed but he never expected it to succeed. In fact, the point was to fail. Then he could lobby the U.S. Congress to repeal baseball's antitrust act...unless the National League caved in and gave Shea and New York what it wanted.
In 1960, baseball owners agreed to create two new expansion teams. However, they were hesitant to give New York a franchise unless the city would build a new stadium for the team. Shea begged Wagner to commit to a new stadium, and the mayor telegramed the owners with the promise at their annual baseball meeting. As a result, New York and Houston won the expansion franchises.
For his efforts, the stadium was named William A. Shea Municipal Stadium.
The building was designed to double as a football stadium. The Jets moved in that September. The lower level of seats could be moved and there were plans to completely enclose the stadiume with more seats (with potential seating capacity reaching 90,000+). However, that never happened.
Of all of Shea’s many milestones, in 1975 it became the only professional sports stadium in history to be the home to 2 major league baseball teams (The Mets and The Yankees) and 2 NFL footballteams (The Jets and The Giants).
Foul lines: 341 ft. (1964), 338 ft. (1979)
Bullpens: 358 ft.
Power alleys: 371 ft.
Deep alleys: 396 ft.
Center field: 410 ft.
Happy 43rd birthday, Shea. RELATED LINKS Shea Stadium: National Treasure Shea: The Man Behind The Name April 16, 1964: The Day Before The Creation When The Shea Walls Come Down About Loge13: Tracking the last days of Shea