— Days Without Shea —

Filed under: History | Mets | Shea
by Kingman on April 17 at 12:01AM


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.WilliamShea_and_mayor

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.

Mets_1964_Sheayearbook

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).

Shea dimensions:

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


[April 17, 2007 8:26 AM]  |  link  |  reply
Ross Jones said

Wow! I had that postcard as a kid. It reminds me of the Joan Payson days. I'm trying to remember if the Wilpon/Doubleday team got rid of the old seats right away when they took over in 1980? I think the first thing they did was remove the cool tiles outside of the ballpark.

[April 17, 2007 9:04 AM]  |  link  |  reply
Kingman said

I think the seats went after the tiles. They didn't paint the stadium blue until after the Jets left, in 1985 I believe.

[April 17, 2007 10:05 AM]  |  link  |  reply
G-Fafif said

The seats went from wooden to plastic in '80, same year the fences were painted blue from green. Part of a cosmetic makeover when there was little that could be done about the team other than acquire Claudell Washington (though the team wasn't so bad in the middle of summer).


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