Winter is behind us. Time for talk is over. Lets play ball.
At 4:10 EST, the Mets start their season in FLA. The Santana era begins. The Shea Stadium era begins to end. Lost in all the noise is the team itself and the 162 games between now and either post-season triumphs or another winter of discontent.
So before the first pitch, here's the view from Loge13 regarding the 2008 version of the Mets and their chances of extending Shea Stadium's lifetime past September:
- Who's on first? Hips. Wrists. Enough already. We need Carlos Delgado to be Carlos Delgado again. 24 HR's and 87 RBI's (his worst totals since 1995). We're looking for a strong start or else Willie has to start thinking about plan B, whatever that is.
- What's on second? Our new second baseman is Luis Castillo. He did a decent job stepping in last year (20 RBI's in 50 games with the Mets). Is he worth the money the Mets threw at him in the offseason? Will Reyes adapt or will he continue to pine for Jose Valentin? Castillo is a player so it will be fun to see what he can do over a full season in New York.
- The new guys. Church and Schneider. On paper, they don't seem much like upgrades to their predecessors (Green and LoDuca). But Church is younger, which is good, and Schneider seems less likely to get along with pitchers and not spend his off-hours playing with horses or hitting on co-eds in cheesy nightclubs, which is also good. Oh and he can throw guys out, which helps. You have to figure not having LoDuca's mouth in the club house every day will help.
- Billy Ball. But we still have Wagner. Our outspoken closer will have his own weekly radio special this year on 1050 ESPN. That's kinda like giving Vince Coleman a gross of fireworks. Wagner will undoubtedly irritate some or all of his teammates before the season is over. And if he begins 2008 as he ended 2007 (4 blown saves down the stretch), there will be even more to talk about.
- Watching the tomato plants. (Are Pignatano's tomatos still in the bullpen? I think they are gone now but if not, they better get moved across the street next year.) The bullpen was a bit of a mess last year, and the same cast of characters is expected to return, with Matt Wise as a new addition. Sanchez is still recovering and even when he joins, he has alot to prove. Every team needs bullpen help, especially the NL East competitors so chances are, everyone will be complaining about bullpen help come July.
- Starts and fits. With Santana and Martinez, the Mets have the best top 2 in the NL East. Maine and Perez had great seasons and (especially Maine) greats springs to build on. El Duque remained in FLA to continue rehabbing and reinventing his windup. Now Pelfrey gets a chance to impress. He has yet to take advantage of these chances; we'll see if he makes it easy or hard on Willie to demote him once Hernandez is ready.
- Holy Moises. When Alou is in the lineup, we win. Without him, we have troubles. This year, the 42-year-old's body couldn't even make it our of spring training. It stinks but you have to like Angel Pagan's story and spring training line. Bringing Brady Clark north was also a good idea. Alou's absence shouldn't hurt the Mets too much.
- Willie Watch. If you were the manager of the team that had the worst September collapse in modern history, would your job be on the line the following April? You have to figure that a bad start would be a major distraction for this team and Randolph. There was alot of talk last fall (including from Willie himself) that he could have shown more passion and intensity in the waning weeks of 2007. Lets see if his style changes.
- The Shea factor. This is the last season for our favorite stadium. What kind of karma is this hallowed ground going to provide? Will Shea go gently into that good night or will it provide final mischievous memories (black cats parachuting onto the playing field anyone?).
It’s the day before Opening Day (well, technically the season started last week in Asia. Oh, and there’s a game on ESPN tonight. Ah, never mind). I’ll write up my thoughts on the Mets later.
Today there are a pile of baseball preview sections in all the major newspapers. Most of them have tributes to both Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium. The New York Times coverage is fairly typical of all the rest: long on Yankee, short on Shea.
Richard Sandomir has a great column in which he breaks down the technical steps involved with deconstructing Shea Stadium and Yankee Stadium.
The wreckers will arrive at Shea Stadium soon after the Mets’ final home game in late September or sometime in October. In February or March, Yankee Stadium’s dismantling will begin. The old ballparks will be taken apart piece by piece over two to three months with hydraulic jackhammers, blowtorches and grapplers.
The concrete will be chopped up, pushed toward the middle of the fields and removed by trucks. The steel girders will be cut out, cut up and carted away for salvage.
Shea will then be reclaimed as part of the parking lot, and Yankee Stadium as three baseball fields surrounded by 12,000 trees.
This will be the first razing at Shea, a survivor of the multipurpose, cookie-cutter stadium era dating to the mid-1960s. But it will be the second demolition at Yankee Stadium, which was shut down for two years after the 1973 season to be renovated.
The Mets have taken charge of Shea’s destruction — because of the construction background of the ruling Wilpon family — and the city is responsible for bringing down the House That Ruth Built (and Mayor John V. Lindsay overhauled).
The demolitions will not resemble those of Ebbets Field or the Polo Grounds in two significant ways. There will be no wrecking balls, which are generally not allowed in the city. And explosive charges will not be set off to blow the ballparks to smithereens, or more technically, to implode them. The city also prohibits implosions.
“I’d hate to put my brand-new facade at Citi Field only to have something fly over and damage the new stadium,” said Jeff Wilpon, the Mets’ chief operating officer.
Mike Taylor, the executive director of the National Demolition Association, said, “Do you think anybody really wants to see Yankee Stadium blown up?”
(How about Red Sox fans?)
Still, implosions are spectacular to watch. The percussive, rapid-fire demises of Three Rivers Stadium, Cinergy Field (originally Riverfront Stadium), the Kingdome and Veterans Stadium are viewable on YouTube. The flattening of the Vet was as artful as a Grucci fireworks show: section after section collapsed inward in synchronized order — like fans executing a wave.
The St. Louis Cardinals originally planned to implode the old Busch Stadium in 2005, but they opted for a traditional demolition in part to limit the impact of the explosions on surrounding buildings and on the nearby light-rail service. But the demolition crew swung a mighty wrecking ball.
“I went to a 10,000-pound ball,” said Ted Ahrens, a co-owner of Ahrens Contracting in St. Louis. “We got a crane to carry it as high as 250 feet in the air.” As a Cardinals fan, Ahrens said: “It was hard for me to watch it. The upkeep was fantastic.”
The upkeep at Shea bothered its chief engineer, Rick Praeger. In 1960, he told The New York Times that the stadium, then only in blueprints, would be “the kind that will make a man want to return — and bring his wife and children the next time.”
His son, Rick Jr., said last week that his ailing father loved Shea (and went to work on Dodger Stadium), but “worried that the maintenance had been so bad that he was afraid it would collapse.”
Much of what is valuable at the old stadiums — seats, grass, signs, foul poles, screens, lights, scoreboards — will be removed before it is demolished and sold or auctioned by the teams in conjunction with the city, which may use some leftovers elsewhere in the five boroughs. The Mets will have 15 days from their last game to extract all of Shea’s most salvageable goodies.
Lonn Trost, the chief operating officer of the Yankees, said, half-jokingly, “I’m concerned people will try to take out the seats while we’re still playing.”
The growth of the memorabilia market is a guarantee against the apathy the Yankees exhibited during the mid-1970s renovation. Back then, Bert Sugar, the author and sports historian, took a fleet of U-Haul trucks to the Bronx to tote away seats, signs, turnstiles, the door to the manager’s shower, Jacob Ruppert’s archive and a bag with Babe Ruth’s underwear.
Sugar, who was working on the Yankees account for an advertising agency, said he got a call from the team asking if he wanted to rummage through the 50-year trove.
“So I laid two checks on Gene McHale’s desk,” he said, referring to the Yankees’ treasurer at the time. “One was to look around, the other was if I liked what I saw.”
He added: “I went into rooms that hadn’t been opened in years. They saw me dragging things out, getting emphysema from the rooms underneath. The dust went back to 1923.” Sugar said he brokered the deal in which E. J. Korvettes sold seats for $7.50 and five Winston cigarette packs.
“I don’t think George Steinbrenner knew what he had,” Sugar said, adding that he recalled the team offering seats free to those who proved they held season tickets.
According to the book “Diamonds,” by Michael Gershman, Cuyahoga Wrecking, one of the companies that demolished the original Yankee Stadium, sold turnstiles for $100, a Gate A sign for $300, box seats for $20 and bricks for $1 each.
The price of nostalgia will be more expensive this time.
“I’d love a patch of grass,” said Arline Blake, a longtime Yankee fan who is upset at the razing of a ballpark with so many of her memories. “It’s like Fenway Park. Would those Bostonians ever want to see it demolished for something better? Never.”
We just watched the “Amazing Shea” special on WNBC here in New York. Great job, Stephanie and everyone there at WNBC. Loved the vintage footage of Jets practices and the color film of early Met games at Shea. The interviews with Kranepool, Ed Charles, Bobby V, Rusty et al were excellent. Nice touch getting Gil Hodges’ widow, Bob Mandt and the original Mr. Met on screen.
The only complaint: the special should have been an hour. Actually, it should have been two hours. OK maybe a 24–hour marathon of nothing but Shea Stadium would have been most appropriate. But now we’re nit-picking.
The best part about running Loge13.com is that we get to host a documentary just like “Amazing Shea” all the time. Fans have been sending in their Shea memories since we launched. Longtime Loge13’er Bobster sent along his own Shea memories last week after reading the Gary Myers column in the NY Daily News. I think the Bobster’s words are a fitting post mortem to the Amazing Shea night:
Really nice column by Gary Myers yesterday. I never worked at Shea, but it holds plenty of memories for me.
One just came back to me. In the early '70s, I stopped by Shea's ticket office on a summer's off-day to see if I could buy a yearbook. The guy at the ticket window told me to go inside the stadium and stop by a particular office where I could buy one (I think it was either 50 or 75 cents).
It was quite exciting as a 16-year-old kid to be wandering around an empty Shea Stadium on my own. After I bought the yearbook, I walked out into the field level seats. Wow! I sat down among the acres of empty seats and took it all in, looking all around the quiet park, the giant scoreboard blank. The sun shone down on the green grass. There were only two other people there, a Mets executive named Fred Trask and somebody I had never seen before. They were sitting right behind the visiting dugout discussing something, and never saw me.
I felt like the luckiest guy in New York!
My first game at Shea was on July 1, 1965, when my dad took me to Shea using Borden's coupons cut out of milk cartons by my mom. A rare victory that day, with Ed Kranepool hitting a homer. My last was in 1998, a Met win over the Expos. In between I must have seen over 100 games at Shea, including Game 3 of the 1969 World Series, and watched thousands more broadcast from the stadium. I moved away from New York in 1984, but my heart never left Shea.
Last October, on a trip to New York, I made what I knew would be my last visit to Shea. The Mets had just ended their 2007 season in bitter disappointment, but my mind was on earlier seasons. I made sure to have a photo taken of me outside the stadium, with the 1969 championship mural in the background. That season remains my fondest childhood memory (along with visiting the 1964-65 World's Fair that was across the street).
I remember reading a quote by the great Brooklyn Dodger broadcaster Red Barber. He said that after the Dodgers left Brooklyn, he never went back to where Ebbets Field once stood. As far as he was concerned, the old ballpark was still there, and he didn't want to spoil that thought. I'll kind of feel like that when Shea disappears, but not with the bitterness that Barber felt. After all, the Mets didn't leave the city, they'll just be playing in the parking lot outside of Shea Stadium.
Well said, Bobster. Thanks for the photo and the great note. Opening Day is less than 48 hours away. The last Shea opener is 10 days from now. We have one more year of Shea memories to create – not 44 years of history to lament. Time to play ball!
If you have photos, videos or random thoughts to share about Shea, send ‘em along to kingman AT blogsbyfans.com.
I told you earler about WNBC’s must-see Shea Stadium documentary, Saturday night, 7:30.
There was one memory I wish I had shared on-camera about my favorite Shea Stadium moment. That would be the first time I saw Loge13.
In the early 1980’s, my friend Dan and I were in the early days of high school. We were also deep into our Mets addiction. Every home game, we would take the bus or train over to Shea and get General Admission seast for $3. We’d sit behind home plate, near Fuzzy (the world’s biggest Mets fan) and enjoy.
By 1984, we were no longer alone in the upper deck. The Mets were getting good and we didn’t want to get shut out of post-season tickets, should the boys make it to October. We read about these partial season plans that guaranteed playoff tickets. My parents saw our interest and agreed to buy two seats in their name and let us pay them.
So in November of 1984, my Mom drove Dan and me to Shea. The ticket rep showed us aroudn the empty stadium (I think there was even snow on the field). We looked over on the third-base side of Loge, where there were seats closer to home plate. But we all decided the place to be was near Keith Hernandez. That brought us to Loge13.
I remember sitting in the empty Shea with Dan, my Mom and the ticket person. We didn’t speak, just stared out onto the field. It may sound bizarre but it was similar to watching a sleeping child. We just silently knew that we were staring into the promise of many years of great memories and adventures.
And we were right. We sat there through great pennant runs. We cried on Bob Murphy night. We cried every time Anthony Young lost another game or Doug Sisk entered a game. We made tons of new friends, including Ron Hunt to my left and the Bayside boys in front. We watched our kids grow up. We watched friends die (including ticket plan holders).
And most important, I spent decades going to some great games with my parents. I probably know more about them than I would have because we had so much time together, watching games go by. It helped that the Mets stunk for most of the 90’s so there was lots of dead air to fill. I never would have known that my dad wanted to be a radio announcer growing up or many great stories about his life growing up on Riker’s Island (long story) if it wasn’t for Shea Stadium and Loge13.
All that was in the promise of those seats that November day. Good memory. Enough of that. Opening Day is coming. Watch the show Saturday. Enjoy the bonus clip.