June 21 marks the 101st birthday of the man behind the Mets.
Not only is there no Shea Stadium without Bill Shea, there is no New York Mets without the man.
There may even have been no New York revival in the 1960’s after the stunning departure of National League baseball from the city.
There would also probably not be a New York Jets, New Jersey Nets or New York Islanders (debate amongst yourselves how their individual and collective absences could effect 20th century western culture).
So who was Bill Shea? Some salient points about his life:
* Shea was born in Manhattan, 1907 into a middle class Irish family.
* Attended George Washington High School.
* Played football and LaCrosse for NYU for one year, then switched to Georgetown, where he got his undergraduate and law degrees.
* During the Depression, his dad couldn’t afford to pay for college. Shea’s younger sister Gloria became a model and actress and earned enough money to pay his tuition.
* Shea became a successful lawyer and friends with mayors, senators and captains of industry in New York.
* After the Dodgers and Giants left New York in 1957, was tapped by New York mayor Robert Wagner to find a replacement team.
* Also responsible for bringing the New York Jets to Shea Stadium. And for bringing the New York Nets and New York Islanders to Long Island.
* Tom Deegan (a.k.a The Major Deegan) was the PR man for the Triborough Brisge and Tunnel Authority in the 1960’s. He is the man who started a campaign to name the Met’s new baseball Stadium after Shea. William Shea was adamantly opposed to the idea, since only dead people got honore with building names. He lost the battle and also didn’t die…until 1991.
* Founded the law firm Shea & Gould. I happened to work there as a moving man in 1986. Shea had an office but was hardly there. I never met him but did go into his office once. It was a shrine to Mets baseball; I believe the actual Mayor’s Trophy was there in a case but I was pretty young and nervous and don’t remember much, except that Shea’s office was bigger than 98% of most Manhattan apartments I’ve ever been in.
If you want to read about how Bill Shea took on the nuns of Queens, go here.
To honor the man, we quote from Jimmy Breslin’s “Can’t anybody here play this game.”
In any analysis of the Mets and how they came about, you must always start with one man, an attorney named William A. Shea, who has offices on East 42nd Street.
Shea has dark hair, blue eyes and the square jaw of a guy who would know how to punch back. Which he certainly does. He was an end and a basketball player at Georgetown in the late 1920’s and today  at 6 feet and 195 pounds, he is still in shape.
He is all big business. But Shea is anything but one of those stuff, pipe-smoking corporation attorneys. This is a guy who knows. He is married to the former Maynora Saw, whose father, Tom Shaw, was the biggest bookmaker in the New York racetracks back in the twenties. Bookmaking was legal then. Shea himself operated a minor-league football team for a couple of years in the forties and was associated with Ted Collins in a National Football League in Boston.
Shea is one of those people you find, but not too often, who is willing to do something for his own and knows how to do it. His own in this case is people who live and work in New York. It is Shea’s town, and nobody fits into the town better than he does.