The closing ceremony for Shea Stadium was a touching affair but the timing could not have been any worse. The crowd was angry and confused. Did our season really just end?
To the Brewers?
Thanks to the Marlins?
Can they open up the beer stands one last time?
And because the 2008 Mets couldn't deliver, Shea Stadium had to pay the ultimate price. There would be no playoff bunting adorning Shea's weary facade this fall. No postseason magic for our cherished ballpark. The construction crews were backing up the trucks and demolition time was nigh. We just had time for one quick farewell.
How bad was the mood? Even Mr. Met got some boos when he pulled down the final number of games left:
But most of the boo's were for Citi Field, whose logo was the last thing revealed under the Shea Stadium final game countdown. Perhaps fans are now starting to get it.
The Mets did a great job bringing out players from their history, not just the obvious (Seaver, Piazza, Willie Mays) but also the true fan gems (Felix Milan, Jerry Koosman, Doug Flynn et al). We got a nice charge seeing Dave Kingman himself trot out from right field. And of course, #33 Ron Hunt was on hand and I was sitting next to the biggest Ron Hunt fan in the stadium, no doubt.
It was also cool that some non-players got their kudos, including longtime groundskeeper Pete Flynn, the family of Tug McGraw, Gil Hodges' widow, Joy Murphy and Ralph Kiner.
And it was moving to see Darryl Strawberry and Doc Gooden back at Shea Stadium and to see the Shea crowd respond so warmly to them. Here is the ovation they both received:
Doc and Straw were the icons of my youth. They were pre-ordained for the Hall of Fame before they were ever assigned a number. We all know how that tale ended. In some ways, the Doc and Straw story is the story of Shea Stadium. So much
promise. So many memories but in the end, they left us wanting just a
bit more. But no matter what the imperfection, you can't help but love them, forgiving each fault along the way.
At the ceremony's conclusion, each returning Met player lined up on the first and third base side. They then all proceeded to touch home
plate one last time. Finally, Tom Seaver took the mound. He waved to the crowd and then in a classy show of respect, he pointed out to the retired #14 of his manager, and saluted. (In an unclassy move, the Mets have sold that #14 to some anonymous bidder. Ah tradition).
out from Shea Stadium was emotional. We left by Gate A where some Met players
were being escorted out (Tim Teufel, Strawberry). I paused for a second
before crossing from the painted white cement of Shea to the gray
sidewalk outside her walls. Now I was gone from Shea Stadium for the last time.
No more annual reunions with the Loge13 gang. No more blue and orange
seats. No more "Wait till next year" for Shea. It's done.
to the train, I asked my Dad how he felt. He was sad, he admitted, and
also more than a little angry at how the Mets have treated us. season ticket holders. He nailed it. As fans, as longtime ticket holders, as lovers of Shea and baseball history - Sunday had no positive side to it.
I've been trying to explain to folks how I feel today about the whole thing. I think I figured it out. Did you ever go on a family vacation, an annual sojourn that you took with your parents, your siblings, cousins or friends? Maybe you went to the beach, or camping in the woods or to some fantasy park where you walk around wearing rodent ears. Whatever the destination, the outcome was the same - your head and heart were filled with sweet memories of a relaxed time with people you cared about, doing something fun.
That's what Shea Stadium was like for us 25-30 times a year. Each ticket to Loge13 was like a family vacation, where we gathered to talk, trade jokes, catch up on each other's lives and occasionally watch a baseball game.
Eventually the vacations end and all you have are those memories. But the first day back from that last trip can be a rough one.