After 24 years, hundreds of games and countless great memories, we witnessed our last game at Loge 13 in Shea Stadium Thursday night.
When I started Loge13.com, I had expected that by the last game in our plan, I'd be writing about where we'd be sitting in the new stadium and how the Mets masterfully handled the migration of the many partial season plan holders who have invested decades (not to mention thousands of dollars) into their seats and their team.
That has not happened. In fact, the Mets won't discuss the subject at all.
And so, an era ends for a motley collection of Queens natives who came together by chance in the same section, joined by a common love of the Mets. Over the years, we've all gotten married (not to each other), and in some cases divorced (not from each other), raised kids, changed jobs, retired from careers, moved to various suburbs and even experienced the death of one of our own Loge13 originals. What a ride.
That's why I don't mind when folks question why we lament the demise of Shea. The dirty little secret is: it's not about Shea. It's about the fans and the countless networks of relationships that exist throughout the stadium.
There is a skeletal system of partial season ticket holding fans, who have come out throughout each season every Monday/Wednesday/Thursday, or Tuesday/Fridays, or Saturdays, or Sunday afternoons and cheered on the team. Friendships have been forged randomly, due to the proximity of these fans to each other over the years. These are folks who can't afford a full season plan but want to root for their favorite team at a price tag they can stomach. You know, those hard-working middle class people that public figures are so fond of praising but who ultimately pay the bill to support the follies of the well-to-do, when their risky investments fail or their new stadiums get built.
There was a sign at Shea last night: "Dear congress, bail out the Mets." Save some of that for the Mets fan too.
I admit I got a bit choked up a few times as I arrived for last night's game. I'm not sure if my emotions were stirred because this was my last game in a cherished place or because so far this week, I've seen the Mets lose in person 9-5 Monday
and 9-6 Wednesday
Fortunately, the boys cam through Thursday and did it in sloppy but memorable style on a sloppy, memorable night.
I wasn't the only nostalgic person in the place. When he was removed in the top of
the 7th (after the Cubs got 1st and 2nd with no one out), Pedro Martinez seemed to say goodbye to Shea as well. As he walked off the mound, Pedro pointed to the fans, waved and touched his heart. We may have seen the last of Martinez, even if the Mets make the post season.
Rincon was not hobbled by nostalgia. After relieving Pedro, he wasted no time saying goodbye to the first baseball he threw in the game, giving up a three run homer to Micah Hoffpauir
to give the Cubs a 6-3 lead.
(A digression: Micah Hoffpauir? Please! This guy chose Thursday to have the game of his freaking life? 5 for 5 with 5 RBI's. Gimme a break).
But the Mets clawed their way back in the 8th and 9th inning. Among the highlights: Robinson Cancel's 2 out single, that drove in Beltran and Church...and of course, Church's ridiculous slide away from the Cubs catcher and his crawl back onto home plate to tie the game. Obviously this is how the Mets are going to finish the season, wiggling and crawling every inch of the way to the post season.
After Reyes led off the 9th with a single, Murphy failed to bunt him over (and why was he bunting to begin with?). In fact we learned in the post game press conference, Murphy missed a sign and bunted with two strikes. Then Wright struck out again in the 9th. The Cubs walked Delgado and Beltran made them pay with a game winning single that Micah couldn't catch up to (Take that, Hoffpauir).
Yes, Met fans, Shea is not giving up the ghost without a fight. What a wacky night and a great way to wrap up the last week and the last 24 years of Mets games in Loge 13.
During the night, Ron Hunt, Mom Kingman and I reminisced about our time at Shea. Back in November 1984, we went out to Shea Stadium and were escorted around an empty ballpark, with the intention of picking out two seats for a Monday, Wednesday, Thursday night plan. We were offered some closer to home plate but chose instead Loge13. Why? Because we had the best vantage from which to see Keith Hernandez. Also, our seats in the third row were covered by the press box, which would come in handy, we figured, when it rained. And so our wisdom of 24 years ago paid off last night, in the driving rain.
During last night's final game, we talked about foul balls, including the one Ron Hunt caught in his arm pit (the subject of another post). And now it is official - I never caught a foul ball in Loge13. And I never saw a no-hitter from Loge13. Fortunately, I have one more chance to see a no-no at Shea. Keep the faith!
We also talked about Dave, Ron Hunt's original seat mate. Sadly he passed on but was with us last night. Dave used to take the train home from games, and several times shared a subway car with Ron Darling. They would talk about the game they had just watched (or in Ron's case, pitched) on the 7-train back to Times Square. It sounds like a story your grandfather might tell you about the golden age of baseball but that happened only 20 years ago. Can you imagine that happening today?
And so RIP Dave. And farewell, Loge13. We're all a bit older now but fortunately, we're still about as immature as we were back when we first entered our favorite Shea section 24 years ago. That's a good thing. As life gets more complicated, markets crash and people around us get a bit more loony, it's been nice to steal away for a few hours in our dumpy old ballpark and watch a bunch of lovable losers both break our hearts and brace our spirits at the same time. Fans like us have given the Mets and Shea their character. And if the Mets are wise, they will want to inject some of that character into Citi Field by offering us some partial season tickets. Because it's never been about the building.
See y'all Sunday from Upper Deck 44!