— Days Without Shea —

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Great article today in the NY Times about the ongoing friendship between Willie Mays and David Wright.

Apparently, their relationship began on Sept. 28, 2008, a date that will live in infamy for fans of the Mets and Shea Stadium.

Nice to know that even as the old concrete palace gasped its final breaths, it could still create some magic, transcending the decades between the Say-Hey Kid and The New Kid.

Read the article after the jump.



About an hour before the start of last Sunday's game at AT&T Park in San Francisco, some fans strolling toward their seats or a concession stand stopped and stared at a young man walking briskly past.

David Wright, dressed in his Mets uniform, was weaving his way quickly, and somewhat nervously, through the crowd, adjusting his cap along the way. Some of the fans pointed and told companions who it was. One woman gasped, surprised at the sight of a real player, a star no less, walking by her. Most of the fans just stared, trying to make sense of a player seemingly on his way to buy a hot dog so close to game time.


But minutes later, Wright was the one who was somewhat speechless, honored to be in the presence of one of the greatest players in baseball history, Willie Mays. The get-together before a game between the Giants and the Mets reinforced a growing relationship between the two men, who are separated by background and age (Mays is 79, Wright is 27), but not in their admiration for each other.


Mays arrived ahead of time for the afternoon game and was sitting inconspicuously in a room off the Giants' clubhouse when he sent word to his friend Charlie Samuels, the Mets' equipment manager and traveling secretary, that he wanted to see Wright, someone he has come to think of as a special player. He wanted to know if Wright could come to the Giants' clubhouse to talk a little baseball before the game.


"For me it's just an honor to shake his hand," Wright said. "But then for him to actually know who I am, and then to have a conversation with him about baseball, that was a very special privilege."


As one of baseball's great living players, Mays, a Bay Area resident, could probably have sent for anyone. But Wright received the invitation because Mays admires the way he plays and because the two established a friendship dating to the final day at Shea Stadium -- Sept. 28, 2008.


That day was a sad and emotional one for the Mets. For the second straight year, they lost the last game of the season at home to the Florida Marlins. For the second straight year, the loss eliminated them from playoff contention. And now the Mets, in elaborate postgame ceremonies, were saying goodbye to Shea.


Mays was on hand for the ceremonies and, despite the depressing loss, found a way to sit with Wright in Samuels's office in the Mets' clubhouse. For about half an hour, they talked baseball.


"It wasn't a great day because of the circumstances," Wright recalled recently. "But really, what I take away from that day, beyond the game, was the chance to meet Mays.


"That was one of the coolest things. We shut the door and talked baseball."


During the conversation, Mays asked Wright if he would help him at a charity event in Newport News, Va., where Mays spent 22 months while serving in the military in 1952-53 and is close to Wright's hometown, Norfolk.


On Sunday, Mays asked again if Wright would be willing to help out with the event, and Wright quickly agreed. Who says no to Willie Mays?


The two also discussed Wright's appearance in the All-Star Game five days earlier.


"He knew I had two hits and he congratulated me on that," Wright said. "It's cool enough that he just knows my name. But then the fact that he knew I had two hits in the All-Star Game is pretty special.


"You talk to coaches or people who have been around the game a long time about the best players of all time, his name is always one of the first, if not the first, to be mentioned," Wright said. "When a guy like that wants to talk to you and calls you over to talk about the game and talk shop, it means a lot."


When Wright visited Mays last Sunday, few players on either team seemed to be aware of what was going on. Only the fans who spotted Wright had a hint that something unusual was happening -- that one player was crossing a bridge that spanned decades to visit another.



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