September 26, 2008
Goodbye Shea, Hello CitiField Roundtable: The Geeks, Part I

Has it been 45 years already? With Shea Stadium in its final week of regular season baseball and there being no guarantees of postseason play, we figured now was as good a time as any to say our fond farewells to Shea while also saying hello to CitiField. To help us out, we enlisted several writers to answer a quick questionnaire about their favorite memory of Shea and their hopes for the new stadium. We’ll be running them all week, closing with a staff roundtable. We’ve already featured’s Matt Cerrone, author Matt Silverman, New York Observer columnist Howard Megdal, and beat writer Adam Rubin.

Today, we’re closing out our series with a staff roundtable. Specifically, we’ll be joined by Aaron Dorman, Dan Scotto, Mike Newman, Chris McCown, Chuck Buono, Milo Taibi, and Alex Nelson. We’ll actually be splitting up this final part over the weekend, so please check back.

What are you going to miss most about Shea? What is your favorite Shea memory?

Aaron:The thing I’m going to miss most about Shea Stadium is that the hopeful feeling that someday this dumpy ballpark would give way to a better, more beautiful, and more modern place to watch baseball. Starting next year, the future is now. There are some things I kind of liked about Shea Stadium itself; for some reason, I always liked the Keyspan sign out behind the Pepsi Picnic Area. Everybody loves the Apple, of course. And it was kind of nice that the colors of the outside of the stadium matched the team. But other than that, there’s nothing I’m going to miss. I love the team and I love the fans and they’ll all be there next year (except hopefully Scott Schoeneweis and Luis Castillo, but that’s something else)–even the apple, or a newer relative.

My favorite Shea memory is a homer by Mike Piazza against the Marlins in May of 2001 which made a 4-2 game 4-3. It was the first time I’d seen him hit a homerun. I haven’t been to any particularly historical games, at least that had were positive from a Mets’ fans standpoint. A complete-game win by Bobby Jones? Maybe that’s another reason why I’m not sorry to say goodbye to Shea.

Dan: I’ve written about this in the past, but I can’t envision recreating an atmosphere of 55,000-plus screaming Mets fans in the playoffs. And it’s not just the playoffs; the Mets averaged 47,579 per night in 2007, and they’ve averaged 51,030 in 2008. The new stadium will hold less than what the Mets currently draw on average. So I’m going to miss that most.

On specific memories, I would definitely say that the 9/21/01 game against the Braves has to stand out most. It was an utterly surreal evening: American flags in people’s hats, famous people singing subdued versions of American songs, the Rick White/Chipper Jones hug, the ribbon over the World Trade Center on the scoreboard, the iconic images and moments go on and on. And Bruce Chen and Jason Marquis treated us to a marvelous pitcher’s duel.

When we got there, the Piazza homer was downright cathartic. From my loge seats in right, it looked like it was going out to left field; I completely lost the ball and just waited for the surge in emotion from the rest of the crowd to know it was gone.

Everything following the homer was a blur. What a night.

Chris: Probably the name. Shea Stadium is just one of those rare ballpark names you grew up with that ended up feeling right after all these years. I know we’re supposed to be so inundated with these corporate names that they are all interchangeable to us, but it’s still a little tacky to think about the Mets playing in Citi.

My favorite memory was going to Shea for my first ever baseball game in 1998, and taking in a mesmerizing Masato Yoshii-Orlando Hernandez showdown, which the Mets won 2-1 on a Luis Lopez sac fly–I had to look this up; I could’ve sworn it was Edgardo Alfonzo. I was a pretty late starter to baseball.

Mike: Before I was old enough to know better, Shea was the most modern stadium in all of baseball. I had pissed in Fenway’s decrepit troughs, heard Sinatra at Yankee stadium and visited the cement block covered in astro-turf which was “The Vet.” Compared to those relics, Shea was the tits! As a kid, I would drive by the stadium quite a bit on my way to little league games. It was always Christmas in February or March when the Mets would unveil their slogan for the season and post it on the side of the stadium for all to see. Spring was here and it was time for baseball once again!

When I think of my favorite Shea memory, nothing comes close to being at the Dykstra walk-off home run game on 10/11/1986. While I didn’t actually see the ball leave the park since I was nine and blocked by cheering Mets fans, I do remember hearing Lenny, Lenny on the train, in the streets, and out of apartment buildings. Dykstra was truly king for a day, and the entire city paid homage.

Chuck: What I’m going to miss most about Shea are the memories of my childhood. I grew up going to Shea. It may sound overly sentimental, but I still get that same excited feeling every time I walk into that stadium as I did when I was a little kid. Of course, years of rough losses have left me a little jaded but there’s nothing like being at Shea when it’s rocking.

My favorite memory of Shea comes from Game Four of the NLCS in 2000 against the Cardinals. After taking the first two games in St. Louis, the Mets came home to lose Game Three and quickly fell behind 2-0 in the top of the first in game four. But, in the bottom of the first against the late Daryl Kile, the Mets started off with four straight doubles: the final one off the bat of Robin Ventura scored two runs to give the Mets a 3-2 lead. I could literally feel the upper deck of Shea Stadium rocking as if it were about to collapse, but we didn’t care, we kept jumping up and down like lunatics. That inning swung the momentum back into the Mets’ favor and they never looked back over the final two games of the series.

Milo: What I’ll miss the most about Shea will be the easiness of simply going to a Mets game. As a teenager growing up in New York, Shea made it very simple and easy to go to a Friday Night or weekend game without having to buy tickets through will call ahead of time. With about 12,000 fewer seats, it’ll be nearly impossible to go to Citi Field and buy tickets to a game upon arrival.

My favorite Shea Stadium memory was the final game of the 2005 season. Everyone knew that it would be Mike Piazza’s final game as a Met, and the Mets organization really made it a special game. They showed Piazza’s finest career moments all throughout the game on the video screen, and Mike eventually took a curtain call. The Mets would lose 11-3, but seeing one of my favorite players play his final game as a Met is something that will always stick with me. Also, Aaron Cook hit a triple in that game.

Alex: There’s a sense of simple fun about Shea that I just doubt they’ll replicate. The new park sounds like it’s going to be taking itself very seriously with the retro Ebbetts-inspired design, and there’s something to be said for that. But I’m going to miss the neon players on the outside of the stadium, the multi-colored seats inside, the oversized scoreboard, the apple, which just won’t be quite the same again. Yes, it all adds up to tackiness, but I never thought of that as a bad thing. I mean, this is a game, after all.

My favorite memory? I was at the 2006 NLDS game against the Dodgers where Paul Lo Duca tagged out two men at the plate, and that was definitely an exciting moment. But my favorite actually came on June 9, 1996, when Jason Isringhausen pitched his first and only career shutout. I grew up chiefly with the terrible 90s teams, and for whatever reason–age, probably–I really started paying more attention to the game in 1996. And for one day, the long rebuilding effort was worth it, Generation K was a success, and I was hopeful for the future of the franchise. I’ve never enjoyed watching a single baseball game more.

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