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In a lonely valley in eastern Kentucky, in the heart of the mountainous region called Appalachia, live an impoverished people whose plight has long been ignored by affluent America. Their homes are shacks without plumbing or sanitation. Their landscape is a man-made desolation of corrugated hills and hollows laced with polluted streams. The people, themselves often disease-ridden and unschooled are without jobs and even without hope. Government relief and handouts of surplus food have sustained them on a bare subsistence level for so many years that idleness and relief are now their accepted way of life.
The stadium was named in honor of William Shea, who was most responsible for bringing National League baseball back to New York after the Dodgers and Giants left for California in 1957. It was demolished in 2009 to create additional parking for the adjacent Citi Field, the stadium built to replace it and the current home of the Mets.
Soon afterward, Moses and William A. Shea, the New York lawyer who had led the effort to bring National League baseball back to New York, faced a problem. New York state law of the time did not allow cities to borrow money in order to build a stadium. The only way for the city to finance a stadium would be to demonstrate that the stadium could pay for itself. With this in mind, Moses and Shea proposed to have the new team pay substantial rent in order to pay off 30-year bonds. This provision would come back to haunt the Mets years later; they would never live up to that monetary commitment, and the ensuing financial woes would be an albatross around the team for years.
The locations of Shea's home plate, pitcher's mound, and bases are marked in Citi Field's parking lot. The plaques feature engravings of the neon baseball players that graced the exterior of the stadium from 1988 onward.
Shea Stadium was the home of the New York Mets starting in 1964, and it hosted what would be its only All-Star Game that first year, with Johnny Callison of the Philadelphia Phillies hitting a home run in the ninth inning to win the only Mid-Summer Classic held in the Queens ballpark. A month earlier, on Father's Day, Callison's teammate, future Hall of Fame member and U.S. Senator Jim Bunning, pitched a perfect game against the Mets.
Tommie Agee, Lenny Dykstra, Todd Pratt, Robin Ventura, and Benny Agbayani hit post-season, walk-off home runs at Shea (although, while the ball hit by Ventura over the fence may have been the most famous of the postseason walk-off hits, it was famously called "the Grand Slam Single", because when he hit the game-winning ball over the fence, he was mobbed by his teammates before he could reach second base, and never wound up touching second base, third base and home plate. It was not ruled a home run as he never circled the bases completely. It probably made Ventura, known for his penchant for hitting grand slams, even more famous, and the hit itself more famous, because of the very fact that he never circled the bases fully, technically not making it a homer).
For many years, the Mets' theme song, "Meet the Mets", was played at Shea before every home game. Jane Jarvis, a local jazz artist, played the popular songs on the Thomas organ at Mets games for many years at the stadium.
The last game played at Shea Stadium was a loss to the Florida Marlins on September 28, 2008. However, the Mets were in the thick of the playoff chase until the last day. A win would have meant another game for Shea as the Mets were scheduled to play the Milwaukee Brewers in a one-game playoff for the National League Wild Card berth. Following the game, there was a "Shea Goodbye" tribute in which many players from the Mets' glory years entered the stadium and touched home plate one final time so that fans could pay their last respects to the players and the stadium the Mets called home for 45 years. The ceremony ended with Tom Seaver throwing a final pitch to Mike Piazza, then, as the Beatles' "In My Life" played on the stadium speakers the two former Met stars walked out of the centerfield gate and closed it behind them, followed by a display of blue and orange fireworks.
The New York Yankees played their home games in Shea Stadium during the 1974 and 1975 seasons while Yankee Stadium was being renovated. The move to Shea had been proposed earlier in the decade, but the Mets, as Shea's primary tenants, refused to sign off on the deal. However, when the city stepped in to pay for renovating Yankee Stadium, the Mets had little choice but to agree to share Shea with the Yankees.
On the afternoon of April 15, 1998, the Yankees also played one home game at Shea, against the Anaheim Angels after a beam collapsed at Yankee Stadium two days before, destroying several rows of seats. With the Mets playing a game at Shea that evening against the Chicago Cubs, the Yankees used the visitor's locker room and dugout and the Angels used the home dugout and old locker room of the New York Jets. Former Mets star Darryl Strawberry, then playing for the Yankees, hit a home run during the game. Stadium operators partially raised the Mets' home run apple signal before lowering it back down, to the delight of the crowd.
In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the stadium became a staging area for rescuers, its parking lots filled with food, water, medical supplies, even makeshift shelters where relief workers could sleep. Ten days later Shea reopened for the first post-attack sporting event in New York where the Mets beat the Braves, behind a dramatic home run by Mets catcher Mike Piazza.
The Mets, Yankees, Jets and Giants all called Shea home in 1975, the only time in professional sports history that two baseball teams and two football teams shared the same facility in the same year.
As Yankee Stadium was being renovated and Giants Stadium was nearing completion, there were scheduling clashes between the four teams once the calendar turned to September. Neither the Jets nor the Giants could play "home" games at Shea Stadium until the baseball season ended for the Mets and Yankees. The matter was simplified when neither baseball team qualified for the postseason; still, there was a two-week overlap as the NFL season started on Sunday, September 21 while the MLB campaign ended on Sunday, September 28. This meant the Jets opened at home on Sunday, October 5, the third week of the season, and the Giants on Sunday, October 12, the season's fourth week. It also meant that the Giants and Jets had to play a combined 14 home games in the final 12 weeks of the 14-week NFL season. To do so, the Giants played two Saturday afternoon home games, neither of which were televised, and both of which were played the day before a Jets' Sunday home game. New York football fans thus enjoyed either the Jets or the Giants hosting a Sunday home game every weekend from October 5 through December 21. Shea wound up hosting all four teams on consecutive Sundays: Mets (September 21), Yankees (September 28), Jets (October 5) and Giants (October 12).
In total, the "Big Four" drew 3,738,546 customers to Shea: 1,730,566 by the Mets (76 home dates); 1,288,048 by the Yankees (71 home dates); 361,102 by the Jets (seven home games) and 358,830 by the Giants (also seven). Having both the Giants and Jets share Shea Stadium for one season foreshadowed what was to come in the future with the Meadowlands (a.k.a. Giants Stadium), after the Jets left Flushing Meadows for New Jersey following the 1983 NFL season.
Shea was originally designed with two motor-operated stands that allow the field level seats to rotate on underground tracks, allowing the stadium to be converted between a baseball and an American football/soccer configuration. In 1982, a new Mitsubishi DiamondVision screen was installed in left field. After the New York Jets football team moved to Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey in 1984, the Mets took over operation of the stadium and retrofitted it for exclusive baseball use. As part of the refitting, Shea Stadium's exterior was painted blue and neon signs of baseball player silhouettes were added to the windscreens prior to the 1988 season. Around the same time, the original scoreboard was removed, and a new one installed in its place (fitting into the shell left behind by the old one) allowing for a much greater space for information and entertainment after the original message board above the main scoreboard was covered up by the Budweiser advertisement in 1982. Also, after years of injuries to players crashing into the wooden outfield wall, most notably to 1973 star player Rusty Staub, where one injury caused a dislocated shoulder and forced him to miss or play severely injured during that Championship Season, the original wall finally had padding added to it, as most in baseball already did, greatly reducing injuries to outfielders. 2b1af7f3a8