Shea Stadium

Shea Stadium (/ʃeɪ/; formally known as William A. Shea Municipal Stadium) was a stadium in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park, Queens, New York City.[6] Built as a multi-purpose stadium, it was the home park of Major League Baseball's New York Mets for 45 seasons (1964–2008), as well as the New York Jets football team from 1964 to 1983.

The venue was named in honor of William A. Shea, the man 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 current home of the Mets.

Shea Stadium
Shea 10-12-07
Exterior in October 2007
Shea Stadium is located in New York City
Shea Stadium
Shea Stadium
Location within New York City
Former namesFlushing Queens Stadium
(1964–1965)
Address123–01 Roosevelt Avenue
LocationFlushing, Queens, New York
Coordinates40°45′20″N 73°50′53″W / 40.75556°N 73.84806°WCoordinates: 40°45′20″N 73°50′53″W / 40.75556°N 73.84806°W
OwnerCity of New York
New York Mets
OperatorNew York City Department of Parks and Recreation (1964–1981)
New York Mets (1964–2008)
CapacityBaseball: 57,333[1]
Football:  60,372[2]
Field size
Left Field338 ft (103 m)
Left Field ('64-'77)341 (104)
Medium Left-Center358 (109)
Left-Center371 (113)
Left-Center (deep)396 (121)
Center410 (125)
Right-Center (deep)396 (121)
Right-Center371 (113)
Medium Right-Center358 (109)
Right Field338 (103)
Right Field ('64-'77)341 (104)
SurfaceKentucky Bluegrass
Construction
Broke groundOctober 28, 1961
OpenedApril 17, 1964
ClosedSeptember 28, 2008 (Final game)
DemolishedOctober 14, 2008–February 18, 2009
Construction costUS$28.5 million
($230 million in 2018 dollars[3])
ArchitectPraeger-Kavanagh-Waterbury[4]
General contractorCarlin–Crimmins J.V.[5]
Tenants
New York Mets (MLB) (1964–2008)
New York Jets (AFL / NFL) (1964–1983)
New York Yankees (MLB) (1974–1975)
New York Giants (NFL) (1975)

History

Planning and construction

The origins of Shea Stadium go back to the Brooklyn Dodgers' and the New York Giants' relocations to the U.S. west coast, which left New York without a National League baseball team for the next three years.

Prior to the Dodgers' departure, New York City official Robert Moses tried to interest owner Walter O'Malley in the site as the location for a new stadium, but O'Malley refused, unable to agree on location, ownership, and lease terms. O'Malley preferred to pay construction costs himself so he could own the stadium outright. He wanted total control over revenue from parking, concessions, and other events.

New York City, in contrast, wanted to build the stadium, rent it, and retain the ancillary revenue rights to pay off its construction bonds.[7] Additionally, O'Malley wanted to build his new stadium in Brooklyn, while Moses insisted on Flushing Meadows. When Los Angeles offered O'Malley what the City of New York wouldn't—complete ownership of the facility—he left for southern California in a preemptive bid to install the Dodgers there before a new or existing major league franchise could beat him to it. At the same time, Horace Stoneham moved his New York Giants to San Francisco (although he originally considered moving them to Minneapolis), ensuring that there would be two National League teams in California, and preserving the longstanding rivalry with the Dodgers that continues to this day.

In 1960, the National League agreed to grant an expansion franchise to the owners of the New York franchise in the abortive Continental League, provided that a new stadium be built. Mayor Robert Wagner, Jr. had to personally wire all National League owners and assure them that the city would build a stadium.

On October 6, 1961, the Mets signed a 30-year stadium lease,[8] with an option for a 10-year renewal. Rent for what was originally budgeted as a $9 million facility was set at $450,000 annually, with a reduction of $20,000 each year until it reached $300,000 annually.

In their inaugural season in 1962, the expansion Mets played in the Polo Grounds, with original plans to move to a new stadium in 1963. In October 1962, Mets official Tom Meany said, "Only a series of blizzards or some other unforeseen trouble might hamper construction." That unforeseen trouble surfaced in a number of ways: the severe winter of 1962–1963, along with the bankruptcies of two subcontractors and labor issues. The end result was that both the Mets and Jets played at the Polo Grounds for one more year.

Shea Stadium 1964
A game at Shea during the 1964 season

It was originally to be called "Flushing Meadow Park Municipal Stadium"[9] – the name of the public park within which it was built – but a movement was launched to name it in honor of William A. Shea, the New York attorney who brought National League baseball back to New York.[10]

Opening

After 29 months and $28.5 million, Shea Stadium opened in 1964 on April 17,[11] with the Pittsburgh Pirates beating the Mets 4–3 before a crowd of 50,312.[12][13][14][15] There were no prior exhibition games or events, and the stadium was barely finished in time for the home opener. Because of a jurisdictional dispute between Local 3 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Local 1106 of the Communications Workers of America, the telephone and telegraph wiring was not finished in time for opening day.[10][16] The stadium opened five days before the 1964-65 New York World's Fair, across Roosevelt Avenue. Although not officially part of the fair grounds, the stadium sported steel panels on its exterior in the blue-and-orange colors of the Fair. The panels were removed in 1980.

Demolition

In accordance with New York City law, in 2009 Shea Stadium was dismantled, rather than imploded.[17] The company with the rights to sell memorabilia was given two weeks after the final game to remove seats, signage and other potentially saleable and collectable items before demolition was to begin. The seats were the first ($869 per pair plus tax, a combination of '86 and '69, the team's two World Series championship years),[18] followed by other memorabilia such as the foul poles, dugouts, stadium signage, and the giant letters that spelled out "SHEA" at the front of the building.

Demolition in progress. Top photo: close-up view of the stadium during demolition. Bottom photo: demolition as viewed from the IRT Flushing Line with Citi Field visible in the background.

Shea stadium demolition by
Shea Stadium (2009)

After salvaging operations concluded, demolition of the ballpark began on October 14, 2008. On October 18, the scoreboard in right field was demolished, with the bleachers, batter's eye and bullpens shortly thereafter.[19]

By November 10, the field, dugouts and the rest of the field level seats had been demolished.[20]

Shea home plate
Plaque commemorating the location of Shea Stadium's home plate, now in Citi Field's parking lot.

On January 31, Mets fans all over New York came to Shea Stadium for one final farewell. Fans took a tour of the site, told stories, and sang songs.[21] The last remaining section of seats was demolished on February 18. Fans stood in awe as the remaining structure of Shea Stadium (one section of ramps) was torn down at 11:22 that morning.[22][23]

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 once graced the exterior of the stadium.[24]

Redevelopment

On October 9, 2013, the New York City Council approved a plan to build a mall and entertainment center called Willets West in the Citi Field parking lot where Shea Stadium stood, as part of an effort by the city to redevelop the nearby neighborhood of Willets Point.[25][26] However, in 2015, the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court ruled that the site, considered parkland, could not be used for commercial development without permission from the New York state government.[27]

Stadium usage

Baseball

Shea Stadium 1969.jpeg
Shea Stadium prior to a game in September 1969.

Shea Stadium was the home of the New York Mets starting in 1964, and it hosted 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.[28]

The stadium was often criticized by baseball purists for many reasons, even though it was retrofitted to be a baseball-only stadium after the Jets left. The upper deck was one of the highest in the majors. The lower boxes were farther from the field than similar seats in other parks because they were still on the rails that swiveled the boxes into position for football.[29] Outfield seating was sparse, in part because the stadium was designed to be fully enclosed.

At one time, Shea's foul territory was one of the most expansive in the majors. This was very common for ballparks built during the 1960s, in part due to the need to accommodate the larger football field.[29] However, seats added over the years in the lower level greatly reduced the size of foul territory by the dawn of the 21st century. On the plus side, Shea always used a natural grass surface, in contrast to other multi-purpose stadiums such as Three Rivers Stadium, Veterans Stadium, and Riverfront Stadium, which were built in the same era and style and had artificial turf.

Shea Stadium hosted postseason baseball in 1969, 1973, 1986, 1988, 1999, 2000, and 2006; it hosted the World Series in 1969, 1973, 1986, and 2000. It had the distinction of being the home of the 1969 "Miracle Mets"— led by former Brooklyn Dodger Gil Hodges that defied 100–1 odds and won the World Series, after seven straight seasons in last or next-to-last place. Shea became famous for the bedlam that took place after the Mets won the decisive Game 5 of the World Series, as fans stormed the field in celebration. Similar scenes took place a few weeks earlier after the Mets clinched the National League East title, and then defeated the Atlanta Braves in the first National League Championship Series to win the pennant.

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 or Homeplate. It was not ruled a homerun as he never circled the bases. It probably made Ventura, known for his penchant for hitting Grand slam home runs, even more famous, and the hit itself more famous, because of the very fact that he never circled the bases, technically not making it a homer).

Agee was the only player in the history of the ballpark to hit a fair ball into the upper deck in left field. The spot was marked with a sign featuring Agee's number 20 and the date, which was April 10, 1969.[30] Teammate Cleon Jones said the ball was still rising when it hit the seats, so it very likely could have been the longest home run ever hit at Shea. It came in the second inning, and Agee hit another in the seventh over the center field wall; both solo shots were off of Montreal Expos starter Larry Jaster, and the Mets won 4–2.[30]

In 1971, Dave Kingman – then with the San Francisco Giants and later to play for the Mets on two occasions – hit a home run that smashed off the windshield of the Giants' team bus, parked behind the left field bullpen.

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.[31]

On October 3, 2004, it was the venue for the last game in the history of the Montreal Expos, and the Mets won 8–1.[32] Montreal's major league story ended where it had started 35 years earlier: at Shea Stadium.[33] The following year, the Expos relocated to Washington, D.C. and became the Nationals.

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.[34][35]

SheaStadium
A baseball game at Shea Stadium in 2007. The construction of Citi Field is visible beyond left field.

Three National League Division Series were played at Shea Stadium. The Mets won all three, and never lost a Division Series game at Shea.

Seven National League Championship Series were played at Shea Stadium.

^ The decisive seventh game of this series was played at Shea Stadium, marking the only time that the Mets ever lost the deciding game of a National League Championship Series at Shea.

Four World Series were played in Shea Stadium.

The Yankees' World Series win in 2000 was the only time that a visiting team won a World Series at Shea Stadium. The Mets won both their World Series titles at Shea Stadium (in Game 5 in 1969, and Game 7 in 1986).

Shea Crowded
Shea Stadium prior to the start of a New York Mets game in 2008. Shea had the best attendance in the National League that year, averaging over 51,000 fans per game.

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.[36][37] 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.[38] 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.[39]

Shea Stadium also hosted the first extra-inning regular season baseball opener ever played in New York, on March 31, 1998,[40] when the Mets opened their season against their rival Philadelphia Phillies, playing the longest scoreless opening day game in the National League and the longest one in Major League Baseball since 1926.[41][42] The Mets won the game 1–0 in the bottom of the 14th inning.[42]

During the 1977 New York City blackout the stadium was plunged into darkness at approximately 9:30 p.m. during a game between the Mets and the Chicago Cubs. It occurred during the bottom of the sixth inning, with the Mets losing 2–1 and Lenny Randle at bat. Jane Jarvis, Shea's organist (affectionately known as Shea's "Queen of Melody") played "Jingle Bells" and "White Christmas".[43] The game was eventually completed on September 16, with the Cubs winning 5–2.[44]

Boxing

Shea Stadium held boxing matches in the mid-sixties.[45]

Football

Shea Stadium concept
A concept drawing of Shea Stadium in football configuration

The New York Jets of the American Football League and later, the National Football League played at Shea for 20 seasons, from 1964 through 1983 (excluding their first home game in 1977, played at Giants Stadium). The stadium hosted three Jets playoff games: the American Football League Championship in 1968 (beat the Oakland Raiders, 27–23), an AFL Divisional Playoff in 1969 (lost 13–6 to the Kansas City Chiefs) and the 1981 AFC Wild Card Playoff game (lost 31–27 to the Buffalo Bills).

For most of the Jets' tenure at Shea, they were burdened by onerous lease terms imposed at the insistence of the Mets. Until 1978, the Jets could not play their first home game until the Mets' season was finished. For instance, in 1969, the defending Super Bowl champion Jets didn't play a home game until October 20 due to the Mets advancing to (and winning) the World Series. As a result, the 1969 Jets opened with five consecutive road games, and then played all seven home games in consecutive weeks before closing with two road games. Even after 1978, the Mets' status as Shea's primary tenants would require the Jets to go on long road trips (switching Shea from baseball to football configuration was a complex process involving electrical, plumbing, field, and other similar work). The stadium was also not well maintained in the 1970s. The Jets moved to Giants Stadium for the 1984 season, enticed by the more than 15,000 additional seats there. Fans ripped apart Shea after the last game of the 1983 season, which also was the last game for Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw, who threw two touchdown passes to lead the Pittsburgh Steelers to a 34–7 victory.[46] Even the scoreboard operator had a field day, displaying the home team as the "N.J. Jets".[47]

1986 Jeno's Pizza - 29 - O.J. Simpson
O.J. Simpson pictured breaking the NFL's single-season rushing record at Shea Stadium.

It was at Shea Stadium on December 16, 1973 that O.J. Simpson became the first running back to gain 2,000 yards in a single season[48] (and, to date, the only player to do it in 14 games or fewer). In the 1983 season, a Jets game against the Los Angeles Rams featured an 85-yard touchdown run by rookie Eric Dickerson, as well as a brawl between Rams offensive tackle Jackie Slater and Jets defensive end Mark Gastineau when Slater blindsided Gastineau after the Jet performed his infamous "Sack Dance" over fallen Rams quarterback Vince Ferragamo.

The NFL's New York Giants played their 1975 season at Shea while Giants Stadium was being built. The Giants were 5–9 that year (2–5 at Shea). Their coach was Bill Arnsparger and their quarterback was Craig Morton. The Giants played their final five home games of 1973 and all seven in 1974 at the Yale Bowl in New Haven, Connecticut; Yankee Stadium was closed in October 1973 for a massive renovation, which was completed in time for the 1976 baseball season.

On the night of October 9, 1965, Shea Stadium hosted the football rivalry between Army and Notre Dame for the first and only time. The Fighting Irish blanked the Cadets, 17-0, beginning a 15-game winning streak for Notre Dame in the storied series.

In 1966, the Brooklyn Dodgers of the minor Continental Football League unsuccessfully sued the Jets in an attempt to use the stadium; the team wound up playing on Randall's Island and soon folded. In 1974, the New York Stars of the nascent World Football League also made inquiries to play at Shea, whose schedule was already overcrowded by the Mets, Jets and Yankees (and the following year, the Giants; see below). The Stars also moved out to Randall's Island, playing only a handful of games before shifting to Charlotte.

The football field at Shea extended from around home plate to centerfield, with the baseline seating rotating out to fill left and right fields.

Soccer

The first soccer game at Shea Stadium occurred during International Soccer League tournament play on June 17, 1965.[49]

The original New York Cosmos beat the Washington Diplomats, 2-0, in an NASL playoff game at Shea on August 17, 1976.[50]

New York United of the American Soccer League called Shea home in 1980.[51]

Date Winning Team Result Losing Team Tournament Spectators
June 17, 1965 Brazil Portuguesa 6-3 England West Ham United International Friendly
August 17, 1976 United States New York Cosmos 2-0 United States Washington Diplomats NASL Playoff -

Concerts

Aerial view Shea Stadium with Manhattan in background 1981
Shea Stadium and vicinity, with the Manhattan skyline in the distance, 1981

On Sunday, August 15, 1965, the Beatles opened their 1965 North American tour there to a record audience of 55,600.[52] "Beatlemania" was at one of its peaks at their Shea concert. Film footage shows many teenagers and women crying, screaming, and even fainting. The crowd noise was such that security guards can be seen covering their ears as the Beatles entered the field. The sound of the crowd was so deafening that none of the Beatles (or anyone else) could hear what they were playing. Nevertheless, it was the first concert to be held at a major stadium and set records for attendance and revenue generation, demonstrating that outdoor concerts on a large scale could be successful and profitable, and led the Beatles to return to Shea for a successful encore on August 23, 1966. The attendance record stood until 1973 when it was broken by Led Zeppelin with 56,800 fans at Tampa Stadium.[53]

The next major music event to play Shea Stadium after the Beatles successful appearances was the Summer Festival for Peace on August 6, 1970.[43] It was a day-long fundraiser, which featured many of the era's biggest selling and seminal rock, folk, blues and jazz performers including: Janis Joplin, Paul Simon, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Steppenwolf, The James Gang, Miles Davis, Tom Paxton, John Sebastian, and others.

The next music show at Shea Stadium was the historic 1971 concert by Grand Funk Railroad in 1971, which broke the Beatles' then-record for fastest ticket sales. Humble Pie was the opening band. The same filmmakers for the documentary of the Rolling Stones concert at Altamont were commissioned to film it, but to date, a final film has not been released.

The stadium hosted numerous concerts since then, including Jethro Tull with opening act Robin Trower in July 1976 (billed as Tull v. Boeing because of the proximity to LaGuardia Airport), The Who with opening act The Clash in October 1982, and Simon & Garfunkel in August 1983. On August 18, 1983, The Police played in front of 70,000 fans at Shea, a concert that the band's singer and bassist Sting described as "like playing the top of Everest", and announced near the end of the concert: "We'd like to thank the Beatles for lending us their stadium."[54] The Rolling Stones performed at Shea for a six-night run in October 1989, and Elton John & Eric Clapton played a concert in August 1992. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band performed at Shea in early October 2003 (all three shows were professionally filmed).[43]

The last concert event was a two-night engagement by Billy Joel on July 16 and July 18, 2008. The concert was dubbed The Last Play at Shea, and featured many special guest appearances, including former Beatle Paul McCartney who closed the second show with an emotional rendition of the Beatles classic "Let It Be". Other artists that joined Joel on stage for the shows were former Shea performer Roger Daltrey of The Who, Tony Bennett, Don Henley, John Mayer, John Mellencamp, Garth Brooks, and Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. The concert was the subject of a documentary film of the same name, which is used along with Shea's history to tell the story of changes in American suburban life.[55]

Other events

The 1978 International Convention of Jehovah's Witnesses was held at Shea Stadium from July 12 to July 16, 1978.[43]

During his tour of America in October 1979, Pope John Paul II was also among those hosted by Shea Stadium.[56] On the morning of the Pontiff's visit, Shea Stadium was awash in torrential rain, causing ankle-deep mud puddles, and threatened to ruin the event. But as the Popemobile entered the stadium, the rain stopped although the deep mud remained.

On December 9, 1979, as part of the halftime show of a National Football League game between the New York Jets and New England Patriots, a model airplane group put on a remote control airplane display. The grand finale was a remote control airplane, weighing 40 lbs, made to look like a red flying lawnmower. The pilot lost control of the airplane, and it crashed into the stands, hitting Kevin Rourke, of Lynn, Massachusetts and John Bowen of Nashua, New Hampshire. Both suffered serious head injuries; Rourke survived but Bowen died four days later.[57]

Between 1972 and 1980, Shea also hosted 3 wrestling events held by the then World Wrestling Federation. In 1980, it hosted a simulcast of the first fight between Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard, won by Duran.

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.[58]

In popular culture

In the television serial drama Mad Men, the main character, Don Draper, has his secretary buy a pair of tickets for the Beatles' concert at Shea Stadium in 1965.[59]

Shea Stadium was parodied as "Che Stadium" ("named for the Cuban guerilla leader, Che Stadium") for The Rutles film All You Need is Cash for a sequence that spoofed the Beatles' concert at the stadium.

Shea Stadium was parodied as Spray Stadium in an episode of Batman 66.

In 1987, Marvel Comics rented Shea Stadium to re-enact the wedding of Spider-Man/Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson.[60]

Recently on VH1's documentary series 7 Ages of Rock, Shea Stadium was named the most hallowed venue in all of rock music.

In Godzilla: The Series, the stadium was destroyed in a fight between Godzilla and Crackler.

Shea Stadium was used in the 1970s for filming the 1973 movie Bang The Drum Slowly starring Robert De Niro and Michael Moriarty and the 1978 film The Wiz. In the latter film, the exterior pedestrian ramps were used for a motorcycle chase scene with Michael Jackson & Diana Ross.

A scene in the 2002 movie Two Weeks Notice takes place at Shea.

In Men in Black, a Mets game at Shea was featured in the film, with outfielder Bernard Gilkey dropping a fly ball after being distracted by an alien spacecraft in the sky. Shea was also featured in Men in Black 3 which is where K and J intercept Griffin and the ArcNet in 1969 before Boris the Animal can capture it.

Shea Stadium was also the setting for two episodes of The King of Queens: "Doug Out" (1999) and "Catching Hell" (2005).

1975: Four teams, one stadium

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.[4]

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 one-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.[61] 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.

Features

Design

Shea was a circular stadium, with the grandstand forming about two-thirds of a circle around the field and ending a short distance beyond the foul lines. The remainder of the perimeter was mostly empty space beyond the outfield fences. This space was occupied by the bullpens, scoreboards, and a section of bleachers beyond the left field fence. The stadium boasted 54 restrooms, 21 escalators, seats for 57,343 fans (although as seating configuration changed constantly over the life of the stadium, that number varied often, dropping to 55,601 by the 1986 World Series, and then increased again over following years to between approximately 56,000 and 57,000, until its closing), and a massive 86' x 175' scoreboard. Also, rather than the standard light towers, Shea featured lamps along its upper reaches. Some deemed Shea a showplace, praised for its convenience, even its "elegance".[58] The stadium's scoreboard in right field, one of the largest in MLB when it opened, weighed over 60 tons. One of its distinctive features was a giant rearview slide projector screen on the top center of the scoreboard; it was intended to display a picture of the current player at bat (a groundbreaking innovation at the time); however, due to lighting issues (it only worked at night when the light was really low; during day games, the picture would not show up at all), it was not used very often and was eventually covered with a giant Mets logo (or a Jets logo when they played).[62][63]

The stadium was located close to LaGuardia Airport. For many years, interruptions for planes flying overhead were common at Shea; the noise was so loud that radio and television broadcasts could not be heard. Players would usually ask for time during noisy flight approaches and takeoffs.

Ball Games (60)
One of the neon players on the outside of Shea Stadium.

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. The original scoreboard was removed, and a new one installed in its place (fitting into the shell left behind by the old one) allowing fo a much greater space for information and entertainment, in 1988. 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.[4]

Shea Stadium exterior 1964
Shea's exterior, pictured here in 1964, was decorated with blue and orange panels from 1964 until their removal in 1980.

Banks of ramps that provided access from the ground to the upper levels were built around the outside circumference of the stadium. The ramps were not walled in and were visible from outside the stadium. The ramps were originally partly covered with many rectangular panels in blue and orange, the Mets' colors. These panels can be seen in the 1970s movie The Wiz, which used the exterior pedestrian ramps for a motorcycle chase scene with Michael Jackson and Diana Ross. The 1960s-style decorations were removed in 1980.[4] The banks of ramps resulted in the outer wall of the stadium jutting out where the banks existed.

The design also allowed for Shea Stadium to be expandable to 90,000 seats, simply by completely enclosing the grandstand. It was also designed to be later enclosed by a dome if warranted. In March 1965, a plan was formally announced to add a glass dome and add 15,000 seats.[29][64] The Mets strongly objected to the proposal.[65] The idea was later dropped after engineering studies concluded that the stadium's foundation would be unable to support the weight of the dome.[29]

The distances to the right and left field foul poles were initially both 341 feet (104 m). There was a horizontal orange line that determined where a batted ball was a home run or still in play. In 1978, Manager Joe Torre suggested moving in the fences to 338 feet (103 m) in the corners with a wall in front of the original brick wall, to decrease the number of disputed calls.[66]

Originally, all of the seats were wooden, with each level having a different color. The field boxes were yellow, the loge level seats were brown, the mezzanine seats were blue, and the upper deck seats were green. Each level above the field level was divided into box seats below the entrance/exit portals and reserved seats above the portals. The box seats were a darker shade than the reserved seats. The game ticket was the same color as the seat that it represented, and the signs in the lobby for that section were the same color as the seat and the ticket. Before the 1980 baseball season, they were replaced with red (upper deck), green (mezzanine), blue (loge), and orange (field level) plastic seats.

Sheastadiumfromtheair
Shea Stadium from the air, 2005. Citi Field was later built in the parking area to the right (east) of the stadium.

Unlike Yankee Stadium, Shea was built on an open field, so there was no need to have it conform to the surrounding streets.

Before Shea Stadium closed in 2008, it was the only stadium in the major leagues with orange foul poles. This tradition is carried on at Citi Field as the foul poles there are the same color.

After the Jets left Shea, the exterior of the stadium was painted blue and white, two of the Mets' team colors.

In 2003, large murals celebrating the Mets' two world championships were added, covering the two ends of the grandstand. The 1986 mural was removed after the 2006 season because of deterioration (the wall was re-painted solid blue, and a window was opened on the mezzanine level where fans could view the progress of Citi Field), but the 1969 mural survived until the final game at the end of 2008.

Shake shack citi
The skyline from Shea's scoreboard, now on top of the Shake Shack in Citi Field.

The scoreboard was topped by a representation of the New York Skyline, a prominent part of the team logo. After the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center were kept unlit, with a red-white-and-blue ribbon placed over them. The scoreboard was demolished in October 2008, but the skyline was preserved and is now located on the Shake Shack in Citi Field's "Taste Of The City" food court behind the giant scoreboard in center field.[67]

During the 2007 and 2008 seasons, the construction of Citi Field was visible beyond the left and center field walls of Shea.

From 1973 to 1979, fans could estimate the distance of home run balls, since there were several signs beyond the outfield wall giving the distance in feet from home plate, in addition to the nine markers within the field.[4]

Home Run Apple

Mets home run apple
Shea's home run apple

The Home Run Apple came out of a magic hat after every Mets home run at Shea Stadium. It was first installed in May 1980 as a symbol of the Mets' advertising slogan "The Magic Is Back!" (the hat originally said "Mets Magic" in script but was changed in the mid-1980s to a simple "Home Run" in block capital letters).[68] A bigger apple was placed in center field at Citi Field. The original apple was installed inside Citi Field's bullpen gate and was visible from outside, on 126th Street. In 2010, the original Shea apple was relocated outside the Citi Field, in front of the Jackie Robinson Rotunda.[69]

Seating capacity

Baseball
Years Capacity
1964–1984 55,300[10]
1985–1993 55,601[70]
1994–2001 55,777[71]
2002–2003 56,749[72]
2004 57,405[73]
2005 57,369[74]
2006–2008 57,333[75]
Football
Years Capacity
1964–1983 60,372[76]

Homages

Four players in the National League named their children after Shea Stadium.[77]

Actor Kevin James, a devoted Mets fan, named his youngest daughter Shea Joelle.[78]

References

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External links

1964 Major League Baseball All-Star Game

The 1964 Major League Baseball All-Star Game was the 35th midseason exhibition between the all-stars of the American League (AL) and the National League (NL), the two leagues comprising Major League Baseball. The game was played on July 7, 1964, at Shea Stadium in New York City, New York, home of the New York Mets of the National League. The game was a 7–4 victory for the NL. Johnny Callison hit a walk-off home run, the most recent MLB All-Star game to end in such a fashion.

1969 New York Mets season

The 1969 New York Mets season was the team's eighth as a Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise and culminated when they won the World Series over the Baltimore Orioles. They played their home games at Shea Stadium and were managed by Gil Hodges. The team is often referred to as the "Amazin' Mets" (a nickname coined by Casey Stengel, who managed the team from their inaugural season to 1965) or the "Miracle Mets".

The 1969 season was the first season of divisional play in Major League Baseball. The Mets were assigned to the newly created National League East division. In their seven previous seasons, the Mets had never finished higher than ninth place in the ten-team National League and had never had a winning season. They lost at least one hundred games in five of the seasons. However, they overcame mid-season difficulties while the division leaders for much of the season, the Chicago Cubs, suffered a late-season collapse. The Mets finished 100–62, eight games ahead of the Cubs. The Mets went on to defeat the National League West champion Atlanta Braves three games to none in the inaugural National League Championship Series and went on to defeat the American League champion Baltimore Orioles in five games. First baseman Donn Clendenon was named the series' most valuable player on the strength of his .357 batting average, three home runs, and four runs batted in.

On Saturday, August 22, 2009, many of the surviving members of the 1969 championship team reunited at the New York Mets' present park, Citi Field.

1973 National League Championship Series

The 1973 National League Championship Series was played between the New York Mets and the Cincinnati Reds from October 6 to 10. New York won the series three games to two and advanced to the World Series, where they lost to the Oakland A's in what was the second of three straight world championships for Oakland. The Mets set a record for lowest win percentage by a pennant winner, finishing the regular season with an 82–79 record. However, most of the season was plagued by the injury jinx to their key players. In September they finally got healthy and just in time for the playoffs. The Mets' victory has gone down as one of the greatest upsets in MLB history, as they dominated the heavily favored Big Red Machine.

The 1973 NLCS was marked by a fight that broke out in the fifth inning of the third game, beginning with a tussle between Cincinnati's Pete Rose and New York's Bud Harrelson at second base. Players from both sides joined in a general melee that lasted for several minutes and set off rowdy fan behavior at Shea Stadium in New York. Photographs of the fight, autographed by Rose and Harrelson, are now available at a number of Internet sites.

This was the only NLCS between 1970 and 1980 not to feature either the Philadelphia Phillies or the Pittsburgh Pirates. In fact, from 1969 to 1980 The NL East champion was either the Mets, Phillies or Pirates.

1983 New York Jets season

The 1983 New York Jets season was the 24th season for the team and the 14th in the National Football League. It began with the team trying to improve upon its 6–3 record from 1982 and return to the playoffs under first-year head coach Joe Walton. The Jets, who finished the season with a record of 7–9, played their twentieth and final season at Shea Stadium before relocating their home games to Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, starting with the following season.

1986 New York Mets season

The 1986 New York Mets season was the Mets' 25th season in the National League. They improved from a 98–64 record in 1985 to finish the season with a franchise record 108–54 record, giving them the division title. They went on to defeat the Houston Astros in six games in the NLCS and the American League champion Boston Red Sox in seven games in the World Series. This is their last championship to date.

Citi Field

Citi Field is a baseball park located in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park in New York City. Completed in 2009, it is the home field of the New York Mets of the National League division of Major League Baseball. The stadium was built as a replacement for and adjacent to Shea Stadium, which opened in 1964 next to the site of the 1964 New York World's Fair.

Citi Field was designed by Populous (then HOK Sport), and is named after Citigroup, a New York financial services company which purchased the naming rights. The $850 million baseball park was funded with $615 million in public subsidies, including the sale of New York City municipal bonds which are to be repaid by the Mets plus interest. The payments will offset property taxes for the lifetime of the park. The Mets are receiving $20 million annually from Citibank in exchange for naming the stadium Citi Field.

The first game at Citi Field was on March 29, 2009, with a college baseball game between St. John's and Georgetown. The Mets played their first two games at the ballpark on April 3 and 4, 2009 against the Boston Red Sox as charity exhibition games. The first regular season home game was played on April 13, 2009, against the San Diego Padres. Citi Field hosted the 2013 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, marking the second time the Mets have hosted the event (the first being in 1964, the inaugural season of Shea Stadium).

Home Run Apple

The Home Run Apple is a motorized apple prop in the batter's eye at Citi Field in New York City, New York, United States; which rises whenever the New York Mets score a home run there. The original, smaller apple was first installed in Shea Stadium in 1980 at the behest of Al Harazin with a replacement being installed at Citi Field upon that stadium's opening in 2009. The original was 9 feet (2.7 m) tall while the replacement is 18 feet (5.5 m) tall and 16 feet (4.9 m) wide.

Jim Bunning's perfect game

On June 21, 1964, Jim Bunning of the Philadelphia Phillies pitched the seventh perfect game in Major League Baseball history, defeating the New York Mets 6-0 in the first game of a doubleheader at Shea Stadium. A father of seven children at the time, Bunning pitched his perfect game on Father's Day. One of Bunning's daughters, Barbara, was in attendance, as was his wife, Mary.

Needing only 90 pitches to complete his masterpiece, Bunning struck out 10 batters, including six of the last nine he faced; the last two strikeouts were of the last two batters he faced: George Altman and John Stephenson.

The perfect game was the first regular season perfect game since Charlie Robertson's perfect game in 1922 (Don Larsen had pitched a perfect game in between, in the 1956 World Series), as well as the first in modern-day National League history (two perfect games had been pitched in 1880). It was also the first no-hitter by a Phillies pitcher since Johnny Lush no-hit the Brooklyn Superbas on May 1, 1906.

Bunning, who no-hit the Boston Red Sox while with the Detroit Tigers in 1958, joined Cy Young as the only pitchers to throw no-hitters in both the National and American Leagues; he has since been joined by Nolan Ryan, Hideo Nomo and Randy Johnson. The perfect game also made Bunning the third pitcher, after Young and Addie Joss, to throw a perfect game and an additional no-hitter; Sandy Koufax, Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Roy Halladay have since joined him (the latter of these pitchers pitched his additional no-hitter in the 2010 National League Division Series after pitching his perfect game earlier in the season).

As the perfect game developed, Bunning defied the baseball superstition that no one should talk about a no-hitter in progress, speaking to his teammates about the perfect game to keep himself relaxed and loosen up his teammates. Bunning had abided by the tradition during a near-no hitter a few weeks before, determining afterwards that keeping quiet didn’t help.Gus Triandos, Bunning's catcher, had also caught Hoyt Wilhelm's no-hitter on September 20, 1958 while with the Baltimore Orioles, becoming the first catcher to catch no-hitters in both leagues.

Kosmo Vinyl

Kosmo Vinyl (born Mark C. Dunk, 9 February 1957, England) was a longtime associate and sometime manager for The Clash, as well as being associated with Ian Dury & the Blockheads and The Jam, three seminal English bands of the 1970s and 1980s. He can be heard introducing The Clash at Shea Stadium on The Clash's live album, Live at Shea Stadium, as well as many bootlegged performances such as Kingston Advice. His impressionistic reading of one of character Travis Bickle's monologues from the film Taxi Driver can be heard on The Clash's "Red Angel Dragnet".

Prior to his association with the Clash, he had acted as MC on the Stiff Records tours, appearing on the 1978 LP Live Stiffs Live.

He later became a record producer, producing records by Jack Logan and Drivin N Cryin.Vinyl was a music consultant on Gus Van Sant's 1989 film, Drugstore Cowboy, and in 2013, helped produce a major retrospective exhibition of the art of Ian Dury, at The Royal College of Art in London. He debuted his own punk/pop inspired artwork dedicated to his beloved West Ham United Football Club with a London exhibit, followed by a show in Somerset in 2014 during the FIFA World Cup. In 2017 he designed the artwork for the Blockheads Single "Hold Up" and the album "Beyond the Call of Dury"His first son, Jack, was born in 1991.

List of New York Mets Opening Day starting pitchers

The New York Mets are a Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise based in Flushing, Queens, in New York City. They play in the National League East division. The first game of the new baseball season for a team is played on Opening Day, and being named the Opening Day starter is an honor, which is often given to the player who is expected to lead the pitching staff that season, though there are various strategic reasons why a team's best pitcher might not start on Opening Day. The New York Mets have used 27 different Opening Day starting pitchers in their 58 seasons. The 27 starters have a combined Opening Day record of 29 wins, 13 losses (29–13) and 16 no decisions. No decisions are only awarded to the starting pitcher if the game is won or lost after the starting pitcher has left the game.

Tom Seaver holds the Mets' record for most Opening Day starts with 11, and has an Opening Day record of 6–0. He also has the most starts in Shea Stadium, the Mets' home ballpark from 1964 through 2008. Seaver and Dwight Gooden hold the Mets' record for most Opening Day wins with six each. Al Jackson and Roger Craig share the worst winning percentage as the Opening Day starting pitcher with a record of 0–2.

From 1968 through 1983, Mets' Opening Day starting pitchers went 16 consecutive years without a loss. During this period, Tom Seaver won six starts with five no decisions, Craig Swan won two starts, and Jerry Koosman, Pat Zachry and Randy Jones won one start apiece. Furthermore, in the 31-year period from 1968 through 1998, Mets' Opening Day starting pitchers only lost two games. During that period, they won 19 games with 10 no decisions. The only losses during this period were by Mike Torrez in 1984 and by Dwight Gooden in 1990.

Overall, Mets Opening Day starting pitchers have a record of 0–1 at the Polo Grounds, a 12–5 record with five no decisions at Shea Stadium and a 3–0 record with three no decisions at Citi Field. In addition, although the Mets were nominally the home team in 2000, the game was played in Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan. Mike Hampton started the game in Tokyo and lost, making the Mets' Opening Day starting pitchers' combined home record 15–7, and their away record 14–6. The Mets went on to play in the World Series in 1969, 1973, 1986, 2000 and 2015, and won the 1969 and 1986 World Series championship games. Tom Seaver (1969 and 1973), Dwight Gooden (1986), Mike Hampton (2000) and Bartolo Colón (2015) were the Opening Day starting pitchers when the Mets played in the World Series, and they had a combined Opening Day record of 3–1 with one no decision.

Live at Shea Stadium

Live at Shea Stadium is a live album by the English punk rock band The Clash. It was recorded at Shea Stadium in New York City on 13 October 1982, the band's second night opening for The Who; the concert was produced by Kosmo Vinyl. The original recordings were unearthed by Clash frontman Joe Strummer while packing for a move. The album was released in the United Kingdom on 6 October 2008 and in the United States the following day.

Mets–Willets Point station (IRT Flushing Line)

Mets–Willets Point (formerly Willets Point–Shea Stadium) is an express station on the IRT Flushing Line of the New York City Subway. It is served by the 7 train at all times and by the <7> train rush hours in the peak direction or towards Manhattan following most New York Mets baseball games and U.S. Open tennis matches. This station is located in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park in Willets Point, Queens, on Roosevelt Avenue between 114th and 126th Streets.

The station was originally opened as a local station, Willets Point Boulevard, in 1927. It was rebuilt into the current layout of three tracks, two side platforms, and a center island platform for the 1939 New York World's Fair. The station's peak use occurs during Mets games at Citi Field (and at Shea Stadium from 1964 until 2008), located on the north side of the station, and during events at the USTA National Tennis Center, on the south side.

Mets–Willets Point station (LIRR)

Mets–Willets Point (formerly Shea Stadium) is a limited-use station on the Long Island Rail Road's Port Washington Branch in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park, Queens, New York City.

The station is used only during New York Mets home games at Citi Field (Shea Stadium prior to 2009), the U.S. Open tennis tournament at the USTA National Tennis Center and major events such as concerts, as well as emergencies. Although Mets–Willets Point was originally not part of CityTicket, it was added to the CityTicket program in August 2011, and fares are collected before boarding when the station is in use.

The proposed AirTrain LaGuardia service to LaGuardia Airport would connect with the LIRR at the Willets Point station.

Shea Stadium (Peoria, Illinois)

Shea Stadium is a former baseball stadium located in Peoria, Illinois, less than a mile north of Bradley University and just to the west of the USDA National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research. Converted to a soccer-specific facility in 2003, it is owned and operated by Bradley University and is the home of the Bradley Braves men's and women's soccer teams.

Spider-Man's wedding (live performance)

Spider-Man's wedding at Shea Stadium in 1987 was a publicity stunt and live performance adaptation of the comic book storyline "The Wedding!" produced by Marvel Comics. The event was meant to advertise the special issue of The Amazing Spider-Man comic book, which went on sale the next Tuesday and took place at home plate in front of more than 45,000 fans just before the New York Mets play the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Beatles' 1965 US tour

The Beatles staged their second concert tour of the United States (with one date in Canada) in the late summer of 1965. At the peak of American Beatlemania, they played a mixture of outdoor stadiums and indoor arenas, with historic concerts at Shea Stadium in New York and the Hollywood Bowl. Typically of the era, the tour was a "package" presentation, with several artists on the bill. The Beatles played for just 30 minutes at each show, following sets by support acts such as Brenda Holloway and the King Curtis Band, Cannibal & the Headhunters, and Sounds Incorporated.

After the tour's conclusion, the Beatles took a six-week break before reconvening in mid-October to record the album Rubber Soul.

The Beatles at Shea Stadium

The Beatles at Shea Stadium is a fifty-minute-long documentary of the Beatles' 15 August 1965, concert at Shea Stadium in New York City, the highlight of the group's 1965 tour. The documentary was directed and produced by Bob Precht (under his Sullivan Productions banner), NEMS Enterprises (which owns the 1965 copyright), and the Beatles company Subafilms. The project, placed under the direction of manager of production operations M. Clay Adams, was filmed by a large crew led by cinematographer Andrew Laszlo. Fourteen cameras were used to capture the euphoria and mass hysteria that was Beatlemania in America in 1965. The documentary first aired on BBC1 on 1 March 1966. In West Germany, it aired on 2 August that year. It aired in the United States on ABC on 10 January 1967.

The Last Play at Shea

The Last Play at Shea is a 2010 American documentary film written by Mark Monroe, directed by Paul Crowder, produced by Steve Cohen and Nigel Sinclair, in conjunction with Billy Joel's Maritime Pictures and Spitfire Films. The film is centered on Billy Joel's 2008 concerts of the same name that occurred at Shea Stadium. The shows were staged on July 16 and 18, 2008, before a combined 110,000 fans, and were the last performances ever to play the historic stadium before it was demolished. The film debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 26, 2010. The film was released on DVD on February 8, 2011. The CD and DVD from the show were released on March 8, 2011 by Sony.The film premiered on August 21, 2010 at Citi Field, Shea Stadium's successor, in front of around 20,000 moviegoers. Earlier that day, Joel watched it himself and there was an announcement from him that he liked it and said "I haven't puked from it," which was shown right before the film.

Events and tenants
Preceded by
Polo Grounds
Home of the
New York Mets

1964–2008
Succeeded by
Citi Field
Preceded by
Polo Grounds
Home of the
New York Jets

1964–1983
Succeeded by
Giants Stadium
Preceded by
Yankee Stadium
Home of the
New York Yankees

1974–1975
Succeeded by
Yankee Stadium
Preceded by
Yale Bowl
Home of the
New York Giants

1975
Succeeded by
Giants Stadium
Preceded by
Municipal Stadium
Host of the All-Star Game
1964
Succeeded by
Metropolitan Stadium

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