Date of Birth: April 17, 1964
Closed: September 28, 2008 (Final game)
Demolition: October 14, 2008 – February 18, 2009
William A. Shea Municipal Stadium, usually shortened by their beloved fan base to Shea Stadium or just Shea, was Home to the Major League Baseball’s New York Mets for 44 years. It was located in the New York City borough of Queens, in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. It was originally going to be called “Flushing Meadow Park Municipal Stadium” but a decision was made to name it in honor of William A. Shea, the man who brought National League baseball back to New York.
The Rise of Shea Stadium
Shea Stadium is probably best known for some of it’s trademarks. It was located near New York’s two major airports, LaGuardia and John F, Kennedy. Regularly airplanes would fly by or over the stadium during games creating a lot of noise usually resulting in a small advantage for the home town Mets. Another fan favorite and Shea stadium staple was the Mets theme song “Meet the Mets” which was played before every home game. Four World Series were played at Shea during its tenure. The New York Mets were crowned World Series Champions In 1969 where they defeated the Baltimore Orioles. The 1969 Mets team was dubbed the “Miracle Mets” since they went from last place the year before to world champions. After the clinching game 5 victory, in celebration the fans stormed the field and tore it apart for souvenirs. The Mets or as their fans affectionately referred to them as the “Amazins: again were crowned Champions in 1986 when they beat the Boston Red Sox. They also played and lost in the 1973 World Series against the Oakland Athletics and in 2000 versus the hated cross town rival New York Yankees. Shea Stadium also was home to New York Jets of the National football league from its inaugural season in 1964 until the Jets left in 1983. Shea was also host to many other events such as concerts, soccer games and wrestling. Some of the biggest and most frequent artists to perform at Shea Stadium were the Beatles, Billy Joel, The Who, Elton John, Bruce Springstein and many more. In the aftermath of the September 11th 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 re-opened 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 Home Run Apple
The Home Run Apple was located behind the center field fence. It came up out of a magic hat after every Mets home run at Shea Stadium. It was first installed in May 1980 as a symbol of a Mets 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”. Shea’s original apple which was initially installed inside Citi Field’s bullpen entrance gate, has now been moved to outside the stadium in front of the main gate.
The final game at Shea Stadium was played on September 28th 2008, where the Mets were defeated by the Florida Marlins. Had the Mets won the game, they would have played a one game playoff against the Milwaukee Brewers which would have been at Shea Stadium. Immediately following the game, the tribute “Shea Goodbye” began which honored Mets greats from throughout the teams history. Each former player was announced as they walked onto the field, saluted the crowd and formed a circle around the infield. After everyone had been introduced, players said their final farewell to Shea as they walked down the 1st and 3rd baselines and touched home plate for the last time. The tribute concluded with the greatest pitcher and catcher to ever wear a Mets uniform. Tom Seaver took the mound to throw the final pitch ever at Shea Stadium to Mike Piazza. After the pitch the two would walk from Home Plate to the Center field wall, wave goodbye and close the doors on Shea Stadium forever.
The Fall of Shea Stadium
In accordance with New York City law, Shea Stadium had to be dismantled piece by piece, rather than imploded. Parts of the Stadium and memorabilia such as seats and signs were sold to fans. The actual demolition finally began on October 14, 2008. On October 18, the scoreboard in right field was demolished, with the bleachers, batter’s eye and bullpens soon to follow. By November 10, the field, dugouts and the rest of the field level seats had been demolished. As mid-December approached all of the Loge level seats and about half of the Mezzanine level seating was gone as well, this left only the outer shell remaining. Demolition work on the upper deck began by January 1, 2009. Approximately two-thirds of the stadium’s outer superstructure was gone by January 24. On January 31, Mets fans all over New York came to Shea for one final farewell to Shea Stadium. Fans took a tour of the site, told stories, and sang songs. “D” day finally arrived on February 18th 2008. At 11:22 AM fans stood in awe the last remaining section of seats and structure of Shea Stadium was torn down.
Shea’s Legacy Carried on in New Home
At Citi Field, Shea Stadium’s memory lives on as a newer, bigger apple has been placed behind the center field wall. The skyline that graced the top of the Shea Stadium scoreboard was preserved and is now located on top of the center field food court know as the “Shake Shack” at Citi Field. In commemoration of William A, Shea and Shea Stadium the bridge connecting right field and the center field was named the “Shea Bridge”. Shea’s home plate, pitcher’s mound, and the bases are remembered in Citi Field’s parking lot, and feature engravings of the neon baseball players that once graced the exterior of the stadium. At the start of the second season in Citi Field the Mets opened up a Mets hall of fame which is located on the bottom floor of the Jackie Robinson rotunda.