Shea Stadium

Shea Stadium was the home of many famous events. It was opened in 1964 and served as the home of the New York Mets of the National League from 1964-2008. The stadium in Queens, New York was originally going to be called “Flushing Meadows Stadium”. However the New York Mets website says, “In the fall of 1962, civic leader Bernard Gimbel spearheaded a campaign to rename the facility Shea Stadium in honor of the man, William A. Shea, who was the driving force behind bringing a National League team back to the Big Apple.”[1]

New York used to be home to three Major League Baseball franchises. You had the New York Yankees of the American League, and you had the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants of the National League. The Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles to become the Los Angeles Dodgers. The New York Giants moved to San Francisco to become the San Francisco Giants.  The New York Mets have influences from both the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Mets primary colors are blue and orange. Blue was the main color of the Dodgers and orange was the main color of the Giants. Blue and orange have significance in New York City. The colors of the flag of New York City are blue and orange. This showed the influence of the Dutch on New York, as the old Dutch flag was also blue and orange.

2626599690_33cc46390b_o
This is a photo of Shea Stadium with NYC in the background. This is a pre-9/11 photo as you can see the twin towers in the distance. Source:http://www.flickriver.com/photos/67827566@N00/2626599690/

The construction of Shea Stadium wasn’t exactly a smooth process. The construction of Shea Stadium was plagued by labor strikes and general incompetence.[2] In 1964 it was opened and the Mets began to play. The stadium style is one that was very popular in the 60’s and 70’s. During this time many of the stadiums were big circles that resembled flying saucers. Robert Moses was instrumental in the building of Shea Stadium. This ties into the larger theme of New York City at the time. Robert Moses was a man with big influence in New York City and he exerted that influence through many infrastructure and building projects. This was one project that he took on and got it completed. This was just the first way that Shea Stadium was emblematic of the changing times of New York City.

As the Mets went through season by season, Shea Stadium began to change. One of the most iconic Shea Stadium landmarks went up in 1981, “The Big Apple Top Hat was built behind the centerfield wall in 1981 (every Mets home run at Shea is topped off with the Big Apple lighting up and rising out of the black Top Hat)”.[3] Fans can still see the Big Apple Top Hat that was used at old Shea Stadium outside of Citi Field. There were many improvements to Shea Stadium over the years. Seats were added, video boards were improved, and different and unique food offerings were installed. From 1985-1987 Shea Stadium added one of the most iconic items to the stadium. During this time, “Major renovations included the addition of 50 suites on Shea’s press level. The entire outside of the stadium was painted “Mets blue” and neon outlines of baseball players were placed on each of the six panels”.[4] This can be seen on many pictures of Shea Stadium. Other renovations at Shea included adding more seats and improving the quality of the video boards. Shea Stadium remained the home of the Mets until the end of the 2008 season. In 2009, Citi Field opened right behind the old Shea Stadium and is now the current home of the Mets.

Many big events have happened at Shea Stadium. The first big moment happened on April 17, 1964. The Mets opened up the stadium with a 4-3 loss to Pittsburgh. The Mets did not have much luck in their first few years at Shea Stadium. That all changed in 1969 when they beat the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series. On October 16, 1969 the Mets defeated the Orioles in game 5 of the World Series to take home the title. One writer from The New York Times summed it up well by saying, “The Mets entered the promised land yesterday after seven years of wandering through the wilderness of baseball.” He continues by saying, “At 3:17 o’clock on a cool and often sunny afternoon, their impossible dream came true when Cleon Jones caught a fly ball hit by Dave Johnson to left field. And they immediately touched off one of the great, riotous scenes in sports history, as thousands of persons swarmed from their seats and tore up the patch of ground where the Mets had made history”.[5] When the Mets defeated the Orioles, thousands of fans stormed the field. The players had to hurry off the field and into the clubhouse to avoid the mob. The Mets had finally reached the pinnacle of baseball. The Mets would make it back to the World Series in 1973 but they would not win it.

The Mets were once again the center of the baseball world in 1986. This was one of the most historic and heartbreaking World Series of all time. The Mets made it to the World Series in 1986 against the Boston Red Sox. Both teams were loaded with talent. The Red Sox had players like Jim Rice, Roger Clemens and Rico Petrocelli. The Mets had Keith Hernandez, Dwight Gooden, and Darryl Strawberry. The Red Sox took a 3-2 series lead into game 6 of the series. Going into the 10th inning of game 6 the Mets were down to their last out. Several base hits later and the Mets had tied the score after a wild pitch. With Ray Knight on second base, Mookie Wilson hit a grounder that went underneath the glove of Bill Buckner to score Knight and give the Mets the win. The Boston Globe summed up the agony of the Red Sox loss by saying, “In a heartbreak that ranks with all of the heartbreaks ever recorded in the long book of Boston Red Sox heartbreak history, the Olde Towne Team let that world championship bounce away in the red dirt of Shea Stadium last night”.[6] Shea Stadium was rocking when the Mets won this game and forced a game 7. They would ultimately win that game 7 and capture their second World Series title. Again, the Mets finished off the championship with a win at Shea Stadium. Shea Stadium was where all the best moments in Mets history occurred.

The Mets wouldn’t make it back to the World Series until 2000. This was a special World Series because the Mets faced the cross town rivals the New York Yankees. Unfortunately, the Mets would fall to their foes from the Bronx. People remember these big moments in Mets history. However, Shea Stadium and the Mets brought people together. People of all classes and races came to watch the Mets at Shea. Baseball is a sport that brings people together and in the city of New York had the man who broke the color barrier, Jackie Robinson. Shea Stadium brought together the people of NYC to watch their team, and even when racial tensions were high, people could find common ground in rooting for the Mets.

Another big Mets moment at Shea occurred on September 21, 2001. In the first sporting event after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the New York Mets were in a unique position. Everyone was trying to find some sort of distraction from the horror and pain of the last few days. One of the most iconic moments came when Mike Piazza homered in the 8th inning. It is a moment that has been cited as the first time that New York could smile and care about sports after 9/11. Mets broadcaster Howie Rose summed it up well when he saw a group of firemen celebrating the homerun. He said, “I just immediately wondered: ‘What have the last 10 days been like for those guys?’ They lost friends and colleagues, God forbid other family members. And now they look like this. Baseball did that for them”.[7] Shea Stadium and the New York Mets were responsible for providing a small escape from the tragedy and horror of 9/11. It showed that stadiums and sports can be a source for healing and an outlet to release pent up emotions. Shea Stadium was emblematic of New York City at the time. It was a place where people grieved for the massive loss, but also came together to try and heal.

valentine
This photo is from September 21, 2001. This was the first sporting event in New York City after 9/11. This photo shows the Mets manager Bobby Valentine wearing an NYPD hat. This shows the raw emotions and healing that was going on at Shea Stadium that night. September 21, 2001 Source: http://www.star-telegram.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/gil-lebreton/article100873202.html

Although the main occupant of Shea Stadium was the New York Mets, there were many other events that occurred there as well. One of the biggest events occurred early in the history of Shea Stadium when the Beatles came to play. On August 15, 1965 the group from the UK came to play at Shea Stadium. A New York writer described the crowd by saying, “The Beatles packed Shea Stadium with 55,000-odd deliriously screaming teenagers last night- and literally had them climbing on the walls”.[8] The Beatles were immensely popular and this was the place to be. Shea Stadium could barely contain the crowd. As one writer put it, “Shea Stadium wasn’t big enough for everyone who wanted to be there. Only 55,600 seats? When compared to the number of fans that wanted to see the world’s most famous foursome in person, Shea Stadium couldn’t hold them all”.[9] Shea Stadium was the venue of one of the biggest concerts of the time. Shea Stadium was the center of pop culture on that night, a night many people will never forget. This performance of the Beatles really was a microcosm of the culture at the time in New York. The Beatles represented the counter culture and a move towards a different type of music. The Beatles were extremely popular and were a symbol of change that was occurring in New York City and around the country.

A different kind of crowd packed Shea Stadium in October of 1979. On October 3, Pope John Paul II visited Shea Stadium. This was part of Pope John Paul II’s visit to New York City. Something amazing happened that day in New York, “A torrential downpour soaked the more than 60,000 people gathered to see the Pontiff. The rain cleared up as soon as the Pope reached the stadium, causing some to believe that they had witnessed a minor miracle”.[10] The Pope coming to Shea Stadium was a huge deal for the people of New York City. A chance to see the leader of the Roman Catholic Church is a very big occasion. The Pope held a mass at Shea Stadium and was greeted by cheers and admiration. The Pope’s visit to Shea Stadium not only was a big deal for the stadium and the Pope, but it had a huge impact on the people of New York. The Pope offered words of spiritual advice and touched the lives of many New Yorkers on that day. On that day Shea Stadium transformed from a sporting arena to a cathedral. This showed the diversity in New York City. It brought together people of all different walks of life. They were connected by their faith and came to see Pope John Paul II. This was another way that Shea Stadium brought people together. Shea Stadium was more than the Mets and concerts, it was also a meeting place and point of gathering for Catholics all around the country.

john-paul-ii-american-catholics
This is Pope John Paul II making his appearance at Shea Stadium on October 3, 1979. This picture shows the massive crowds that were on hand to greet him. People of all races and classes came to just get a glimpse of him. Shea Stadium became a cathedral on this day instead of a sports stadium. Source:http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/bell-pope-speaks-races-faiths-exit-article-1.2347279

Shea Stadium not only hosted baseball, but for a time it hosted football as well. One unique circumstance arose in 1975. One author says, “If you wanted to take in a home game for the New York Mets, or the New York Yankees, or the New York Jets, or the New York Giants that year, then you would need to make the trip to Shea Stadium. That was the one and only stadium open for business in 1975”.[11] Because of renovations to Yankee Stadium the Yankees were forced to play their home games at Shea in 1975. The arrangement resulted in some conflicts but they were quickly resolved. This was quite a unique season and is certainly something that would not happen in this day in age. Shea Stadium also hosted some college football games in addition to the NFL games.

When you step back and take a look at what Shea Stadium showed about New York City, the results are remarkable. First, it showed the urban planning and vision of Robert Moses when it was built in the 1960’s. The people that showed up to see the Mets play came from a variety of backgrounds. The fans of the Mets came from various ethnic backgrounds and classes of society. Baseball was something that transcended race and class in New York City. Shea Stadium was also the place where the Beatles hosted a massive concert. This was emblematic of the culture shift happening not only in NYC but across the country. The counter culture movement was in full swing and it showed when the Beatles came to Shea Stadium. When Pope John Paul II came to Shea Stadium, it drew people of all faiths and walks of life. Shea Stadium became a gathering place for people to just get a glimpse of the Pope. And, after the tragedy of 9/11 Shea Stadium became a place where people came together to grieve and heal from the horrific events. Shea Stadium showed the history of major events in New York and how New Yorkers came together at the stadium.

 

Annotated Bibliography

My topic is Shea Stadium, former home of the New York Mets. I will explore what led to the building of this stadium and the history of the team as well. The New York Mets combine elements of other New York baseball teams and I will go into detail on that as well. I will talk about the stadium design and how it is emblematic of the time that it was built. I will discuss what the team and the stadium have meant to the city.

Schwensen, Dave. The Beatles At Shea Stadium: The Story Behind Their Greatest Concert. Chicago, Illinois: North Shore Publishing, 2014.

This book is about the famous concert at Shea Stadium that was put on by the Beatles. This is one of the most historic concerts in history and shows the entertainment side of Shea Stadium. That it was not just used for baseball but was also a place where important pop culture events occurred.

Durso, Joseph. “Mets Win, 5-3, Take the Series, And a Grateful City Goes Wild.” The New York Times. Accessed November 16, 1969. http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/archives/Mets1969.pdf.

This is copy of the newspaper on the day that the Mets won the 1969 World Series over the Baltimore Orioles. This article mentions the fans storming the field of Shea Stadium after the Mets won. This was the first World Series title for the Mets.

McGee, John. and Leeds Moberly. “The Beatles Play at Shea Stadium in 1965.” New York Daily News (New York). August 16, 1965. August 14, 2015. Accessed November 15, 2016. http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/beatles-play-shea-stadium-1965-article-1.2316621.

This is a column from the day that the Beatles played at Shea Stadium in 1965. Shea Stadium was packed to the brim with fans screaming and yelling for the band from the UK. This piece talks about the atmosphere that day and what it was like to be at this historic concert.

Costello, Brian. “25 Best Moments at Shea No. 13.” The New York Post. June 29, 2008. Accessed November 15, 2016, http://nypost.com/2008/06/29/25-best-moments-at-shea-no-13/.

This was a feature in a series of the top moments that happened at Shea Stadium. This particular moment was the Pope coming to Shea Stadium. It includes reaction from people who attended and saw a minor miracle in their eyes.

Topel, Brett. When Shea Was Home: The Story of the 1975 Mets, Yankees, Giants, and Jets, New York, New York: Sports Publishing. 2016.

This is a book that talks about the 1975 season. This was quite unique because the Mets, Yankees, Jets, and Giants all called Shea Stadium home during this season. This is something that is highly unlikely to happen ever again.

“History of Shea Stadium.” New York Mets. Accessed November 14, 2016. http://newyork.mets.mlb.com/nym/ballpark/history.jsp.

This is a general history of Shea Stadium from the New York Mets website. It includes information about major events that occurred as well as renovations. This is a very useful source that has all the relevant information about Shea Stadium.

Montville, Leigh. “They Were Just One Pitch Away.” The Boston Globe (Boston). October 26, 1986. Accessed November 16, 2016. https://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/1986/10/26/they-were-just-one-pitch-away/AFy6EpQNou82rna9E8CCDM/story.html.

This article is from a Boston newspaper right after game 6 of the 1986 World Series. This article talks about the heartbreak that the Red Sox fans felt after the loss to the Mets at Shea Stadium that night. The Mets continued the Red Sox long run of misery.

Vaccaro, Mike. “How Sept. 21, 2001, Unfurled at Shea- When Piazza Made NY Smile.” The New York Post. July 18, 2016. Accessed November 15, 2016. http://nypost.com/2016/07/18/how-sept-21-2001-unfurled-at-shea-when-piazza-made-ny-smile/.

This article is about the famous Mike Piazza homerun in the first game back in New York after 9/11. This talks about the emotions and the big moments that occurred during this game. This game was an escape for New Yorkers from the horrors they had experienced over the last few days.

[1] “History of Shea Stadium,” New York Mets, , accessed November 14, 2016, http://newyork.mets.mlb.com/nym/ballpark/history.jsp.

[2] “History of Shea Stadium,” New York Mets, , accessed November 14, 2016, http://newyork.mets.mlb.com/nym/ballpark/history.jsp.

[3]   “History of Shea Stadium,” New York Mets, , accessed November 14, 2016, http://newyork.mets.mlb.com/nym/ballpark/history.jsp.

[4]   “History of Shea Stadium,” New York Mets, , accessed November 14, 2016, http://newyork.mets.mlb.com/nym/ballpark/history.jsp.

[5] Durso, Joseph, “Mets Win, 5-3, Take the Series, And a Grateful City Goes Wild.” The New York Times, Accessed November 16, 1969, http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/archives/Mets1969.pdf.

[6] Montville, Leigh, “They Were Just One Pitch Away.” The Boston Globe (Boston), October 26, 1986, Accessed November 16, 2016, https://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/1986/10/26/they-were-just-one-pitch-away/AFy6EpQNou82rna9E8CCDM/story.html.

[7] Vaccaro, Mike, “How Sept. 21, 2001, Unfurled at Shea- When Piazza Made NY Smile.” The New York Post, July 18, 2016, Accessed November 15, 2016. http://nypost.com/2016/07/18/how-sept-21-2001-unfurled-at-shea-when-piazza-made-ny-smile/.

[8] McGee, John, and Leeds Moberly, “The Beatles Play at Shea Stadium in 1965.” New York Daily News (New York), August 16, 1965, August 14, 2015, Accessed November 15, 2016, http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/beatles-play-shea-stadium-1965-article-1.2316621.

[9] Schwensen, Dave, The Beatles At Shea Stadium: The Story Behind Their Greatest Concert, Chicago, Illinois: North Shore Publishing, 2014.

[10] Costello, Brian. “25 Best Moments at Shea No. 13.” The New York Post. June 29, 2008, Accessed November 15, 2016, http://nypost.com/2008/06/29/25-best-moments-at-shea-no-13/.

[11] Topel, Brett, When Shea Was Home: The Story of the 1975 Mets, Yankees, Giants, and Jets, New York, New York: Sports Publishing, 2016.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.