A couple weeks ago, Sports Illustrated paid tribute to the closing of Yankee Stadium with a cover and a tribute story written by Tom Verducci told from an interesting angle — a first-person perspective from Yankee Stadium (him?)self.
It was a good piece. One you should read. (Especially if you want my blog post to make more sense). But there’s another stadium in New York that also has an upcoming date with the wrecking ball. So we decided to catch up with Shea Stadium and let him put his imminent death into his own words.
‘Ey, how you doin’?
Me, I’m not doin’ so good. The doc says it’s terminal. And the only thing I had left to live for, my beloved Mets, let me down on the final day of the season for the second straight year. But, I guess in a way that makes sense. I’m dying the same way I was born — with the Mets as losers.
Oh, yeah. Guess you were interested in my life story. That kinda surprises me. My granduncle, Yankee Stadium, is about to kick the bucket too. And everyone seems to be lavishing him with praise. But those are the same fancypants types that would be seen at a Broadway show, or in some fancy restaurant Uptown– or as they like to call it, a bistro. Me, I’m just a regular Queens guy, troo and troo. Those types never had much use for me.
I was born back in 1964. Same year as the Ford Mustang, David Spade, Sarah Palin, Keanu Reeves and Ozzie and Jose Canseco. I’m not sure how I stack up against my peers, but I like to think I’ve had a more interesting lifetime than most of ’em. Well, outside of Keanu.
I had to overcome a lot when I was young. I was adopted. My birth parents left me at the front door of an airport and abandoned me for the West Coast. And if anyone conceived of a structure that looked anything like me in this day and age, it would most certainly be aborted.
Things were tough the first few years. Back before the Devil Rays were known for lowering the bar as an expansion franchise, the Mets set standards that no one would dare try to copy. But I still drew millions of adoring fans. Just like the team, I wasn’t pretty. But people still loved us.
And I got to host some pretty cool stuff for just being a young guy. Yankee Stadium likes to brag about how he’s hosted two different popes. That’s great. But has he ever hosted two Beatles concerts? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
Like most of us, my life peaked when I was 5 years old. What a year that was. One of my tenants, the Jets, opened things off by shocking the world and beating the Colts in Super Bowl III. Broadway Joe got big enough after his guarantee that he could walk my sidelines wearing a fur coat. I’d like to see Brett Favre pull that off in that soulless place in Jersey.
And then that summer and fall. Wow. I got to see a black cat run on the field. The Miracle Mets come out of nowhere to win the division. Then the pennant. And then we knocked off the mighty Orioles for the World Series. Right here in my yard.
Again, just like the rest of us, a bunch of stuff happened in the mid to late ’70s that I’d rather forget. Especially the part where the Yankees used me as their home park while the old man was in rehab.
Speaking of rehab, who could ever forget the excitement of those Mets teams in the mid ’80s? That was when I was the center of the baseball universe. The place to be in the Big Apple. And once again, I got to witness a completely unlikely World Series title in front of my very eyes. It more than made up for losing the Jets to New Jersey.
But like anyone who has had too much blow in their system, there was a crash. The early to late ’90s were a lowpoint for my existence. In ’94, I was even out-drawn by Olympic Stadium in Montreal. Talk about a blow to your self-esteem.
But, right around the end of the decade, things picked up again. I saw the Mets collapse down the stretch in ’98 (sound familiar?), but they bounced back with a wild playoff run in ’99. We welcomed John Rocker into town with open arms in 2000. Then the Subway Series in October.
Eleven months later, we had the most emotional moment of my life. I’ll never forget the roar of the crowd when Piazza hit it out. (Of course, I’m on my deathbed now, so it’s not like I’m going to forget anything at this point).
I was never the prettiest kid on the block. There were some flaws in my DNA — orange seats? Seats along the first base line that face the outfield instead of home plate? Practically no outfield bleachers? The apple popping out of a top hat? (Seriously, that was a top hat? I never woulda known if someone didn’t tell me first).
Worst of all, the damn planes flying over head, hour after hour. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a New Yorker. I like noise. But it would have been nice to live in a neighborhood with a few less decibels than jet engines provide.
To be perfectly honest, with all of my flaws and the crazy stuff I’ve done, I probably shouldn’t have even made it this far. I can’t complain. It’s been a good life. So you better not get all sentimental about me leavin’. That ain’t the way I was raised.