So Long, Shea

For the third straight season, the New York Mets’ hopes and dreams ended in a fashion most visceral, and ended at Shea Stadium. As opposed to previous seasons without definitive turning points, these past three all came down to their final games – the bat that never left Beltran’s shoulder, the allegedly crafty vet Glavine who left the mound before the end of the first and Ryan Church’s fly ball that never quite left the yard. In 2009 though, there will be no more Shea to bring sad endings to Mets fans. Sure, this is the park that saw Game 5 in 1969, and then, in its current configuration, Games 6 and 7 in 1986, but it also saw Game 5 in 2000, and the three most recent collapses. The Beatles came there, and the Jets and Joe Willie Namath thrived on that stage, but Billy Joel performed the farewell concerts. Billy F. Joel. Talk about having a stake driven into your heart. CitiField will be here next year, even if the corporate parent that paid $20 million over eight years for its naming rights doesn’t see Opening Day without being gobbled up by bad mortgages. And it will be a monument to wealth, complete with a different club for every level (“Sterling,” “Ebbets,” “Excelsior” and “Promenade”), quite different from Shea’s one Diamond Club, in which the roof leaked and the most gourmet item was a prepared-days-ago basket of chicken wings and the roof leaked. Shea, put simply, is a dump. Yankee Stadium was a regal dump, as strange as that sounds, a cement monstrosity in the South Bronx, but a dump that saw plenty of championships. And it had that façade. Shea, on the other hand, was outdated quickly. Built in 1964, it started the trend of multipurpose, cookie-cutter stadiums, and while its followers: Three Rivers Stadium (in Pittsburgh), Riverfront Stadium (in Cincinnati), Busch Stadium (in St. Louis) and Fulton County Stadium (in Atlanta) are all long extinct, Shea stood until this year, perhaps a testament to the history there. But more likely, it stood this long as a testament to the slow machine that is New York politics. The new stadium will feature upgraded infrastructure – hopefully better than that subway station where I once saw a fellow drinking out of a shampoo bottle. Let’s pray it wasn’t Armando Benitez. CitiField, though, will be more beautiful than Shea. That we can count on. But the stadium will price out the middle class, the quintessentially bridge-and-tunnel crowd that populated Shea (I’m a Connecticut-based season ticket holder, I don’t know whether I qualify), guys like Danny and Sal and Tony, who quaff overpriced beers and wear REYES 7 and WRIGHT 5 jerseys. Maybe the Mets’ second mascot, Cowbell-Man, Eddie Boison, a 50-ish mustachioed denizen of Queens, won’t be making the trip. One would assume he doesn’t meet the standards for the Mets’ new corporate image, something of a disgrace for a team that welcomed Jersey guys in addition to Brooklynites abandoned by the Dodgers in ‘56. The Mets aim to become the Yankees, it seems, in the process ditching the Italians, Hispanics and Jews that make up the Metropolitans’ fan base (Queens is quite the melting pot) in favor of the starched-shirt WASPs that populate the Bronx Bombers’ stands. A wrecking-ball meeting Shea is just another step toward gentrification, another step toward making the real fans watch on TV. So I, along with many other fans of this underdog squad, have mixed feelings about the brick monolith beyond Shea meant to channel the Ebbets Field of owner Fred Wilpon’s youth – that Ebbets meriting architectural wonder, that Ebbets with winning National League baseball and that Ebbets with the box seats for a dollar, and no luxury boxes. Jack Dickey is a four-year Senior from Guilford, Conn. and News Director of The Phillipian. He occasionally writes about the Mets on his blog, Crosstown Rivals. Google it.