I come to bury Shea Stadium, not to praise it. My eulogy will be vicious and I will not hold back. But that's not quite what Mets fans are planning this weekend. A large group of Shea supporters will gather this Saturday at noon to "to share stories and take photographs of what is left of the ballpark" in what is being described as a celebration and not a funeral. Well of course it's not a funeral, the stadium's not dead yet, it's just hanging on by a concrete-and-steel thread.
I've been to Shea about a dozen times, but as a devoted Yankee fan, I'd rather stick pins in my eyes than head to Shea for the sad ceremony this weekend. Shea was just another one of Robert Moses' 1960's era car-centric ideas to build a baseball park in the middle of Flushing Meadows, far displaced from the Brooklyn and Manhattan fanbases who were being courted after the hasty departure of their beloved Dodgers and Giants. In fact, the mere existence of a baseball park in Queens was the reason the Dodgers left; Walter O'Malley knew he'd make more money going to Los Angeles than helping Moses promote the Worlds Fair site in Flushing.
The place was unimaginatively designed in the multipurpose circle style popular in the era. It was never truly a baseball park; Shea has hosted football games, soccer games, and R.E.M. concerts. Once during a Jets game, a halftime show featuring model airplanes had a grand finale involving a flying lawnmower that lost control, flew into the stands, and killed a spectator. The only thing worse than being killed by a flying lawnmower is being killed by a flying lawnmower in an hideous stadium in Queens.
The building was ugly and had an upper deck that was so steep, you needed a Sherpa to bring your beer and hotdogs up when you ascended to your nosebleed seats. The luxury boxes were narrow and had an overhang that jutted out so far you felt you were in a bunker in 'Nam. It was situated squat in the middle of the LaGuardia airport approach zone so airplane noise progressively got worse as air traffic increased over the years. The city wanted to plop a glass dome on top of the park but couldn't because the structure was built in a swamp and couldn't support the weight.
Worst of all, the place hosted Mets games and Mets fans for forty-four years. There is no wrecking ball or dynamite that can rid the site of that stench, no matter how beautiful and elegant the new CitiField will prove to be. Still, Shea Stadium will always hold one very special place in my heart. It's the place I met my girlfriend, during a group outing in the summer of 2007, despite neither of us being a Mets fan. We shared chicken fingers that night and have been together for nearly two years, thanks to that awful municipal stadium in the swamps of Flushing.
But really, burn the place down, we're done with it.
(Actual destructive Shea Stadium imagery legitimately obtained from Flickr user babyknight)