Shea Stadium formerly known as William A. Shea Municipal Stadium was a stadium in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park, Queens, New York City. Built as a multi-purpose stadium, it was the home park of Major League Baseball's New York Mets for 45 seasons (1964–2008), as well as the New York Jets football team from 1964 to 1983.
The venue was named in honor of William Shea, the man who was most responsible for bringing National League baseball back to New York after the Dodgers and Giants left for California in 1957. It was demolished in 2009 to create additional parking for the adjacent Citi Field, Shea's replacement and the current home of the Mets.
It was originally to be called "Flushing Meadow Park Municipal Stadium" – the name of the public park within which it was built – but an ultimately successful movement was launched to name it in honor of William Shea, the New York attorney who brought National League baseball back to New York.
After 29 months of construction and $28.5 million spent, Shea Stadium opened on April 17, 1964, with the Pittsburgh Pirates beating the Mets 4–3 before a crowd of 50,312. There were no prior exhibition games or events, and the stadium was barely finished in time for the home opener.
The stadium opened five days before the 1964-65 New York World's Fair, across Roosevelt Avenue. Although not officially part of the fair grounds, the stadium sported steel panels on its exterior in the blue-and-orange colors of the Fair, the same team colors of the Mets. The panels were removed in 1980.
Shea Stadium was the home of the New York Mets starting in 1964, and it hosted what would be its only All-Star Game that first year, with Johnny Callison of the Philadelphia Phillies hitting a home run in the ninth inning to win the only Mid-Summer Classic held in the Queens ballpark. A month earlier, on Father's Day, Callison's teammate, future Hall of Fame member and U.S. Senator Jim Bunning, pitched a perfect game against the Mets.
The stadium was often criticized by baseball purists for many reasons, even though it was retrofitted to be a baseball-only stadium after the Jets left. The upper deck was one of the highest in the majors.
The lower boxes were farther from the field than similar seats in other parks because they were still on the rails that had swiveled them into position for football. Outfield seating was sparse, in part because the stadium was designed to be fully enclosed.
At one time, Shea's foul territory was one of the most spacious in baseball. This was very common for ballparks built during the 1960s, in part due to the need to accommodate the larger football field This was also because the stadium was designed to be fully enclosed. However, seats added over the years in the lower level greatly reduced the size of foul territory by the dawn of the 21st century.
On the plus side, Shea always used a natural grass surface, in contrast to other multi-purpose stadiums such as Three Rivers Stadium, Veterans Stadium, and Riverfront Stadium, which were built in the same era and style and had artificial turf.
Shea Stadium hosted postseason baseball in 1969, 1973, 1986, 1988, 1999, 2000, and 2006; it hosted the World Series in 1969, 1973, 1986, and 2000. It had the distinction of being the home of the 1969 "Miracle Mets"— led by former Brooklyn Dodger Gil Hodges that defied 100–1 odds and won the World Series, after seven straight seasons in last or next-to-last place.
Shea became famous for the bedlam that took place after the Mets won the decisive Game 5 of the World Series, as fans stormed the field in celebration. Similar scenes took place a few weeks earlier after the Mets clinched the National League East title, and then defeated the Atlanta Braves in the first National League Championship Series to win the pennant.
Tommie Agee, Lenny Dykstra, Todd Pratt, Robin Ventura, and Benny Agbayani hit postseason, walk-off home runs at Shea (although, while the ball hit by Ventura over the fence may have been the most famous of the postseason walk off hits, it was famously called "the Grand Slam Single", because when he hit the game winning ball over the fence, he was mobbed by his teammates before he could reach second base, and never wound up touching second base, third base and home plate. It was not ruled a home run as he never circled the bases completely. It probably made Ventura, known for his penchant for hitting grand slams, even more famous, and the hit itself more famous, because of the very fact that he never circled the bases fully, technically not making it a homer).
On October 3, 2004, it was the venue for the last game in the history of the Montreal Expos, and the Mets won 8–1. Montreal's major league story ended where it had started 35 years earlier: at Shea Stadium.The following year, the Expos relocated to Washington, D.C. and became the Nationals.
The last game played at Shea Stadium was a loss to the Florida Marlins on September 28, 2008. However, the Mets were in the thick of the playoff chase until the last day. A win would have meant another game for Shea as the Mets were scheduled to play the Milwaukee Brewers in a one-game playoff for the National League Wild Card berth.
Following the game, there was a "Shea Goodbye" tribute in which many players from the Mets' glory years entered the stadium and touched home plate one final time so that fans could pay their last respects to the players and the stadium the Mets called home for 45 years.
The ceremony ended with Tom Seaver throwing a final pitch to Mike Piazza, then, as the Beatles' "In My Life" played on the stadium speakers the two former Met stars walked out of the centerfield gate and closed it behind them, followed by a display of blue and orange fireworks.
Ballpark: D - It’s a dump, but it’s Mets fans' dump. You are so fair from the action if you are sitting along the lines because of foul territory. You cannot walk around the stadium, just to the left and right corners. Old multi purpose stadium, windy and cold in the spring and fall. Not enough bathrooms and it takes forever to leave because of packed ramps and limited access to the subway. Escalators are always off after a game and you cannot walk down. People are always blocking the action walking around, especially vendors. One concourse at Shea on the field level with the charm of a dungeon. Scoreboard sitting beyond the right field wall is amazing. If you are sitting in boxes, you will enjoy a game. You will never catch a foul ball in green and red seats.
Fans & Atmosphere: C - For Halloween, Yankee fans wear a Mets cap and say they're a dick. Real die hard fans who love the team and are passionate about the game. Many who think 1986 was last year, when the team has not won anything since then. Some like to bully fans of opposing teams. Piazza and Wright jerseys everywhere. Planes from nearby LaGuardia Airport always fly overhead during the course game.
Food: D - Leftover food from the 1964 World’s Fair is available but needs to be eaten with extreme caution. Hot dogs, nachos, pretzels, beer and soda. Some stands serving sausage and peppers with complimentary rolaids. Fresh popcorn is good before they dump pounds of salt all over it. Diamond Club is okay if you are a Season Ticket Holder. Eat before arriving or bring a sandwich and sealed bottle of water.
Mascot: A - Mr. Met, always around greeting kids and all fans. Posing for photos before the game and during the game. Then shooting t-shirts from the field during 4th and 7th innings with Pepsi Party Patrol. One of the best in baseball, fans love him.
Staff: D - Rude ushers who always have palms open for tips. Many have been there since Shea opened, they think they own the place. You can see them picking promotional items when fans leave seats. Security has a tough job dealing with fans who come to abuse booze and players. Some seedy security and some that are very professional.
Team Tradition: C - Diamond Club has a Hall of Fame, a few busts and plaques. Need a ticket to view them. Retired numbers and pennant placards in outfield corners. In ramp ways some photos are hung of classic moments at Shea. Not many of them. Great looking marker in left field where Met Tommie Agee blasted a home run in the upper level. Championship teams from 1969 and 1986 recognized but not the predecessors from Brooklyn and Coogan's Bluff.
Location: B – Stadium has a large parking lot, 15 bucks to park here. Fans tailgate before the game. The 7 trains are the best way in and out. 40 minutes from midtown Manhattan. Train station needs to be renovated and made handicap accessible. LI Railroad is accessible to the city and island.
Photos taken 2002-2008, using a Canon EOS 30D Digital Rebel, Canon EOS Digital Rebel with a EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Standard lens and 100-400mm f/4L IS USM Standard lens and a PowerShot SD970 IS Digital Camera.