I attended my first game at Shea Stadium on Sunday, August 23rd, 1987, a 9-2 Mets victory over the Padres. I was 8 years old, and sat in the Upper Box, Section 39, Box 853B, Seat 7. My final game was Sunday, although I didn't think I'd be there until I secured tickets earlier in the week, Mezzanine Reserved, Section 26, Row J, Seat 16. In between, 22 seasons passed, with my attendance at 262 games and another 5 in the Postseason. In that time, I've witnessed a lot, more good than bad, and forged memories that will last a lifetime. Shea Stadium may be gone, but it will certainly never be forgotten.
I wasn't quite sure about how to adequately document my final day at Shea on Sunday. I knew, for sure, that I would be bringing my camera with me, and I knew I was going to take a lot of photos and video of the game and the ceremony, no matter how things turned out. But I wasn't quite sure how to go about things. I didn't want to take a lot of photos of the innards of Shea, after all, I'd already done that earlier this year. I knew it might get a little repetitive if I just took a lot of photos from my seat, but this is how I had to do it. Shea Stadium, one final time, from my own eyes.
It seems like every time I take my camera to a game, I take a picture of the Starting lineup outside Shea. Looks like things haven't been updated since Friday. In typical Shea Stadium fashion, the park itself is charming, but the operations staff only seemed moderately prepared for the 55,000+ people that were going to show up.
One final Batting Practice. Usually, when I'm early, I'll slip into the Field Level. Today, they were checking tickets. I arrived at around 11:30, and the stadium was already packed and buzzing in a way I'd never really seen before. If I'd wanted to take some photos inside Shea, that wouldn't have been possible because the halls and ramps just seemed jam packed.
Looking down towards the LF corner. The clock appears ready for the end.
I started up to the Mezzanine, and noticed that there was a bit of a buzz and a crowd forming around the ramps, way out in Left Field. I walked around to get a closer look.
People were crowded around the SNY stage outside Gate A. But there were also a lot of people gathered around the ramps, looking down towards the entrance inside Gate A.
I looked outside some more. The ticket booth by Gate A was silent. This booth was always a mystery to me; I don't think I ever bought a ticket there. In fact, I only ever seemed to pass it if I left Shea from Gate A and walked around behind the stadium to the Subway. This became impossible once the construction for Citi Field began. But here it was, one last look.
And then, I saw why the crowds were gathered around the ramps. Here, inside Gate A, was the red carpet for the returning players to come in to Shea. Everyone was crowded around, snapping pictures and cheering as players came in. I found a good vantage point and did my best to get some good pictures. Here's Al Leiter and John Franco...
...John Stearns, who prompted me to scream "THE MONSTER IS OUT OF THE CAGE!" one final time...
...Blurry, but here's Doc, who got a huge ovation, standing next to Craig Swan...
...Doc started leading Let's Go Mets chants. George Foster quietly entered behind him...
...Then, Robin Ventura, along with Jesse Orosco...
...Doc, once again, coming back in with Tom Seaver.
And, with that, off to my seat...
...Only to discover that I would have one last Rain Delay at Shea. So, I ventured back inside to have one final Shea Lunch...
...Yeah. One Final, Grand, Delicious Shea Lunch. A Hot Dog in a Box.
The tarp did, eventually, come off the field.
Close up of the Apple, apparently in too much disrepair to make the trip to Citi Field. The plan involves having something they're calling an "Apple Garage" at the new stadium. That doesn't sound so good. El Guapo had the right idea: Why not just make a new Apple in a Hat? How hard could that be?
I've always had an odd obsession with taking pictures of the scoreboard. This is the first of the day. Won't be the last.
The tarp was pretty wet, and most of the water got dumped into the Outfield. Here, they're wet-vac-ing the grass.
We always do, don't we?
Wide angle shot.
Bonus video! Here's one last introduction of the Starting Lineups.
They could have done more with this. I tried to start a chant of "OLLIE! BOMAYE!" It didn't quite catch on.
More video. Here's Tom Seaver, removing #2 from the countdown, playing to the crowd as he always does.
One last time, away we go!
Ollie departs, and things begin to go downhill.
And with hope all but gone, and flashbulbs popping all over the Stadium, it's one last pitch from Matt Lindstrom to Ryan Church...
Squeezed on the warning track by Cameron Maybin, and that, my friends, would be that.
And so, we sat, mostly silent, thinking about how things had come apart, and waited for the ceremonies to begin, to create that one final memory for everyone at Shea Stadium.
It seemed to take unnecessarily long for them to get everything ready. Maybe they wanted everyone to simmer down a little bit. Some people left. Some people threw their caps away. Most people stayed, remaining mostly silent.
The ceremonies finally began, after about 25 minutes of setting things up, with Mr. Met removing #1 from the outfield wall and revealing a Citi Field logo, which the fans booed. We were still stinging a little bit.
But everyone seemed to have their spirits lifted when the players began to walk out. Dave Kingman, for one, got a nice ovation.
Al Leiter took a few boos, but not from me. I'll always remember him for games like this one.
Edgardo Alfonzo, another one of my favorites, whose departure never sat well with anyone, was warmly and heartily welcomed back.
But the largest and loudest ovation was, not surprisingly, reserved for Mike Piazza, returning to the scene of many of his greatest moments as a player and as a person, for the first time since his retirement.
This was just cool to watch. Even the players on the field were taking pictures. Here, Keith and Lenny photograph Doc, Koosman, Leiter, Franco, Darling and (I believe) Al Jackson.
Everyone lined up and watched as a video salute to Shea and its conquering heroes played.
And then, lined up for one final trip across Home Plate.
From Willie Mays...
...to Piazza and Seaver.
And finally, poignantly, one last pitch, from the Greatest Met to play in Shea, to the Greatest Met I ever saw play in Shea. They then hugged, waved to the fans, walked out to Center Field, waved one final Goodbye, and closed the doors.
El Guapo and I tipped our caps towards the diamond as we took one last look at the field, and then exited, to one last trip down the ramps...
...And one final look at our Palace in Queens.