Thursday, May 1, 2008

Shea Stadium Review

This is installment 1 of my 11 part series Reviewing Major League Baseball Stadiums.

QUEENS, NEW YORK - Shea Stadium holds a special place in my heart. Being a baseball fanatic since the ripe age of 5 (I remember vividly watching the Earthquake World Series live on TV in 1989), Shea Stadium is where I attended my first big league game. The Amazin's played host to the San Francisco Giants. Sid Fernandez was on the bump for the home time. I think that is about as much of the actual game played on the field as I remember. Being 6 at the time, I was more focused on my ice cream sundae that I got in a souvenir Mets helmet.

The game was in the middle of summer under the scorching July sun. And yes, I wore a fanny pack to the game. Cut me a break, it was 1990. My striped tube socks were probably up past my knees as well. I was just trying to keep up with the trends of the times. If only we had gone on Keith Hernandez mustache giveaway day, my look would have been complete.

I suppose every son remembers there first game with their old man. I was lucky enough to experience the game with my whole family. Even my older sister (who was 10 at the time) attended, although she probably was not as excited as I was to watch Kevin Elster completely stink up the joint at short. (Side note - I will never forget hearing Howard Johnson's name over the PA system and thinking that he owned the Howard Johnson hotel chains. Actually, I still think I believe that).

We sat on the lower level right behind home plate about 7 rows up. My dad even caught me a foul off the bat of Brett Butler. I will never forget my dad handing me that ball and me not believing that I was holding the ball that the Mets were just playing with.

Those are the good memories. I was a young, naive kid who just saw the greenest grass and a big Apple pop up over the fence after a home run. I had no idea that I was in perhaps one of the most appalling stadiums in baseball. I didn't pay attention to that nor was I the one who had to fight for a parking spot with those crazy New Yorkers. And I wasn't the one who shelled out 2 C-Notes to take his family to the game.

I have since been to Shea Stadium over 20 times most recently in July of 2006. Times as well as my age (I'm 24 now) certainly have changed (I no longer think Shea Stadium is as nice as I thought it was back in '90). And who can take a family of 4 to Shea Stadium for less than $500 these days? It's crazy. But one thing has remained the same, Shea Stadium will always hold my some of my earliest baseball memories.

Sometimes, you can catch that early vibe as a babe ripens into older age. Not so with Shea. Although it hold my memories, I'm sorry to say, but sadly it's true -- the magic is gone and it's time for Citi Field.

The Ratings:

Price of Ticket: Ticket prices for anything in New York are overpriced. Whether you want to go to a Broadway show or a Mets game, prepare to feel a lighter wallet in your pocket. The Mets upped ticket prices 20% this season so now a Field Club ticket costs $67 and an Upper Box ticket costs $27.

Bathroom: The bathrooms at Shea are infamous. They are down right disgusting. I'd rather hold it in then use them. If you are really drunk though and need to use them, just pee as you wait in line for another Budweiser. After all, it is NY, no one will notice and someone is likely to give you a high-five!

Scoreboard: The scoreboard in right field is large, to say the least. All the information is there and everyone can see it except the fans in right field. The video board in left is very outdated.

Architecture: Classic cookie cutter stadium which looks bad but produces decent site lines for everyone. The neon art on the outside of the stadium is very 70s but still looks cool light up at night. The inside of Shea is almost like a mausoleum. Lots of concrete and an eerie feeling.

Neighborhood: Besides the US Tennis Center and LaGuardia Airport, the neighborhood by Shea is mostly residential. And it is also a dynamite area to buy hubcaps, escpecially at Vinnie's Super Discount Hubcaps located adjacent to the oufield parking lot.

Access: You have two options, drive and sit in traffic or take the lovely 7 train that John Rocker so famously described. Beware though, if the US Open is taking place across the street, traffic is a nightmare. Fughedaboutit!

Additional Comments: The fans at Shea are as passionate as it gets, and don't have the same hostility as the Bronx Faithful uptown. The jets flying low overhead in and out of nearby LaGuardia give Shea a lot of character. Not to mention you have Mr. Met roaming around. Unfortunately Shea is located in a crazy maze of highways, is archaic looking both inside and outside, and is in need of a lot of work. On the bright side, Shea has had its fair share of historical moments from hosting the Beatles in 1965 to the Mets upset in the '69 Series to Bill Buckner's error in Game 6 in 1986.

Overall Grade: C-

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