With Shea Stadium's
demolition after the 2008 season, it may not be remembered for anything
except for the
constant sounds of planes flying overhead. For more than a decade
there were discussions that a new stadium may be built in Queens.
Owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Walter O'Malley began to develop
plans for a new stadium to replace Ebbets Field in the late 1940s.
O'Malley wanted to construct a new ballpark in Brooklyn, keeping the
Dodgers in the neighborhood. However, the Dodgers could not secure
land here. New York City official opposed the plan for a new
ballpark in Brooklyn, but offered land in Queens. The Dodgers balked
at this proposal and moved to Los Angeles after the 1957 season. With the Brooklyn
Dodgers and New York Giants move to California, the New York
had only one baseball team after 1957. That soon changed when New York
City Major Robert Wagner appointed William A. Shea, and four other
lawyers to acquire a National League franchise for the city. Shea first tried
to lure the Reds, Pirates or Phillies to New York but failed.
In 1958, Shea started the Continental League,
that led MLB to award New York and Houston franchises to begin
playing in 1962. The primary reason the Giants and Dodgers left New
York City was because they wanted a new stadium.
In order for the
city to be awarded an expansion franchise, a new stadium had to be
built. On October 28, 1961, ground was broken on a new stadium for
the New York Mets in Queens. Unfortunately, the Mets had to play
in the antiquated
Polo Grounds for two years
while their new stadium was under construction.
Originally to be called Flushing Meadows Park, the stadium was
renamed in honor of William A. Shea, thus getting its name Shea
The New York Mets played their first game at Shea Stadium on April
17, 1964 when they lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The
five tiered stadium seated 55,601 fans. It was the first stadium of its
size to have an extensive escalator system, being able to convert
from a football gridiron to a baseball diamond by two motor operated
stands, not having light towers and in which every seat was directed at the center of the
field. After more than 1.7 million fans filled Shea Stadium in 1964
officials announced plans to add 15,000 seats and add a dome.
showed that the stadium pilings could not hold a dome, therefore the
idea was dropped.
The New York Yankees
played at Shea Stadium from 1974-1975, while Yankee Stadium was
renovated. With the exception of seats being replaced
over the years, very few changes have taken place at Shea Stadium.
Prior to the 1987 season, large blue windscreen panels with neon
artwork of baseball players were installed. Also 50 club suites were
added to the press level of the stadium. The original 175ft. wide by
86ft. high scoreboard in right field was updated and replaced in
1988. Shea Stadium was an
enjoyable place to watch a
baseball game, with the exception of the airplanes landing and
taking off at the nearby LaGuardia Airport. Most fans took the 7
Train to the Shea Stadium stop to get to games. Once off the subway
fans could get a glimpse of the stadium from the outside. Inside the
ballpark, fans saw a massive super structure consisting of five
seating decks that stretched from the left field foul pole to home
plate and to the right field foul pole. The Mets Magic
Hat was located behind the center field fence. When a Mets’ player
homered, an apple rose out of the hat. A small set of bleachers were
located behind the left field fence, along with a Diamond Vision
video screen. After the 2004 season, the Mets replaced the old
Diamond Vision video board, replaced 1,600 field level seats and
added two ribbon boards. In April 2006, the Mets unveiled plans for
a new ballpark, Citi Field, that was constructed in the parking lot beyond
centerfield. The 2008 season marked the Mets 45th and final year
at Shea Stadium. On September 28, 2008 the Mets played their
final regular season game at Shea Stadium against the Florida
Marlins. Shea Stadium was demolished after the season and is used
for parking for Citi Field.