The Mets opened Shea Stadium known as the “loveable losers.” As a Mets Lifer, today I only put quotes around “losers.” Not because of the way the season ended. We could have predicted the bullpen would blow it. The Mets are “losers” because of the way they planned and carried off one of the worst ceremonies in the history of sports.
Love or hate Shea, it is a place where many of us first saw Major League Baseball. We remember driving in, passing Yankee Stadium, inching in traffic past LaGuardia knowing Shea would suddenly appear with its blue and orange squares or “The Magic is Back” banner visible from afar. As kids, we practically pulled our parents up the ramps so that we could see that burst of green and the scoreboard first visible from the concourse. And if you were lucky enough, you got to go to batting helmet day. Wow!
For me, I saw Tom’s Seaver near no-hitter. I still hate Leron Lee! I tried to change my birthday by a day so I could share Bud Harrelson’s birthday of June 6. I proudly wore my Tom Seaver jersey and my camp nickname was “Seaver.” Those were the seeds of memories. Then in adulthood we enjoyed more games, both live and in person, and we learned more about the game, the players, coaches, announcers. Shea became part of us and for some of us we were able to share this passion with our our kids.
So how the Mets close our memories. Like “Losers!” If you were to plan an event just days after Yankee Stadium closed, wouldn’t you bust your butt to have your ceremony come close to it? You couldn’t match the names or the events of Yankee Stadium, but you could sure try on the presentation.
So what do the Mets do to close their stadium?
- Hold it after the final blown game, 30 minutes after Gary Cohen was forced to “throw it” from the press box to Maz in the parking lot! Classy! Maz was THE Mets. It’s like Michael Kay “throwing it” to Roy White at the Yankee Stadium bat. Not in a million years. And that is not even bashing the Mets for holding the ceremony after the game. Duke basketball holds Senior Day after their last home game. Maybe Coach K is a special assistant to the owners.
- Then, from Maz in the parking lot, its back to Howie Rose who apparently is NOT ON THE FIELD. Who planned this?
- Then, with the field lined with police and security and have seemingly hundreds milling about home plate, Howie starts by introducing longtime employees, Tommie Agee’s family, Bob Murphy’s wife and Ralph Kiner. Nice start. Except the event planners have them walk from behind home plate, along the stands behind all of the people milling about behind home plates to a chair in front of the Mets dugout. Invisible. Oh, the love of being a Mets VIP!
- Now here come the players. First those who couldn’t be here. OK. But where was Ray Knight and how could he not be there? Bobby Valentine? How about those who passed away? We couldn’t have spared a moment of silence for those Mets?
- Then the players we all have memories of. Howie introduces them with a short and eloquent into and they come in from either bullpen and disappear behind the wall of cops. Why not have them walk straight from the outfield to their designated position along the infield so we could really see them, cheer them one last time and let the memories flood our minds. Must have been because the outfield was reserved for cardboard displays no one could see. Who planned this?
- The jerseys for each era was a nice touch, but did anyone ask for measurements of chest and waist sizes and then maybe add an inch or two. To say some of the jerseys were ill-fitting was an understatement. Who planned this?
- Then they made Howie rush through the intros. My goodness, Mets heroes at Shea for one final time and all we can get is a minute or two of cheers? “Welcome Back Doc Gooden!” OK. Now onto the next guy. Drugs or no drugs, I have the right to fondly remember those days of Ks. This was MY stadium. MY memories. Why the rush? Who planned this?
- Then let’s have each player touch home plate. Nice touch. Except couldn’t the organizers have allowed Howie to introduce each player again as he moved to the plate? One last ovation. And what about the pitchers? Guess Shea didn’t have a mound! And where did all of the players go after touching home plate?
- Piazza and Seaver leaving together was AWESOME. Couldn’t the other players gone out that same way before the final two to a thunderous ovation with Seaver and Piazza last?
And if you didn’t think the ceremony was important, ask Hernandez and Darling. They were caught up in the same emotion we all were. Like the place, hate the place. It’s our Shea. Our memories. The Mets failed miserably.