Monday, September 28, 2009

My Last Days At Shea - Part 4 - In My Life

This is part 4 in a 4 part series on my last days at Shea Stadium. This is the story of the "Shea Goodbye" ceremony.

So the season is over. Playoff hopes are gone. And all in the blink of an eye. A day that started with a bit of uncertainty now has a concrete ending. Shea Stadium has seen its last official pitch, and all that was left was the closing ceremony. A bit of a wait to set up the field. Not a good wait. Most fans stayed around after the loss to see this. It looked like a few couldn't bear to watch the rest.

Mr. Met came out to tear down the last number to reveal a Citi Field logo at the end of the countdown. Boos, but not for Mr. Met, but rather what his actions revealed (oh what a telling sign that was).

There was a great parade of former Mets and those affiliated with the club since the opening of Shea. A good mix of the different winning eras and some of the losing eras. Howie Rose read with excitement each name as the player came out from a bullpen down the side warning track to the edge of the infield grass. Quite a collection of the different white Mets jerseys. I could sense an order towards the end when they got to what I call the Mets dignitaries (Strawberry, Piazza, Koosman, Gooden, Seaver). They're all a bunch of names who's numbers belong painted on the outfield wall with the other retired numbers. There were a few players that I felt should have been included and names mentioned in their absense (such as the only manager to take the Mets to the playoffs and not be represented in some way, the first basemen from the greatest infield ever, or the "ace" of the staff before they got good again a dozen years prior to this parade). There also should have been something for the other teams that played at Shea, especially the Jets (the program from the final game had all that). Imagine Tom Seaver and Joe Namath on the same field together.

The best name to appear in terms of sentiment was Doc Gooden. A long time in absence from the Mets and Shea (he last appeared at Shea in a day-night doubleheader pitching for the Yankees against the Mets the same day that Clemens beaned Piazza in the other now-defunct ballpark). That felt really good to see him back in the good graces of Mets fans.

A video tribute to Mets baseball at Shea. A great scene of former Mets and former teammates coming together behind 2nd base from their different respective entrance lines and embracing. Doc and Darryl together in Mets jerseys for the first time in about 18 years.

The players came off the field towards home plate to touch the plate one last time, each to more ovation, and then one last pitch. Tom Seaver, the "franchise", and best pitcher the Mets have ever had, throwing to Mike Piazza, the greatest catcher that the Mets have ever had. Then they walked into the sunset together and out through the centerfield fence (the same place that I entered the field myself the day before) to the music of The Beatles' "In My Life" (and briefly before it, Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World". I will never be able to listen to "In My Life" again without thinking of this moment. I started to break down into tears when the song came on. One year later, listening to the song typing this, the same thing is happening.

The lights went off, it was close to sunset, fireworks went off, and that was it. At 6:22pm on September 28, 2008, Shea Stadium was closed for business. Nobody rushed the fans out of the ballpark. I got to stay for some time before I felt like I had to get my dad home. I walked slowly out for the last time.

"In My Life" was a very fitting song. I vaguely remember it on a history of the Mets video from the 1980s. And of course the Beatles connection to Shea. I think "In My Life" came on right when Seaver and Piazza hit the spot where the Beatles stage was for their first Shea concert behind 2nd base.

But the lyrics. Click that link and read the lyrics and tell me that it isn't the best set of lyrics for that moment.

Photos from the day:

Photo Day at Shea | The Santana Game | Shea Goodbye | In My Life

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  1. Thanks so much for sharing these memories with your readers. I was at every game on the final weekend as well. I've also been blogging about my experiences of the final game and every emotion is coming back at me.

    From the thrill of Beltran's sixth-inning homer to Bloweneweis earning his nickname to Ryan Church trying to erase a 4-2 deficit with two outs in the ninth (similar to Piazza's long drive to center to end Game 5 of the 2000 World Series...same 4-2 score then as well), the highs and eventual lows are just as vivid now one year later as they were when they were happening on the field in front of us.

    I remember being upset that Mookie Wilson wasn't at the closing ceremonies since he is my all-time favorite Met. I also remember how happy I was to see Doc back at Shea. I kissed Shea when I left it and let three 7 trains go by before I finally boarded one and went home, waving goodbye one last time.

    Kleenex. It's a good thing to have right now. Thanks again for sharing your memories.

  2. Ed, I saw your post. It's good that some of the fellow bloggers are remembering this day.

    I probably would have stayed much much longer except I had my dad with me and wanted to get him home. We ended up in a major traffic jam getting out from the perferred parking lot for probably another hour.