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Great moments at Shea Stadium

Great moments at Shea Stadium

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Say what you will about Shea Stadium, that it has outlived its usefulness, that it now is a 3-D park -- dank, dirty and decomposing -- and that it lacks panache. Few will come to the defense of the ballpark that has served as the Mets' home for 44 summers and a handful of autumns. And few will long lament its passing after the pending baseball season.

Unlike its cousin in the Bronx, Shea hasn't charmed us; it merely has served us. It never has been confused with the architectural elite of sports arenas. And time hasn't enhanced the physical plant. Though built in the '60s, it seems so '70s, like that pair of platform shoes. And aside from the inspired neon sketches on blue backgrounds that do set it apart from other ballparks, Shea presents little physical distinction, particularly once its guests pass through its turnstiles.

The structure is circular, the field symmetrical; no nooks, crannies, death valleys, pennant porches, pavilions, monuments or monstrous walls to distinguish it. No coves, showers, warehouses, swimming pools beyond the fences, no ivy on the fences. Its standing as the lone ballpark with orange foul poles -- all others are yellow -- isn't enough, nor is the gigantic scoreboard in right-center with updated batting orders and up-to-date out-of-own scores, not anymore.

William A. Shea Municipal Stadium, as it is known by virtually no one, always has deferred to humans -- and occasionally, other creatures -- to create its distinction. From promise keeper Joe Willie to upper case Promise Keepers, from pontiff John Paul to hit-makers John, Paul George and Ringo, from miracle makers Tom and Jerry to merrymakers Keith and Kid, from Rey to Reyes to Wright, Shea has been the stage, seldom, if ever, the star.

Folks make summer pilgrimages to the Bronx, the Boston Fens and the North side of Chicago to experience Yankee Stadium's regal grandeur, Fenway Park's green intimacy and the fossil-like quality of Wrigley Field. Visits to Shea typically are made to take in Mets games, not to see the first -- and last standing -- of the cookie-cutter arenas, the fifth oldest ballpark in the big leagues.

Shea has a more prominent place in our heads than in our hearts because it has been a home to history -- the most famous World Series misplay, arguably the greatest World Series upset, the genesis of outdoor stadium concerts and a papal visit. Those events constitute merely the top of the heap. When Shea looks over its shoulder in the fall, it will see much more:

April 17, 1964: Less than 90 minutes after parts of the outfield wall are painted and about a year after the place was to have opened, the Mets engage the Pirates in the first event in the history of Shea Stadium. Two hours, 42 minutes later, the event becomes Pirates 4, Mets 3. Jack Fisher throws the first pitch. Willie Stargell hits one of Fisher's subsequent serves for the first home run in the new park. The Mets lose to a Friend, Bob. Reliever Ed Bauta is the losing pitcher. Attendance: 50,312.

Since that day, another 6,997 big league games (preseason, postseason, All-Star, Mayor's Trophy, Mayor's Challenge and Big Apple and those games played by the pinstripes nesters for the Bronx, not included) have been played at Shea. The Mets have won 3,405 of them, attracting an additional 90,637,867 paying customers.

April 19, 1964: Al Jackson pitches a six-hitter in the Mets' 6-0 victory against the Pirates, their first victory in their new digs.

June 21, 1964: Jim Bunning of the Phillies pitches the fourth regular-season perfect game of the 20th century, the first in the regular season in 42 years. The Phillies beat the Mets, 6-0, on Father's Day. One other no-hitter has occurred at Shea, and it certainly wasn't the work of a Mets pitcher. Bob Moose of the Pirates no-hit the Mets on Sept. 20, 1969 as they were en route to National League pennant. The Mets haven't pitched a no-hitter in any park.

Farewell Shea Stadium

July 7, 1964: With Ron Hunt of the Mets starting at second base and playing nearly the entire game, the National League defeats the American League 7-4 in the only All-Star Game played at Shea. Henry Aaron pinch-hits for Hunt in the ninth inning and strikes out before Johnny Callison hits a three-run home run against Dick Radatz to end the game.

Sept. 12, 1964: The New York Titans of the American Football League changed their name to the Jets in 1963, knowing they would follow the Mets from the Polo Grounds to just beyond the runways of LaGuardia Airport. The Jets play their first game at Shea on this date, beating the Broncos 30-6. A year before the arrival of Joe Namath, Dick Wood is the Jets quarterback.

Aug. 15, 1965: Shea rocks. Greeted by a shrill din produced by 55,600 -- mostly teenage girls -- that made their performance impossible to hear, the Beatles change the music world again, presenting a concert on the largest stage ever. They open with "Twist And Shout," close with "I'm Down" and perform 10 other songs. A year and eight days later, they play a return engagement.

Oct. 9, 1965: No. 7 Notre Dame beats unranked Army, 17-0, in Shea's first foray into big-time college football.

April 13, 1967: Tom Seaver makes his big league debut on this date, pitching 5 1/3 innings in what becomes a Mets victory against the Pirates. No one suspected what the Mets have unleashed. Seaver becomes the 1967 National League Rookie of the Year.

Sept. 29, 1967: Emile Griffith defeats Nino Benvenuti in a 15-round decision in the second of their three fights to win back the world middleweight championship.

April 17, 1968: Jerry Koosman, the Jerry of Tom and Jerry, pitches a seven-hitter in the Mets' 3-0 victory against the Giants to gain his first big league victory. He places second in the 1968 National League Rookie of the Year balloting.

Dec. 29, 1968: Bound for their upset in Super Bowl III, the Jets defeat the Raiders, 27-23, in the 1968 AFL Championship Game, six weeks after losing to the Raiders in Oakland in the "Heidi Game."

April 10, 1969: Tommie Agee hits a home run into the upper deck in left field. The home run in the seventh inning against Larry Jaster of the Expos is recognized as the only home run to reach the upper deck at Shea, though Willie McCovey still recalls a home run he hit against Gary Gentry in 1972.

July 9, 1969: Seaver pitches the Imperfect Game, beating the Cubs on a one-hitter. Jimmy Qualls' single to center with one out in the ninth denies Seaver and nonetheless creates a signature game in the franchise's history and in the history of The Franchise. It is the first one-hitter at Shea by a Mets pitcher.

Sept. 9, 1969: On 9-9-69, the Mets employed -- or deployed -- the animal with nine lives. A black cat visited the area in front of the visiting dugout in the first inning of the second game of the Cubs' visit. The source of the feline remains unknown, though it could have been that the animal was one of the hundreds of cats, rats and other varmints that inhabited -- and still inhabit -- Shea. The Mets defeated the Cubs for the second straight night, behind Seaver, to move within a half-game of first-place Chicago and assure themselves of the first winning record in club history.

Sept. 10, 1969: A doubleheader sweep of the Expos vaults the Mets past the Cubs and into first place. The Shea scoreboard says "Look who's in first place."

Sept. 24, 1969: Cardinals first baseman Joe Torre grounds into a game-ending double play that secures the National League East championship for the Mets, who had finished in ninth or 10th place -- an average of 41 games behind -- in their first seven seasons.

Oct. 6, 1969: With Nolan Ryan pitching seven innings in relief, the Mets come from behind to beat the Braves to sweep the first National League Championship Series.

Oct. 14, 1969: Agee leads off the first inning with a home run and makes two compelling catches on the warning track in center field denying Paul Blair and Elrod Hendricks of productive extra-base hits. The Mets beat the Orioles, 5-0, in Game 3 of the World Series.

Oct. 15, 1969: A day after their controversial -- see J.C. Martin -- victory in Game 4, the Mets complete The Miracle and what many consider the greatest upset in World Series history. They beat the Orioles, 5-3. Davey Johnson, who will thoroughly enjoy the last out of the Mets' other World Series championship, flies out to Cleon Jones for the last out.

April 18, 1970: Nolan Ryan allows a single by Denny Doyle, the Phillies' first batter, and no other hits in a 7-0 victory that included 15 strikeouts. The Mets have pitched 16 complete-game one-hitters at Shea.

June 23-28, 1970: The six-day Billy Graham Crusade fills Shea.

Aug. 6, 1970: Nine days before the first anniversary of Woodstock, Janis Joplin headlines the Summer Festival of Peace.

July 9, 1971: Having sold out the park more quickly than the Beatles, Grand Funk Railroad plays Shea. Presumably many in attendance take the 7 Train to the concert and experience a different kind of funk.

May 14, 1972: Traded by the San Francisco Giants, Willie Mays returns to New York and hits a home run in the fifth inning to provide the winning run in the Mets' 5-4 victory against his former team.

Sept. 1, 1972: Bruno Sammartino and Pedro Morales wrestle to a 75-minute draw.

July 3-4, 1973: The Newport Jazz Festival brings a different sound to Shea. Mayor Lindsay has LaGuardia's takeoffs re-routed.

Sept. 20, 1973: The Mets, 11 1/2 games from first place on Aug. 5, win the Wall Ball Game, beating the first-place Pirates, 4-3, in 10 innings, to move within a half-game of the division lead. They take over first place the following day and never relinquish the lead.

Oct. 8, 1973: The Rose-Bud Affair. Pete Rose and Bud Harrelson are the primary combatants in a brawl between the Mets and Reds during Game 3 of the NLCS. The Mets win the series two days later behind Seaver and move on to their second World Series.

Oct. 18, 1973: Koosman and Tug McGraw combine to three-hit the A's and give the "Ya Gotta Believe" Mets a three-victories-to-two advantage in the World Series. The A's win Games 6 and 7 in Oakland.

Dec. 16, 1973: O.J. Simpson becomes the first NFL player to rush for 2,000 yards in one season. He enters the game 60 yards short of Jim Brown's NFL record (1,863 yards in 1963). On a snow-covered field, he breaks Brown's record early in the game and the 2,000 mark on a seven-yard run with 6:28 remaining in the game. The Bills beat the Jets, 34-14, in the final game of Jets coach Weeb Ewbank.

April 6, 1974: With Yankee Stadium under renovation, the Yankees begin the first of two seasons as Shea tenants. Mel Stottlemyre, who would serve as the Mets pitching coach beginning 10 years later, pitches a complete game in the Yankees' 6-1 Opening Day victory against the Indians.

Sept. 11, 1974: Bake McBride scores the decisive run from first base when Hank Webb makes an errant pickoff throw in the Mets' 4-3, 25-inning loss to the Cardinals. The game lasts seven hours, four minutes. Wayne Garrett goes hitless in 10 at-bats.

Sept. 21, 1974: With the Yankees tied for first place, Bobby Murcer hits his first "home" home run of the season in a 14-7 victory against the Indians. He hits the second -- and last -- the following day. Murcer had averaged 15 home runs per season at Yankee Stadium for the previous five seasons.

Oct. 12, 1975: After one season playing "home" games at the Yale Bowl, the Giants play their first game at Shea, a 13-7 loss to the Cowboys, before 56,511. The Giants' starting quarterback was former Cowboy Craig Morton.

April, 1976: Mettle, (nee Arthur), the Mule made his debut at Shea. Fans voted for a new name, one that paid tribute to the Mets' mettle.

June 16, 1977: The morning after the Midnight Massacre, Tom Seaver sobs as he clears out his locker in the Mets' home clubhouse. His trade to the Reds signals the beginning of the most unfulfilling period in franchise history. The Mets finish last or next to last every season through 1983. Shea becomes Grant's Tomb, a slap at Board Chairman M. Donald Grant who had butted heads with Seaver.

July 13, 1977: An even darker day comes almost a month later. Shea organist Jane Jarvis plays "Jingle Bells" and "White Christmas" on a sultry night when the city goes dark. The Mets lead the Cubs, 2-0, when the blackout reaches Shea. Lenny Randle, Doug Flynn, Bobby Valentine and Bruce Boisclair turn phantom double plays by the light of contingency lamps and car headlights.

July 16, 1977: "You wanna know why I want to play center field here?" was the rhetorical question asked by Lee Mazzilli, then the Mets' 22-year-old center fielder, during an Old Timer's Day celebration when Duke Snider, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays walked in, four abreast, from center. What a moment!

Aug. 21, 1977: Bill Madden, the late security guard at the door to the Mets clubhouses, prefaces Seaver's return to Shea as a member of the Reds, saying, "You know what they want to see, don't ya? Tommy pitch a perfect game and the Mets win." An imperfect afternoon evolves. Seaver pitches a complete game, beating Koosman, in the 5-1 Reds victory. Buddy Harrelson admits his eyes teared when he faced his friend.

July 12-16, 1978: The Jehovah's Witnesses fill Shea for five nights.

July 24-25, 1978: Mets starters Pat Zachry and Craig Swan allow hits by Pete Rose in successive games that extend Rose's hitting streak to 38 games, establishing a National League record. Rose's streak eventually reaches 44 games. The record had been held by Tommy Holmes, who hit in 37 straight games with the Boston Braves in 1945. Holmes is working for the Mets when Rose passes him. He thanks Rose for "making people remember me."

Oct. 3, 1979: Pope John Paul II says mass at Shea after heavy rains threaten the event. The rain stops as the Popemobile enters the park.

March, 1980: Less that two months after new owners Nelson Doubleday and Fred Wilpon took over, new vice-president Jim Nagouney has the "washboards" removed from the Shea's exterior for aesthetic reasons. The washboards were those orange and blue, corregated metal rectangles, peculiar to Shea, that now are depicted in the image of Shea featured on the arm patches to be worn by players this season. Many people recall the washboards because of their utter uselessness, others because of the racket they made in the wind.

Nagourney eventually speaks with the architect -- Praeger-Kavanagh-Waterbury -- and is told the washboards had been installed by order of New York City Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, who wanted to promote the 1964 World's Fair, which had the same colors as the Mets. The fate of the washboards, as far as any one knows, is that they were scrapped.

Oct. 12-13, 1982: "Tommy, can you hear me." Yes, even with the planes taking off. The Who comes to Shea.

April 5, 1983: Seaver returns. Re-acquired in a December trade, Seaver pitches six scoreless innings in an Opening Day victory against the Phillies. And the Mets win, too.

May 6, 1983: With the Mets floundering in fifth place, Darryl Strawberry is promoted to the big leagues. He goes hitless with three strikeouts in four at-bats, walks twice and scores the decisive run in the Mets' 13-inning, 7-4 victory against the Reds.

June 15, 1983: The Mets acquire Keith Hernandez from the Cardinals for Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey. The best trade in franchise history brings Hernandez to tears after his first game. But the city, Rusty Staub's influence, the promise of the Mets prospects and a six-year contract make Hernandez a New Yorker.

Aug. 6, 1983: Another Tom and Jerry act. This one becomes Simon and Garfunkel -- they had been known as Tom and Jerry -- long before the sounds of silence come to Shea.

Aug. 18, 1983: A Sting operation at Shea. The Police play.

April 19, 1984: Rookie Dwight Gooden makes his Shea Stadium debut.

Sept. 7, 1984: Gooden electrifies a crowd of 46,301 with a one-hitter against the first-place Cubs that moves the Mets within six games of the division leaders.

April 5, 1985: The debut of Gary Carter as a Met ends when he hits a home run off Allen in the 10th inning to win the Opening Day game.

Sept. 12, 1985: A Subway Series is on track. A single by Hernandez in the ninth innings puts the Mets in first place. They defeat the Cardinals, 7-5, at Shea. That night in the Bronx, the Yankees defeat the Blue Jays, 7-4, to move within 1 1/2 games of first place.

April 21, 1986: Ray Knight hits a two-run home run in the eighth inning, and the Mets beat the Pirates, 6-5, in the ninth. The victory is the fourth in a sequence of 11 straight that is the first stage of the Mets' runaway.

Sept. 17, 1986: The Mets' 95th victory -- they would finish with 108 -- clinches the franchise's third NL East championship. The Mets win the division by 21 1/2 games.

Oct. 11, 1986: After a three-run home run by Strawberry in the sixth gives the Mets a chance, Lenny Dykstra hits a two-run, final-pitch home run off Dave Smith to give the Mets a 6-5 victory and a two-games-to-one advantage in the best-of-seven NLCS against the Astros. The Mets win the pennant in Houston four days later.

Oct. 25, 1986: A furious, two-out, 10th-inning rally that ends with Bill Buckner's stunning error on Mookie Wilson's roller saves the Mets from losing a six-game World Series. They win Game 7 two nights later, extending the Red Sox's curse.

April 7, 1987: With Gooden in rehab and Strawberry wearing his baseball pants, the Mets defeat the Pirates, 3-2, on Opening Day, on the strength of Strawberry's three-run home run in the first inning.

Sept. 11, 1987: Terry Pendleton's two-run home run with two outs in the ninth inning ties the score, and the Cardinals go on to beat the Mets, 6-4, in 10 innings, a serious blow to the Mets' hope to repeat as NL East champions.

Sept. 22, 1988: A 3-1 victory against the Phillies clinches a fourth division title for the Mets.

Oct. 9, 1988: A 12th-inning home run by Kirk Gibson of the Dodgers against Roger McDowell in Game 4 of the NLCS undermines the Mets' chance of returning to the World Series. The key to the 5-4 loss, however, is the two-run home run Mike Scioscia hits against Dwight Gooden to tie the score in the ninth. The Mets lose in seven games.

Oct. 10, 11, 25, 26, 28, 29, 1989: Steel Wheels rolls into Shea. The Rolling Stones fill the house.

July 3, 1990: The Mets are rolling. A five-hitter by Frank Viola, two home runs by Darryl Strawberry and one by "My Other Brother" Darryl Boston -- Strawberry and Boston hit the scoreboard in the fifth inning -- are the focal points of a 12-0 thrashing of the Astros that is the eighth victory in the fourth 11-game winning streak in club history. The victory moves the Mets within 1 1/2 games of first place. They were in first as late as Sept. 3 and not again after an All-Star break until July 30, 1999.

July 28, 1993: A ninth-inning double by Eddie Murray drives in the decisive runs in a 5-4 victory against the expansion Marlins that ends the record-setting losing streak of Anthony Young at 27 games. Young had allowed the Marlins to take the lead in the top of the ninth. The Mets bottom out with 103 losses, equaling the most ever by an established team in an expansion era, at the time.

Sept. 14, 1996: Todd Hundley hits his 41st home run of the season, establishing a single-season record for home runs as a catcher.

April 15, 1997: Major League Baseball gives up the secret it had kept for months: "No. 42 belongs to Jackie Robinson for the ages. No. 42, from this day forward never again will be issued by a Major League club." So said commissioner Bud Selig at Shea on the 50th anniversary of Robinson's breaking the color barrier. No. 42 is retired by all clubs -- except for those with an active player wearing the number -- for Robinson, who wore it during his 10 years with the Brooklyn Dodgers. President Bill Clinton, Robinson's widow Rachel, daughter Sharon and Branch Rickey III, the grandson of the former Dodgers executive who ushered Robinson to the big leagues, are in attendance.

Aug. 21-22, 1992: Cornflakes and classic blues. Elton John and Eric Clapton play Shea. The outfield sings the blues. It's torn apart worse than it ever was by the Jets.

Sept. 20-21, 1996: The Promise Keepers fill the ballpark.

June 14, 1997: Mark Clark hits a home run and emerges as the winning pitcher in the Mets' 5-2 victory against the Red Sox, their first victory in Interleague Play.

April 15, 1998: Straw returns. With Yankee Stadium closed for repairs, the Yankees play the Angels at Shea. And their designated hitter, one Darryl Strawberry hits a home run, his 127th at the park, still the most ever.

May 23, 1998: One day after the Mets acquire him from the Marlins, Mike Piazza scorches a double and drives in a run in his Mets debut against the Brewers.

Aug. 20, 1998: Brian Jordan and Mark McGwire hit home runs in successive at-bats in the seventh inning of the Cardinals' 2-0 victory. McGwire's is his 50th en route to a then-record 70.

April 14, 1999: John Franco strikes out three in the ninth inning to secure a 4-1 victory against the Marlins and becomes the second pitcher to save 400 games (Lee Smith was the first).

July 22, 1999: Manager Bobby Valentine returns to the Mets dugout in disguise after being ejected.

Oct. 3, 1999: With Piazza in the batter's box, Melvin Mora on third base and none out in the ninth, a second wild pitch by Pirates reliever Brad Clontz allows the decisive run in a Mets' 2-1 victory that forces a one-game Wild Card playoff the following night in Cincinnati. The Mets win it, 5-0, behind Al Leiter's two-hitter and are in the postseason for the first time since 1988.

Oct. 9, 1999: Todd Pratt hits a home run off Matt Mantei in the 10th inning to beat the Diamondbacks, 4-3, and put the Mets in the NLCS.

Oct. 17, 1999: As Robin Ventura approaches second base, Pratt picks him up in celebration of what could have been a decisive grand slam in the 15th inning of Game 5 of the NLCS against the Braves. Instead, Ventura is credited with a "grand slam single" and one RBI in the Mets' 4-3 victory.

June 30, 2000: Piazza's rocket three-run home run down the left-field line is the finishing touch in a 10-run eighth-inning rally that produces an 11-8 Mets victory against the Braves.

July 8, 2000: Dwight Gooden returns in a Yankees uniform and beats his former team in his first appearance in his second tour with the Yankees.

Oct. 8, 2000: Less than 24 hours after Benny Agbayani beat the Giants with a home run in the 13th inning, Bobby Jones pitches the greatest game in franchise history to put the Mets in the NLCS for a second straight year. Jones throws a one-hitter, walking two batters in the 4-0 victory.

Oct. 16, 2000: A three-hit, one-walk shutout by Mike Hampton and three RBIs by Todd Zeile are the critical contributions in the 7-0 victory against the Cardinals in Game 5 of the NLCS that puts the Mets in the World Series.

Oct. 24, 2000: The Mets defeat the Yankees, 4-2, in Game 3 of the World Series, the first Subway Series game played at Shea and the Mets' lone victory in the series. They beat Orlando Hernandez, who was unbeaten in nine postseason decisions to that point. The Yankees win the series two nights later.

Sept. 21, 2001: Bagpipes and baseball. The Mets engage the Braves in the first professional sporting event in New York to follow the attacks on the World Trade Center. The emotional evening climaxes with a two-run home run by Piazza in the eighth inning that creates the final 3-2 score.

June 15, 2002: In the absurdly hyped confrontation between the Mets and Roger Clemens, Mets starter Shawn Estes doesn't hit Clemens but instead hits a home run off him in an 8-0 Mets victory against the Yankees.

Aug. 1-Sept. 3, 2002: The Mets lose 15 straight home games, a National League record.

Sept. 25. 2003: Hall of Fame announcer Bob Murphy works his final Mets game.

Oct. 1, 3, 4, 2003: With Al Leiter on stage for one of the shows, Shea become a stage for a different kind of Boss. Bruce Springsteen performs.

May 5, 2004: Piazza hits the 352nd home run of his career as a catcher, establishing the all-time record for catchers.

July 4, 2004: A leadoff home run by Ty Wigginton in the eighth inning is decisive in a 6-5 Mets victory that completes a Interleague series sweep of the Yankees.

July 21, 2004: David Wright makes his big league debut. He goes hitless in four at-bats in a 5-4 victory against the Expos.

Sept. 18, 2006: The Mets clinch the NL East championship with a 4-0 victory against the Marlins, denying the Braves a division title for the first time since 1990.

Oct. 19, 2006: After sweeping the Dodgers in the NLDS, the Mets lose Game 7 of the NLCS to the Cardinals despite a brilliant career-defining catch by Endy Chavez in left field.

July 25, 2007: Tom Glavine beats the Pirates for the 299th victory of his career. No. 300 comes 11 days later at Wrigley Field.

Sept. 30, 2007: A historic collapse is complete. The Mets are crushed by the Marlins in their 162nd game and denied the division title they thought would be theirs when they held a seven-game lead with 17 games to play.

April 8, 2008: The Phillies rally for three runs in the seventh and defeat the Mets, 5-2, in the last home opener at Shea Stadium.

July 16, 2008: Billy Joel rocks the house in the first of two concerts to salute Shea.

Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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