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Mets line up greats for Shea finale

Mets line up greats for Shea finale

NEW YORK -- The names are leaking out, rivaling the stadium itself with their scope. Sunday's Shea Stadium farewell celebration will include appearances from Hall of Famers Willie Mays and Tom Seaver, along with former Mets great Mike Piazza.

Those three will join a roster of 45 former Mets players, including Darryl Strawberry and Keith Hernandez, in a ceremony to honor Sunday's final regular-season game at Shea Stadium.

"I think if you are a New Yorker, it's a sentimental thing," Mays said earlier this week. "But that's life, though."

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Sunday's goodbye does not have to be the last time the Mets play at Shea Stadium -- and as long as they win enough games this weekend, it won't be. With three games to play, the Mets remain tied with the Brewers for the Wild Card lead, and only one back of the Phillies in the NL East. Because of that, they remain favorites to make the playoffs, and to host at least one -- and potentially as many as 10 -- October games at Shea.

But Sunday, regardless, will be a farewell of sorts. The Mets will host the Marlins in a game that will have historic implications. Prior to Friday's series opener, grounds crew members were busy affixing the white-scripted words "Shea Goodbye" to the visiting dugout, along with the official Shea logo, unveiled last winter.

The Mets also announced Friday that international recording icon Marc Anthony will sing the national anthem before Sunday's final game, and that Emmy Award-winning actress and singer Glenn Close will sing "God Bless America" during the seventh-inning stretch.

The team, in all, expects 45 former friends to attend Sunday's ceremony -- Mays, Seaver and Piazza mark only the beginning. So it's a good bet that if their names are synonymous with the word "Mets" in baseball history, they'll be standing inside Shea's walls come Sunday.

Consider Seaver, a veteran of 11 seasons with the Mets, who won the Rookie of the Year Award in 1967, the Cy Young Award in 1969, 1973 and 1975, and helped give the Mets their first of two World Series championships in 1969.

Farewell Shea Stadium

"The emotions in this ballpark on both sides, and then the emotions coming from the fans -- it's like no other place in the world," Seaver said Friday.

Then there's Mays, who came to the Mets during the tail end of his Hall of Fame career, spending parts of two seasons with the team. And Mays' New York connections run even deeper than that, considering the six seasons he spent with the Giants before they moved to San Francisco.

The final member of the trio announced Friday, Mike Piazza, has become synonymous with the successful Mets teams of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Helping guide the Mets to the World Series in 2000, Piazza hit 220 home runs over eight seasons with the team.

"As antiquated as it became, it was charming," Piazza said. "And I'm sure for a lot of these guys, there are a lot of teams that didn't want to come here to play. You just can't match the energy in any other ballpark. I've never seen it duplicated anywhere."

And those three will help ring out only the final game. The Mets have had plans for Shea Stadium all week, which -- they hope -- might still include a playoff-clinching victory over the Marlins.

"We've got to give Shea Stadium a nice sendoff," manager Jerry Manuel said. "We have the opportunity. It's right in front of us."

The farewell began Monday, when the Mets hosted the Cubs and begin counting down the "Greatest Moments at Shea Presented by Nikon" results, as voted on by fans at Mets.com. They will reveal the winners of that competition on Friday.

All the while, the Mets continued selling pairs of plastic seats from the 44-year-old stadium. Orange and blue seats have already sold out, but green and red seats remain available for purchase on Mets.com.

The backdrop for all this -- and, of course, the reason -- is Citi Field, looming over Shea Stadium's center-field wall. The Mets will move into their new state-of-the-art ballpark next April, leaving a home that has played host to two World Series champion teams, a Super Bowl-winning Jets team and concerts ranging from the Beatles to Billy Joel.

It will be an emotional farewell, certainly, but that won't stop the Mets from attempting to drag it out even longer. They are on the cusp of making the playoffs for the second time in three years, which would in turn give them some more quality time with Shea. And simply being there, the Mets hope, can help them to achieve that end.

"It's a huge home-field advantage going back to New York," third baseman David Wright said late last week. "Fans are going to be into it. They're going to be rowdy."

Anthony DiComo 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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