Editor’s note: This issue we focus on our last visits to various ball parks. Hence the following...
Shea Stadium isn’t the best baseball stadium in New York City. It’s not even second best, trailing the more aesthetically pleasing parks in the Bronx and Coney Island. But Shea is my favorite.
Shea’s shortcomings are numerous and obvious. The stadium is located in Flushing. It’s removed from any sense of neighborhood. For those taking the subway there’s nothing to do in the area before or after games.
Hopefully the last game I saw at Shea will fade from memory but I’m still going to miss the place, even more than I’m going to miss Yankee Stadium.
Despite a rather pronounced disliking for the Bronx Bombers I never turned down a trip to Yankee Stadium. The narrow hallways. The low ceilings. Monument park. I’m far too much of a baseball sentimentalist to resist. The last time I went to Yankee Stadium my wife and I lucked into box seats. We also saw Guliani while waiting for the elevator and passed King George along the way. But despite that legendary aura and those brushes with fame I always preferred Shea.
The last game I saw at Shea was a forgettable late-August blowout against the Astros. My brother and I made a day trip out of it. On our way to Flushing we had lunch at Virgil’s Barbeque. We stopped for a beer at Jimmy’s. After the game we hit a midnight movie in Times Square. There wasn’t a moment all day when we forgot that we were in New York City. That’s why I always loved a day at Shea. No matter how good or bad the game I was watching—even that 1993 game lost when a ground ball squirted past an out-of-position Joe Orsalak—I was always getting a thoroughly warts-and-all NYC experience.
When you looked past the outfield fence and you got an eyeful of the Queens skyline—expressways, parking garages, car repair shops. And when you closed your eyes and the sounds of the game were periodically drown out by air traffic from nearby LaGuardia Airport. All of those things will be there to greet the completed Citi Field, which is going to look great, no doubt. But when I look at Citi Field I get a sense that its designers, consciously or otherwise, don’t care if I’m aware of New York when I’m there. It’s newer and shinier and it’s the model that will get better mileage, but it’ll always lack Shea’s scratch and dent charm.