William A. Shea Municipal Stadium, usually shortened to Shea Stadium or just Shea (ʃeɪ̪), is a stadium located in the New York City borough of Queens, in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park. It was the home baseball park of the New York Mets National League professional team from 1964 to 2008. Originally built as a multi-purpose stadium, Shea was also the home of the National Football League's New York Jets until 1983. It is currently being demolished to furnish additional parking for the adjacent Citi Field, under construction to replace Shea in 2009.
The Mets' inaugural season was played in the Polo Grounds, with original plans calling for them to move to a new stadium in 1963; however construction was delayed, and they played at the Polo Grounds a second season.
It was originally to be called "Flushing Meadow Park Municipal Stadium" – the name of the public park on which it was built – but a movement was launched to name it in honor of William A. Shea, the man who brought National League baseball back to New York. Earlier, New York City official Robert Moses tried to interest Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley in this site as the location for a new Dodger stadium, but O'Malley refused, unable to agree on ownership and lease terms. Preferring to pay construction costs himself in order to own the stadium outright, O'Malley wished to exert total control of its revenue from parking, concessions, and other events. The City, by contrast, wanted to build the stadium, rent it, and retain these ancillary revenue rights as a means of paying off its construction bonds. Additionally, O'Malley wanted to build his new stadium in Brooklyn, while Moses insisted on Flushing Meadows. When Los Angeles offered O'Malley what the City of New York wouldn't—complete and absolute ownership of the facility—he left for southern California in a preemptive bid to install the Dodgers there before a new or existing major league franchise could beat him to it.
After 29 months and $28.5 million, Shea Stadium opened on April 17, 1964, with the Mets losing to the Pittsburgh Pirates, led by Roberto Clemente and Bill Mazeroski, 4-3 before a crowd of 50,312. Shea was a circular stadium, with the grandstand forming a perfect circle around the field and ending a short distance beyond the foul lines. The remainder of the perimeter was mostly empty space beyond the outfield fences. This space was occupied by the bullpens, scoreboards, and a section of bleachers beyond the left field fence. The stadium boasted 54 restrooms, 21 escalators and seats for 57,343. It was big, airy, sparkling, with a massive 86' x 175' scoreboard. Also, rather than the standard light towers, Shea had lamps along its upper reaches, like a convoy of semis with their brights on, which gave the field that unique high-wattage glow. Praised for its convenience, even its "elegance," Shea was actually deemed a showplace.
Shea was originally designed to convert from a baseball field into a rectangle field suitable for football using two motor-operated stands that allow the field level seats to rotate on underground railroad tracks. After the New York Jets football team moved to Giants Stadium in New Jersey in 1984, the Mets took over operation of the stadium and retrofitted it for exclusive baseball use. As part of the refitting, Shea Stadium's exterior was painted blue, and neon signs of baseball player silhouettes were added to the windscreens between 1986 and 1988.
The design also allowed for Shea Stadium to be expandable to 90,000 seats (by completely enclosing the grandstand), or to be later enclosed by a dome if warranted. In March of 1965, a plan was formally announced to add a glass dome and expand seating capacity. The Mets strongly objected to the proposal, and the idea was dropped after studies concluded that the stadium's foundation would be unable to support the weight of the dome.
Originally, all of the seats were wooden, with each level having a different color. They were green, blue, red and yellow. Before the 1980 baseball season they were replaced with red, green, blue, and orange plastic seats.
The stadium was located close to LaGuardia Airport, and in recent years, flight patterns have been altered to alleviate the jet noise that plagued Shea for much of its existence. Previously, interruptions for planes flying overhead were common at Shea, and the noise was so loud that radio and television broadcasts couldn't be heard.
Shea Stadium was the home of the New York Mets since its inception in 1964, and hosted the Major League Baseball All-Star Game that same year, with Johnny Callison of the Philadelphia Phillies hitting a home run in the 9th inning to win the first and only Mid-Summer Classic held in the ballpark in Queens, NY. A month earlier, Callison's teammate, future Hall of Fame member and United States Senator Jim Bunning, pitched a perfect game against the Mets on Fathers Day.
The stadium was often criticized by baseball purists for many reasons, even though it was retrofitted to be a baseball-only stadium after the Jets left. There was no permanent bleacher section until early in the 21st century, in part because the park was originally designed to be fully enclosed. A small portable bleacher section was installed in left field around 1981, but it was only available to picnic groups. The upper deck was one of the highest in the majors. The lower boxes are farther from the field than similar seats in other parks because they are still on the rails that swiveled the boxes into position for football.
On the plus side, seats added over the years have greatly reduced the size of foul territory, making Shea somewhat more intimate. At one time, Shea's foul territory was one of the most expansive in the majors. Currently, 70 percent of the seats are between the foul poles. Also, Shea has never had an artificial playing surface, unlike ballparks such as Three Rivers Stadium and Riverfront Stadium, which were built in the same era and style, and were also used for football.
Shea Stadium hosted postseason baseball games in 1969, 1973, 1986, 1988, 1999, 2000 and 2006; it hosted World Series games in 1969, 1973, 1986, and 2000. Shea Stadium had the distinction of being the home of the 1969 "Miracle Mets" -- a team led by former Brooklyn Dodger Gil Hodges that defied 100–1 odds and won the World Series, this after recording seven straight seasons in last, or next to last place. Shea became famous for the bedlam that took place after the Mets won the decisive Game 5 of the 1969 World Series, as fans stormed the field in celebration. Tommie Agee, Lenny Dykstra, Todd Pratt, Robin Ventura, and Benny Agbayani have all hit post-season, game-winning home runs at Shea.
Tommie Agee was the only player in the history of the ballpark to hit a home run into the upper deck in left field. The spot is marked with a sign featuring Agee's number, and the date of the event, April 10, 1969. Teammate Cleon Jones says the ball was still rising when it hit the seats, so it very likely could have been the longest home run ever hit at Shea Stadium.
In 1971, Dave Kingman---then with the San Francisco Giants; later to play for the Mets on two occasions—hit a home run that smashed off the windshield of the Giants' team bus, parked behind the left field bullpen.
For many years, the Mets' theme song, "Meet the Mets", was played at Shea before every home game.
As of June 10, 2005, the Mets had played more games at Shea Stadium than the Brooklyn Dodgers did at Ebbets Field.
The last game played at Shea Stadium was a loss to the Florida Marlins on September 28, 2008. There was a "Shea Goodbye" tribute after the game in which many players from the Mets glory years appeared so that fans could pay their last respects to the players and the stadium the Mets called home for 45 years. The ceremony ended with Tom Seaver throwing one final pitch to Mike Piazza followed by a display of orange and blue fireworks.
Separately, on April 15, 1998 the Yankees also played one home game at Shea after a beam collapsed at Yankee Stadium two days before, destroying several rows of seats. Former Mets star Darryl Strawberry, then playing for the Yankees, hit a home run during the game. Stadium operators partially raised the Mets' home run apple signal before lowering it back down, much to the delight of the crowd present.
The Mets used their status as Shea's primary tenants to force onerous lease conditions on the Jets. Until 1978, the Jets could not play their first home game until the Mets' season was finished. Even after 1978, the Mets used their status as Shea's primary tenants to force the Jets on long road trips. The stadium was also not well maintained in the 1970s. The Jets moved to Giants Stadium for the 1984 season, after the Mets pressured the city into offering lease terms similar to the pre-1978 conditions. Fans ripped Shea apart after the last game of the 1983 season. Even the scoreboard operator had a field day, displaying the home team as the "N.J. Jets". In the end, New York City could not compete with the additional 15,000+ seats Giants Stadium offered.
It was at Shea Stadium in 1973 that O.J. Simpson became the first running back to gain 2,000 yards in a single season (and, to date, the only player to do it in 14 games or less).
The Jets' final game at Shea was a 34–7 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on December 10, 1983. The game marked the final appearance of Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw, who was 5-of-8 for 77 yards and two touchdowns during his brief stint. Earlier in the 1983 season, a Jets game against the Los Angeles Rams featured an 85-yard touchdown run by rookie Eric Dickerson, as well as a brawl between Rams offensive tackle Jackie Slater and Jets defensive end Mark Gastineau when Slater blindsided Gastineau after the Jet performed his infamous "Sack Dance" over fallen Rams quarterback Vince Ferragamo.
The NFL's New York Giants played their 1975 season at Shea while Giants Stadium was being built. The Giants were 5–9 that year (2–5 at Shea). Their coach was Bill Arnsparger and their quarterback was Craig Morton. That year, Shea served as the home field for four teams: the Mets, Yankees, Jets and Giants.
The football field at Shea extended from around home plate all the way to the outfield, with the baseline seating rotating out to fill left and right fields.
The first major music event to play Shea Stadium after The Beatles successful run was the Summer Festival for Peace on August 6th, 1970. It was a day-long fundraiser which featured many of the era's biggest selling and seminal rock, folk, blues and jazz performers including: Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Paul Simon, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Steppenwolf, The James Gang, Miles Davis, Tom Paxton, John Sebastian and others. The following year Grand Funk Railroad and support act Humble Pie played a sold-out show at Shea. The concert sold out the Stadium faster than the Beatles' previous shows had done. Some of the concert's performance was included on the album, Live: The 1971 Tour.
The stadium has hosted numerous concerts since, the most recent being a two-night engagement by Billy Joel on July 16th, and July 18th of 2008. The concerts were dubbed the "Last Play at Shea," and featured many special guest appearances, including former Beatle Paul McCartney who closed the second show with an emotional rendition of the Beatles classic "Let It Be." Other artists that joined Joel on stage for the show were former Shea performer Roger Daltrey of The Who, Tony Bennett, Don Henley, John Mayer, John Mellencamp, Garth Brooks, and Steven Tyler of Aerosmith.
Before Joel's concerts, the last performer to play there was Bruce Springsteen along with his famed backing band; the E Street Band in early October 2003. Other acts that have headlined at Shea are Jethro Tull in July 1976, The Who with opening act The Clash in October 1982, Simon and Garfunkel in August 1983, The Police in August 1983, the Rolling Stones with opening act Living Colour for a six night run in October 1989, and Elton John & Eric Clapton in August 1992.
During his tour of America in October 1979, Pope John Paul II was also among those hosted by Shea Stadium. On the morning of the Pontiff's visit, Shea Stadium was awash in torrential rain, causing ankle-deep mud puddles, and threatened to ruin the event. But as the Popemobile entered the stadium, the rain stopped.
On December 9, 1979 as part of the halftime show of an NFL game between the New York Jets and New England Patriots, a model airplane group put on a remote control airplane display. The grand finale was a red 40-pound lawnmower. Its blade flew into the stands hitting John Bowen of Nashua, New Hampshire. Bowen died six days later. On November 17, 1981 a $10 million damage suit was filed by the man’s father in the Federal District Court in Brooklyn. Named as defendants in the negligence suit were the New York Jets Football Club, the Radio Control Association of Greater New York, and the man who designed, built and furnished the model airplane.
Recently on VH1's documentary series "7 Ages of Rock," Shea Stadium was named the most hallowed venue in all of Rock music.
In Godzilla: The Series the stadium was destroyed in a fight between Godzilla and Crackler.
Shea Stadium was used in the 70's for filming the movie "The Wiz" They used the exterior pedestrian ramps for a motorcycle chase scene with Michael Jackson & Diana Ross.
In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the stadium became a staging area for rescuers, its parking lots filled with food, water, medical supplies, even makeshift shelters where relief workers could sleep. Ten days later Shea reopened for the first post-attack sporting event in New York where the Mets beat the Braves, behind a dramatic home run by Mets catcher Mike Piazza.
Because Shea is constructed on a large plot of land, it need not conform to the surrounding streets like its brother across town, Yankee Stadium. Shea's exterior is painted blue and white, two of the Mets' team colors. Banks of ramps which provide access from the ground to the upper levels are built around the outside circumference of the stadium. The ramps are not walled in and are visible from the outside. The ramps were originally partly covered with many rectangular panels in blue and orange (two of the team's colors). These panels can be seen in the 70's movie The Wiz They used the exterior pedestrian ramps for a motorcycle chase scene with Michael Jackson & Diana Ross. But those 1960s-style decorations were removed in 1980. The banks of ramps result in the outer wall of the stadium jutting out where the banks exist. In some of the recessed bays between the banks, huge neon lights form the figures of baseball players. In 2003, large murals celebrating the Mets' two world championships were put up, covering the two ends of the grandstand. The 1986 mural was removed after the 2006 season because of deterioration (the wall was re-painted solid blue, and a window was opened on the Mezzanine level where fans could view the progress of Citi Field), but the 1969 mural survived until the final game in 2008.
The scoreboard is topped by a representation of the New York Skyline, a prominent part of the team logo. Since the September 11th Terrorist Attacks, the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center have been kept unlit, a red, white, and blue ribbon placed over them.
For the 2007 and 2008 seasons, the construction of Citi Field was visible beyond the left and center field walls of Shea. The city skyline was removed during the demolition of Shea Stadium and will be relocated to the centerfield scoreboard at Citi Field.
Shea Stadium is the only stadium in the major leagues that has orange foul poles instead of the standard yellow. Citi Field will also feature orange foul poles.
In Shea's earlier years, fans could "guesstimate" the distance of home run balls, since there were several signs beyond the outfield wall, measured in feet from home plate, in addition to the nine markers within the field.
The Home Run Apple, representing the City of New York (one of the city's nicknames is "The Big Apple"), emerges from the Mets Magic Top Hat, a giant upside-down top hat, and flashes whenever a Mets player hits a home run. Located beyond the center field wall, just to the right of the 410-foot mark, the hat features the words HOME RUN in big letters. Prior to 1984, the hat featured the words "Mets Magic" in honor of the slogan used in 1980 declaring that "The Magic Is Back." In 2009, the Apple will be retired and the hat will be moved to the Mets' new stadium, Citi Field with a new apple being created for use at the new park.
Shea Stadium can be reached via mass transit systems such as the New York City Subway using the 7 train at the Willets Point-Shea Stadium station, and the Long Island Rail Road at the Shea Stadium station, in addition to several major thoroughfares, including the Grand Central Parkway, the Long Island Expressway, the Van Wyck Expressway, and Northern Boulevard.
Since the construction of Citi Field began, satellite parking lots in Flushing Meadow Park (access from College Point Blvd) have been opened.
Originally the plan was to use the stadium for the 2012 Olympics with the Mets playing at the New Yankee Stadium in The Bronx for the 2012 season. This would have put the Mets in a similar situation that the Yankees were in 1974–1975 when they played in Shea Stadium while Yankee Stadium was renovated. The Mets and the City of New York continued forward with the building of the stadium despite the 2012 Olympics being awarded to London, with construction beginning in July 2006.
Citi Field is planned to have a capacity of 42,500 fans and have an exterior façade reminiscent of Ebbets Field with an interior that many have stated evokes design features of newer ballparks, most notably Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore. The projected cost of the new stadium and other infrastructure improvements is $620M, with the Mets responsible for $420M. As of February 7, 2008, ESPN.com reports that the stadium remains on budget of $800M. The agreement includes a 40-year lease that would keep the Mets in Queens through the late 2040s.
Fans were given the opportunity to buy commemorative bricks of various sizes with the message of their choice in front of the new stadium, called the CitiField Fanwalk, starting at $200 per brick. Proceeds were to go to the New York Mets Foundation.
On May 19, 2007, Mets All-Star Third Baseman David Wright hit a 460-foot, 2-run home run off New York Yankees reliever Mike Myers in an interleague game. The ball went over the Shea Stadium bleachers, bounced in the parking lot, and wound up in the Citi Field construction site. This has been jokingly referred to as the first home run in the history of Citi Field.
Shea Stadium will be dismantled, rather than imploded, in accordance with New York State law, and stadium fragments and memorabilia are being sold to fans. The seats were the first ($869 per pair plus tax), followed by other memorabilia such as the foul poles, dugouts and other equipment.