Matthew Cerrone, Lead Writer
Thanks to my relationship with SNY, I’ve been fortunate to experience some unique Mets moments, be it covering press conferences or Spring Training or meeting current and former players. However, these are my favorite moments, all from the final days of Shea Stadium…
The last game at Shea Stadium was played five years ago. Around this time, five years ago, the main parts of the stadium came down. The scoreboard came down October 18. The bleachers and batters eye soon followed. Pieces of the stadium we knew and loved came crashing down in parts and pieces.
In the days leading up to the final game, I convinced the team to let me take close-up photographs of the ballpark for posts to MetsBlog. I was left alone to wander the whole ballpark, go in the dugout, walk on the field, go out to the warning track, behind the outfield wall and into the bullpen. I spent close to an hour drifting, reminiscing and taking pictures of little things I had never seen before and would never see again…
In late October, the Mets let me, Ted Berg and an SNY.TV film crew in to Shea Stadium, which they had started demolishing a few days after the regular season. It looked like the aftermath of an earthquake. Holes in walls. Chunks of concrete stacked in piles. Metal, orange poles broken in two. Light fixtures and cut wires swinging in the wind. There were piles and piles of ancient, petrified peanut shells beneath field level seats that had been saved before the wrecking ball.
Ted hosted the video. I spent most of time taking photographs for the blog:
It was surreal to be there, standing in the middle of this wreckage that had been home to so many good and bad memories. Ted and I later used to a lead pipe and Wiffle Ball we found in the bullpen to create our own last at bat at Shea Stadium. He hit a line drive over second, though I like to imagine Wally Backman could have jumped and snagged it for an out, had he been there.
In between those two moments of mine at Shea was the last official game, which was a horrible, bittersweet and emotional afternoon. The game ended in terrible fashion. The postgame celebration concluded. And, for the final time, I walked down the spiral ramp to the press gate. Reporters scurried to hear the manager talk in his office. However, I passed them by and used my credential to walk through the tunnel and on to the field. There was a heavy hush in the air. Nobody was talking. Wide-eyed police officers, current and former players and team employees were standing around the infield, taking pictures and scooping up dirt, while spending their last moments in their home away from home.
“In My Life” by The Beatles continued to play through the sound system. I walked out to the pitcher’s mound, stood on the rubber and set… SNY’s Ron Darling stopped at home plate, saw what I was doing and kindly pretended to be a batter. I paused, looked up and around at the lights, there were still some fans in the stands, and it was close as I’d ever get to doing what I dreamed about as a child. I pretended to throw a pitch, Darling swung through, tipped his cap and smiled.
I was able to grab dirt and rocks from the mound, infield and batter’s box before stepping away for the final time. I keep it in containers I have yet to display…
I attended the Grand Slam Single, the clincher in 2006, the day Darryl knocked out a light in the scoreboard, Game 5 in 2000, and a thousand innings between. Yet, it’s these three moments, which can never be recreated, that I cherish most when I think of Shea Stadium.