The second in an occasional series. I'm not going to sit here and try to defend Shea Stadium as one of the best ballparks of all time. I can honestly tell you, though, that I never walked into Shea and thought, "This place is a dump." The bottom line is, Shea is where the Mets play, and for me, it will always be special. I realize these are pretty individual memories, but I hope reading them stirs up something in your mind about some place that you may take for granted.
My first ever trip to Shea Stadium is one I don't remember. My dad says we had great seats, and he took me as a baby to see the Mets, along with both of my grandfathers. I think that's pretty cool - even though both have long since passed away, I take pride in knowing they were at the first game I ever went to. (The games I attended with my paternal grandfather were some of my favorite memories - he would always go to the Senior Citizen's Days - I thought of him last Thursday, at one of those summer afternoon games, which he would have attended, when I took my daughter to her first game at Shea.)
I bring this up because the one constant in my early attendance at Shea was my dad. Even when I was in my teenage years, I rarely went to games without him. And whenever I attended an Opening Day, I went with my dad.
There's always something special about Opening Day. There's usually a ceremony, there's always the hope that "This could be the year", and even though the weather in New York wasn't always great, there was always the sense that spring was in the air.
I've written before about my favorite Opening Days - click here to read about them and to read the story about my dad lying to a nun.
But one in particular stands out right now, because of the series the Mets played at Shea just before the All Star break. The Colorado Rockies made their last visit to Shea Stadium, and the Mets unceremoniously swept them away. It dawned on me that after Sunday night's game, the Rockies had played their last game at the building where they played their first.
I was at that Opening Day - and the one thing that stands out in my memory was that they sold out of programs. I sent away for one (at left), and I guess anyone could have, but I also got this letter of apology, which proves I was there (at right). (I also remember that when the Marlins made their first visit a month later, there were plenty of programs.)
But that expansion was a big deal to me. I remember taping the expansion draft, watching intently as these players I had never heard of were taken by the two new teams.
And I was deathly afraid the Mets would lose to this brand-new team. They didn't, though they also didn't crush them like I hoped they would. The Mets swept the 2-game series, 3-0 and 6-1. So there's a bit of symmetry - a Mets sweep to start and end Colorado's time at Shea. Dwight Gooden pitched a complete game shutout that Opening Day - one of his last good starts at Shea. And for this Opening Day, the weather was nice - a very sunny Opening Day.
I don't know how many Rockies fans could tell you who started the first-ever game for Colorado, or how many know the result - but I do (David Nied was the starter). And 20 years from now, when the AFLAC Trivia Question asking "Where was the Colorado Rockies' first-ever game?" shows up, hopefully I'll be watching, and this memory of Shea Stadium will come back to me.