Sunday, April 12, 2009

Saying hello to Citi Field by holding on to a piece of Shea Stadium

My slice of heaven arrived.

With my in-laws serving as prime enablers and spoiling me wildly, my family decided I should bid on a piece of Shea Stadium as a birthday present. It was fitting since the stadium made its debut about two weeks after I did in 1964.

The team’s Web site has been trickling out directional and informational signs, photos, ads, banners, flags and other items from our favorite ballpark for an online auction.

And there are bricks, napkin dispensers, dugout bench slices and even visitor lockers in a “buy it now” section where you can obtain artifacts without having to compete.

I have some ballpark remains in the baseball room, with seats from Milwaukee and Cleveland, a brick from Milwaukee and small section of Riverfront Stadium turf. Also some infield dirt from Wrigley, Milwaukee and what was then Joe Robbie Stadium, and some of Tiger Stadium pitcher's mound.

All are wonderful, but none of them came from Shea.

So I scanned the list of items available to select a target. None of them are bad, obviously. And I was able to eliminate about 90 percent of the items because they were already crazy expensive.

I also decided I wanted something that was attached to the actual stadium. So the parking space nametags for Mets executives and the vinyl signs that hung from the light poles were eliminated.

I also thought the Diamond Club check presenters also didn’t cut it, since there will likely be items just like it in Citi Field, and I wanted something more stadium-related.

Then I decided I wanted something that was permanent, something that was a part of the stadium from its first game to its last.

That narrowed the list to three items: a brick, a brick that was a part of the outfield wall, and metal elbows from the railings in the stands.

Bricks are very cool. And paired with my Citi Field Fanwalk brick from Cousin Tim, it would have been a neat display.

But I focused on the metal elbows. I’ve seen people with bricks, but I’ve never seen railing sections like this before on display.

The pipe is about an inch-and-a-half across, and the section is just shy of a foot. There’s a company name tag for the firm that held the box seats -- thought the first one I bid on was blank – and a metal number riveted to the top.

MeiGray Group, the auctioneer, tries to attach players to the box numbers, which is kind of silly since it’s not like Mike Piazza has any connection to this elbow because it was No. 31.

I felt kind of a personal connection to the railings. They’re a part of the stadium I was very familiar with, having leaned on them and banged on them all those years.

They’re a part of Shea I recall vividly from my childhood. And unlike the concession stand signs or even the gate markers, these elbows where there when Jack Fisher threw the first pitch, when Cleon Jones caught the fly that ended the 1969 Series, and when Buddy and Pete went at it.

They were on the job when all we had to cheer for were Pat Zachary and Doug Flynn, when Tom Seaver came home in triumph in 1983 and throughout the domination of 1986.

They held firm and strong through homers including Mike Scioscia’s sucker punch, Robin Ventura’s grand slam single, Mike Piazza’s grief release in 2001 and when Yadier Molina earned “Bleeping” as a middle name.

They were there for my first game – Banner Day with my family in 1971 – and the final game last year with Dad and Tim.

The railings were at Shea for the first game through the last.

With the brick as a back-up, I bid on an orange elbow with a blank sign, got out-bid in the final hours, and found another, bid late and crossed my fingers.

“The rubble,” as my family calls it, It arrived over the weekend and was waiting on our porch when we arrived home.

Apparently workers or clients from D.F. King & Co. Inc. sat there for years, judging from the condition of the nameplate. The company’s Web site says it is a “leading full-service proxy solicitation and corporate/financial communications firm, specializing in proxy contests and tender/exchange offers for corporate control.”

Not exactly sure what that is, but I hope they enjoyed their seats as much as I’m enjoying the railing that enclosed them.

As all this planning and plotting was transpiring, My Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Jim surprised me with a medallion that has some glorious dirt from Shea’s infield. What a treasure!

So now I have Shea’s field and stands represented in the baseball room. Actually on the fireplace mantle in the living room, but I’m not sure how long my wife is going to allow that.

But with something to hold and keep, I can reluctantly let go of Shea today as the Mets play their first game in their new ballpark.

It’s a blank slate, with only one layer of still-drying paint on its railing, ready to be the setting for new memories, all starting tonight.


G-Fafif said...

You're King of the railing. Congrats!

Anonymous said...

Nice to see you got a piece of the stadium. I was amazed at the prices they were asking for the seat backs alone! Not even a complete seat. I will always love NY, but they always seem to find a way to mess with the little guy (anyone not pulling in a few million a year).
My two cents (wait with my bail-out money, make that three cents!)

dinged corners said...

Holy smithereens. That is EXCELLENT.