The New York Pirates
Posted by metaphorical on 24 November 2006
What exactly is the problem with renaming Shea Stadium? It’s not as if it’s named for the team, or some individual who wasn’t a political hack who built a stadium that was neither on time nor under budget, nor as planned (where’s the dome and the other 35,000 seats?). Denis Hamill’s otherwise estimable rant is typical.
“What’s next,” Hamill asks, “the Chaseboro Bridge? The Citisphere? North Fork Hall of Science? Hey, how about the Statue of Liberty Mutual?” The difference between a bridge and ballpark, Denis, is that one is an inherently commercial enterprise with the ceaseless goal of screwing the municipality and its citizen-fans, all in the name of profit. If some sap corporation wants to kick in $400 million to fulfill some masochistic wet dream of its own, do we really care?
I grew up 30 blocks from Shea. I was 12 in Tom Seaver’s sophomore season (16-12, 205 SOs, 2.20), the first year I was allowed to go to games by myself. I used to ride my bike there and lock it up to the chainlink fence of the parking lot (and idea that today would be so stupid I’d deserve to have it stolen), or take the subway. In the glory year, one year later, I used to look in the afternoon paper, the Long Island Press, see who was pitching, and ask my mother for $2, enough for a round trip on the subway and a $1.30 general admission seat. Around the third inning I would relocate myself, but never lower than the yellow seats (the first decent viewpoint at a ballpark that, like Madison Square Garden, ought to give out binoculars to everyone in the cheap seats).
My friend Mike always knew which week in early autumn the stadium was switched over from baseball to football. The seats were angled away from the center, the field re-striped, and the dugouts filled in with dirt. We used to watch from the bullpens, casually throwing a football back and forth on the soft grass. I loved the stadium, but not necessarily the name.
Shea was a political hack attorney, hardly a rare breed in New York, nor one much worth celebrating. His first idea was to do to Cinncinnati, Philadelphia, or Pittsburgh what California did to New York. If that didn’t destroy whatever moral authority the new baseball enterprise would have, his next strategy was to fill the heart of an aging Branch Rickey with hope that he could run a ballclub one last time. With Rickey’s reputation and heart in his pocket, Shea announced plans to form a third baseball league. MLB quickly capitulated with four expansion teams, one in New York. Shea got his team, Rickey got nothing, and the stadium I grew up a mile and a half from was named for a hack.