Now that the Yankees are renovating their 10 year old ball park with fan friendly innovations, it made me think of the that modern structure in Queens, not the beautiful fan friendly Citi Field but that ghost in the new parking lot. Shea Stadium. I remember going to see games there when it first opened in 1964. The New York Worlds Fair (admission $2.00), was happening right next door.
When the ballpark was being built it just blended into what was part of all the construction going on to build the Fair.
Many of the original Worlds Fair structures still remain in what is now Flushing Meadows Park. Jordan, whose young King Hussein presented a 30-foot high marble column to the site. Built by the Romans during their occupation of the Holy Land in 120 A.D, It still stands in the park today. The walk from the fair to Shea was easy. Tickets were now a buck more ($3.50) than the Polo Grounds to see the Mets play in their new modern ballpark.
It had bright yellow field level seats, brown loge, blue mezzanine, and green upper deck. The game ticket was the same color as the seat that it represented. The field level seats along the first and third base sides could roll out to become 50 yard line seating for the football Jets who played there. Quite innovative at the time. Football games at Shea could be quite cold with the wind howling through the tunnels to the seats.
But it was truly a wonder of the world for us. It featured “The Diamond Club”. Baseballs first dining area from where you could watch the game and have dinner at the same time. The first to have a light ring instead of tower lighting and the only major league park with orange foul poles.
As Casey would say “Amazing”. And although the picnic area came later, the Mets always had the fans in mind first. The average working class fan who wanted to bring their family to see a big league game and not have to remortgage the house to pay for it. Today the new ballparks are incredible and the case of Citi Field “Fan Friendly”.
But when it burst on to the scene back in 1964 that old dinosaur was a modern wonder.
Editor’s Note: William Coppola just completed his 40th year in the game of baseball. He has been a coach, instructor and last week completed his third season as an associate advanced scout with the Atlanta Braves organization.