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Shea Stadium Remembered by Matthew Silverman (Book Review

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  • Shea Stadium Remembered by Matthew Silverman (Book Review

    Shea Stadium, for many older fans, has come to represent a bridge between 1950s baseball and today’s game that features stadiums named after banks and players who often seem more concerned with launch angles, hair styles and hugs than they are with advancing a runner with less than two out or catching a fly ball.

    I remember Shea as being a cathartic for fans still mourning the loss the of the Dodgers and the Giants, but also as an informal place, kind of hokey and primitive at times, but with none of the superior take it or leave it attitude one was likely to encounter at Yankee Stadium. At Shea, you were likely to meet an usher with his jacket buttons misaligned to the button holes and vendors who merged the athleticism of a Harlem Globetrotter with the wit of Johnny Carson.

    This history of Shea Stadium starts with the Ice Age 75,000 years ago and ends with construction of Citi Field and the conversion of Shea Stadium into a parking lot. In between, Silverman hits all the highlight events and key personalities and does so with clear and concise writing. The baseball Mets and the football Jets are the featured players, but Silverman’s text is rich in cultural context and the discussed events include the Vietnam War, the Beatles concert and a papal visit.

    Built on a former dump site and the site of the New York’s World’s Fair of 1939-1940, Silverman presents a balanced history (warts and all) for the Shea Stadium era (1964-2008), starting with a piece on the stadium’s namesake, Bill Shea and concluding with the dismantling of the stadium during the winter of 2008-2009. Highlights include the Mets championship seasons and 1969’s miraculous Jets team, but my favorite chapters are those recalling anecdotes about the many characters that played, coached and managed there. Shea Stadium certainly had its low moments (ask Elliot Maddox), including the 1975-76 invasion by the Yankees and football Giants while Yankee Stadium was being renovated. Shea “cuisine”, mascots, airplane flyovers and promotions all receive due attention and most of these accounts are laced with an affectionate and wry humor.

    A marvelous book for sports fans, both for those who lived through the era and those who are younger and might want to know what “the ancient ones” are talking about when they mutter about today’s game going to hell in a shopping basket. Matthew Silverman’s SHEA STADIUM REMEMBERED is an interesting, insightful and fun trip back to those less hysterical times before media hype and marketing has emerged to subsume the sport by relentlessly battering both ballgame attendee and TV viewer alike with the grandiose importance of just about everything except the game itself.

    Sixteen pages of photographs, most in color. Three appendices (including all time records), index & bibliography (includes youtube video links, one to the infamous Jets-Raiders Heidi Bowl fiasco).

  • #2
    I hadn't heard about this book. I will definitely explore. I love reading baseball books, especially during the baseball season. I just finished "The Streak: Lou Gehrig, Cal Ripken Jr., and Baseball's Most Historic Record," so I'm looking for new material to peruse.

    I'm a relatively new Mets fan, having started watching in 1998. So I'm sure a lot of the stories in this book would be new to me (e.g. 1969 Mets, Vietnam War, Beatles concert, etc).

    Since I've been a fan, I've heard so much negative comments about Shea. But I liked it; I found Shea Stadium much more preferable to current Citi Field.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by redban View Post
      I hadn't heard about this book. I will definitely explore. I love reading baseball books, especially during the baseball season. I just finished "The Streak: Lou Gehrig, Cal Ripken Jr., and Baseball's Most Historic Record," so I'm looking for new material to peruse.

      I'm a relatively new Mets fan, having started watching in 1998. So I'm sure a lot of the stories in this book would be new to me (e.g. 1969 Mets, Vietnam War, Beatles concert, etc).

      Since I've been a fan, I've heard so much negative comments about Shea. But I liked it; I found Shea Stadium much more preferable to current Citi Field.
      I dislike Coupon Field and everything it represents. It's a big shopping mall with a baseball field in the middle of it. It has a contrived ticket pricing structure based on segregated "luxury" areas built into the place. It has checkpoints. It has an aggressive network of speakers lining it, that blast commercials between innings.

      They could have retrofitted Shea with better food stalls. Fred could have manned up and fixed the toilets, but we saw a propaganda campaign to denigrate Shea so Fred could get a new publicly funded stadium. Lots of wheels get greased in projects of this sort. The only person who opposed this was Nelson Doubleday, which was a big factor in Fred's ultimate hijacking of the franchise.

      Shea was relaxed. Coupon Field is always trying to sell you on something. I felt much more comfortable at Shea. We had these discussions ten years ago, when the place was built. They're embedded in a couple threads in the Stadiums sub-forum.


      "The Fightin' Met With Two Heads" - Mike Tyson/Ray Knight!

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      • #4
        Redban: Funny how things work. A lot of the Shea bashers are nostalgic for it since being exposed to the weaponized marketing of Citi Field - as Mongoose so ably points out.

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        • #5
          I finished reading this book yesterday afternoon. With the short chapters and the crisp writing, I went through it in about 2 days.

          I do feel that I learned a lot about the Mets, the Jets, and their old ballpark, specifically regarding events that occurred before I was born. For example --- I had known that the Yankees also used Shea for a while in the 1970s, but I didn't know that the Giants & Jets both used Shea at that time too (I don't follow football so intensely; so it was news to me). I could never imagine four marquee franchises using one stadium for 2-3 years. I had known that planes flew over Shea all the time, but I didn't know that pilots seriously used Shea as a landmark when plotting their landings at LGA.

          I also didn't know about the colorful panels that used to be on Shea Stadium's exterior; I agree with Howie Rose that Shea looked better with them. I never knew about the Mayor's Trophy exhibition games between the Yanks & the Mets. I never knew about Jane Jarvis and her role in the 1977 blackout. I never knew about the mule that the Joan Payson family briefly used as a mascot. I never knew that the HR Apple arrived in the early 80's and was a product of the Doubleday / Wilpon regime.

          Perhaps most of all, I totally didn't know that Mr. Met didn't become a regular fixture at the games until the 1990s (though he was created in 1963). In fact, I didn't know anything about the history of our mascot until this book.

          I also got a chuckle about the early 1990 Mets --- Cone was accused of exposing himself to some women from the bullpen; Bobby Bonilla wanted to fight a reporter who wrote a book about how awful the team was; Vince Coleman was fired for throwing explosives at fans, etc. I wish I were around to witness these teams, even if they lost a ton.

          Ultimately -- you probably need to be a fan of the Mets to really enjoy this book, especially since it gets heavy on game summaries at times. But I'm sure anyone interested in this book would also be interested in the Mets. Good read.


          What I also appreciated is that the book didn't romanticize Shea. Instead, the book offered accurate criticisms. There weren't enough seats in the outfield for fans to catch HR balls at Shea. Many seats in foul territory were awkwardly parallel to the field because Shea was meant to accommodate football games too. There were cats living in the bowels of the stadium. The bathrooms were gross. The food was terrible. etc etc.

          The book doesn't make any pretense that Shea was a beauty. The book rather establishes, correctly, that Shea became beautiful because it was where our team, our heroes, and our memories lived. That is how Shea should be remembered, as the dump that became treasure because it became "our dump."

          Correspondingly, I give the book credit for not criticizing Citi Field, or making any suggestions that Shea was better than Citi Field. Shea really was a dump; Citi really is prettier. But Shea has a more special place in our hearts solely because of the history and the memories.
          Last edited by redban; 04-25-2019, 07:01 AM.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by redban View Post

            The book doesn't make any pretense that Shea was a beauty. The book rather establishes, correctly, that Shea became beautiful because it was where our team, our heroes, and our memories lived. That is how Shea should be remembered, as the dump that became treasure because it became "our dump."

            .
            Shea was a beauty. She was considered the 'jewel', the 'pride', the 'future' of MLB at one time. She didn't 'become' beautiful, she was born beautiful, a jewel, the pride of MLB. She was not a dump.

            I will never understand why NY'rs became suckers for a real estate PR con and started using that phrase.

            In contrast, the Polo Grounds at the end was a dump. Not Shea. She had a specialness all her own, and she actually "rocked" physically, like a living, breathing entity. She was a nice stadium, in some ways a sister-stadium to Dodger Stadium who is constantly being retrofitted and improved and continues to bask in the glory that Shea deserved as well. The glory that only stopped when real estate piranha Wilpon wrested control away from an age weakened Nelson Doubleday.

            Thus began the greed fueled, relentless, PR campaign to label beautiful, strong, sturdy, historic Shea a "dump". It was a lie then, it's a lie now.

            Shea Stadium was never a dump.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by SaltyParker View Post

              Shea was a beauty. She was considered the 'jewel', the 'pride', the 'future' of MLB at one time. She didn't 'become' beautiful, she was born beautiful, a jewel, the pride of MLB. She was not a dump.

              I will never understand why NY'rs became suckers for a real estate PR con and started using that phrase.

              In contrast, the Polo Grounds at the end was a dump. Not Shea. She had a specialness all her own, and she actually "rocked" physically, like a living, breathing entity. She was a nice stadium, in some ways a sister-stadium to Dodger Stadium who is constantly being retrofitted and improved and continues to bask in the glory that Shea deserved as well. The glory that only stopped when real estate piranha Wilpon wrested control away from an age weakened Nelson Doubleday.

              Thus began the greed fueled, relentless, PR campaign to label beautiful, strong, sturdy, historic Shea a "dump". It was a lie then, it's a lie now.

              Shea Stadium was never a dump.
              Great post, and (I think) your first "like".


              "The Fightin' Met With Two Heads" - Mike Tyson/Ray Knight!

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Mongoose View Post

                Great post, and (I think) your first "like".
                Thank you. I've made 14 other posts too, feel free to like away!

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