As a fan of ballparks, I decided in the spring that I would make a trip to NY in the fall, having never been and wanting to get to games at both Yankee Stadium and Shea (ya, even Shea). It worked out particularly well with there being a few plausable weekend this month where both teams were in town and ultimately I decided on this past weekend w/ the Cubs at Shea on Monday. I have several friends who have recently moved to NY so we planned for a group gathering.
I ended up going to the Saturday game at Yankee Stadium versus the Orioles. Public transportation in NY is excellent if you take some time to learn the subway/train system or ask around. We hopped the subway early (after a good NY bagel) and headed up to the Bronx. We were greeted by lots of congestion and construction as the new Yankee Stadium is going up across from the current ballpark. The new stadium looks gorgeous from the outside, more or less what one would expect if you were trying to replicate the old one w/ modern ballpark architecture. We started walking around the ballpark and towards the monuments but were quickly told that the line was closed, nearly 1 1/2 hours before first pitch. We took in the ballpark, saw it from different angles, saw people chipping paint off the RF foul pole, etc. The concourses reminded me a lot of the old Chicago Stadium, cramped quarters in the cinderblock halls. Its certainly a throwback to a different era and there are only so many coats of paint you can put on a building, but if you are a fan of the game you really have to appriciate it.
Reggie Jackson was out in the bleachers for a little while and that drew a big crowd. You could see in the overall behavior of the fans that it was like spending one final afternoon in the old family house. Fans had their cameras and everyone wanted one last picture. The game itself was secondary to the events. Despite lots of hard hit balls and a good number of runners on base, no one could score. Once the game was official (after the 5th w/ a 0-0 tie) they play a video, usually a former player pulling a lever which changes the "remaining games" counter. Bob Sheppard, who has been in failing health of late, was video taped a day prior to the game. Sheppard aside (and it was great to include him), one would expect a grander way for them to do the countdown. The Yanks pushed a run across in the ninth to win 1-0. Fans and players reacted like the team had just won the series as police lined the field, keeping fans in their place. Overall, the crowd was pretty subdued and there were a lot of empty seats for the final weekend but we experienced the brash, outspoken ("Abreu is a lazy bum") tone that one would expect.
The Monday game against the Cubs at Shea was a sharp contrast. We were unable to get to the ballpark early, sitting down just as Soriano ended his at-bat. We took the John Rocker express to Flushing (the #7 train), a group of six of us clad in Cubs gear. Mets fans did their best to come up with funny anti-Cubs comments but clearly whit is not their strongsuit.Fans sitting around us were friendly for the most part. Like Yankee fans they get on their players and when Carlos Beltran crashed into a wall you'd think they just lost a family member. One guy was shrieking at the top of his lungs "get up, get up".
Shea as a whole might be one of the more sterile baseball envionments I've ever been to. The sentiments that the ballpark is a dump is overstated, its not a dump, its just got little if any character. The stadium feels huge with the upperdeck seemingly towering over everything else. But in general this ballpark does nothing to bring fans out and does not add to your baseball experience. It subtracts from your wallet at the concession stands as most food items cost about $9 or so, as does a beer. There were certainly videos between innings commemorating the historical events of the ballpark but I noticed no big event during or after the game counting down to the end of Shea. Citifield, visable beyond CF looks to be a tremendous ballpark. the crowd at Shea was about 1/2 the size of the crowd at Yankee Stadium, but clearly this was a penant race game for them as they got into every big situation. The ballpark got pretty loud considering it was less than 1/2 full. However by the time the 7th inning came, with the Cubs holding a nice (yet not insurmountable lead), many fans had already left. Mets fans are brutally honest about their team and they are eager to share that.
Everyone knows what happened during the game. I was actually getting food when Marquis hit the grandslam. There was a nice Cubs representation, several hundred strong.
What is clear is that no one in this city will miss Shea while the move from Yankee Stadium is a big deal. Bars across the city welcomed fans in on Sunday to see the Yankee home finale while Mets fans are clearly glad to see Shea go. Little attention is being paid to the final week at Shea and no one seems to mind that. It will be interesting to see how Mets fans react next spring if the opening of Citifield does not garner the attention that will be paid to the opening of new Yankee Stadium.