Scott's View - Shea Stadium
These days, we tend to plan our Baseball Trips pretty thoroughly in advance. We buy all of our game tickets and make hotel reservations weeks or even months before the Trip begins.
But back in 1990, only our second Trip, we still made things up as we went along much of the time. This method of travel can have its downside (Here's an example), but we took advantage of the flexibility it affords during our visit to Shea Stadium.
After a pair of Sunday and Monday day games at Yankee Stadium, our plan was to take Tuesday off from Baseball until the Mets began their next homestand on Wednesday. However, we happened to pick up Tuesday's paper to discover that a rained-out game from earlier in the season had been rescheduled for that evening. This afforded us a number of options. We could go to both games at Shea; we could go to Tuesday's game and find something else to do Wednesday; or we could leave town a day earlier than planned to give us some extra time to explore the unknown of Montreal. We made no immediate decision, instead opting to see what we felt like doing after that night's game.
Tuesday had been planned as a "tourist day" anyway, and we packed in all the obvious activities: The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, Central Park, the Empire State Building, an NBC Studio tour at 30 Rock... all with plenty of time to spare to get to Shea at least 2 hours before game time.
We were among the first to enter the vast parking lot surrounding Shea Stadium, bought a pair of tickets, snapped a few pictures, and realized that the gates weren't about to open anytime soon. To kill time, we decided to take a walk. There being no real neighborhood to speak of around Shea, we headed up to and over a pedestrian bridge across a rail yard, wondering what might be on the other side. What we found was Flushing Meadows, the U.S. Open Tennis complex.
The U.S. Open was set to begin in a couple of weeks, and crews were busy cleaning, painting, and otherwise readying the facility for the upcoming event. However, nobody seemed concerned about our unauthorized presence, and we wandered at will, even into the Center Court area, where we imagined the crowds and athletes that would soon fill the arena. Pete Sampras would go on to win his first Major that year.
On our way back over the bridge, we had a clear view of the ballpark. Built in 1964, Shea is a large, circular stadium not terribly unlike other cookie-cutter parks built in the '60s and '70s in cities such as Atlanta, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. A couple of key differences give Shea a bit of personality, however. Instead of being completely circular, the grandstands give way to open air beyond the outfield walls, giving the place a somewhat more open feel. The bright blue exterior paint job and huge neon player figures on the park's exterior also add a bit of uniqueness. Once inside, we were seated in the high, extremely steep upper deck, barely lower than the jetliners passing overhead from nearby LaGuardia airport.
And the skies, overcast all day, decided to open up shortly before the scheduled start of the game. For more than an hour, heavy rain deluged the field, leaving the warning tracks flooded and puddles all over the outfield. The conditions were as bad as we'd ever seen, and even after the rain had let up, we felt sure the game would be postponed yet again, leaving us to return the next evening as per our original schedule.
Amazingly though, the umpires allowed the game to begin, even as large ponds of standing water remained throughout the field of play. The Mets probably wished the game had been called, suffering a 9-0 defeat at the hands of their divisional rival Philadelphia Phillies. (We usually root for the home team wherever we are, but this being the Mets, we weren't terribly upset by this result.)
The next morning, after waking early and standing in line fruitlessly for David Letterman tickets, we decided that we had gotten about all we were going to get out of New York this time around. We headed out of town and north of the border to begin the Montreal portion of our Trip a day early.