Mixed emotions as Shea disappears

Mixed emotions as Shea disappears

All right. Now it bothers me. All last summer I was immune to the sentiment of it. Even late last September, when Shea Stadium was in its final active hours, I felt nothing. The Mets were involved in their fateful series against Marlins. So what. I was enveloped by the joy of my daugther's wedding. "Go ahead, close the place. A new place would be quite welcome."

Colleagues and I sought to identify something from the old place that would serve as a suitable memento. We had no ideas. I wasn't about to pay thousands for a section of the outfield wall even if it was the one Maz or Lenny crashed into a few times. Seaver's locker? Not me. Turns out he didn't want it either. When Shea souvenirs were the topic one day, someone asked, "What do you want?" I said, "I want it to close."

I was certain I wouldn't miss the old place. The only intrigue it held for me was the rodent population. How many new species of creatures might have developed since Opening Day '64 (when the Diamond Club elevator didn't work)? Ten years earlier, I had seen a rat that could have been fitted with a saddle. Otherwise, let the destruction begin.

Bob Waterman is the Mets Master at the Elias Sports Bureau and a fixture at Shea. I suspect only his hours at the park approached the figure I amassed there. Though the late Jack Lang of the Long Island Press and Daily News preceded me on the Mets beat by eight years -- I covered a Braves-Mets game in 1970 -- I was still typing last September, 23 years after Jack's last game for the News. So after exhaustive research, none of it done by the Elias computers, I determined I had covered more games at Shea than anybody, spent more waking hours -- and some snoozing hours, too -- at the place than any person not employed by the Mets. Such distinction.

It was Waterman who, in September, made the observation that Shea Stadium couldn't yet be missed. It still stood. He reasoned he was accustomed to not seeing Shea in the fall and winter, that he would feel no tug on his heart until April. I had experienced none, so I assumed this learned man was right in his assertion.

Well, April isn't here, but the tug has arrived. I felt it Friday morning when my trip from New Jersey to JFK (and on to Port St. Lucie, Fla.) took me past the last standing pieces of Shea's skeleton. The bowl is no more. Perhaps no more that 15 percent of the circle that was Shea remained visible. And what was left had no upper deck.

What stood probably were the stands that once were the backdrop for right field, the area where pulled home runs landed; maybe some foul territory, too.

The area was wide enough to include two sets of ramps. And it struck me that soon, as soon as one of those sets becomes rubble, Shea and its successor will be on equal footing. Citi Field has one ramp. Only one. Eighteen elevators (ones that operate with a degree of reliability the original two at Shea seldom achieved), but only one ramp.

Who can say what prompts emotion? But my recognition of the ramps as I passed by prompted a sigh.

The growing void will be complete well before we return from Florida duty in April. The ramps and all they led to will be replaced by a parking lot. The only lasting physical evidence of Shea will be markers telling future generations where the bases, the plate and the mound were. I would have liked them to mark where Endy and Agee made their catches, where Lenny's home run landed and where the Beatles twisted and shouted.

I admit I sighed, but I knew I'd appreciate a modern press box and at least one of the 18 elevators.

Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.