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Carroll’s Column: 60th Anniversary of Shea Stadium

Shea Stadium - Image Credit: Ballparks of Baseball/MLB

NEW YORK — Citi Field, the home of the New York Mets since 2009, will always have Shea Stadium’s home plate, bases, and pitchers mound, marked in the gravel of the parking lot for fans to go out to visit. Though with that said, the significance of Shea Stadium for all of Queens and New York City, can go unrecognized at times on the grand scheme. So for that, we hit on the 60th anniversary of Shea Stadium, which passed this most recent week on Wednesday, April 17th. 

Yes, it has been fifteen years since Shea Stadium was razed, but its importance to our borough cannot be overstated. Interestingly, when it opened on April 17, 1964, it was overshadowed by its neighbor across Roosevelt Avenue, the 1964-65 World’s Fair which opened four days later. Shea Stadium would be home to the Mets, the Jets from 1964-1983, and countless concerts, with the most famous being an annual visit from the Beatles from 1964 through 1966.      

Mets VP of alumni relations/team historian Jay Horwitz understood the importance of commemorating what would have been Shea Stadium’s 60th birthday. He invited a pair of players who were in the starting lineup that day, starting pitcher Jack Fisher, and infielder Ron Hunt, to visit Shea Stadium’s successor, Citi Field. They met with the media last Tuesday.     

85-year-old Jack Fisher appeared to be in great health, and happily recalled his tenure at Shea Stadium. Fisher lost 24 games in 1965 which led the majors in that dubious category that year. Fisher was a respected pitcher who had the misfortune of playing for awful Mets teams.      

I asked Fisher if all the losing took a toll on him. He clearly was a philosophical happy warrior. “Not at all. We knew we could not match up with other teams, but I always thought I would still win every time I took the mound. The fans knew we were trying our best, and their support meant everything to us. When we did win a game, it felt like we won the seventh game of a World Series!” he said with a laugh.      

Ron Hunt has had health problems in recent years as he was in a wheelchair, and had difficulty speaking, although his cognitive abilities were certainly not diminished.      

The conventional wisdom has long been Tom Seaver was the first homegrown Mets star. The reality is that honor belongs to Ron Hunt. He finished second to Pete Rose for the 1963 National League Rookie of the Year Award and was the starting second baseman for the 1964 NL All-Star team. He also had a very respectable .303 batting average that year.     

Ron Hunt, a member of the Mets from 1963-1966 – Image Credit: Society for American Baseball Research

I asked Hunt if he felt disrespected in the annals of Mets history. Hunt nodded affirmatively. His son, also named Ron, candidly said, “My dad has felt overlooked.” 

Mets president of baseball operations David Stearns took questions from the media prior to Fisher and Hunt taking the podium. Most of the questions dealt with injuries to Mets pitchers. “I am old enough to have watched Jack Fisher pitch. He, along with many of his 1960s counterparts, pitched every fifth day; pitched deep into games; and had durable careers. You’re an analytics guy. What has changed?” I asked Stearns.     

“I wish I knew,” he candidly replied, and quickly added, “but all baseball stakeholders had better start coming up with answers.” 

David Stearns, Mets president of Baseball Operations – Image Credit: SNY

Stearns would be wise to have a chat with former Mets pitcher and Cubs general manager Ed Lynch who is now the host of the popular podcast, “Surfing Baseball.” “Scouts today are too obsessed with velocity and spin rates. They should be placing a premium on pitching, rather than how hard someone can throw,” Lynch told me when we spoke in January.   

This was the first time I had watched David Stearns engage in a formal Q&A with the press. He is certainly very engaging, but I must borrow a weekly Bill Maher bit from his weekly HBO show, “Real Time.” New rules: Baseball general managers should never be allowed to   say, “We are always looking for ways to improve our ball club.” It is a meaningless cliche. Likewise, reporters should lose their credentials if they ask a question which will surely evoke that response.     

Here is another rule. Reporters covering the Mets should refer to team manager Carlos Mendoza as either “Carlos” or “Mendoza.” There were a couple who referred to him as “Mendy” when speaking to Stearns.

Mets skipper Carlos Mendoza is one-of-six Latino managers across MLB – Image Credit: Bill Menzel/Latino Sports

First, he has not been here long enough to earn a cutesy sobriquet. Second, reporters sound like asinine bootlicking insiders when they do that.    

Howie Rose, a huge fan of The Odd Couple – 1968 Neil Simon comedic film

Mets radio voice, Cardozo High School, and Queens College alum Howie Rose is a huge fan of the 1968 Neil Simon comedic film, “The Odd Couple,” which starred Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau.    

Rose asked Jack Fisher about a scene which was shot at Shea Stadium in 1967. In it, Jack Fisher is on the mound pitching to Pirates slugger Bill Mazeroski in the ninth inning with the Mets clinging to a one-run lead. He induces Mazeroski to hit a hard ground ball to Mets third baseman Ken Boyer who starts an improbable triple play. Matthau’s character, sportswriter Oscar Madison, misses it because he is distracted by a call in the press box from Lemmon’s fusty Felix Unger. 

“Every player got $100 for appearing in the movie. I get residual payments smaller than that amount,” he laughed.     

Jack Fisher talks about The Great One Roberto Clemente 

I followed up by asking Fisher about the rumor Roberto Clemente was supposed to be the hitter instead of Bill Mazeroski. Folklore had it Clemente was concerned about his image of hitting into a game-ending triple play against the lowly Mets in a movie.

Roberto Clemente and Willie Mays share a moment together in pregame – Image Credit: MLB

“I heard Clemente wanted $500 to appear in the movie, and the producers refused to meet his demands,” Fisher said.   

Former Met, & current Pirates radio analyst Neil Walker, returns to Citi Field

Former Mets second baseman Neil Walker returned to Citi Field last week in his capacity as a Pittsburgh Pirates radio analyst. Walker grew up in Pittsburgh and started his playing career for his hometown team before being traded to the Mets for pitcher Jon Niese. Neil was always accessible to the media and gave thoughtful answers, so it is no surprise he would be a broadcaster when his playing career was over.

He told me he does approximately 50 Pirates games a year. When I asked him if he had a desire to work for an ESPN or Fox Sports, he replied, “I have two young boys at home to chase around, so for now, no.”

WNBA Draft at the Brooklyn Academy of Music

The 2024 WNBA Draft, held last Monday at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, was packed with media, thanks to the obvious top pick, University of Iowa guard Caitlin Clark.      

Clark was selected by the Indiana Fever and engaged in a fifteen-minute Q&A with the press. She reminded me of a Derek Jeter postgame presser, as she proved to be adept at saying absolutely nothing memorable.     

Stanford University power forward Cameron Brink, who resembled a young Julie Newmar, was chosen right after Caitlin Clark by the Los Angeles Sparks. Unlike the dull-as-dishwater Clark, Brink was very engaging.     

She grew up in Beaverton, Oregon, which is the headquarters of a well-known athletic apparel behemoth whose logo is a swoosh. Despite that, Brink opted to sign a shoe deal with Nike rival, New Balance. When I asked her about that, she smiled and said, “My parents worked for Nike for 25 years. We are a Nike family. However, when New Balance asked me to be their first women’s basketball endorser, and to have a shoe named in my honor, I could not turn them down!”     

It should be noted Nike, to the surprise of absolutely no one, signed Caitlin Clark to an eight-figure contract. Brink had no desire to be an afterthought to them.      

Nearly every player chosen at the WNBA Draft thanked the female hoops stars who came before them as Teresa Weatherspoon, Dawn Staley, Lisa Leslie, and Sheryl Swoopes. It would have been nice if the Caitlin Clark of my generation, Far Rockaway native Nancy Lieberman, had gotten a mention.      

Nancy Lieberman – Image Credit: ESPN

The explosion of interest in women’s basketball this year has had a spillover effect. The National Women’s Soccer League has just signed a lucrative television deal with CBS Sports. 

Travis Kelce set to host “Are You Smarter Than A Celebrity?” on Prime Video 

Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, who had become a household name thanks to his Super Bowl rings and dating a well-known pop singer, will be hosting a game show on Prime Video called “Are You Smarter Than A Celebrity?” Yes, it is a spinoff of the old FOX series, “Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?” which was hosted by Jeff Foxworthy.

Walter Egan inducted into the California Music Hall of Fame 

Congratulations to Forest Hills Gardens native Walter Egan, who is best known for his 1978 smash hit, “Magnet and Steel,” for being inducted into the California Music Hall of Fame.

You can read more of Lloyd Carroll’s columns posted weekly on The Queens Chronicle.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Sehr lehrreich! Die klaren Anweisungen haben mir das Verständnis erleichtert.
    Vielen Dank für diesen informativen Beitrag!

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