ORAL HISTORY: SHEA STADIUM
Bobby Cox having a think, maybe about what life will be like without old Shea.
The Beatles played there. Pope John Paul II prayed there. It is where Tom Seaver became a hero and Bill Buckner one of sport's most memorable goats.
It is William A. Shea Municipal Stadium, that other park in New York that is closing its doors this fall.
Once the Mets are done, September collapse or not, the facility will be torn down, quite literally piece by piece, to be used as a parking lot for brand new Citi Field.
Bobby Cox has been as regular a visitor to Shea as any. Cox, who first managed the Braves in 1978 and has returned annually since beginning his second stint with Atlanta in 1990, is well versed in some of the more unusual arcana surrounding the multi-colored, multi-purpose stadium that opened with the 1964 World's Fair.
We caught up with him on the Braves final visit to Shea and asked him to dish on some of the park's unknown idiosyncrasies and take one last nostalgic trip around the original home of the home run apple.
1. FACT: The dugouts afford some of the best views in baseball. "I love this dugout, It's a great place to watch a game," Cox said. "At the new ballparks, you can't see the game because they make the dugouts too big and you're sitting all the way back."
The home of Mets Magic for 45 years.
2. FACT: The air conditioner in the visitor's clubhouse is actually from the old Polo Grounds (from the old press room there). "It's one of the first things I found out when I got here," Cox said. It is also common knowledge around the stadium that when turned on full blast, it is almost cold enough to store raw meat.
3. FACT: The original plans called for the circular stadium to eventually be fully enclosed. That, of course, never happened and the wide-open expanses beyond the outfield fence has created a pitcher's paradise due to swirling winds. "There are days you just can't hit the ball out of here," Cox said.
4. FACT: The bathroom in the visitor's dugout has seen it's fair share of … well … breakdowns. Cox remembers a June 15, 1979 game when the Mets' Craig Swan hit his pitcher Phil Niekro in the head with a pitch. "I got (ticked) off and tore the sink off the wall in the bathroom. Water everywhere. I had to pay for it."
5. FACT: The clubhouses are among the smallest in baseball, particularly for the visitors.
"I prefer small clubhouses. They keep the players closer together," Cox said.
6. FACT: You can still purchase a piece of the stadium to take home with you. While Bobby hasn't admitted to ponying up for anything yet, Chipper Jones recently paid $869 (undiscounted) for a pair of seats. "Just a little memento for my dungeon down in the basement," Jones said. Apparently, Chipper has had a little personal history of his own at the stadium: not only did he hit his first big league home run there, but because he enjoyed playing there so much he named one of his sons Shea.
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