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Queens Chronicle

Picking up the pieces

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Posted: Thursday, May 7, 2009 12:00 am

Shea Stadium, opened in April 1964, had a long, eventful life in the heart of Queens. Survived by its die-hard fans and former Mets inhabitants, the structure fell, piece by piece, beginning shortly after the home team tumbled last September — again.

For those nostalgic fans, many wandering into Citi Field passed unrecognizable scraps of rubble where Shea’s base sat, there is a wondering as to where the rest went.

Mets fans have switched addresses to the building next door, but where did the bright orange and blue seats end up? Where are the signs that guided fans around the maze of stairs and escalators to where mobs watched World Series winners in 1969 and 1986?

For starters, ask Barry Meisel.

A former hockey and football writer for the New York Daily News and a lifelong collector of sports memorabilia, Meisel now oversees a tremendous stockpile of pieces from the old stadium. Anything from seats to lockers to signs, to even pods of the out-of-town scoreboard, remain up for sale.

As part of an agreement with the Mets, his company, MeiGray Group, holds the items in a New Jersey warehouse as they are slowly auctioned off to the most fanatical bidder. Reports in November had his collection at around 7,000 items, two-thirds of which Meisel said has since been sold .

“Collectors are willing to spend the money,” Meisel said. “This is the first stadium to be demolished in New York in the last 45 years, so they want a piece of it.”

On the Mets’ website, a pair of seats are advertised at $869. A single picnic bench costs $395.

Ready to acquire an outfield wall panel? Meisel already has his own, one from centerfield, but if you want others to the right or left, be ready to spend $1,750.

A bidding war could ensue to see who wins the 2000 National League championship banner. Whoever wishes to enter needs to have at least $1,000 on hand.

There are parts of dugout benches, visiting team lockers, and even the Midtown Express menu board reserved for an admiring fan. For self-described team historians, the locker of former Mets greats Jerry Grote and Howard Johnson, as of Tuesday, could be had for more than $500.

If you are looking for cheaper items, what might seem like an ordinary piece of glossy wood with a metal handle — made with the Mets insignia and a promise it was one of the “Welcome Doors” in the stadium — can be brought to your door for $150. A bid is already in place.

No one has made a play for it yet, but a ketchup and mustard holder with the Mets logo is looking to fetch $100. As of Tuesday, there were 16 days left to bid for a 21-inch by 17-inch block of Shea Stadium grass. “Joeman1” had the edge, willing to pay $50 for the hunk of browning greenery.

Mets fans across the country are calling Meisel, inquiring as to whether their desired piece of merchandise is still on a pallet somewhere in his warehouse. A man from Pittsburgh recently snagged the Pirates’ flag, which was displayed in Shea along with every other major league team.

“There are collectors who want a turnstile from every stadium, or a brick from every stadium,” Meisel said.

That brick from Shea will cost you a Benjamin Franklin.

Sales for these authentic pieces of the Mets’ former palace flew out of the warehouse when auctions first opened. Through the winter, with the bad economy playing a part, the firesale cooled. But with the season in full swing once more, Meisel has seen an uptick in the amount of calls coming into his office for Shea merchandise.

The Mets’ new home, it seems, has found a way of reconnecting fans from all over the country with their memories — and favorite pieces — of the old ballpark.

“Nostalgia is a powerful thing in our country,” Meisel said.

Welcome to the discussion.