New Yorkers over the age of 65 still remember how much we were starved for National League baseball when the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants moved to California. The only game in town was the American League’s Yankees, and when they went on the road, you had nothing. A horrible thought for a baseball addict.
Attorney William Shea headed up a committee to make arrangements to expand the National League from eight to 10 teams. Abraham Beame, later to be our mayor, was the city’s budget director and comptroller in 1960. He backed a stadium in Corona. All members of the old Board of Estimate voted for it, except the two from the Bronx.
The building of the stadium for the new Mets was a joint venture of the P.J. Carlin and Thomas Crimmins companies. In 1962 the team temporarily played in the old Polo Grounds in Manhattan, drawing almost a million people their first season.
The principal owner of the Mets was Joan Whitney Payson, a former stockholder of the New York Giants, who voted against their move to California. Soon after they moved she sold all her shares of Giants stock and hoped to take revenge one day for what they had done to New York baseball. She got to.
Shea Stadium was projected to have been complete by October 1963 but they were still scrambling in February 1964 to open on time for Opening Day. The new stadium only had a seating capacity of 55,300, compared to the aging Yankee Stadium’s 67,000. It was named in honor of Shea for bringing National League baseball back to New York. Shea passed away in 1991.
The 50th anniversary of the opening is April 17, but of course Shea was torn down and replaced several years ago.