I received a text on Sunday from my younger brother, "E". It said, "At the new Shea watching the Mets. New park is nice."
Shea Stadium was the home of the NY Mets from 1964 to 2008, and during that time it witnessed 2 World Series titles, and a couple blown opportunities for a couple more. Shea was located in the northern part of Queens, one of the five boroughs of New York City, located just east of Brooklyn, both of which lie on the western portion of Long Island.
Shea had very little charm, unlike Yankee Stadium which is in a neighborhood (albeit a shitty one). It was in a semi-industrial wasteland near the water, with planes constantly flying overhead to land at LaGuardia International Airport (or occasionally in Long Island Sound, if the pilot missed the runway). But, one of my fondest memories of the place was the multitude of pretzel vendors in the parking lot before each home game. These pretzel vendors would push around a shopping cart with a hibachi grill in the bottom, filled with charcoal, and would cook the pretzels in the shopping cart on this grill, selling them for a dollar (this is back in the mid-80's, I'm sure they're getting $5 for them now.
Shea Stadium closed last year and was immediately dismantled instead of demolished (it's against city policy to demolish buildings with explosives.....I think NYC has had all it can take of buildings collapsing), and the seats, foul poles, signs, etc were sold at auction. The new Mets home stadium, CitiField, opened this year. It's probably a nice place to see a baseball game, seeing as how Shea was a giant dump. Of course, I had to ask E how the shopping cart pretzels were, but he said it was too hot to eat one, but he was going on a nacho hunt shortly.
Another memory I have of Shea is one I'll never forget. In about 1988 or 1989, we went to a Mets game in32 cars, my parents, brother and cousins in my parents Chevy Celebrity wagon, and me, another brother and his girlfriend in my brother's Plymouth Laser (I was in the backseat, which could better be described as an upholstered storage shelf). A third brother went in his car with another cousin, and the goal was to tailgate in the parking lot before the game. We all found a big open area so that we could park in a row, and once parked, without turning off the engines (in case we wanted to move closer to the stadium, we all got out to confer. Out of sheer habit, someone (I can't remember if it was my mom or dad) hit the "lock" button. After talking for a minute, we decided to stay there in those spots, since we were also near the exit (kind of like "Vacation," except the parking lot was full, and there was no moose). My mom went to open the door to shut off the car, only to find it locked. At that point, everyone did a collective "oh shit." All doors were tried. All were locked. And, since my mom was driving, my dad left his huge key ring at home (he ran the planetarium at a local community college, and thus had about 20 keys for the place, and didn't bring them if he wasn't driving). So, there we sat, locked out of a running vehicle, hoping we could find a way in before it ran out of gas and thus having a second problem on our hands.
My oldest brother, who lives for conflict, and if there is no conflict he'll create it, had to start rubbing it into my mom, which of course didn't help. My other older brother and I decided to hoof it to the stadium (which felt like a half mile walk) to the various security gates, to see if any of them had a slim jim to open the car (my brother knew how to use one....I don't think I ever bothered to find out HOW he knew how to use one, as he was not a mechanic or locksmith). We were literally referred to every single gate in the place, and all of them came up empty, until we were finally referred to a security shack also outside the complex (we ended up walking 360 degrees around the stadium), and amazingly, they had a slim jim and even more amazingly, were willing to loan it to a 17 year old and 23 year old (my brother was in the Navy at the time and probably looked respectable). So off we went back to the car, slim jim in hand. It took a few minutes, but my brother was able to jimmy the driver's side lock open, and my relieved mother jumped into the car, turned it off, and removed the keys.
I couldn't tell you anything else about that day.....not who won, or if there were any home runs (although I'll bet Greg Jefferies sucked that day). I can say we got locked out of a running car, my oldest brother started a fight with our mom, and another brother exhibited skills that would be useful in an illegal industry. And, more than likely, I devoured a giant pretzel cooked over a charcoal hibachi in a shopping cart. Shea Stadium is gone now, and that parking lot is likely covered by the new CitiField, but I'll bet anything those pretzels are still sold in that parking lot, and right now, I would almost give my right arm for one.