Since 1964 Shea Stadium was the place New York Mets players and fans called home. There were joyful memories as well as painful ones with the last taking place on September 28, 2008.
It was a Sunday afternoon baseball game in late September when the New York Mets were fighting for a postseason spot while they were tied with the Milwaukee Brewers for the lone Wild Card spot in the National League. The Mets were coming off a spectacular performance from their ace Johan Santana the day before and were trying not to repeat history from the year prior.
In 2007, the Mets had one of the biggest collapses in all of baseball and it ended with the Florida Marlins defeating the Mets on the final game of the season at Shea Stadium. The Mets were poised to not let this happen again two years in a row.
The atmosphere on this day was insane, I remember being there not being able to sleep the night before. It was such a bittersweet moment for me as the Mets had a chance to clinch a postseason berth in the last regular season game in Shea Stadium. So many legends were in attendance such as Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Tom Seaver, and Mike Piazza just to name a few.
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It was time to go. New York had Oliver Perez on the mound who just two years prior in the NLCS pitched the game of his life before the bullpen blew it but Mets fans were confident this day in a big performance.
There was constant cheering and “Lets Go Mets” chants throughout this game for every Perez strikeout, put out or for a Mets base runner that the stadium felt like it was moving. Due to circumstances though there was also a lot of eyes gazing to the out of town scoreboard to see what the Brewers were doing against the Cubs.
At the moment both games headed into the sixth inning in a scoreless game but everything changed within two innings, of both games, that determined the 2008 NL Wild Card berth.
In the top of the sixth Cameron Maybin doubled off Oliver Perez to get things going for the Marlins. The very next at-bat, Jo Baker singled in Maybin for the first run of the game. A couple batters later Perez intentionally walked Marlins Dan Uggla to get to Josh Willingham which didn’t go as planned as Willingham delivered a base hit to extend the Marlins lead to 2-0.
Shea Stadium got silent right here as they know the Mets needed to win to at worst go to a one-game playoff with Milwaukee for the final NL postseason spot. In the bottom of the sixth Robinson Canel pinched hit and drew a walk. Two batters later Carlos Beltran stood up to the box with a runner on down two runs and all Mets fans know what happened next.
Beltran crushed a two-run home run to deep left-center field to tie the game at two and Shea Stadium was rocking. When I say rocking I mean that moment right there was the loudest I have ever heard Shea while being at a game there. I remember everyone jumping and screaming and random people are hugging each other it was insane.
The vibe in the stadium changed as now everyone in there believed this was the Mets’ game to win. Looking up to the scoreboard not too long later we all saw the Brewers scored in the seventh and then two again in the eighth and now this Mets came was now a win or go home situation.
It was now the top of the eighth in a 2-2 game and the Mets brought in Scott Schoeneweis to start things off and that did not last very long. The first batter he faced was pinch hitter Wes Helms who on the third pitch took Schoeneweis deep to give the Marlins the lead back. Out went Schoeneweis and in came Luis Ayala who mirrored Schoeneweis by giving up a home run to Dan Uggla, the first batter Ayala faced, and just like that Mets fan saw their season slipping away as the Marlins took a 4-2 lead.
The Mets were not able to come back as the game ended with Ryan Church hitting a deep fly ball to center and for the second straight year the Mets had a September collapse to end their season. Just like that the last regular season game at Shea became the final game ever played at Shea. Some fans left after the game in disappointment but the majority did stay for the final ceremony at Shea Stadium after 44 long years of being the home of their favorite ball club.
The ceremony consisted of legends coming out for one last time while being narrated by Mets radio broadcaster Howie Rose. After a video tribute, all the players that came out took one last walk and touch to home plate to finish things off but there was still only one way to fully say goodbye to Shea. It was one last pitch and the only proper way to close that out was two all-time greats as Seaver threw out the last pitch the Piazza.
After the pitch, the two greats walked off together and turned in center field and had one final wave to the great Mets fans at Shea Stadium, which the picture of that wave off still hangs high in my house today.
September 28th, 2008 was my last time at Shea Stadium which was a place I loved to go to. There was no better feeling as a kid walking into Shea and seeing the whole ballpark open up to you and you see the different level colored seats. I will cherish every moment I’ve ever witnessed in that ballpark.
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The history may not be the greatest compared to other teams but Mets fans are some of the most passionate fans in all of sports so this final moment was amazing to us even following the devastating loss.