Photopost: Playland


My family and I finished up the summer with an extended long weekend visiting my mother in the Bronx.  We took the time to explore New York and have a lot of fun.

We spent our third day at the historic Playland Amusement Park in Rye, NY.

Book Review: My American Revolution: Crossing the Delaware and I-78 by Robert Sullivan


Author: Robert Sullivan
Title: My American Revolution: Crossing the Delaware and I-78
Narrator: Mike Chamberlain
Publication Info: Dreamscape Media (2012)
Other Books by Same Author:  The Meadowlands and The Thoreau You Don’t Know

Summary/Review:

Robert Sullivan and I share a surname and a lot of common interests.  In this case, local history and travelogue.  The American Revolution famously began in New England and ended in Virginia, but the majority of the war took place in New York and New Jersey where the battles are greatly overlooked.  Even the coldest winter on record when the Continental Army encamped at Morristown, NJ doesn’t get the press of the somewhat milder winter at Valley Forge, PA.

Sullivan visits sites in New York and New Jersey, attempting to experience the long marches of a Continental foot soldier, while also exploring the popular memory through books, poems, museums, and reenactments.   I really like the premise of the book and some of the historical details of the Revolution and how the landscape continues to inform the New York/New Jersey area.  On the other hand, the book is meandering and not very cohesive, and well … a bit boring at times.  For example, a long portion of the end of the book Sullivan describes in detail many visits to the Watchung Mountains in New Jersey to attempt signaling his family in Brooklyn using a mirror.  It’s just not lively reading.  All the same, I like the way Sullivan thinks and will seek out his other books.

Recommended books:  Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell, Snowshoeing Through Sewers by Michael Aaron Rockland and Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz
Rating: **1/2

Beer Review: Ommegang Three-Eyed Raven


Beer: Game Of Thrones: Three-Eyed Raven
Brewer: Brewery Ommegang
Source: 750ml bottles
Rating: *** (6.6 of 10)
Comments: This is a Game of Thrones themed beer so there was a chance that drinking it would lead to choking, convulsions, and turning a deep shade of purple, but luckily that didn’t happen.  I actually found the beer to be somewhat bland.  It pours out a near black color with a thick head.  The nose is floral with hay, and the flavor is sweet with a bitter chocolate.  It’s not bad, just seems too tame for the story it’s tying into.

Book Review: Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow


Author: Ron Chernow
TitleAlexander Hamilton
Narrator: Grover Gardner
Publication Info: New York, N.Y. : Penguin Audio, p2004.
Summary/Review:

A straight-forward biography of General Washington’s right-hand man, Constitutional crusader, and founder of American finance as first secretary of treasury. It does not shy away from Hamilton’s failings such as an ill-tempered tongue and poor decisions, but mostly presents him as an honorable person who set the United States on the course to greatness before his own fall from grace (followed by his being felled by a dueling pistol).  Chernow relies on the unnuanced history that presents Aaron Burr as pure villain, but Burr did kill the book’s protagonist, so I suppose it’s only fair.  If you’re looking for an introduction to one of the United States’ overlooked but fascinating founders, this is it.

Recommended books:Duel: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and the Future of America by Thomas Fleming, Ordeal of Ambition: Jefferson, Hamilton and Burr by Jonathan Daniels,  Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr by Nancy Isenberg, American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson by Joseph J. Ellis, Jefferson and Civil Liberties: The Darker Side by Leonard W. Levy, Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams by Joseph J. Ellis and John Adams by David McCullough
Rating: ***

Beer Review: Ommegang Rare Vos


Beer: Rare Vos
Brewer: Brewery Ommegang
Source: Draft
Rating: *** (7.8 of 10)

Comments: A yummy beer enjoyed on draft at the Doubleday Cafe in Cooperstown, NY.  A golden amber brew with a floral aroma, the beer has a bready, malt flavor with spices and hints of fruit, like apricot.  A very well-crafted and quaffable beer with ineffable qualities.

Related Posts:

Beer Review: Moo Thunder Stout


Beer: Moo Thunder Stout
Brewer: Butternuts Beer & Ale
Source: 12 oz. can
Rating: ** (6.5 of 10)
Comments:  It was a dark & foamy beer, with an earthy aroma and a pleasantly malty flavor.  The head dissipates quickly.  Not a bad stout for a relatively low price and poured out of a can!

Beer Review: Saranac White IPA


Beer: Saranac White IPA
Brewer: Matt Brewing Company
Source:
12 oz. bottle
Rating:
** (6.3 of 10)
Comments: 
Surprisingly this beer pours out with a thick head and cloudy, golden body looking all the world like a hefeweizen.  It’s a hoppy beer with some spiciness but it felt understated to me.  I could have used more flavor.  Other than that, it is a cheerful beer with a fruity aroma and stands out as something unique.

Photopost: Baseball Double Header


Over Memorial Day Weekend, I enjoyed a two-city, two-team, two-day baseball double header. On Sunday, I traveled down to New York to see R.A. Dickey and the Mets take on the San Diego Padres in the good company of some of my Mets fan friends. The next day, my son Peter & I went to Fenway Park for the Red Sox victory over the Detroit Tigers.

Related posts:

Retropost: Confessions of a St. Patrick’s Day Curmudgeon


In honor of this special day let’s revisit one of my favorite posts.

While most kids look forward to Christmas, when I was a child, St. Patrick’s Day (along with Thanksgiving) was one of my favorite days of the year.  It was a big day in my family usually involving going to the parade in New York and seeing family and friends we hadn’t seen in a while.  Then there was the music, the stories of St. Patrick, the history of Ireland and the Irish in America.  Growing up in a town where the dominant population was Ital … Read More

Related Posts:

Book Review: The Archaeology of Home by Katharine Greider


Author: Katharine Greider
Title: The archaeology of home : an epic set on a thousand square feet of the Lower East Side
Publication Info: New York : PublicAffairs, c2011.
ISBN: 9781586487126
Summary/Review: With much anticipation, I received this book as an advanced reading copy through the Library Thing Early Reviewers program.  Greider and her family lived on two floors of a refurbished tenement house on East 7th Street in Manhattan until a home inspector discovered that the building was unstable and on the verge of collapse.  She researched the house’s history to deal with contractors and lawyers and from that grew this fascinating microhistory.  Starting with pre-colonial native tribes through Dutch and English settlement, the construction of the tenement in 1845 and all it’s residents through the troubled era of the 70’s & 80’s, Greider details the lives and times of the people who have lived on this spot and their neighbors.  It’s a detailed look at the use of one plot of land that touches on history, archaeology, ethnography and sociology.  Amidst the history is Greider’s own story of renovation, lawsuits, and displacement which I did not like so much, in fact it uncomfortably reminded me of Under the Tuscan Sun (one of my least favorite books).  This should be a book that I love in that it covers many things I’m obsessed with – history, New York, immigration, social life, urbanism – but alas I just like this book.  I had to put this book down several times while reading it because I just couldn’t get into it Greider’s writing style.  Nevertheless I salute her brilliant premise and extensive research in creating this book.

Favorite Passages:

“The typical Manhattan abode simply lacks the square footage necessary to organize interior space according to expectations.  What you get instead is a commingling of functions that are normally segregated and an intimacy some find inappropriate or uncomfortable.  Children share a bedroom, or even sleep in their parent’s room.  Often there’s only one bathroom.  In a few of the oldest tenements, the bathtub is still in the kitchen.  People often eat in their living rooms.  Entertaining in these circumstances is almost unavoidably casual.  If a couple who lives in a tiny walk-up invite you to dinner, you will witness the ferocious labor required to prepare a hot meal in a galley kitchen, to drag out a folding table while kicking toys out of the way, and then to tidy up the blitzkrieg that results.  It is all very unlovely and close; acquire the taste and nothing could be nicer.” – p. 80

Recommended books: New York Calling by Marshall Berman and Brian Berger and Five Points by Tyler Anbinder.
Rating: ***1/2

Photopost: Citi Field


This Sunday, I made my annual pilgrimage to Flushing, NY to see the Atlanta Braves take on the New York Mets at Citi Field.  My Braves fan friend Mike was unable to attend so I enjoyed the pleasure of watching the game with another Mets fan, Chris.  Tickets for the game came courtesy of another Mets fan and ticket plan holder Sharon.

So these were good seats, right in centerfield,  just five rows back from the wall.  It meant that Chris and I were in direct sunlight until about the 8th inning so it’s a good thing I brought sunscreen.  It wasn’t terribly hot but my arms sweat a lot which seemed to also attract miniscule flying insects.  Barring the sun and the bugs, it was a terrific game.

Johan Santana started for the Mets masterfully dominating the Braves for seven innings.  Angel Pagan had a great game at the plate and Ike Davis smashed a home run to the batters’ eye in deep centerfield not far from our seat.  The Happy Recap for the game ended with the Mets shutting out the Braves 3-0.

The scoreboard kept us up to date on the FIFA World Cup championship game which for some reason was listed as a NL game.  Post game I took the LIRR to Penn Station and found a pizza joint where the Hispanic staff and a Buddhist monk were watching the game on Univision.  I ate a calzone and saw all of extra time including Spain’s winning goal.

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Confessions of a St. Patrick’s Day Curmudgeon


While most kids look forward to Christmas, when I was a child, St. Patrick’s Day (along with Thanksgiving) was one of my favorite days of the year.  It was a big day in my family usually involving going to the parade in New York and seeing family and friends we hadn’t seen in a while.  Then there was the music, the stories of St. Patrick, the history of Ireland and the Irish in America.  Growing up in a town where the dominant population was Italian-American, it also helped that there was one day a year where everyone wanted to be Irish.  The element of pride was strong.

Things started to change when I moved to Virginia.  If people celebrated St. Patrick’s day at all it was at a most superficial and sterotypical levely.  Mostly it was just an excuse to get drunk.  I thought St. Patrick’s Day would be better when I moved to Boston, but even in this most Irish of American cities I find the magic of my childhood lacking.  I still look forward to St. Patrick’s Day but usually end up a little disappointed.  Here are some things that contribute to my ambivalence:

  • Wearing of the green – not bad in itself although some people really stretch the definition of green to include lime, chartreuse, olive drab and teal.  Worse, they wear all those colors at once.  I’m more perturbed by the self-imposed enforcers who critcize anyone in green.  In years past I’ve worn sweaters made in Ireland thinking it more authentic, but there’s no pleasing the Green Team.  Which brings me to:
  • Pinching – Who came up with this crock?  I lived 18-years in an Irish-American family interacting with Irish-American communities before I ever heard of the idea that you pinch people who don’t wear green when I started college.  People act as if it’s some ancient Irish tradition, but I’m certain it’s a fairly recently innovation created to appeal to everyone’s inner sadist and I hope it goes away soon.
  • Beads – It seems that wearing cheap plastic green beads is the thing to do these days on St. Patrick’s Day, even though it’s an obvious rip-off of New Orlean’s Mardi Gras.  Granted, both holidays are about a month a part, have Catholic roots, and have a lot of revelry, but IIRC even in Mardi Gras the beads are a cheapening of a richer holiday tradition.  Lets can this one too.
  • 364 days a year, one can visit a pub in the greater Boston and hear a great performance of Irish music – traditional or contemporary – and meet interesting people while quaffing a tasty Irish beer.  One day a year you can wedge yourself into an Irish pub with a bunch of drunken frat boys, listen to cheezy Oirish music and drink green-dyed Corona and pay a 20$ (or more) cover charge for the privilege.  Guess which day this is?
  • Danny Boy – once upon a time this was probably a lovely song, but these days this performance is not too far off the mark:
  • Parades on St. Patrick’s day are a good way to celebrate the arts, culture, faith, and history of the Irish people but (in America at least) they are tainted by homophobia, militarism, and racism.
  • The stupid t-shirts

Could be I’m just a grump.  I’m cheered though that my wife brought home Dubliner cheese and Irish soda bread for supper which we enjoyed with (German) beer and (Italian) pasta.  Then we danced to some Irish music with our little boy.  I’ll need to find some new traditions to make St. Patrick’s Day as memorable for him as it was for me.

Previously:

Book Review: The day Wall Street exploded by Beverly Gage


On a mid-September day an explosion rips through the financial district of Manhattan in the most devastating terrorist attack in American history up to that point.  The attack is attributed to people who come from outside the country and subscribe to an ideology that its critics say is anti-American.  This all sounds very familiar, but the story here takes place on September 16th, 1920 when an explosion at the corner of Wall Street and Broad Street rocked the House of Morgan and the New York Stock Exchange.  The day Wall Street exploded : a story of America in its first age of terror (2009) by Beverly Gage captures the events of that day as well as the events leading up to that day and its repercussions.

The explosion, graphically detailed in this work, was part of a series of violent acts with Anarchists, Socialists, & labor activists on one side and industrialists, police and private detectives on the other side.  Gage summarizes the history of radical violence dating to the Haymarket affair in 1886 and the subsequent execution of numerous radicals not actually proven to have anything to do with the bombings.  Subsequent events include the Homestead strike, the Ludlow Massacre, assassination attempts on Henry Frick, John D. Rockefeller and Jack Morgan, the successful murder of President McKinley by an anarchist, bombing of the Los Angeles Times office, and the Red Scare.  The cast of characters include proponent of violence Johann Most, anarchists Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman, labor activist Bill Haywood and socialist Eugene Debs.  The story of Nicolo Sacco and Bartolemo Vanzetti also ties into the Wall Street Bombing with some theorists today believing they had a direct involvement.

The investigation of the bombing is presented as something of mystery with FBI agents, private detectives, and New York City police all attempting to be the first to solve the crime with none succeeding.  Many anarchists, socialists, and immigrants are rounded up with a good portion deported, but the bomber is never found.  Some wonder if there really was a bomb or if it was an accidental explosion of dynamite destined for a construction site.

This is is an excellent and informative history of an overlooked period in American history.  Gage writes that the ultimate demise of the radical movement in the 1920s as well as the House of Morgan/NYSE “business as usual” approach in the aftermath of the bombing have contributed to the absence of this era from many history books.

Author Gage, Beverly.
Title The day Wall Street exploded : a story of America in its first age of terror / Beverly Gage.
Publication Info. Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2009.
Description viii, 400 p., [16] p. of plates : ill. ; 24 cm.

Book Review: Great Fortune by Daniel Okrent


Great Fortune : The Epic of Rockefeller Center (2003) by Daniel Okrent is a lively and engaging popular history of the origins of the most famous urban development in the world.  It’s chock-full of facts that I never knew.

For example, the land Rockefeller Center is built upon was originally the “Upper Estate” of Columbia University, something of an albatross on the university’s neck especially after it moved further uptown. The university collected rent from the Rockefellers into the 1980’s.  The plan for Rockefeller Center was originally to construct a new opera house for the Metropolitan Opera, a plan that fell through as the greater plan for a commercial development stormed through into the Great Depression.  There were scandals of the Communist Diego Rivera painting a mural in the RCA building, and the Facist Benito Mussolini giving his blessing to a building for Italian commerce.  The most famous element of Rockefeller Center – the skating rink – was something of an afterthought to bail out a failed plan for a shopping plaza.  The opening of Radio City Music Hall was an overlong, over-the-top bomb that resulted in the venue being used as a movie theater for the next four decades.

Okrent also weaves in the biographies of the various characters involved in creating Rockefeller Center.  Most obvious of course are the Rockefeller family including the introspective John D. Rockefeller, Jr. who spent his life trying to atone for Senior’s greedy excess, and Nelson Rockefeller a steamroller of a personality who took charge of the Center in the later years of development.   Architects, designers, artists, corporate executives & businessmen all get their fair share as well.  Okrent writes of these people sympathetically without being adulatory, and shows their warts (not to mention having a few laughs at their expense) without it being a hatchet piece.

This is a very enjoyable historical work which I believe does a good job of capturing an era through the myriad people who worked on and at Rockefeller Center.

Great fortune : the epic of Rockefeller Center by Daniel Okrent. New York : Viking, 2003.

A Little Late for Thanksgiving


…but I can save this for next year.

So if you want to join me in recreating a Thanksgiving tradition of my childhood, follow these simple steps:

  1. Get a DVD of the original version of King Kong.
  2. Periodically stop it and watch a part of this Youtube clip instead:

Oh this is just too perfect.

Book Review: Empire Rising by Thomas Kelly


On a flight to Portland, OR a little over 10 years ago I read Payback a novel by Irish-American writer Thomas Kelly.  It told the story set in the mid-1980’s about Sandhogs, construction workers who build tunnels, with a mix union-management strife, corrupt politicians, Irish gangsters, and family squabbles turned violent.  It was a breezy read full of violence and machismo, but intelligent as well.

Now I’ve listened to Empire Rising (2005) read by Michael Deehy, which is a similar story but set in 1930, at the start of the Great Depression, amid Prohibition, with the construction of the Empire State Building at it’s centerpiece.

  • Michael Briody – a recent emigrant from Ireland.  Fought with the British in WWI, against the British in the Anglo-Irish War, and against the Free State in the Irish Civil War.  Briody lives in the Bronx, works on a team of iron workers on the Empire State Building, and is an amature boxer.  Also he continues to do jobs for the IRA and for Tommy Twohey.  Oh yeah, and he also wins the heart of Grace in this novel’s central romance.
  • Grace Masterson – an Irish woman with a troubled past who settles on a house boat in Brooklyn.  She visits construction sites to sketch and paint the workers.  As Lewis Hine’s assistant she’s able to enter the ESB site.  She’s also the paramour for Johnny Farrell who has her “deliver money” to banks around town.  Scarred by life, she’s surprised that Briody wins her heart despite everything.
  • Johnny Farrell – the head honcho of Tammany Hall behind the Walker administration.  A finger in every pot, whether legal or illegal.  Not too pleased to learn that Grace is having liasions with Briody.
  • Tom Twohey – a boyhood friend of Farrell’s who is the chief gangster in their Bronx neighborhood.  Also runs guns for the IRA.  Finds himself making an uneasy allliance with the Italian mob.

Kelly’s fictional characters mix with real-life historical figures such as Mayor Jimmy Walker, Governor Franklin Roosevelt, photographer Lewis Hine,  failed presidential candidate Al Smith (also head of the Empire State Building project) and Judge Joseph Crater (working in an answer to Crater’s mysterious disappearance).

For the most part this is an entertaining book weaving together New York City history, the Irish-American experience, and the romance of the era.  Towards the end it gets over the top as seemingly everyone wants to kill Briody, and for good reasons too as he’s got himself mixed up in everything.

Author Kelly, Thomas, 1961-
Title Empire rising [sound recording] / Thomas Kelly.
Publication Info. Hampton, N.H. : BBC Audiobooks America, p2005.
Description 13 sound discs (974 min.) : digitally mastered.

Book Review: Manhattan ’45 by Jan Morris


Manhattan ’45 (1985) by Jan Morris attempts to capture New York City at the time of its greatest success, optimism, influence and power, just as the Second World War comes to an end. This is not a travel book so much as an historical recreation.  The author never even visited New York until nearly a decade later.  Writing in 1985, the book is full of copious footnotes where Morris tells us what is gone and different.  Reading this an additional 25 years later my mind adds another layer of meta-analysis of things further lost and changed in Manhattan’s continuous build and demolish cycle.

This book is filled with details of life and how it was lived in 1945 mostly from books, letters, photographs and interviews.  Everything’s discussed in categories and in a gossipy tone that covers people, places, race, class, shopping, transportation, music, technology, slums, mansions, art, parties, and schools.  I kind of wish I’d taken better notes on this book since it’s full of fun little tidbits, but no great memorable themes.  I’d like to read it again, perhaps while in Manhattan, the book tucked under my arm as I visit what’s there and what once was.

I’ve previously read the following books by Morris: The World of Venice and Heaven’s Command: An Imperial Progress.

Author Morris, Jan, 1926-
Title Manhattan ’45 / Jan Morris. —
Publication Info. New York : Oxford University Press, 1987.
Description 273 p., [12] p. of plates : ill. ; 22 cm.

Shea Stadium: A Personal History


Beloved Mets mascot Mr. Met signs autographs during a 1997 game at Shea Stadium.

Yesterday, the Mets lost to the Marlins and brought an end to their 2008 season as well as the William A. Shea Municipal Stadium.  The Mets will begin the 2009 season in a retro-ballpark modeled on Ebbets Field, but Shea Stadium will always be home for me.  People criticize Shea for being a “concrete donut” but I think it has a lot more charm than the truly awful multi-use stadiums that followed it in Cincinatti, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh.  I think it compares well to Dodgers Stadium, although Dodgers has the advantage of an open concourse so one can still watch the game while going to the concessions stands and it has a full seat of outfield bleachers.  On the other hand, Shea Stadium has much better public transit connections and a decent park nearby to wander around before a game.  The big shame about CitiField is that for all its retro-ness it will still be in the middle of a parking lot and not a true neighborhood ballpark.

A Polaroid photo from the September 20th, 1986 Mets game against the Phillies at Shea Stadium. I’d hoped the Mets would clinch the NL East division title at this game but they’d already done it several days earlier.  The grass was still all patched up from Mets fans storming the field and tearing the turf in celebration.

Undoubtedly, Shea Stadium is the venue where I’ve attended the most sporting events in my lifetime.  As a kid, I would go to Mets & Jets games with my family.  The Jets games were especially interesting since we’d sit in the temporary wooden (splintery) bleachers in the end zones (roughly behind home plate and in front of the scoreboard in the baseball configuration). The seats by the scoreboard were particularly remote from things like restrooms and concessions.  At one game I complained to my father of thirst and rather than go all the way to the concession stand and wait in a long line, he gave my some of his beer (which I didn’t like but it got me to shut up).  I fell for the great Mets teams of the 1980’s there and returned in good years and lean in the 90’s and 2000’s.  I have memories of going to games with my late father at Shea and more recent memories of attending games with my wife (and even my son in-utero!).

Banner Day 1987.  That’s right!  A scheduled double-header and if you were artistically talented enough you could parade around the field with a bed sheet between games.  And all for six bucks!

Here are a dozen memorable games from my Shea history.

  • June 14, 1980: Giants 6, Mets 7 — This is the earliest game I can remember at Shea (and how could anyone forget it) but I probably went to some Mets & Jets games in the late 70’s too.  We’d just returned from a vacation in California and my sister was wearing a San Francisco t-shirt, so we gave her a hard time but an older woman told us we were nice kids for wearing our Mets hats.  The game ended on a walk-off 3-run homer by Steve Henderson.  I kid you not when I say I’ve never been to a sporting event where the fans went completely insane in joyous celebration.  No wonder I became a Mets fan.
  • October 5, 1980: Patriots 21, Jets 11 — I don’t remember the game so much but afterwards my father (or was it my uncle?) knew some people having a tailgate in the parking lot.  Some of the players actually came to the tailgate and I got to meet the Jets strong saftety Ken Schroy.  I think it is not a coincidence that after meeting me, Schroy went on to lead the team with a career-high 8 interceptions.
  • December 14, 1980: Saints 21, Jets 20 — The New Orleans Saints started the 1980 season with a 0-14 record and were poised to become the first NFL team without a win.  The Jets prevented that with a loss of their own on an icey day where the winds swirled around Shea.  After the game, several hundred drunken fans stormed the field and wrestled with one another in the snow.
  • November 22, 1981: Dolphins 15, Jets 16 — A much better Jets memory as the team was able to rally in the fourth quarter and score a win against the hated Dolphins.  This helped the Jets gain a spot in the playoffs, the first time any team I liked would participate in postseason play in my lifetime.
  • Some game in 1985, could be August 24, 1985: Padres 1, Mets 5 — Mets fans remember Ray Knight as the hero and MVP of the 1986 World Series, but in 1985 Mets fans loved the light-hitting Knight as much as they love Luis Castillo today.  I was fortunate to go to a game where Knight had multiple hits, drove in the majority of the runs, and topped it off with a great defensive gem.  Unfortunately, I don’t remember when the game was or who the Mets played but it may be this game against the Padres.

Mets legend Mookie Wilson throws batting practice before a game against the Phillies on September 8, 1997, my first game at Shea after a decade away.
  • June 8, 1998: Devil Rays 0, Mets 3 — Prior to the game a man introduced himself to me as a Japanese sports reporter and asked “Preach to me the Mets pitching rotation?”  The Mets had just acquired Japanese pitcher Hideo Nomo and I figure he wanted to know the rest of the Mets starters.  I listed them off and he repeated them.  It took a lot of self-control to not laugh when I said “Rick Reed” and he repeated “Lick Leed?”  Lick, er, Rick pitched a great game that night going 6 2/3 innings until Wade Boggs hit a double to become Tampa Bay’s first baserunner of the night.  As an added bonus, the Mets new catcher Mike Piazza hit his first home run at Shea as a Met.
  • August 21, 1998: Cardinals 0, Mets 1 — This was the summer of Mark McGwire chasing, and finally surpassing, Roger Maris’ record of 61 home runs in a season.  In the second game of a double-header, however, Armando Reynoso was the star striking out the mighty McGwire three times.

An Irish step-dancer takes the mound where Seaver and Gooden once pitched on Irish night in 1997.
  • Aug. 12, 2000: Giants 2, Mets 3 — Irish Night at Shea, and one of my all-time favorite Mets made a big blunder.  Benny Agbayani lost count of the number of outs and threw the ball to a fan after only the second out.  Somehow, he actually got the ball back from the fan and threw it back into the infield to keep the runners from circling the bases.  Following the game, the band Black 47 played a raucous set.
  • October 15, 2000: Cardinals 6, Mets 10 — The first and only playoff game I’ve ever attend and also Susan’s first game at Shea.  We sat in the notorious back rows of the Mezzanine where the Upper Level cuts off the view of the field creating a letterbox effect.  At every exciting play (and there were many) those of us in the back row jumped up to cheer and then ducked down again so we could see the action.

The Mets and Braves line up for introductions on Opening Day in 2001.
  • April 9, 2001: Braves 4, Mets 9 — This was the only time I ever attended a home opener, which was a special one since Mr. Met and Ralph Kiner raised the 2000 National League pennant flag prior to the game.  Tsuyoshi Shinjo tried to make up for the Mets not signing Alex Rodriguez with his first home run in the US, and Mike Piazza added two more homers.
  • August 9, 2001: Brewers 3, Mets 4 — The now defunct MetsOnline.net Fan Forum got together for a game in the picnic area, the small set of bleachers in left field.  It was a weekday afternoon game and it was something like 102°, most definitely the hottest game I’ve ever attended.  It was fun to meet fellow Mets fans some of whom are still good friends of mine.  I made a double-header of the day and saw the Brooklyn Cyclones play that night in Coney Island.  On a sad note, this would be the last day I’d see the World Trade Center with my own eyes.
  • April 21, 2007: Braves 2, Mets 7 — My Brave fan friend Mike and I made a tradition of going to see the Mets and Braves play at Shea once a season every year from 2005-2007.  This game was the only one of the three in which Tom Glavine did not hand his former team the game on a silver platter.  Instead Oliver Perez dominated the Braves and Mets scored most of their runs while I went to get ice cream for my pregnant wife.  You can read more about this game in a previous blog post.

I attended my last game at Shea on September 14, 2008 versus the Braves.  It started out well with two David Wright homeruns and nice pitching by Perez, but ended the way far too many 2008 Mets games ended: a blown save of the ridiculous variety!  My pictures from that final game capture a few of the great landmarks of Shea.

The diamond at Shea
The diamond at Shea

Ollie on the mound
Ollie on the mound

The big scoreboard is the best in baseball.
The big scoreboard is the best in baseball.

Skyline sillouhette on the scoreboard.
Skyline sillouhette on the scoreboard.

Mets Magic! A big apple for every home run.
Mets Magic! A big apple for every home run.

Cow Bell Man, one of the many legendary Shea characters
Cow Bell Man, one of the many legendary Shea characters


More on Shea Goodbye:

Previously: If the Mets Were the Yankees

If the Mets Were the Yankees


All eyes in the baseball world this week turn to Flushing, NY where the New York Mets play their final seven games at Shea Stadium.  The historic ballpark has been New York’s home for baseball memories since it opened in 1883 as home of the New York Giants.  Originally named the Polo Grounds, the old ballpark has been home for the Giants of baseball and football, the Mets, the Jets, and even the Yankees from 1912-22 and again in the mid-1970’s.  The Mets arrived in 1962, and after rehabilitation and minor relocation of the playing field in 1964, the Polo Grounds was renamed Shea Stadium after lawyer William Shea who brought National League baseball to New York.

Fans fondly look back on 125 years of Shea Stadium history from the Merkle Boner to the Shot Heard Around the World, from Willie’s basket catch to the Beatles, and from the Miracle Mets of 1969 to Mookie’s dribbler past Buckner.  Mets ownership have been credited with great judgement for keeping this historic landmark functional for so many years, especially after their crosstown rival Yankees demolished their historic Stadium in 1973.  The new Yankee Stadium which opened in 1976 has been described by an architecural critic as “a monstrosity of 70’s-era cookie cutter design.”

Still, the time for the old ballpark has come and the Mets prepare to move to their “new” home, Citifield in 2009.  Citifield, originally known as Ebbets Field was built in 1913 and was home to the Brooklyn Dodgers until 1957 and has remained vacant since then except for some local stickball league games.  Not only is Citifield 30-years younger than the Mets soon-to-be former home, but has been fully renovated with a reoriented playing field for the Mets and their fans.  Mets management look forward to making more history at the same ballpark where Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier.

Book Review: New York Calling: From Blackout to Bloomberg


Following up on Ric Burns’ New York, I read New York Calling: From Blackout to Bloomberg (2007) edited by one of the stars of that series Marshall Berman and Brian Berger.

This collection of essays looks back with some nostalgia and some disgust at the City in the 70s, 80s, & 90s.  For most of the authors, New York once was full of crime, sex, and drugs, yet the rents were low and the City maintained its own character.  Today they sneer that interlopers have moved in, built luxury lofts, priced out everything that made New York unique and replaced it with typical American suburbia. Most of the essayists to some extent sink into insufferable self-importance which makes this book hard to read at times.

There’s a lot of hyperbole, but there’s truth mixed in.  And there’s still a lot to love about New York.  Each borough gets its own tribute, with the one on Staten Island being the most illuminating since I know little about that area.  There are also great stories on graffiti, civil rights, art, rock music, and ethnic foods.  If you love New York, this book is worth checking out.  If you hate New York, this book isn’t going to change your mind.

New York calling : from blackout to Bloomberg / edited by Marshall Berman and Brian Berger.
Publication Info. London : Reaktion, 2007.
Description 368 p. : ill. ; 25 cm.