Familiar faces warm last Shea crowd

Jonathan Baum
Yahoo! Sports

NEW YORK – Fans at Shea Stadium were in no mood for the postgame ceremony Sunday. No mood whatsoever.

At least not at first.

A week ago at Yankee Stadium, the celebrations to send that park off were held before the game, and the fans ate up every minute of it. Of course, nothing but winning the final game at the Stadium was on the line for the Yankees, so pregame distractions weren't of paramount concern.

The New York Mets, of course, were in a different boat. Fighting for a postseason berth, Sunday's game against the Florida Marlins was all but a must-win.

But when the Mets didn't win, losing the wild card to the Milwaukee Brewers, Mets fans became as dreary as the weather on this dark, final day at Shea.

And they didn't hide it.

"The Shea Goodbye tribute will begin in five minutes," it was announced over the public address system.

Mets fans responded by roundly booing.

They booed the Marlins celebrating their season-ending win on the field. They booed a couple who came out of the Florida dugout to scoop up some Shea dirt.

They barely tolerated the video tribute to Bill Shea, the man who spearheaded efforts to bring National League baseball back to New York and for whom the stadium is named. Upon its conclusion, the video was met with reluctant, slowly building, polite applause.

Then, roughly 10 minutes after the initial announcement, the PA piped in again:

"The Shea Goodbye tribute will begin in two minutes."

More boos. Louder this time.

Mr. Met did receive a nice ovation when it was his turn to complete the Shea countdown to Citi Field, though the actual unveiling of the Citi Field logo to complete the countdown was, yes, loudly booed.

Just in case the picture wasn't clear, the fans weren't happy.

But as old Mets heroes and/or their families were introduced, the crowd warmed up.

Mentions of Mookie Wilson and Davey Johnson got the crowd going. The families of Bob Murphy, Gil Hodges, Tommy Agee and Tug McGraw were enthusiastically greeted.

Then the raucous ovation for Ralph Kiner helped this event turn the corner.

Sunday was a dark day for the Mets. Another poor bullpen performance led to another blown chance to reach October. The storybook ending would have featured at least one more game here at Shea, if not another dozen or so.

In lieu of all that, the postgame ceremony gave these understandably cranky fans something to cheer about.

Names and faces belonging to guys like Kingman, Stearns, Foster and Swoboda, and the memories they represented, those indelible images, lightened the mood here as the skies above Shea gradually did the same.

There were significant ovations for heroes of 1986, including Mazzilli, Backman, Darling, Fernandez, Ojeda, HoJo and Orosco. There were big cheers for Carter and Hernandez, and older stars like Kranepool, Koosman, Harrelson and Staub.

There were more recent Mets like Alfonzo, Ventura and John Franco – the latter of whom the Mets probably could have used down the stretch (you telling me he can't still throw that 84-mph dying quail?).

There was Yogi. And there were Darryl and Doc.

For these guys, the place went nuts.

Same goes for Piazza and Seaver.

And Willie Mays.

As the introductions of these past Mets greats winded down, Gooden and Strawberry embraced behind second base, two old friends celebrating the memories.

The ceremony concluded with one Mets legend throwing one final pitch to another, as Seaver bounced one in to Piazza.

Success of the past. Honoring legends.

No, there wasn't much new for fans to cheer about on this dreary day at Shea. So they settled for cheering for the past.

And no, it wasn't a storybook ending for Shea. But it was enough to remind these fans what this franchise has accomplished here.

So maybe tomorrow, they'll do it again.