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Friday, September 26, 2008
What will you remember most about Shea Stadium?

By Page 2

Page 2 asked ESPN baseball analysts to share their most memorable Shea Stadium moments. Here's what they told us:

Rick Sutcliffe

I remember back in 1989, when I was with the Cubs and we were known as "The Boys of Zimmer." We had a two-game series at Shea Stadium, and I pitched Monday night and got a call from Bill Murray in L.A. after the game at my hotel room. He was coming to New York the next day and asked if I could get him two tickets to Tuesday night's game. I knew he was a big Cubs fan, but he told me he also loved Shea Stadium. I said, "Bull, you gotta be kidding me. This place is a dump!"

He said, "Oh no. Down the left-field line they have the best cajun french fries I've ever had. And down the right-field line they have the coldest Heineken you've ever tasted."

1986 Mets
Game 6 of the 1986 World Series was a great time to be at Shea Stadium, assuming you weren't drenched in beer and rewriting a story on deadline.

Well, jokingly, I said, "Don't be telling me that. Come the seventh inning stretch, I'm going to be hungry and I'm going to be thinking about you."

I left the tickets for Bill and kind of forgot about it, and the next night we were losing the game. Sid Fernandez was beating us 2-1, nothing was going right and it just felt like we have no chance to win this game. I was sitting about 15 feet from Zim, who was in a slow boil. After the top of the seventh you could just hear the crowd at Shea roaring for some reason. We were all wondering what's up, when all of sudden, Murray stuck his head in the dugout and he had that stupid "Caddyshack" hat on. He leaned over and shouted, "Hey Sut! Here are those fries and Heineken that you wanted!"

Zimmer's head was about to pop off his shoulders and he was absolutely fuming that someone would interrupt the dugout like that during the game. But he hadn't even looked up at that point. Murray looked at me and said, "All right, you can't drink the Heineken so I will. But, here, have some of these fries." And, without missing a beat, he added, "Give 'em to Zimmer. Maybe they'll loosen his a-- up." Well, Zimmer's head shot up and -- if it was anyone but Bill -- Zim would've killed them. Well, he saw it was Bill, and he started laughing and said to me, "Well, what are you waiting for? Go get some of those fries. It ain't going to hurt anything at this point." So I went up and got them and passed them around to the guys."

After the game, Bill hung around Shea outside the visitor clubhouse. He had his young son, Homer, asleep in his arms and was waiting to thank me for the tickets. Zimmer was coming out at the same time and asked Bill how he was getting home. Bill said something about trying to get a cab, but Zim insisted that they catch a ride with us. So Zim had the team bus cruising through the streets of New York that night and we dropped Bill and Homer at the front door of their place in the city.

Steve Phillips

While a lot of people have negative feelings have about Shea Stadium and are quick to point out it lacks the history and tradition of Yankee Stadium, my recollections are of a lot great things that happened there. The Mets are moving into a nice modern ballpark and that's great, but I'll always have fond memories of Shea and it will always have a special place in my heart.

Here are my five favorite Shea Stadium memories, in no particular order …

1. The day I was hired as the Mets' general manager: July 16, 1997. I remember after the news conference going upstairs at Shea about a half hour before the game to get some quiet time just to regroup. I can recall how difficult it was to breathe and thinking about the overwhelming sense of responsibility of being the guy in charge.

2. Mike Piazza's first game with the Mets in May 1998. He ripped a double into right-center field and the stadium just erupted seemingly with the realization that we just had gone from being a good little team to a playoff contender. We finally had a marquee star on the Mets again.

3. Oct. 17, 1999, Game 5 of the NLCS against the Braves. In the 15th inning, Robin Ventura hit the "grand-slam single" to send the series back to Atlanta. We lost the series, but that night was great.

4. There was a moment that took place on the field before our first game back after 9/11 that will always stay with me. Diana Ross was rehearsing before the game with the gospel group she was performing "God Bless America" with that night. While singing, she went from person to person in the gospel group touching their faces as they were signing. It was an emotional time and that, to me, was such an emotional moment. Then the game that night was capped off by the dramatic home run by Piazza to win it. It felt like a win, not only for the Mets but for the whole of New York City.

5. The 2000 Subway Series, Game 3. Up in my box before the game, the electricity going through the stadium during the national anthem … the energy you could feel coming from the crowd is something I will never forget.

Tim Kurkjian

My fondest memory of Shea Stadium wasn't a great memory for Mets fans. I was there the night Endy Chavez reached over the left-field fence and made what might have been the greatest postseason defensive play ever -- despite the Mets' loss.

My craziest, yet thrilling experience at Shea Stadium was in 1986, when I was covering the Bill Buckner game for the Baltimore Sun. My story was finished and ready to go. The Red Sox hadn't won the World Series since 1918, and they were up by two runs. All I had to do was press a button and my story was submitted.

I'm watching the game unfold, and suddenly within seconds the Mets are ahead and the game is over. At this point, it's 12:40 a.m. on Sunday morning, and I have to rewrite the first eight paragraphs of my story.

Shea Stadium turned into complete chaos around me, to the point that someone had taken a keg of beer and started dumping it out. In the old Shea Stadium, the auxiliary press box had a lot of holes in it. So I'm literally writing the most important story of my life as beer is pouring all over me. I'm soaking wet in Budweiser while I'm trying to write the eight most important paragraphs I've ever written. Keep in mind that I was on the strictest deadline in the world, having just watched the most amazing comeback I've ever seen.

Special thanks to Gerry Brown and Shannon Cross for their help in compiling this story.