Tuesday, December 17, 2013

William Mulrow: Soaking Up the History of the NY Mets

The hearts of many loyal baseball fans were broken in 1957 when the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants left New York City to establish a National League presence on the west coast. William Mulrow and other fans of the New York Yankees lost a cross-town rivalry that produced thrilling moments in World Series games throughout the years, but at least they still had a local team to cheer on.

Major league officials wanted to regain a National League presence in New York as a counterpoint to the Yankees of the American League. As a result, Major League Baseball expanded with the creation of the New York Metropolitan Baseball Club Inc. in 1961. The team never took the field as the New York Metropolitans. Instead, its nickname, the New York Mets, quickly took hold among fans,sportswriters and major league baseball.

On April 11, 1962, the team played its first official game in a losing effort in St. Louis against the Cardinals. Two days later, on April 13, 1962, the Mets team played its first home game at the Polo Grounds. Unfortunately, the Pittsburgh Pirates dampened the opening day mood by outscoring the Mets to take the victory. New York got its revenge ten days later when it beat the Pirates in Pittsburgh.

The old home of the Giants remained the temporary home of the Mets until April 17, 1964, when the team left the Polo Grounds behind for a new home in Queens. Shea Stadium cost $28.5 million to build in Flushing Meadow Park near the site of the 1964 World’s Fair. The stadium, built to accommodate both baseball and football, would eventually become the home field for the New York Jets of today’s National Football League.

Shea Stadium was a state-of-the-art facility when it was completed in 1964. Sections of the stadium’s stands moved on tracks to reconfigure the seating for baseball or football. The deafening noise of incoming and outgoing flights served as a constant reminder of Shea Stadium’s proximity to the busy runways of LaGuardia Airport.

The Mets trace the origins of their name to 19th century baseball in New York. The New York Metropolitans was a professional team that played in the New York area from 1880 until 1887. Coincidentally, the 19th century Mets also played their home games at the Polo Grounds. Eventually, the original Metropolitans changed their name to the New York Giants until packing their lockers and heading to San Francisco in 1957 to pave the way for the birth of the modern Metropolitans.

Baseball fans such as William Mulrow believe that the name selection for the 20th century baseball franchise in Queens was not a coincidence. It is believed that the owners of today’s Mets offered fans in the New York area a team to replace their beloved Giants. Playing its early seasons in the Polo Grounds simply cemented the ties between the Giants and the Mets.

Today, the Mets play in a new stadium built next to the site of Shea Stadium in Flushing Meadow Park. With the Jets playing their home games in New Jersey, Shea Stadium was torn down in 2009 to provide additional parking for the new home of the Mets.

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