Point/Counterpoint: Et In Our Stadia Ego

Two fans of New York baseball mourn the demise of their ballparks

Point: Tempus fugit, memento mori

April is the cruellest month, breeding the first signs of summer out of the dead land. But April will be especially cruel next year, for the roots of the rarest lilac have been dug up, and whose fair bloom will welcome the nascent summer never again.

Fans of the New York Yankees, the most successful professional sports franchise in history, no doubt will remember warmly their defunct Stadium—the site of countless fond memories from childhood, historic home runs and no-hitters, some of the finest teams and greatest players in the sport’s century of existence.

But a heritage of success, and a national popularity, cannot alone confer greatness—or, at least, inspire true affection and devotion from a legion of discriminating fans. More importantly, Yankee Stadium will repose dearly in the hearts of Yankee fans, and all true devotees of baseball, not because of its many championships—and other trophies to the vanity of man—but because of the noble spirit, the magnanimity which it has always represented and with which it had imbued the sport.

The Yankees won often, but won with grace. Their players, with few exceptions, respected the tradition reflected in their pinstripes, and eschewed the showboating, sleaze, and unshaven slovenliness common among other teams. Yankee management never passed over into that netherworld of statistics and other alchemical arcana; rather, they continued to rely on what had always worked: character and heart. The Stadium, their home in the Bronx, stood firm for what was best about the sport, as other, lesser teams floated aimlessly in a sea of unchecked change.

Its glory—along with that of the Yankees—may have faded, as the age of “sabermetrics,” and of sophisters and calculators like Theo Epstein and Billy Beane, has succeeded. But as long as our memory endures where Yankee Stadium cannot, we shall know that the baseball of today—with its expansion teams, steroids, instant replay, and other demonic innovations—was a mere shadow of what it once was, and what it may yet again still one day be.

Christopher B. Lacaria ’09, a Crimson editorial editor, is a history concentrator in Kirkland House.

Counterpoint: The pied beauty of Shea Stadium

The most famous moment in Shea Stadium’s 44-year history is an error—the Mookie Wilson grounder that miraculously skipped through the splayed legs of Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner, capping the Mets’ improbable comeback in game six of the 1986 World Series.

This seems fitting, because Shea Stadium is itself a giant error in both form and functionality. Unlike Yankee Stadium, its counterpart across the Long Island Sound, Shea’s massive concrete and steel structure has none of the quaint charm of a bygone era. Its proportions are oppressively regular and unimaginative, its seats are painted garish and clashing colors, its sightlines—a vestige from the stadium’s original design as a dual use football/baseball facility—are all bad. Sounds of the game are drowned out by the frequent roar of commercial jets taking off at nearby LaGuardia Airport, which in some sense is merciful, since the Shea theme song, “Meet the Mets,” is possibly the worst piece of music ever written in the long history of music writing.

And yet, for all these reasons, Shea Stadium has also always been a particularly appropriate home for the New York Mets. Its peculiar contours echo the quirky appeal of a team constantly in the shadow of their better-attended, better-paid, and better-performing (at least until this year) rivals the Yankees, who play a scant few miles away.

If Yankee Stadium is a cathedral of baseball, then Shea is an austere Buddhist shrine, lacking in ornamentation or opulence but rich in meaning. This makes its unfriendly confines well-suited to the Mets fan, who, like a Buddhist, accepts the inevitability of suffering as something doctrinal. Unlike Yankees fans, spoiled off the fat of 26 world championships, supporters of the Mets know that neither life nor stadiums are always pretty.

For years, I have gone to Shea myself to experience in and through it the frequent futility and fitful success of the New York Mets on summer nights when the air is alive with heat and possibility, and the world takes on the ethereal glow that only baseball on a summer night can give it.

So now, at the end of Shea’s life, I am reminded of the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, who argued that God deserves special praise for “all things counter, original, spare, strange.” Perhaps this explains why, when the wrecking balls begin to gouge holes in Shea’s alienating concrete exterior this fall, I will feel a peculiar yet visceral pang of sadness.

Daniel E. Herz-Roiphe ’10, a Crimson associate editorial editor, is a social studies concentrator in Adams House.