Shea Goodbye

Work at too many stadiums for too long and what you lose in patience you gain in perspective. Eventually you can tell the difference between an OK place, a semi-bad place and a truly awful place.

Here's an example: Aztec Stadium, Mexico City. It seats 115,000 and is probably best-known as the track and field venue for the 1968 Summer Olympics, the field upon which John Carlos and Tommie Smith mounted the award podium and stuck black-gloved fists into the thin, dirty air and then everybody sort of went nuts about it.

I was at that stadium for a sold-out soccer World Cup qualifier a few years ago between the U.S. and Mexico. I don't remember much about the game -- probably a tie -- but found the restroom facilities unique. Because of balky plumbing, the toilets at Estadio Azteca would not tolerate the placing of any paper products (or much else) into the system. Next to each toilet there was a small wicker basket into which customers were to put their soiled toilet paper. By halftime, as you can imagine, the atmosphere in the bathrooms was quite ripe.

On its worst day, the Vet had nothing on this place. I would rather eat Thanksgiving dinner off the floor of the men's room in the New York Port Authority bus station than visit the facilities at Aztec Stadium again. (And the next time you think you have a bad job, consider that at the end of the day it was someone's task to go around and empty all those wicker baskets.)

So when someone asks which stadium has been my least favorite to work, I don't answer lightly. Shea Stadium. Not even close.

They knocked down the last remaining bit of Shea last week, making way for the parking lot it should have been for the last 30 or so years. They could have turned it into a dump, but that would have been redundant.

Shea was awful on two levels: It was difficult to get to, and a filthy pit once you arrived. Wrigley Field can be a pain to get to, but it's a baseball palace when you finally find a place to park. The Astrodome was a dump, but it was an easy drive from downtown and you could get good barbeque afterward.

Shea? Inaccessible, ominous and covered in grime. I don't know if the Mets just stopped maintaining the place or if the general squalor of the surrounding area overtook them.

Whatever the case, farewell Shea. Don't let the bulldozer hit you in the concourse on the way out.