Met Talks About The First Years
By Juliet Werner
Ed Kranepool was signed by the Mets when he was just 17 years old.
Born in the Bronx, Kranepool’s first few years with the team
were spent at the Polo Grounds in Harlem. The first baseman then traveled
to Queens for the first season at Shea.
Ed Kranepool remembers the first years at Shea.
“I was a
New Yorker,” he said. “I saw it being built.”
Kranepool remembers when Shea felt more like a swamp then a first-class
“When it rained because of the drainage problems, you could
see outfielders sloshing around,” he said. “They were
sloshing through puddles.”
Although he spent over 15 years with the Mets – 1962 through
1979 – Kranepool said he now keeps his distance.
“There are guys that go to every game,” he said. “Yes,
I’m a fan. Do I go to the ballpark every day? No. If the grandkid
asks me to go I go.”
In general, he prefers to attend post season games.
“That’s when the air is very different,” he said.
When he does find himself at Shea, there are many familiar faces.
“People that I know I do say hello to,” he said. “I
don’t make it a common occurrence that I’m going down
there just to hang out in the clubhouse.”
Even though he
doesn’t go every day, he remains attached to certain components
of the stadium.
“My locker is still the same. I’ve warmed up the seat
there,” he said.
And he’s been keeping tabs on the Citi Field construction.
“It’s not as steep,” he said. “It’s
closer to the players. Gonna be a great looking ballpark. Rotunda
Having moved with the team from the Polo Grounds to Shea, Kranepool
is familiar with the process of changing stadium names.
“They have their own identity,” he said. “Tough
to say no to that kind of money.”
Still, he hopes all of Shea won’t get lost in the transition.
“I’m sure they will have a wing that brings back the memory
of Shea,” he said.
Came To Play And Never Left
By Noah C. Zuss
Ed Charles came to Queens to play for the Mets in May 1967 and never
left. He settled down in New York City and now resides in Jackson
Heights, not far from Shea Stadium where he was part of The Miracle
Mets 1969 championship team-the club that invigorated the entire city
with an improbable victory over the heavily favored Orioles.
It will be sad
for Charles to see Shea close at the end of the season. The stadium
contains so many good memories for the former ballplayer. Shea is
where he felt truly accepted by fans in the city he adopted as home.
“Shea had a certain awe about it, a place where the unexpected
happens,” Charles said, “I’m gonna miss it yeah.
There were a lot of memories there, but I guess it’s time to
His only regret is that he wishes he could have played his entire
career in New York. He loves the city and the loyal Mets fans that
in his playing days made him feel at home in Queens.
“I wish I could have played my whole career with the Mets. There
was so much energy here.”
It wasn’t always an easy road for Charles, an infielder known
as “The Glider” in his playing days. He was originally
drafted by the Boston Braves and sent to play in the Braves’
farm system in the still-segregated Deep South, during which he wrote
poetry concerning baseball and racism.
“It was quite an experience,” he said of his time taking
racist abuse. “Coming up then under those conditions, playing
in ballparks in the South…you were treated in a subhuman fashion.”
The experience, while unpleasant, put Charles in contact during spring
training with legendary players Eddie Matthews and the sublime Hank
Charles never shared the field with his friends Aaron and Matthews
with the Braves’ big club. His contract was purchased by Kansas
City, where he played his rookie season.
Before arriving for the Mets in New York, Charles made his professional
debut for the Kansas City Athletics, owned by the legendary Charlie
Finley. In his rookie season he achieved career highs in batting average,
home runs and stolen bases.
After spending seven seasons in Kansas City, Charles got his wish
and was traded to New York. At the time he believed he would be traded
to the Yankees, which would have been fine—anything to play
ball in New York.
“I asked for a trade to New York and I was surprised it was
the Mets.” After the trade, “I sort of fell in love with
New York,” Charles said.
Charles came to New York in 1967 after the team had recorded seven-straight
awful seasons in last or next to last place.
The culture of losing permeated the team, but fans came out to support
them nonetheless. Charles remembers Shea Stadium then as a “noisy
place” with “energy and so much excitement.”
In his first two seasons with the club the Mets continued their historic
struggles. It was only in 1968 that young arms began to show promise,
and the team strated to progress. Anchored by the young, soon to be
legendary Tom Seaver, the Mets went into 1969 as an improved, if still
imperfect team. Few believed that year the Mets could vie for a title,
but Charles saw the team’s potential.
“In ’69 I could see the young talent coming up. We had
a ton of hidden talent.” His confidence was infectious and other
players began to believe, “at one point we felt no one could
After the Mets won the series, Charles recalls feeling ecstatic for
his team’s achievement, the fans and the City.
“It all turned out beautifully for us and the fans,” he
said. “They really deserved it. It’s really amazing how
things worked out. Under the circumstances to realize a dream was
Reflecting on his personal thoughts at the time, Charles said it was
a very emotional moment for him. It was the culmination of a long
journey that began in Florida when Charles was just a day dreaming
little boy, fantasizing of one day of making it to the majors.
“When Cleon caught the ball for the last out—I thought
about my childhood dream of playing baseball and winning a World Series.
When I think about it now my eyes get a little watery,” he said.
Today Charles is retired and still goes to several games a season.
From his home he said, “It was a rocky, lovable ride.”
He will miss Shea, but also looks forward to a new chapter in a new
“Shea was great. I’m looking forward to sitting in seats
in the new stadium,” he said.
Met Will Miss Shea Stadium
By Liz Skalka
Shea is where Ron Swoboda got his start in Major League Baseball.
The former Met, now 63, debuted with the team at age 19 on April 12,
1965. It’s a day he says will stay fresh in his mind forever.
Swoboda joined the team in 65.
never leaves you,” he said.
It was the second year of the World’s Fair, as Swoboda recalls,
and a great year to hit the ground running as the Mets’ No.
14. He set a club record for home runs in ’65, hitting 19.
Swoboda played with the Mets until 1970 and 1971 he was traded to
the Montreal Expos. Later that year, he was traded to the Yankees
and played for them until being traded once again to the Atlanta Braves
in 1973. Swoboda’s career with the Braves never got off the
ground, however, and he was released from the team in spring training
of 1974, at which time he retired from baseball.
Swoboda is perhaps best known for a play he made during the 1969 World
Series, when he caught a ball hit by the Baltimore Orioles’
Brooks Robinson in the ninth inning of game four. The Mets went on
to win the World Series that year, and a photo of Swoboda catching
Robinson’s ball at Shea became iconic.
“It was a hell of a play and over the years has gained some
legs,” he admitted. “People seem to remember that image.”
Swoboda fondly recalls his days playing at Shea, when fans used to
display huge signs for players during games on Banner Day as planes
from LaGuardia roared overhead.
“Those signs told you what they felt about the team and who
they really liked,” he said. “The stadium was draped in
all these wonderful expressions from the fans. In that day in age,
the fans were afforded tremendous opportunities to express themselves.
I think it made the relationship between the players and the fans
a lot more intimate.”
Swoboda said games at the stadium, which he described as a big “triple
decker horseshoe,” were always packed with fans.
“We drew well,” he said, “and you knew all the characters.”
Swoboda admitted he’s upset to see Shea go after so many years.
“I think I’m old enough to know that progress happens
whether you want it to or not,” he said. “I still understand
some of the realities of baseball … Shea just doesn’t
have the space for some of the things that are important today in
But the times Swoboda captured with the team at Shea will never be
lost for him.
“I don’t think it’s exaggerating to say when it
comes to Shea I’m going to have a big hole in my heart,”
he said. “That’s where all the memories live.”
Sign All-Star And Life-Long Friend
By Brad Groznik
Rusty Staub was an All-Star when the Mets traded the Expos for him
For nine years, Daniel Joseph Staub, nicknamed Rusty for his red locks,
had shown his talent on the ball field with the Houston Colt .45s
and the Montreal Expos. In coming to New York, Staub said he was excited.
After 23 years on the field, Staub became
a pretty good team then,” he said. Just three years earlier,
the Mets had performed one of the biggest upsets in World Series history
when they beat the Baltimore Orioles in a five game romp.
Shea Stadium was still a new ballpark then and Staub said the ballpark
was always packed with fans.
“It was exciting to play in New York City,” he said.
Playing at Shea, however, had its difficulties.
“Shea Stadium was the stadium of foibles,” he said.
Staub said that because the field was built on a swamp, it never took
the rain well. This was especially apparent in Staub’s position
in right field where puddles would form and have to be filled in with
“The rain made a couple of holes and the field was pretty rough,”
Still, Staub led the Mets in doubles that year and helped beat the
Cincinnati Reds in the National League Championship. The team went
on to the World Series that year but lost to the Oakland Athletics.
In 1974, Staub led the team in at bats with 561 and in hits with 145.
He also lead the team in Runs Batted In and on base percentage from
In 1975, Staub became the first Met to have more than 100 RBIs. Darryl
Strawberry beat the record in 1990.
Also during Staub’s first stint with the Mets, he got into the
restaurant business, opening a Cajun-style place in Manhattan named,
what else, “Rusty’s.”
“I grew up in New Orleans,” he said. “So you’re
going to learn something in the kitchen.”
When Staub was injured after crashing into the right-field wall in
1973, he said he would go to rehab in the morning and then hang out
with the chef in the afternoon.
“People were asking me to get into the restaurant business and
finally I said ‘yes,’” he said. “I did that
for 21 years.”
After the 1975 season with the Mets, Stab was traded to the Detroit
Staub returned to the Mets in 1981 to finish out his career in 1986
at the age of 41. He had a batting average of .279, 292 homeruns and
1,466 RBIs. He was inducted into the New York Mets Hall of Fame in
After retiring, Staub said he felt fortunate and wanted to do something
for the City that gave him so much.
“I felt I could do something to give back,” he said.
Staub started the Rusty Staub Foundation-benefiting youth and fighting
hunger in the five boroughs.
The foundation funds the education of youths as well as contributes
to eight emergency food pantries in the City, serving 650,000 meals
Staub also chairs the New York Police and Fire Widow’s and Children’s
Benefit Fund of those killed in the line of duty and on the wall of
“It was very common growing up that people would help other
people,” Staub said. “It was part of our lives.”
Also after retiring, Staub became a Mets announcer for 10 years.
“The biggest difference was; you come to the game and you’re
not in uniform,” the 23-year-veteran said.
Staub now is an ambassador for the Mets for community service, special
event, Diamond Suites and sponsors.
He said he is excited to move into the new stadium.
“Shea will always be about memories,” he said, “of
families coming together to see baseball.”