Pete Flynn Works To Keep Shea Green
By Noah C. Zuss
Pete Flynn is originally from Leitrim, a small village on the Emerald
Isle-a place of perpetual green-perfect training grounds for his decades
as grounds keeper at Shea Stadium. Flynn has worked at Shea since
the park opened in 1963, and has witnessed so many unforgettable moments;
from the improbable ’69 world championship to the rowdy teams
of the ‘80s, the tale of Shea can be told through his memories.
grounds crew cuts the grass every day during the playing season.
Photo by Tania Y. Betancourt
Flynn has been
in the United States since 1962 when he first arrived in New York
City. Back then there was a cavernous, old ball yard in upper Manhattan
called the Polo Grounds, though no polo had been played there for
Flynn arrived in New York in January of 1962, a year of transition
for New York City, and a year of big changes for Queens. The dominant
Yankees teams of the past decade were aging rapidly, and their venerable
manager Casey Stengel was to manage a rag-tag expansion team-New York’s
first National League franchise since the departed moved West.
Out of the ashes and festering garbage that had been dumped for many
decades on marshland in the middle of the borough came Flushing Meadows
Park, with Shea Stadium in the middle. The park was originally to
be opened in 1963, but wasn’t ready until a year later.
Through all the years, Pete Flynn has been there. For 46 years he
has cut the grass, watered the field and cared for the grounds. He
cares for the grounds like they are his own, and has made many friendships
First at the Polo Grounds, now at Shea Stadium, Flynn put his life
into the grass that grows along Roosevelt Avenue. Now Shea is in its
last season, and with Citi Field ready to open in 2009, Flynn “hopes
to go” work at the new field.
The grass is a Kentucky Blue Grass blend grown across the river. The
grass is cut everyday during the playing season when the team is at
home and is left to grow from November to March.
The field used to be maintained feverishly, when the Jets also called
Shea home. Back then football players used to severely damage the
field and new turf had to be put down every year, but no longer. Baseball
puts much less stress on the field so the grass is only replaced every
“Baseball doesn’t cause too much damage to the field,”
he said, “not like football.”
In the off-season the tarp comes off the blue grass, and nature takes
its course. In March grounds crews begin to get into the surface into
shape. They water the field in the early morning and manicure the
infield, mound and warning track for playing conditions.
Some grounds crews across the Major Leagues tailor the field to the
home teams liking by raising or lowering the mound, or watering often
to soften the surface, but not at Shea and not on Flynn’s watch.
“We don’t do that. Mets never did that. The mound is specifically
measured every year by two guys, so we can’t touch it.”
When the final out is recorded, and Shea closes its doors forever,
Flynn will reminisce, and record the passing of time.
“I like Shea, been there all my life. Leaving it will be sad.
It’s like a second home to me.”
Among his favorite memories while working at Shea are the friendships
he made with the players over the decades.
“The ’69 Mets were great. Seaver, Koosman, Agee, I really
liked those guys.”
Flynn’s memories read like a Shea stadium history book. After
four decades of experiences they are not only rock solid, but also
well rooted in the soil of the field.
Flies To Games To Vend
By Brad Groznik
For Bobby Lee the four seasons are fall, winter, spring and Mets season.
Since 1975, Lee, 48, has climbed up and down the stairs at Shea Stadium
as a vendor selling everything from orange drink to beer to cotton
see the art of vendors selling goods in the crowd as a dying
breed with the new stadiums having larger concession stands
and places to watch the game.
The biggest surprise
is that, since 2003 he has flown 1,200 miles from his new home in
Oak Grove, Mo., just outside Kansas City to do so. That was the deal
he made with his wife when they decided to move from Lee’s hometown.
Growing up in Flushing, Lee attended Holy Cross High School and got
a part-time job selling orange drink Sundays during Jets games at
“I started off as a bigger Jets fan than the Mets,” he
Soon his job in the fall turned into a summer job with the Mets. He
said it was tough at first.
“You have to get your foot in the door,” he said. “It’s
all based on seniority.”
Because a vendor’s pay is based on commission, Lee said the
best items to sell are beer and cotton candy, but beer is heavy.
First attending Queens Borough Community College and then working
as a New York Fire Fighter, Lee was still able to work games because
the schedule is so flexible.
“You just show up and they give you work,” he said.
After working with the Met for so long, Lee was at the top and didn’t
want to give up his beloved position when he moved.
So every season, Lee, now retired and a stay-at-home-dad, buys several
plane tickets to come to the Mets home games, which usually are scheduled
in week long stints. He said he stays with his mom who still lives
“She likes it,” he said. “I get to come home and
take care of her.”
Working in New York’s stadiums is a family tradition in the
Lee household as both his grandfather and father were ushers at Yankee’s
When asked why then he wasn’t a Yankees fan, Lee said “The
Mets were good when I was first getting into baseball. And I could
walk to the stadium and see the games.”
Interestingly when the Mets weren’t good, he would be sent home.
“They didn’t need vendors when the team wasn’t selling
tickets,” he said.
He said his favorite memories at Shea were when the Mets won the World
Series in ’86 and one other important moment in his life.
“I met my wife at Shea,” he said.
Of the 80 or so home games, Lee made it to 66 games in 2006 and 60
But his future is shaky as the Mets move to Citi Field with more concession
stands and places to watch the game outside of the grandstands.
“We’re a dying breed,” he said.
Now in Kansas City, Lee said he tried working for the Royals and the
Chiefs but he lost his seniority.
“It’s not the same,” he said.
Shares Vows At Shea
By Juliet Werner
As Citi Field nears completion, most Mets fans are enthusiastic about
the prospect of attending ballgames in a brand new arena. This is
not the case for Lauren Forte, formerly Lauren Ackerman, daughter
of Congressman Gary Ackerman, (D-Bayside) and diehard Mets fan.
“I know everyone’s excited about the new stadium,”
Forte said. “But you know it’s where I got married…
We’re kind of crushed.”
a ceremony held on the field, the celebration continued at Shea
Stadium’s Diamond Club.
Forte met her
husband, Paul, at Ryan High School in Fresh Meadows, but the two didn’t
get to know each other until a mutual friend introduced them years
later. Once engaged, they struggled to decide on an appropriate venue.
“We were trying to go a fairly traditional route – like
a hotel,” Forte said. “We had a lot of out of town guests.”
Then, as the story goes, Mrs. Ackerman said it was a shame the couple
couldn’t get married at Shea. As soon as the stadium was proposed,
Mr. Ackerman whipped into action.
“It snowballed from there,” Forte said. “My father
made a couple of phone calls.”
It rained the day of the wedding, June 14, 2003. The Mets organist,
Robert Shaheen, played “All You Need Is Love,” as the
guests took their seats in a tent that had been erected over home
plate. Forte’s brother, Ari Ackerman, sang the National Anthem.
Rabbi Charles G. Agin and Dr. Joseph Modica, a minister of the Christian
and Missionary Alliance and an uncle of Mr. Forte, administered the
“You’re on the stage looking out at everything,”
she said. “It felt very much mine.”
Forte, who works as a managing editor at Simon and Shuster, said this
feeling endured for some time.
“The first game back still felt like it was mine,” she
said, adding she still goes to 10 to 20 games a year though the number
has decreased since the birth of her son.
“I have so many great memories there,” she said. “Especially
the ’86 series. It’s kinda sad. I’m nostalgic.”
For 10 Years Amante Sings Anthem
By Liz Skalka
Michael Amante is a regular at Shea.
Amante sung the national anthem at Mets home games for the past 10
years, he recalled. One day, someone from the team contacted the singer
and asked him if he wanted to audition for the gig.
Michael Amante has been singing at Shea
for 10 years.
called me up and asked me if I would be willing to do it,” he
said. “I was one of the few people who didn’t put an earplug
in my ear. I just kinda forged ahead and didn’t let the PA bother
Amante released five albums throughout his career and sings both pop
and classical tunes. In 2001, he had the No. 1 selling classical album
in the country. Amante sings in a variety of settings including casinos
throughout the country and has performed as lead roles in operas.
Amante said performing at Shea is a bit of a challenge, but this has
never stopped him from singing his heart out on opening day or when
the Mets are up against the Yankees.
“They have that big wall of speakers so it’s a long delay
and it throws a lot of singers off on their timing,” Amante
said, adding that he has to ignore the airplanes flying overhead when
Amante happens to be a diehard Mets fan and said he’ll do anything
to give the team a leg up over the Yankees.
“[The Mets are] really the hometown team,” he said. “It’s
always a packed house.”
Amante was always more of a singer than a sports fan growing up, he
said, but since beginning the gig with the Mets has grown to love
“I grew up not really caring too much about sports … I
was a musician my whole life,” he said. “Now that I’m
over there I go to games when I’m not singing.”
Amante added, “I’m just waiting for my son to be a little
older to take him over there. He’s four.”
Amante said he’s has great experiences and Shea and will be
sad to see it torn down.
“It’s a neat place,” he said. “I hope that
the other place is going to develop its own sort of sense of community.”
Sometimes after singing the anthem, Amante has to leave the stadium
right away, and he said this upsets Mets fans the most.
“The Mets fans want you to sit through the whole game,”
Security at Shea Increases After 9/11
By Juliet Werner
In the days immediately following 9/11, Shea Stadium was turned into
an outdoor storehouse for donated clothing and resources for rescue
crews. On Sept. 21, professional sports returned to the City at Shea.
The first game after 9/11 at Shea Stadium.
The game, played
before a crowd of 41,235, commenced with a ceremony led by then Mayor
Rudolph Giuliani, Liza Minnelli and Diana Ross. In the eighth inning,
Mike Piazza hit a two-run homer and the Mets beat the Atlanta Braves
Just as Queens’ airports now require passengers to arrive hours
earlier than before, Queens’ major stadium asks fans to arrive
far in advance in order to comply with a host of new security measures.
Whereas one can enter Madison Square Garden or Radio City Music Hall
without being stopped, everyone who comes to Shea must pause for inspection.
Shea’s staff searches all bags and hand-carried items.
Fans used to bring coolers packed with refreshments, but now no items
larger than a breadbox are allowed. According to the Mets Web site,
cans, glass bottles, beverage containers, commercial audio/video equipment,
alcoholic beverages, illegal substances, laser pointers, noisemaking
devices, fireworks, animals and, predictably, weapons are prohibited.
The only permitted items are diaper bags, clear plastic bags and sealed
In addition, Mets staff now reserves the right to search any vehicle
in the parking lot and the only vehicles able to pull up to the curb
are those carrying disabled fans.
“As these procedures may result in delays entering the stadium,
we encourage you to arrive early,” the Mets Web site reads in
part. “Normally, gates open 1.5 hours prior to game time and
Gate C opens 2.5 hours prior to game time for those wishing to enjoy
In that first game against the Braves, the Mets wore uniforms featuring
the logos of the New York Police Department, Fire Department and Emergency
Medical Services. The uniforms have returned to their age-old blue
and orange, but there is one change – in addition to increased
security – that will be permanent; the scoreboard’s neon
skyline now has a ribbon covering the space where the World Trade
Center towers once glowed.
Number Seven Train is Way To Shea
By Noah C. Zuss
The best way to travel to a ballgame in New York has always
been by subway. The lines of service are inextricably linked to the
stadiums they serve. Yankee Stadium is forever associated to the Lexington
line, and Shea Stadium is married to the most inimitable of all-the
number 7 train.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is as vast and varied as
the city itself. The crown jewel and most unique line is the No. 7
line that runs along eight miles of track from Times Square in Manhattan
to Main Street in Flushing. Known as the “International Express,”
it is so-named because of the great ethnic diversity of its riders
who live along its route.
A seven train rolls along the
elevated route to shea with Manhattan buildings in the background.
it is one of only two non-shuttle lines that carry a single service
and does not share space with any other line.
And of course, the No. 7 is the best way to get to Shea Stadium for
a Mets game.
In 1999, the Flushing line was designated a National Millennium Trail
by a joint program of the White House and the United States Department
of Transportation. It was selected as intrinsically representative
of the immigrant experience and because the path of the Flushing line
has been in continuous use as a transportation route since the 17th
These days it transports die-hard Mets fans safely to and from Mets
games. On game nights the platform at the Stadium is packed with raucous
fans, fresh from the ballpark. Riding the 7 to a game is truly a New
York experience, and gives Queens its own flavor.
Avowed Mets fan, Frankie King, from Brooklyn recalls taking the No.
7 line to Mets games as a child and the special ritual it became.
From looking out the window as the train went above ground, to the
steadily increased excitement and anticipation he felt as the car
neared the stadium, “baseball is on people’s minds.”
“It’s a great thing,” He said. Taking the seven
to Shea is a great tradition. Every stop more Mets fans get on, geared
up and ready to go, it creates a stadium atmosphere before you even
get there. It’s awesome.”
With beautiful views of the city as the train rumbles away from Manhattan,
the No. 7 line serves Shea Stadium, Louis Armstrong Stadium and Arthur
Ashe Stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. The line also serves
Little India in the neighborhood of Jackson Heights and the P.S.1
Contemporary Art Center in Long Island City.
The No. 7 line was the last line to use the Redbird series of subway
cars. Before 2002, the whole line was populated by the World’s
Fair Version Redbird train car-an outdated model. Through the years,
these cars were replaced by the newer, Bombardier-built cars. The
last hurrah for the Redbirds came on Nov. 3, 2003, when the last car
made its final trip.
Many Redbird cars running on the No. 7 line were decorated festively
for the Subway Series in 2000. Cars featured Mets logos and team colors
during the series against the New York Yankees, perhaps the most traffic
on the line during its entire history.