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Thrown Out of Shea

MetsFanSZSunday, February 22, 2009
By MetsFanSZ

Editor's Note: This is MetsFanSZ's first contribution to this site. - M.S.

The demise of Shea Stadium this week evoked memories of Mets fans everywhere of great times at "our dump." Most likely centered around the miracle of 1969, perhaps Swoboda's fantasy diving catch or Cleon's genuflection on Davey Johnson's fly ball. Younger fans remember fondly Murph's call of "Gets by Buckner."

One of my most cherished memories at Shea Stadium came from a different era, when I was forcibly ejected from the stadium. Not because of drunken behavior or even profanity, though the team was putrid at the time. The cause of my ejection was my banner.

A nondescript white twin-sized bedsheet, the banner had two words. Emblazened with fire-engine red letters, between two and three feet tall each, stroked with a four-inch wide brush, I knew the message was clearly visible from anywhere in the park when I hung it from the loge facing. The sign read. "FIRE GRANT."

The year was 1977, and Grant was M. Donald Grant, the Wall Street stockbroker who was Chairman of the Board of the Mets. Though my banner made its debut prior to the trade, the Mets, and Grant, had traded the Franchise, Tom Seaver, and plunged the team and all of its fans into despair.

At a game not long after the midnight massacre trade of Seaver, I got into a heated argument with several ushers, who called a supervisor. I insisted that of all people, Grant would defend my right to my opinion and my right to post it in the stadium, as long as it didn't say "BLEEP GRANT," that is, that other four-letter word, and as long as it didn't say "JOES PIZZA" or the like.

Well, my argument didn't hold up, and my friend Andy and I were thrown out, while our other two friends, Perry and Dave, slinked away to find other seats. Our tormentors wanted to confiscate the banner and I refused to give it up. So the loge supervisor of ushers said I could keep my banner and take it home with me, but it was either the banner or the game. Before we were physically tossed, I made sure to get the name of our ejector, "Larry," the loge supervisor, planning to complain to management vehemently. Little did I know how brilliant that was.

Andy and I wandered around outside the stadium, knowing we couldn't leave without our friends. We didn't have cell phones back then to tell them to take the train home. We were so angry and frustrated, we climbed the tree behind the left field wall to watch the game. With the scoreboard configuration back then, we could see everything, everything that happened in left field, that is.

Frustrated, Andy said we have to get back in. By then the game was in the middle innings, the gates were down and you had to knock on a door to get admitted. Andy said let's tell them that you forgot your glasses in the car and show them the ticket stubs.

We were thrown out of gate C behind home plate, so we knew better than to go back there. When we knocked on the door at Gate D, the usher opened it and we explained how I forgot my glasses. He said "Let me see your tickets." He flipped them over and said, "They're supposed to be signed. Go back to the gate you came out of."

Andy and I left, knowing we couldn't go back to that gate. But my old friend Andy had learned something. As we walked away, he said, "Have you got a pen?" He knew me better than that -- I always have several. When I said, oooh, should I sign it Joe, or Phil, Andy had what I consider to be one of the greatest strokes of genius I've ever experienced -- three words that became our mantra. "Sign it Larry," he declared. When I stopped laughing, that's exactly what I did. We knocked on the door at Gate E. We told the story to the usher, and he promptly asked for and flipped over the tickets. When he saw "Larry," he said, "Oh, Larry -- okay. Go on." Andy and I rushed up the ramp as fast as we could because we had to keep from falling over laughing until we were out of sight. It was one of my finest moments at Shea.

We knew better than to push it and go back to the loge. Instead, we headed for the mezzanine. By then, it was getting late in the game, and the Mets were again getting pounded. I knew what we had to do. We had to show Larry. We paraded "FIRE GRANT" through the mezzanine, and we were promptly found by Perry and Dave, who wanted to hear the whole story.

I had a lengthy conversation at a game with Donald Grant's daughter about how much he loved the Mets and wanted them to win and be great again. She asked me nicely to take the sign down. I actually had a lengthy conversation with Mr. Grant during that season, too. That's a whole other story. But nothing compared to getting thrown out of Shea and figuring out how to get back in.

Take that, Larry, wherever you are.

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Comments (6)

That story is priceless. Pure gold! And why any usher would want to defend Grant is beyond me but I can't wait to hear about your conversation with Grant himself.

And one more thing: He wanted his team to be a winner like he wanted to own a Maserati for the price of a Pinto.

What was that quote from Grant? Something about "when I die people will talk of how free agency killed baseball." That's not exactly it but close.

I'm from the South, and the demise of the plantation system was pretty hard down there too. But it's just as well it's gone.

That's just about the best story I've ever heard from that whole sorry era. If Gil Hodges had lived we all might have been spared Grant Tomb's and the real Clueless Joe. Backup catcher Ron Hodges and Tom Seaver spent the same number of years in a Mets uniform--that is a crime against humanity.

SZ - I want to hear that story about your chat with M.(indless) Donald next! If I'd been able to meet with that man face to face, a nose would have been punched.

That story has to trigger a thousand more, and you can add me to that list and save a page in your soon " A Thousand Short Stories About Shea Stadium" book.

Thank you all. Mike -- the ushers defended Grant like he was family to them. Back then, the Mets tried to portray themselves as a family operation, with Joan Payson as the motherly figure and Grant the father figure. No question about the Pinto.

DD – Yankee haters would say free agency HAS killed baseball. EXCEPT that the Yankees last won the Series, dare I invoke the horror Gods, in 2000. In the years since, only Boston has won it more than once, and they hadn't won it 200 years or, okay, maybe a teeny bit less than that. The Diamondbacks (who?), the Marlins, the White Sox, and the Angels have also won it, and oh, yeah, the Phillies. Teams like Colorado, Houston, and Tampa Bay have MADE it to the Series. Someday even Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Kansas City will be able to turn it around again. Probably not Texas. So even though some players make huge amounts, it's still the combination that counts. Thirty years later, baseball's certainly not dead yet.

Silver -- Absolutely. The balance of power changed for the Mets the day Hodges died, from the field general to the front office. Berra leading the mediocre 73 team to the seventh game was tons of fun. It also set the team back, believing there was a contender there. Though I got there late and missed the walk in from the bullpen, I did make it to Opening Day to see Seaver return to Shea in 83. The sale in 80 was a big turn, the real turning point was the day they got Keith for Ownby and Allen.

Dennis -- I'll try and get that one down one of these days. My memory of it isn't as sharp -- I think the conversation actually happened the afternoon of the game I got thrown out of. Enjoy Joker Marchant -- wish I could go too. Maybe later in the spring.

Anon -- Yeah, I guess I've got a bunch. Opening Days, got thrown out of the clubhouse too a couple of times. Both Jerry Koosman.

I appreciate the feedback, and let's hope and pray it doesn't go down to the last day of the season again this year.

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