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.