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Ed Kranepool

August 2, 2008
 Untitled 
I’ve been to Shea Stadium many times, and I’ve never left unhappy. Unlike at Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park, the other two places where I’ve witnessed many major league baseball games, the stakes were never very high for me at Shea. Although I rooted for the Mets there, it never mattered that much to me if they didn’t get the job done. I was only ever there to get out of the day. In that way it’s a special place to me, a friend who never demanded anything but who was always there if you needed someone to hang out with. A mensch. I’ll be sad to see it go.

You don’t hear that much about this being the last year of Shea, at least not compared to the bombast of the extended elegaic farewell being offered to the other stadium in New York. They call that other place The House That Ruth Built, a moniker that communicates the deep aura of history and legend surrounding that structure. They don’t call Shea anything and never have, at least as far as I know. But maybe in this its last few weeks, to parallel the more well-known stadium in the Bronx, it can become known as The Building Where Ed Kranepool Resided for Quite a While. 

For many, many years, Shea Stadium did not exist without Ed Kranepool, a member of the original Mets in 1962. He is shown here in 1976, fourteen years later and still with a ways yet to go in his Mets career as a part-time first baseman. He has just completed his best year, batting .323 in 325 at-bats, but one gets the sense from his expression that he is not putting much stock in the sizzling batting average. Some days you do OK, some days you don’t. This is the unflappable credo of Kranepool, the tough, humble survivor, the reliable friend, the mensch.

Anyway, I’m going to be taking the next week to travel. No work, no writing. Part of the trip will be one last happy baseball game at Shea. I’m bringing this card of ol’ Ed Kranepool with me.

28 comments

  1. 1.  Growing up in Port Washington, one end of the LIRR line that runs to Shea, I saw many Mets games growing up. I was always a Yankee fan, but generally until adulthood I saw more Mets games every year in person.
    So, while I have always derided Shea as big, ugly, concrete dump with no character at all, I will miss the place very much. I have a lot of great memories there, some of the games themselves (Gooden’s 1-hitter in ’84, the Scioscia playoff homer in ’88, etc), and some just of the company I was with, or the events surrounding the game.
    It’s forever entwined in my childhood and adolescence.


  2. 2.  Josh — have safe travels, man. Alex Belth told me about this great Thai place near Jackson Heights that you can find here:

    http://www.thaicuisine.com/r/0399.html

    Also, you might want to check out the italian market at Arthur Avenue in the Bronx (which made quite an impact on me when I was there in June). I hope you’ll go to Yankee Stadium too…


  3. 3.  Wow,what a long undistinguished career.

    Check out Foley’s on 33rd by Broadway if you’re in the area. It’s across the street from the Empire State Building and claims to have over 4000 signed baseballs in the bar. The bathroom walls have tremendous sports pages plastered to the wall, including the 04 ALCS choke coverage. You can sit at the bar, look up and see signed jerseys from players who have been in the bar or donated to it. Also, chairs from stadiums(old Tiger Stadium, Fenway, etc). I think you’d love it!


  4. 4.  My most distinct Shea memory is that it’s the only stadium where I’ve seen fans tip ushers after being helped to their seats. It was a strange site, big Italian dudes and Orthodox Jews and families of four all slipping a few bucks for help finding their rows in the half-empty obstructed view upper deck.

    And yet, for all the hoopla, only one stadium gets Billy Joel to celebrate its team movin’ out. And it ain’t in the Bronx…

    Enjoy your trip


  5. 5.  4 Billy Joel sucks though – so that’s okay with most Yankee fans that he plays Shea and puts divets in the Mets field.


  6. 6.  3 , 4 : Thanks for the recommendations. On this trip I’ll only be in NYC long enough to see a Mets game one day and a Stooges show the next, with possibly a disconcerting but necessary visit to the new, polished reincarnation of the International Bar (I spent my twenties in the grimy original International).


  7. 7.  I know Eddie K. played for the Mets in 1962, but he wasn’t “an original Met,” if I recall correctly. He was a September call-up, after having been signed by the organization as a teenage free agent.

    I’m no Metsian scholar, but I think the term “Original Met” is reserved for the 25-man roster that started the season. By that stringent definition, Marv Throneberry isn’t an “Original Met” either, however.


  8. 8.  I’ve never forgiven Ed Kranepool for his feud with Chico Escuela. He borrowed Chico’s soap and never gave it back.


  9. 9.  Correct, Eddie K wasnt’ an “Original” Met, but did play in the ’62 season.

    Seeing that card reminds me of some of the hapless but lovable crew Eddie had as teammates in 1976: Bob Myrick, Benny Ayala, Roy Staiger, Bruce Boisclair, Jack Heidemann, Hank Webb.

    It also reminds me of an old flannel Mets uniform my mom got for me back in 1974. The home Mets jersey, pants, black belt and cap. And the number on the back- “9”. George “The Stork” Theodore.

    Ah, those were the days.


  10. 10.  6 : I’m not sure if I recommended anything there. But enjoy the Stooges. Iggy Pop is a lot more entertaining than Carlos Delgado these days.


  11. 11.  10 : Whoops, meant to link to 2 and 3 not 3 and 4 .


  12. 12.  11 Also Josh, if you’re flying into LaGuardia and plan to use public transportation, you probably want to take the Q-33 bus to Jackson Heights and catch the Subway into Manhattan. Right outside that Subway entrance are two AMAZING Mexican food stands. YUMMY! Best Mexican food I’ve ever had.


  13. 13.  I love Ed Kranepool! He just always seemed such an average Joe. I remember going to a double header against Pittsburgh, and in one game he hit a foul home run, which so disappointed me, followed by a real home run, which I thought was so amazing. I was pretty slow running the bases in Little League (those few times I ever got on base), so I identified with ol’ number 7.

    He also came to speak at my temple, and he now buys cars from my uncle.

    Although I have a lot of great Shea memories — the Stable Dogger (an unstable hot-dog vendor in the 1980s), buying dollar flags from veterans in the parking lot every July 4 when the Mets were home, seeing Bob Dylan play with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band a few years back, and being there for Game 7 in 1986 — I can’t say that I’ll be shedding any tears.


  14. 14.  The Mets are nominally my NL team, but I really haven’t got into them much the past couple of years.

    I enjioyed the handful of times that I went to Shea with Metfan friends, but I think the only park that I didn’t enjoy was Oakland ALameda. I did kind of wish that some team preserved one of those concrete ashtrays, like Wrigley and Fenway are preserved from a previous era.

    I guess a couple of them will still exist in the AFC West.


  15. 15.  Kranepool by the way still holds all-time Mets records for games, ABs, hits, total bases, doubles, sac flies, and GIDPs.

    He is truly amazin’ in that he held on to set all those records, despite the fact that the Mets were always trying to trade him. When that didn’t work, they exposed him to the ’69 expansion draft and waived him while demoting him to the minors — still nobody bit!

    Krane was a stockbroker in the offseason and put together a group of investors that tried to buy the Mets following 1979. If they’d succeeded, Kranepool surely would have hung around and played a few more years. He was only 34.

    There is not a whole lot of nostalgia for Shea, but there is definitely a palpable undercurrent of resentment over the new place: That it will cost so much more, have so many fewer seats, and run roughshod over Mets history while celebrating Fred Wilpon’s Ebbets Field jones. This of course is taking the Mets completely by surprise: Nobody wants to blow up Shea more than the Wilpons.

    Enjoy your last look — you will see the new place is almost done.


  16. 16.  I don’t understand the hate for Shea Stadium. the exterior is a bit ugly, but I think it’s a great place to watch a game. Who cares if there are bright orange seats?


  17. 17.  I agree it’s a fun place to watch a game. But the concourses are dark and narrow, seating is tight and cramped, and there are many bad seats (top rows of the loge and mezz offer restricted views; Upper Deck reserved are a million miles away). The player amenities are comparatively bad too from what I understand, so there’s a decent argument to replace it or at least do a very extensive renovation. I kinda liked the exterior, especially the panels which very much offered up a snapshot of the times when the Mets were born.

    The problem with the Mets is they don’t understand their fans and are so uneasy with their own history, and this faux-Dodger shrine they’re building is only going to confuse things more.

    Regarding those seats: The Mets today said they are selling them at $869 per pair. If they sold them all they’d make $24 million!


  18. 18.  Good on you, Josh. I wish I would have respected the chance to saunter through Milwaukee County Stadium in it’s final days. I should have brought my 1982 Topps Charlie Moore card, and basked in the fall sun, absorbing the surroundings. It would have been better than my actual painful final memory of the place being a 12-11 loss to Oakland, as Jose Valentin struck out swinging with the bases loaded in the rain to end it. Try hard to soak it up, with your memory that shouldn’t be hard. Hopefully the Mets can swing a win for you.


  19. 19.  Ah, what can you say about Ol’ Number 7…

    Historically, he is to the Mets what the Williamsburg Bridge is to the city of New York.

    As to the Mets not understanding their fans, reference Brian Biegel’s excellent op-ed piece from last Saturday’s New York Times:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/02/opinion/02biegel.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

    And as for Shea, I shall miss it dearly.
    It’s all I’ve ever known.


  20. 20.  Nice place? Try going in April, on or about Opening Day. Parkas required for anyone over the age of thirty, and suggested otherwise. (Taking kids is a felony.)

    And I used to do that when those seats–which are no great shakes–were $6-8, not $20+.

    If we talked about both stadia, NYC residents and workers would realise how much RudyG f*ck*d them in his last two days in office.


  21. 21.  You know how some teams (like the Orioles) retired their old ballparks by having their all-time greats come out and line up at their old positions?

    The Mets should do that in the last game at Shea, only with a bunch of the mediocrities who have typified Mets baseball over the years.
    Imagine Alex Travino waving to the fans from behind home plate … Kranepool jogging out to first … maybe Tim Teufel at second … Frank Taveras resuming his honoured place at shortstop …
    And so on.


  22. 22.  I’ll miss Shea quite a bit.

    It’s not fancy or luxurious like these modern ballparks, obviously, but it’s provided me everything I’ve ever needed when watching a ballgame. It’s also nice to head out there after work on a whim and buy a cheap ticket. I doubt that spontaneity will be possible at the new park.

    Shea Stadium – Fun House
    Carlos Delgado – Raw Power (though for much of this season he was more like the Idiot)


  23. 23.  22 : “It’s also nice to head out there after work on a whim and buy a cheap ticket. I doubt that spontaneity will be possible at the new park.”

    Great point. Cheap tickets are a thing of the past. The new place will be smaller and a lot more expensive. The target clientele is the rich and corporate, and so it’s tough luck for the rest of us.


  24. Any mets fan knows that Shea was beautiful not for what it looked like, but for the great memories it held. Some memories were great, ie ’69 , ’73, ’86, Seaver, Gooden and Straw. Some memories were horrid, ie Jimmy Qualls, Pendleton’s homer in ’87, Scioscia in ’88, final out of 2000 Series. But they all happened at Shea. As a kid, it was my favorite place in the world. I went to the final game at Shea and was not embarrassed to cry when it was time to leave that place for the last time. On my first trip to Citi Field it was like a kick in the stomach to loop around off the exit and see that there was no sign of Shea ever being there. To hell with a new stadium. I liked the old one.


  25. Shelives,

    There was a great book about Shea and being a Mets fan that just came out last fall. It’s called, “The Last Days of Shea” by Dana Brand.


  26. As a Red Sox fan, I’ve always a strange kinship with Mets fans; we both resent the Yankees. I respect Mets fans because it would always be easier to go with the Yankees.

    Does anybody else remember the SI cover (about 1990 or so) that featured Strawberry (and Gooden, I think) with the proclamation that the Mets were the new Yankees? At the time the Yankees weren’t very good and the article claimed that the Mets had become the bloodlessly efficient team that the Yankees used to be. I remember at the time I kind of missed the Yankees.


  27. sb1902,

    As a Mets fan, I’ve always liked and rooted for the Red Sox except for the ’86 series.

    As far as the SI cover, Strawberry and Gooden were only one SI cover together and it was in 1995 called “The Dead End Kids” and it was basically about how terrible there careers/lives were at that point.

    Gooden was on a bunch of 84-85 covers. Then he was on a 1993 cover during the “Worst team money could buy” period.

    Strawberry was on a 1988 July 1988 cover called “Mr. Long Ball”, it may have been that one. Or they may have had an article with-out a Met on the cover.

    I remember in 1991 there was a cover with Mantle and Maris on the cover that said “Whatever happened to the Yankees?”

    It’s kind of mind-boggling that those ’84-90 teams only won 1 WS 1 NLCS and 2 divisions with the amount of talent they had. I think team defense was the real weakness on those teams that was never really talked about as a problem especially post 1986.

    Another problem that’s rarely talked about is that Gary Cater basically fell off a cliff and stopped be any kind of productive player post-1986 yet he was still the full time catcher in 87-88. The pitching staff gets a lot of blame but Carter had a terrible .235/.290/.392 season

    Hernandez got hurt in ’88 and was never a productive player after that.


  28. John, now that you say it, you’re right, I’m melding the “Dead End Kids” cover with the “Whatever Happened To the Yankees?” story. The “Whatever…” story featured the line about the Mets being the new Yankees.



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