Jul 30, 2015

The Man Shea Stadium Was Named After: Bill Shea (1907-1991)

William Alfred Shea was born June 21st, 1907 in New York City. Shea began his education at NYU then moved on to Georgetown & Harvard Law. At Georgetown he played basketball on the varsity team.

He began practicing law & became known as a guy who got things done. Through this success he made many political & powerful contacts throughout New York City.

In 1957 when the New York Giants & Brooklyn Dodgers left New York for the West Coast, New York's Mayor Robert Wagner asked Shea to head a committee to help bring National League baseball back to the city.

Without getting much feedback from the Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates or Philadelphia Phillies, he along with Branch Rickey announced a formation of a new baseball league to rival the majors, named the Continental League.

The Continental League was to be a third League, with teams in Houston, Dallas, Minneapolis, Toronto, Denver, Atlanta, Buffalo & New York.

The owners of the National & American Leagues, held most of the power in those days & the thought of a new league cutting into their investments worried them.

MLB got together & agreed to expand, The AL got a new Los Angeles team (Angels) & Washington D.C. got another version of the Senators.

In 1962 the National League got a franchise in Houston (the Colt 45's) & New York got the Metropolitans, known as the Mets.

Bill Shea abandoned the idea of a new League & the Continental League was dead. The New York Mets played its first season in the old Polo Grounds, awaiting for their new Stadium to be built. It was delayed another year & would not open until 1964.

It's location was in Flushing meadows Queens & was to be named Flushing Meadow Park Municipal Stadium. But a movement began in support of the man most responsible for bringing Major League baseball back to New York.

Shea Stadium opened for buisness in 1964 as one of the biggest & most beautiful baseball stadiums of its time. Shea was a big baseball fan who would always attend Mets games. He got to throw out the ceromonial first pitch in Shea Stadium's history in 1964. He always joked about his legacy, saying; they'll probably rename it, 15 minutes after I die.

Another great story he told in the Mets documentary "An Amazing Era" was that on Opening Day in 1964, he sat next to two guys saying the Stadium was named after an old ball player who was killed in World War II.

Shea would form the Shea & Gould law firm which was one of the best known law firms in New York in the sixties, seventies & eighties. At one point the firm employed 200 lawyers in New York, Albany, Los Angeles, Washington & London.

Some of it's clients included the New York Mets, the A.L. New York team, Marine Midland Bank, Aristotle Onassis, NY's Mayor Abe Beame & Reverend Sun Myung Moon. The firm dissolved in 1994 three years after Shea's passing.

Bill Shea was elected top the Mets Hall of Fame in 1983. Shea passed away in 1991, at the age of 84. In 2008 the Mets honored Shea putting his name up alongside the retired Mets uniforms numbers of Gil Hodges, Tom Seaver & Casey Stengel.

Shea Stadium was demolished in 2009 & the Mets began play in their new home Citi Field.

After one season the Mets finally decided to honor Shea again, this time naming the pedestrian walkway in the outfield area the Shea Bridge.

Trivia: Bill Shea was also responsible for bringing the New York Islanders to the Nassau Veterans Coliseum on Long Island in 1972.

Shea Stadium

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