TRAIN BLOG (WSAU) No one knows what turns a New Yorker into a Yankees or a Mets fan. The Yankees are tradition. The Mets are scrappy upstarts.
Uncle Kenny, who was a bit of a scrapper himself, was a Mets fan. He lived in Queens, exactly five subway stops away from Shea Stadium.
Summer visits to New York would almost always involve baseball games. Trips to the ballpark would happen one of two ways. I’d get a call from my Dad in the late afternoon. His company, a sporting goods distributor, had a field box at Yankee Stadium. The tickets, right behind the Yankees dugout, were intended for salespeople to entertain clients. But if the tickets to that night’s game were unused, Dad would snatch them up and call me. He’d drive to Grandma’s house to pick me up, and off to the game we’d go. We’d have some of the best seats in the house.
Baseball games with Uncle Kenny were completely different. He’d get out his transistor radio, and we’d walk up Northern Boulevard towards the elevated Flushing line. We’d be climbing the stairs up the station as the first pitch was being thrown. The game would be in the second or third inning by the time we’d arrive at Shea Stadium. By then some of the ushers and ticket-takers would go home for the night, and leave their gates unattended. The Mets of the mid and late 70s were awful. The crowds were small. There was no reason for the ushers to stick around for fans who weren’t coming. If we were willing to show up a few innings late, we’d walk into the Mets game for free.
The end of a ballgame at Yankee Stadium meant a quick dash to one of the parking ramps around the ballpark. It could take an hour for your car to wind down to street level, and even longer to fight the traffic before getting onto the Van Wyke Expressway to head home. Getting out of The Bronx on game night was a pain in the neck.
Getting out of Shea Stadium, with an admittedly smaller crowd, was a snap. Exit near Gate 6 near the right field foul pole. The Shea Stadium-Willets Point station was just a few steps away, with an entrance at the end of the sidewalk. Two pocket-tracks were just beyond the station, where the Flushing Line trains would wait for the game to let out. As the platform filled up, the trains would pull in almost one after another, loading up with passengers and then pulling away.
The Flushing Line trains after a baseball game were lively. You’d stand shoulder to shoulder with fans who’d soaked in sun, beer, and hotdogs. There’d be talk about the game, usually focusing on what bums the Mets were, or who the day's hero was. The train ride was downright happy if they’d won. We’d be back at Jackson Heights while the post-game show was still on the radio. We’d listen to it on Uncle Kenny’s transistor radio as we walked back to his apartment.
I grew up to be a Mets fan. Maybe it was because they were the lovable baseball bums of New York. It might also be because the train ride was better.
Operations Manager-Midwest Communications, Wausau