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Shea Stadium Nearly Had Astroturf

By Mike Silva ~ February 25th, 2012. Filed under: New York Mets, NY Baseball Memories.

I was surprised when I found out earlier this week that Shea Stadium nearly went Astroturf for the 1985 season.

Over at Sports Media Watchdog, I interviewed Michael Damergis, author of a great 25th anniversary book about the United States Football League called “USFL: The Rebel League the NFL Didn’t Respect but Feared.”

During the 30-minute podcast, Damergis talks about the rise in popularity of the league- in Detroit they were more popular than the Lions- the stars that went on to great NFL careers (Jim Kelly, Herschel Walker, Bart Oates, Antony Carter, Doug Flutie), coaches who cut their teeth in the league (Jim Mora and Steve Spurrier), and why it ultimately folded in 1986. One of the interesting stories was about the New Jersey Generals, who played at Giants Stadium. Their owner was none other than Donald Trump.

Damergis informed me that Trump wanted to move the Generals to Shea Stadium and the Mets were going to accommodate the move by installing artificial turf. The plan was scrapped by the city when they learned they had to tear out the entire field and build four-foot foundation around it to support it. Here is an excerpt from the November 15th, 1984 edition of The Day:

New York City Officials said Wednesday that the Koch administration and the Mets have decided against installing artificial turf at Shea Stadium and that they plan to upgrade some of their plush luxury boxes…Mayor Edward Koch and the Mets last April said the city would spend $25 million to renovate the ballpark, but suggested that changes by the Mets might boost the cost to $40 million.”  

Some additional research uncovered that Trump also tried to build a football stadium for the Generals across the street from Shea. Of course, Trump has been accused of being the reason the USFL folded because of his push to move the league from the spring to the fall in order to compete with the NFL. Many believe Trump had his eyes on an NFL franchise and wasn’t as invested in the league as the other owners. It was the main premise behind and ESPN 30 for 30 film, “Small Potatoes,” that ran last year.

Not everyone was happy about the Mets flirtation with turf. According to Damergis, Ralph Kiner was incredulous about the possibility of good old Shea going the route of all those 70s cookie-cutter ballparks.

Personally, I am glad they decided against it. It would have made an ugly ballpark that much worse. Also think how turf could have impacted the 1986 World Series. Mookie Wilson‘s ball might not stay down, and instead, provide a friendly hop to Bill Buckner to continue the game into extra innings. Who knows how that turns out?

In a way, we can thank NYC Mayor Ed Koch for helping the Mets win the ’86 World Series.

If you like to download the podcast, you can do so here, or subscribe to it in the iTunes store.


Another funny New Jersey Generals fact was how Trump elected to veto his head coach, Walt Michaels, and draft Doug Flutie over Boomer Esiason.

The Long Island native and WFAN Morning Host “star” might have won a championship if he were teamed with Herschel Walker.

Boomer Esiason, New Jersey General. I like that headline.

In a way it was the earliest edition of “The Apprentice” where Esiason was fired and Flutie, hired. Hey Boomer, you’re fired!


Staying on the Mets topic this morning, yesterday was the Memorial Service for Gary Carter. We discussed Carter a ton last week, but there is one interesting piece of information that I came across during this time.

As I mentioned before, I spoke to former Mets GM Frank Cashen back in July of 2010. Cashen talked about how Expos President John McHale wanted to keep the talks secret for fear of it coming out in the Montreal press. Carter, obviously, was extremely popular and talks of a pending deal could make its completion difficult. After 25 conversations, the two teams elected to swap Carter for Hubie BrooksFloyd YoumansMike Fitzgerald and Herm Winningham.

I received an email from someone that was friendly with a Mets front office official, at the time. When the trade reached the critical stage, the Mets gave the Expos 24 hours to say “yes” or “no”.  The Mets had offered Fitzgerald, Youmans, Mookie Wilson and Ron Gardenhire. The Expos countered by saying they wanted Hubie Brooks instead of Gardenhire. The Mets said they couldn’t have both Mookie and Hubie; it was Mookie and Gardenhire or Brooks and Herm Winningham.

Of course, this story is third-hand, so take it with a grain of salt, but I thought it was interesting to see some insight into the anatomy of one of the most important deals in Mets history.

So think about it…Mookie Wilson was nearly the centerpiece of the Gary Carter deal. Think about how that might change things with Brooks at shortstop. Dykstra in centerfield and Brooks at short is better than Rafael Santana and a Dykstra/Mookie platoon, which is what they were left with after the deal… at least in my opinion.


I would be remiss if I didn’t give the Gary Carter Foundation a mention since they were the ones that helped set up the original Carter interview I conducted in 2007 on 1240 AM WGBB.


I don’t know if that deal would be viewed favorably today. Despite the fact that Carter was the “missing piece” to the Mets championship puzzle, he was 31-years old with bad knees when he was acquired. Carter had one MVP-type season, one All Star season, two declining below league average seasons, and one season where he was injured and rendered a backup.

The Mets gave up a speedy outfielder in Herm Winningham (remember, this is the 80s so stolen bases were in vogue), a very promising RHP in Floyd Youmans who averaged nearly a strikeout per inning in the minors, a young defensive catcher in Mike Fitzgerald who grew up with the pitching staff and Brooks, who was a shortstop who hit for power and average - a rarity before the A-Rod, Jeter, Nomar and Tejada era.

As it turns out, none of the players amounted to much. Youmans fell to substance abuse, Winningham was a fourth outfielder and Fitzgerald a backup catcher. Brooks eventually was moved to right field, where his value was far less, as he didn’t stay healthy or provide the kind of defense or range that Montreal needed at shortstop.

I say the deal turned out to be a steal.

I also suspect there would be, at best, a 50/50 split on the approval rating of the deal.

You know what? Let’s see what you think. Transport yourself “Back to the Future” style to 1984. Keep in mind who Carter was (forget ’86- if you can), and use current day “prospect-hugging” principles to see if this deal would be favorable. I say no, but I want to hear from you.

Want to know where to find Mike Silva now? He Host's the "Weekend Watchdog” on Long Island’s ESPN affiliate Champions Radio (96.9/107.1FM Suffolk) go to http://weekendwatchdog.com to listen and interact with Mike at mikesilvamedia.com
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