Cubs get to wave goodbye to Shea

Cubs get to wave goodbye to Shea

NEW YORK -- Thursday will be the Cubs' last game at Shea Stadium, and for those with Chicago connections like Ron Santo, it will be a welcome relief to see the New York Mets' ballpark demolished.

Santo did not make this trip to say goodbye to the Mets' home field. He's still haunted by that game on Sept. 9, 1969. The Cubs had a 9 1/2-game lead over the Mets that year, and the two teams clashed in a pivotal series in early September.

On Sept. 9, Santo was standing in the on-deck circle when a black cat ran around him and near the Cubs' dugout before scurrying beneath the stands. The Cubs would lose that game, 7-1, and their lead dropped to a half-game. They would finish eight games behind the Mets that season.

"At the time, I didn't think anything of it," Santo said in a recent interview. "But jeez, what an omen. It was like walking under a ladder."

A WGN Radio fan e-mailed the broadcasters on Tuesday night, asking why Santo hated Shea so much. All broadcaster Pat Hughes had to say was, "1969."

Santo was constantly reminded of that year whenever the team bus pulled up to the ballpark. There's a huge tribute on the outside of Shea to the '69 Mets and there's an image of pitcher Tom Seaver.

"That doesn't help," WGN's Cory Provus said.

As the Cubs bid goodbye to Shea, here's an interesting tidbit: Did you know the Cubs have hit more home runs at Shea Stadium (235) than any other current road ballpark? The top five include Shea, Dodger Stadium (174 homers), Minute Maid Park (102), Coors Field (99) and Miller Park (78).

All time, the 235 home runs hit at Shea is the seventh highest number among road parks in Cubs history. The franchise has combined to hit 395 at Polo Grounds V in New York, 359 at Sportsman's Park II in St. Louis, 299 at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, 292 at Crosley Field in Cincinnati, 272 at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh and 239 at Shibe Park in Philadelphia.

Did you know that Shea Stadium is where Cubs first-base coach Matt Sinatro hit his only home run? On Aug. 27, 1982, Sinatro was playing for the Atlanta Braves and connected in the third inning, a two-run shot with one out off New York lefty Pete Falcone.

For Jason Marquis, Shea Stadium will be the third ballpark he'll say goodbye to. He was the final pitcher at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, and also got the last save. He also bid farewell to old Busch Stadium.

But Marquis has good memories of the ballpark. He grew up on Staten Island and played his high school city championship game at Shea. In that game, he started at shortstop and came in to close the game.

He also pitched the first game at the ballpark after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, which was on Sept. 21. Marquis was a member of the Atlanta Braves' staff then.

"That was real emotional," Marquis said. "I had ties to everything that happened. There's been a lot of memories for myself and my friends who are big fans of the New York Mets. They're going to enjoy these last days at Shea."

Cubs manager Lou Piniella was asked if he had any fond memories of the ballpark.

"Not really," Piniella said. "I played here two years when they were refurbishing Yankee Stadium. I thought it was a nice ballpark for line-drive hitters to hit in."

Just then, an airplane from nearby LaGuardia Airport flew over, drowning out any conversation. Someone jokingly asked Piniella if he'll miss the jets.

"The airplanes and the papers flying around -- that's it," he said.

Pitching matchup
CHC: RHP Rich Harden (10-2, 2.03 ERA)
Harden had what he called an "ugly" game against the Brewers. He only gave up one hit over five innings but walked six. He also struck out seven, and he had to be pulled because his pitch count had reached 115. Harden had a long layoff before the Milwaukee game because of the Hurricane Ike hiatus, and he should do better on a regular routine.

NYM: RHP Pedro Martinez (5-6, 5.50 ERA)
Martinez's third straight loss was similar to the one before it, albeit with some slightly better control. The most vexing coincidence was the fact that Martinez again allowed runs in the first inning -- this time, three of them -- and that the Mets never recovered from that deficit. It's a trend that neither Martinez nor manager Jerry Manuel could explain, but that has ruined some otherwise fine outings this season. He'll look to do better against the Cubs, whom he has not faced this decade.

Tidbits
Cubs pitcher Randy Wells has gone back to Chicago to undergo an MRI on his right forearm. He has some discomfort, similar to the feeling someone would get if they have shin splints. Wells is likely done for the season.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• CSN+

On radio
• WGN 720

Up next
• Friday: Cubs (Ryan Dempster, 17-6, 2.99) at Brewers (Jeff Suppan, 10-10, 5.06), 7:05 p.m. CT
• Saturday: Cubs (Ted Lilly, 16-9, 4.17) at Brewers (Ben Sheets, 13-8, 2.98), 2:55 p.m. CT
• Sunday: Cubs (Jason Marquis, 11-9, 4.43) at Brewers (CC Sabathia, 16-10, 2.80), 1:05 p.m. CT

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.