#Shortstops: Cooperstown at Citi Field

Part of the SHORT STOPS series
Written by: Elizabeth Muratore

The New York Mets have had two players inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame with a Mets logo on their plaques: Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza.

Both were present when the Mets opened up Citi Field against the San Diego Padres on April 13, 2009 and Seaver threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Piazza.

That first pitch ball is now preserved at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Before Citi Field, two other stadiums had played home to the Mets. The Polo Grounds was the Mets’ home turf in 1962 and 1963. Those were their “pre-Queens” days, while the bright blue Shea Stadium was still rising up out of a construction site several miles away. On April 17, 1964, the Mets moved to their second home ballpark as Shea Stadium opened its doors. Shea hosted two World Series titles and several other thrilling playoff runs.

By the late 1990s, rumblings had emerged that the Mets were looking for a new stadium. Though Shea had been a modern marvel when it opened in the ‘60s, it was starting to show its age as the new millennium dawned. On Nov. 13, 2006, the Mets officially unveiled the plans for their new stadium, which was constructed in Shea’s parking lot. Citigroup Inc. had signed a 20-year contract for the naming rights, and the new ballpark became known as Citi Field.

On April 13, 2009, Citi Field welcomed a sellout crowd of 41,007 Mets fans in its inaugural game. The crowd hummed with excitement as the clock ticked down toward first pitch. Around 7 p.m., the bullpen doors opened as Mets radio announcer Howie Rose introduced two men who really needed no introduction.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we direct your attention to the Mets bullpen in right-center field. Please welcome two of the greatest players ever to wear the blue and orange, Mets Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver and soon-to-be Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza!”

The two of them entered to thunderous applause from the amped-up New York crowd. Piazza ran over to his familiar perch behind the plate, while Seaver strode up to the mound. Rose’s voice echoed over the crowd once again as he proclaimed, “Tom Seaver, it’s your pitch!”

Seaver exhaled, stepped up, and fired a breaking ball toward home plate. It was a perfect strike, landing squarely in the center of Piazza’s mitt. The fans roared their approval, Piazza and Seaver posed for pictures, and the ball was quickly ushered off the field.

Later, Seaver and Piazza both autographed the first pitch ball. Seaver included HOF ‘92, the year of his Hall of Fame induction, with his signature, while Piazza etched his famous uniform number “31” at the end of his name. Piazza, who retired following the 2007 season, would earn Hall of Fame election in 2016.

Unfortunately, their presence at Citi Field’s debut did not bring the Mets good luck in the game. Mike Pelfrey surrendered the first home run in Citi Field history three pitches into his outing when Padres center fielder Jody Gerut launched a ball into the right field stands. Though David Wright did hit the first Mets home run in Citi Field history with a three-run bomb in the fifth inning, the Mets lost the game 6-5.

Nevertheless, it was a real treat for all the fans in attendance to see two of their all-time idols throw out the first pitch at Citi Field’s first game.

Elizabeth Muratore was a development intern at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

To the top
To the top

Part of the SHORT STOPS series