By Peter Schwartz
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It’s been commonplace for multiple teams to share stadiums here in the New York/New Jersey area.
The Jets and Giants co-exist at MetLife Stadium after they spent 25 years together at Giants Stadium. In the Bronx, the old Yankee Stadium was once shared by the Yankees and Giants while the Mets and Jets were roomies for many years at Shea Stadium in Flushing.
Speaking of Shea, there was that year back in 1975 when four teams called Flushing home. That story is chronicled in a new book called “When Shea Was Home: The Story of the 1975 Mets, Yankees, Giants, and Jets.”
“I always wanted to write something about Shea Stadium,” said author Brett Topel. “It was the stadium I grew up attending as a Mets fan, and it has always had a special place in my heart.”
In the book, Topel details the events leading up to how all four teams became co-tenants and what that experience was like.
The Mets and Jets played at the Polo Grounds before Shea Stadium opened in 1964. They would get some company for the 1974 season when they were joined in Flushing by the Yankees. The Bronx Bombers needed a temporary home while Yankee Stadium underwent major renovations, so they played at Shea in 1974 and 1975.
Playing at Shea was really the only option for the Yankees while they were displaced, but it never truly felt like home.
“I think for the Yankees, it was a nuisance, but one that they knew they had to endure while Yankee Stadium was being renovated,” said Topel, a professor of sports journalism at Adelphi University.
The Yankees enjoyed two winning seasons at Shea, finishing second in the AL East in 1974 and then dropping to third in 1975. Hall of Fame pitcher Catfish Hunter joined the Yankees for the 1975 season and then later that year, Billy Martin replaced Bill Virdon as manager.
Things were starting to look a little brighter for the Yankees as they got ready to return to Yankee Stadium in 1976.
“It was definitely evident that the Yankees were headed for better days,” said Topel. “Of course, they would go on to win three straight pennants and two championships once they got back into Yankee Stadium.”
The Giants’ search for a new home took a little bit longer and covered three states.
The Giants left the Polo Grounds for Yankee Stadium in 1956 and won the NFL Championship that season. Years later, the Giants wanted a stadium of their own, but they couldn’t get a deal done with New York City. In 1971, the Giants announced they would be moving into a football-only stadium in New Jersey.
Big Blue played just two games at Yankee Stadium during the 1973 season because renovations were set to begin. So while their new stadium in New Jersey was being built, the Giants moved north to the Yale Bowl in Connecticut for the rest of the 1973 season and 1974 campaign.
The Giants were miserable at the Yale Bowl, sporting a 1-11 record at their temporary home over two seasons. So with Giants Stadium still a year away from completion, Big Blue decided to come back to New York City in 1975 and play home games at Shea.
That’s four teams — the Mets, Jets, Yankees and Giants — all playing in the same stadium in the same year.
It was mixed emotions for the Giants.
“The Giants players were thrilled to be playing once again in New York City,” said Topel. “Still, their time at Shea was not a happy one. Giants co-owner John Mara told me he vividly remembers signs being hung from the upper deck at Shea which read, “Impeach Mara,” referring to his dad, Wellington Mara.”
There were a couple of common threads for the Mets, Yankees, Jets and Giants in 1975. Not only did they share the same home, but all four teams failed to make the playoffs. So who was the MVP at Shea that year?
The answer was stadium groundskeeper Pete Flynn.
“Somehow, Flynn and his crew kept Shea’s playing surface playable for what was really nine months of nonstop action,” said Topel. “Although Flynn did tell me that by the end of the football season, there was not a blade of grass left in the stadium.”
Things began to get back to normal in 1976.
The Yankees moved back to their renovated home back in the Bronx while the Giants moved across the George Washington Bridge to their new palace in New Jersey. Shea Stadium was back to just hosting the Mets and Jets, but that would change eight years later when the Jets left Flushing to join the Giants in New Jersey.
The Mets would eventually get a new home of their own, moving into Citi Field in 2009, the same year that that Yankees moved into the new Yankee Stadium. A year later, the Giants and Jets moved into MetLife Stadium.
“When Shea Was Home” is a fabulous book about one of the most unique years in New York sports history. It’s a great read for fans of all four teams and also gives readers a great perspective of what else was happening in the Big Apple that year.
The book is published by Sports Publishing. Fore information, visit SkyhorsePublishing.com.
Don’t forget to follow Peter on Twitter @pschwartzcbsfan. You can also follow Brett Topel @BTstuff and Sports Publishing @SportsPubBooks.