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Apple may rise no more for Shea after Sunday

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By Stephen Stirling

For some New York Mets fans, hopping on the Long Island Rail Road to head to Shea Stadium this week is a pilgrimage.

The stadium, which has housed the team since 1964, will close its doors for the last time this week to make way for Citi Field, which has risen steadily next door throughout the season. The Mets could play their last game at Shea this Sunday when they finish the regular season against the Florida Marlins, and several fans said they bought tickets to this week’s games just to make sure they sat in its bright orange seats one last time.

“We’re going for nostalgia purposes,” said Justin Stein, as he strolled toward Bayside’s LIRR station with his brother, Jason.

“Like my friend has always said, ‘It’s a dump, but it’s our dump,’ ” Jason chimed in.

In the 45 years Shea has been the Mets’ home, the team has won two world championships and the four National League pennants. The stadium has also played host at various points in its history to the New York Jets and New York Giants football teams and even crosstown rivals the New York Yankees during the 1974-75 season.

A visit by Pope John Paul II in 1979 and performances by the Beatles in 1965 and 1966 are among the memorable cultural events that have graced the stadium’s field.

The Mets will move into CitiField next year, a more than $800 million stadium that has swiftly taken shape during the course of the year just over the right field fence at Shea.

Though the Stein brothers, who are from Flushing, said it would be sad to see Shea go, they are excited about the team’s new home.

“Yeah, it will be different, but I’m looking forward to it,” Justin Stein said. “We’ve been to a lot of stadiums around the country, all far better than Shea, so it will be nice to have a stadium we can finally enjoy.”

Though the situation with their stadium may be different, Mets fans are in a similar situation to this time last year — which ended with the team completing one of the worst collapses in baseball history and missing the playoffs in the process.

With just six games to play as of press time Tuesday, the Mets had a razor-thin one-game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers for the wild card playoff slot and were 2 1/2 games behind the Philadelphia Phillies for the division lead.

It is a position that is too close for comfort for the Mets faithful.

“This team is terrible for my health,” said Tom Wallace, a Bay Terrace resident, as he prepared to head to Shea Monday. “Nine run leads, 10 run leads, it doesn’t matter. There’s always a chance for them to blow it. I’m still going, though, and even if they don’t make it again this year, I’ll go again next year, but man it’s been rough.”

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at Sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, ext. 138.

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