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Mets ‘Shea’ goodbye to stadium, playoffs

It was bittersweet in the most literal of senses.

Thousands of New York Mets fans bid their final farewell to Shea Stadium, which closed its doors for the last time after one team legend, Tom Seaver, tossed the last pitch to another, Mike Piazza, following a colorful ceremony early Sunday evening. For Mets faithful, the ceremony was dampened, however, by what had occurred at the storied ballpark just minutes earlier.

The Mets had collapsed again.

The Mets, needing a win in the final game of the season to force a playoff for the final postseason spot, lost 4-2 to the Florida Marlins after relief pitchers Scott Schoenweiss and Luis Ayala gave up back-to-back home runs in the top of the eighth inning — ending their wild card hopes  in the final game for the second straight year.

Last year, the Mets lost to the Marlins in the final game of the season after the team had been at the top of the National League East Division since mid-May. They dropped six of their last seven games and 12 of their last 17 to surrender first place to the Philadelphia Phillies on the last day of the regular season.

This year, under bizarrely similar circumstances, the Mets had a 3 1/2 game lead over the Phillies in the division once again with 17 games left to play. Over the last several weeks, that lead evaporated, culminating in the team’s loss at Shea Sunday, ending their season and tenure at the stadium forever.

Next April the Mets will move into Citi Field, a more than $800 million stadium that has swiftly taken shape during the course of the year just over Shea’s right field fence.

In the 45 years Shea has been the Mets’ home, the team has won two world championships and 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.

But Sunday was for the Mets, and though the day ended with icons of the team saying a touching goodbye to the stadium they called home throughout the last five decades, crestfallen Mets fans left knowing the day could have been much more.

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

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