It’s October 16, 1969, at Shea Stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens. There are planes flying uncomfortably low to and from LaGuardia Airport, the World’s Fair pavilion is within view and Cleon Jones just caught a fly ball off the bat of Davey Johnson for the final out, clinching a World Series victory for the improbable New York Mets. Fans pour onto the field to join baseball’s champions in celebration, eventually tearing up the sod long after the Mets players had retreated to their locker room for a champagne bath.
If you were at Shea Stadium that day, chances are you saw Jones clasp the final out in his glove—and that’s because there wasn’t a whole hell of a lot else to do in the ballpark during the days of Tom Terrific. Though the Mets joined the league in 1962, Shea Stadium didn’t open until 1964. Concession stands were simple back in 1969. From field level to the upper deck, each section had maybe a handful of stands slinging snacks at the mouths of the Flushing faithful as they gripped game day scorecards (at 25 cents a pop). Without even looking at an official lineup of Shea Stadium eats from 1969, you could probably guess what baseball fans were eating in those days. There were hot dogs, peanuts and, yes, Cracker Jack, but also knishes, ham sandwiches, pie and cigarettes. That, and the actual game on the field, was the extent of the entertainment. Today, you could go to a Mets game at Citi Field and spend the entire game walking around the stadium, never even planting your butt in your seats.
From the open-air heights of the upper deck, to the climate-controlled enclosures of the VIP sections, modern ballparks like Citi Field boast an embarrassment of sights, sounds and tastes that are all seemingly designed to steal your attention from the action on the field, regardless of whether the team is winning a pennant or mired in yet another losing season. Lobster tacos? Citi Field’s got that. Gourmet pizza? Citi Field’s got that. Cookie dough-based dessert? Somehow, Citi Field’s got that. Add actual restaurants and fashionable breweries and, wait, why did we come to the ballpark?
Contrast what a fan could get in 1969 at Shea Stadium with what is available today, and it seems like these days the competition is between food vendors to see who can generate the most cash during a nine-inning game. But, if you think about it, teams in Major League Baseball only started to offer high-end ballpark food because we, the fans, demanded it. We might not have explicitly asked for it, but we sure didn’t turn away those Black Angus burgers and smoked ribs when they made their debut on the major league food roster. And some might argue that having those options available only add to the excitement of a trip to the ballpark, rather than divert your intentions entirely.
Of course, the biggest complaint today’s stadium-goers have is reserved for the price of everything. From the tickets, to the parking, to the food and drink, if you take your family of four to a Mets game, I hope you’ve set aside at least a couple of hundred bucks—even if you snagged secondary-market tickets in the cheap seats.
Now, you could recreate a day eating at Shea in 1969 the next time you head to Citi Field to watch the Mets probably not win the pennant. Buy yourself a hot dog, pack of peanuts, a beer and some ice cream, as all of those items are indeed available at today’s home of the New York Mets. At 1969 prices, that would bring your total to $1.45. Adjusted for inflation, that’s $10.26 in today’s cash.
Not quite what you’d actually have to pay at Citi Field for that meal, but hey, you’ve got to pay extra for all that 2019 ambiance.