Citi Field 2
April 18, 2017 – great start, lousy finish at CitiField

I had never sat behind home plate in a baseball games. But I sat with my son about 10 rows back, staring straight down center field at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets. It was mid-April in Queens, which meant it was a chilly evening. But the Mets were holding onto a 2-1 lead late into the game…until they didn’t. A dropped pop up by Jose Reyes led to the tying run, extra evenings, and the Metsies’ eventual demise. But as they say, it’s a long season. And I got to spend a few fun hours with my son in a beautiful ballpark.

When I was growing up, Shea Stadium was where we worshipped at the Mets’ altar. When it opened up in 1964, it carried the aura of the 1964 World’s Fair – of a bright shiny future! But as Shea Stadium, located next to the tennis courts of the US Open in Flushing Meadows Park – just a short bike ride from my home – got into it’s 40s, and major league teams were opening new and 21st century ballparks, Shea was looking and feeling its age.

The ownership of both the New York Mets and New York Yankees had been lobbying the New York City government to build new stadiums for years, but the city government showed little interest in allocating tax dollars or tax breaks in the early 2000, when the economy was weak. That is, until Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s and Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff’s New York City bid for the 2012 Olympics bandwagon went off the tracks.

As explained in Part 2 “West Side Story”, the NYC2012 organizers were pinning their hopes on approval for an American football stadium for the New York Jets on the Hudson Yards, over the Long Island Railroad terminal in the southern part of Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan. This stadium would also have played hosts to the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2012 Olympics. When the New York State government, only one month prior to the International Olympic Committee’s selection of the host city, rejected approval for a New York Jets stadium, the organizers suddenly had to scramble.

Citi Field 1
Me at Citi Field

According to this detailed report by Mitchell L. Moss Director of the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management, the New York City government suddenly became very interested in building a baseball stadium in Queens for the New York Mets, announcing a plan to help finance the new stadium, which would also host the Olympics. In those hectic 72 hours of negotiation, the New York Mets agreed to build and pay for a new stadium next to their old stadium for USD600 million. The city would not only not charge for use of the city property, they would spend $180 million on infrastructure projects around the stadium, as well as offer tax-free bonds for construction costs.

Moss explains in the report that “had the IOC awarded the 2012 Games to New York, the stadium would have been converted into an 80,000 seat Olympic stadium for the Games at a cost of $100 million – paid by the City and the State – then converted back to its original baseball configuration.”

In other words, thanks to the New York City bid for the 2012 Olympics, and the failure of the Mayor to win approval of a new stadium in Manhattan for the 2012 Olympics, plans for a new stadium in Queens came to fruition.

Citi Field was born.

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Sidd Finch
From April 1, 1985 issue of Sports Illustrated

I was vulnerable.

My favorite team in sports, The New York Mets, were actually up and coming, after 13 years of supreme suckiness. Hope springs eternal, but it was especially true for Mets fans in April of 1985.

And when Sports Illustrated came out with the story, “The Curious Case of Sidd Finch”, I was ecstatic. Really, the Mets have a prospect who can throw a fastball 168 mph (270 kmh)? He wore one shoe, he played the French horn – well these eccentricities were proof that it had to be true. After all, there were pictures of him, and his locker was between those of George Foster and Darryl Strawberry. After 13 years in the wasteland, our savior had come!

George Plimpton wrote the piece that set off a media firestorm. TV news crews were sent to Florida to interview the mystery pitcher on the Mets. But no one could find him. And then two weeks later (remember, this is pre-social media), New York Mets fans woke up.

April Fools.

Writing an April Fools story is walking a fine line between incredulity and credulity. It’s got to be believable enough, and yet outlandish enough to make you go, “Say what?” Here are a few April Fools’ stories regarding the Olympics.

On April 1, 2014, this video was released announcing that skateboarding would be an Olympic sport in 2016. A day later, it was revealed to be a prank. Of course, as we know now, skateboarding is actually one of the five new sports that Tokyo 2020 is recommending for the 2020 Games.

Last year, twelve-time Olympic medalist over five Olympic Games, Dana Torres, announced she was coming out of retirement to compete at the Rio Games. Yes, she was 47. But yes, she was a swimming legend and still in fantastic shape.

Dana Torres Twitter

In April 2008, the UK Telegraph placed their April Fools story so far in the past it had to be true – that the 1900 Olympics in Paris featured a poodle-clipping competition. This story