Excerpted from Shea Stadium Remembered
You could say that Shea’s extraordinary happenings of 1969 began by being the first major league stadium required to provide a rendition of “O, Canada.” (Canadian opera star Maureen Forrester did the inaugural honors at Shea.) But the song was performed thousands of times at ballparks after that. What happened two days later was a singular performance.
The moment was not caught on film and was witnessed by just 8,608 souls on a Thursday afternoon at Shea, but the first of Tommie Agee’s two home runs on April 10, 1969 lives on. And if the ball hadn’t landed in the upper deck in left field, maybe it’s still going.
Larry Jaster of the expansion Expos never lost in eight career starts at Shea—except on this day. The southpaw’s 3-1 pitch in the second inning exploded off the powerful Agee’s bat. “It was a low fastball, kind of in, and he hit it almost like a golf ball,” Jaster recalled in the New York Daily News, several years after Agee’s untimely death from a heart attack at age 58 in 2001.
Agee’s blast was the only home run to land in the upper deck in Shea’s 45-year history. Though the upper deck could hold 20,376 people—more than the field and loge levels combined—the top deck never held another fair ball. Shea was not enclosed, and the top deck had perhaps 1,500 seats combined in the corners on the fair side of the foul poles. The angle trajectory for a fair ball to land there put even fewer seats in play. Even more impressive is that the feat was never duplicated by a Met or a visiting slugger in the 39 years that followed, especially with the likes of Dave Kingman, Darryl Strawberry, Howard Johnson, and Mike Piazza—all of whom hit far more Mets home runs than Agee’s 82.
Later estimates of the blast to upper deck section 48 were in the neighborhood of 480 feet. That neighborhood was eventually painted with Agee’s name, number, and the date of the blast. Only one other Mets player ever had his uniform number honored at Shea in any way besides Tommie’s 20—and that was Tom Seaver’s 41. Pretty good company. Especially for a ball that few people actually recall seeing, except for the guy who gave it up. “A lot of times, you don’t watch ’em,” Jaster said. “That one I had to watch because I knew it was hit pretty good.”