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William Alfred "Bill" Shea (June 21, 1907 – October 2, 1991) was an American lawyer and a name partner of the prominent law firm of Shea & Gould. He is probably more well known as the founder of the Continental League, which was instrumental in bringing National League baseball back to New York City with the New York Mets, and for being the name of that team's stadiummarker for 45 years.

Early life and career

Shea began undergraduate work at New York Universitymarker, where he was admitted to the Zeta Psi fraternity, and later graduated from Georgetown Universitymarker and Harvard Law Schoolmarker. He was a member of the Georgetown varsity basketball team.

After graduating from law school, Shea worked for two state insurance bureaucracies before entering private practice in 1940. He accumulated political contacts through volunteer work on influential boards such as the Brooklyn Democratic Club and the Brooklyn Public Library. As one account put it: "Shea was neither a litigator nor a legal scholar. Rather, he was the sort of lawyer whom powerful men trusted with their secrets and whom they could rely upon as a go-between. ... [H]e earned a reputation as a man who could get things done."

Major League Baseball

In 1957, one year after the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants left for Los Angeles and San Francisco, respectively, New York mayor Robert Wagner asked him to chair a committee to return the National League to New York. Shea first tried to bring an existing franchise to New York, but the Cincinnati Reds, Philadelphia Phillies, and Pittsburgh Pirates all refused his overtures. When requests for expansion were declined, Shea, along with Branch Rickey, announced the formation of the Continental League in 1959. The Continental League would have been a third major league and would have begun play in 1961.

The threat of a third major league forced Major League Baseball to discuss expansion. Two teams would be added to the American League in 1961 (the Los Angeles Angels and the replacement Washington Senators), and two more to the National League in 1962 (the New York Mets and the Houston Colt .45s). With New York virtually assured of one of the new teams, Shea abandoned the idea of the Continental League. The New York Mets played their first game on April 11, 1962. In 1964, the Mets played their first game in their new stadium in Flushing, Queens, named Shea Stadiummarker after the man most responsible for the existence of the franchise.

National Hockey League

Shea was also hired by Nassau Countymarker to persuade the NHL to grant a team to the then new Nassau Coliseummarker, resulting in the New York Islanders, who began play in 1972.

National Football League

Aside from his baseball ownership, Shea was a one time owner of the Boston Yanks of the NFL.

Homages

  • Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones named his second son Shea after Jones' success in Shea Stadium against the Mets; he hit 19 home runs there, more than any other road park.
  • On April 8, 2008, the New York Mets retired the name "Shea" alongside other retired numbers in honor of William Shea and the closing of Shea Stadium.
  • On November 21, 2009, the Mets announced that the pedestrian bridge located in the outfield section of Citi Fieldmarker, Shea Stadium's sucesssor, will be named "Shea Bridge" in honor of William Shea.


References

  1. http://www.mlb.com/news/press_releases/press_release.jsp?ymd=20091121&content_id=7698126&vkey=pr_nym&fext=.jsp&c_id=nym


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