On This Date in Sports April 6, 1974: Yankees at Shea

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The New York Yankees begin a two-year stay at Shea Stadium by beating the Cleveland Indians 6-1 on Opening Day. Just 20,744 fans are on hand to see Mel Stottlemyre earn a complete game, allowing just seven hits with four strikeouts. Craig Nettles leads the offense with a two-run home run in the fourth inning. The move to Flushing was due to a $160 million renovation on Yankee Stadium.

As the 1970s dawned the New York Yankees dynasty was in decline. They had grown old all at once as their once grand cathedral in the Bronx was in a state of decay. CBS who owned the Yankees for a decade had done little to improve the product on the field or in the stands and finally sold the team to George Steinbrenner in 1973. As the sale was being completed, the Yankees who were flirting with the idea of building a new stadium in the New Jersey Meadowlands, got a commitment from Mayor John Lindsay to pay for a full renovation of Yankee Stadium, leaving just the outer façade in place. The renovation would take two full years to complete, with the Yankees playing home games at the ten-year-old Shea Stadium, the home of the New York Mets.

Other than the pinstripes and the interlocking NY it did not feel like a Yankee game, as there was no short porch, no famous frieze, no bleachers and the sound of jets from LaGuardia seemed to be the loudest part of a stadium that was half empty on a grey day. It was the Yankees second season under the ownership of George Steinbrenner who began to put his mark on the team. After attempting to hire Dick Williams away from the Oakland Athletics, the Yankees would settle on Bill Virdon as their new manager.

Craig Nettles gave the Yankees a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning with a home run off Gaylord Perry. Mel Stottlemyre meanwhile tied up the Tribe all day. In the sixth inning, Gene Michael hit a sacrifice fly that scored Bobby Murcer. In the seventh inning, the Yankees knocked Perry out of the game, scoring three more runs to make it 6-0 on RBI by Murcer, Michael and Elliott Maddox. The Indians would finally scratch out a run on an RBI groundout by Chris Chambliss that scored Charlie Spikes. The Yankees would win the game 6-1.

As the Yankees were hosting the Indians, Shea Stadium’s usual tenants were playing in Veterans Stadium. That day the New York Mets lost 5-4 to the Philadelphia Phillies on a two-run walk-off home run by Mike Schmidt against Tug McGraw.

The Yankees had a good first season in Queens, going 89-73 as they were beaten by the Baltimore Orioles by two games in the American League East. Chambliss, who knocked in the Indians only run on opening day would find himself on the Yankees roster before the end of April as he was the return in a trade that sent Fritz Peterson to the Cleveland Indians. One player on the Yankees who struggled in Flushing, as Bobby Murcer who despite a strong opening day had a disappointing season, hitting just .274 with ten home runs. As a result, the Yankees would trade him in the off-season to the San Francisco Giants for Bobby Bonds.


The Yankees two-season at Shea Stadium felt awkward from start to finish, as ceremonies like the retirement of Whitey Ford’s #16 and Old-Timer’s Day never felt quite right. In 1975, the Yankees dropped back to third place with an 83-79 record. During the season the Yankees caused some damage to the wall at Shea Stadium during a 21-gun salute to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the United States Army. The 1975 season would see Shea Stadium play host to the Mets, Yankees as well as the New York Jets and New York Giants in the NFL.

Yankee Stadium would reopen with a new look in 1976. The Yankees would go on to win their first pennant in 12 years, with Chris Chambliss hitting a pennant-winning home run in Game 5 of the ALCS against the Kansas City Royals.