Cost of nostalgia: Shea seats fetching $869 a pair

NEW YORK -- As a season-ticket holder, Darrell Buono spent 13 years rooting for the New York Mets in blue, loge-level seats at Shea Stadium. So he bought them.

The seats cost $869 for a pair and will have a place of honor in Buono's basement in New Hyde Park when they are shipped, sometime after the last game is played at Shea this fall and the Mets begin dismantling the stadium.

"My wife kind of gave me a strange look when I told her I was doing it," Buono admitted. "But she was OK with it."

The Mets and the Yankees each are finishing final seasons in their current stadiums and will open 2009 in new ballparks. Before they move in to their new homes, memorabilia buffs expect them to strip down the ballparks and auction off anything that will sell.

The Yankees say there will be a sale but haven't released the details yet, and so far the Mets have only put seats on the market. But some think that everything from lockers to strips of sod may go on the market by the time the teams begin taking down the stadiums.

New York City will reap the bulk of the profits, because it owns the ballparks.

"This is a cash grab," said Richard Aurigemma, a collector who owns more than 100 seats from different stadiums and also sells ballpark seats through a Web site. "They'll sell anything and everything."

The $869 price tag for Mets seats is a reference to the two years the team won the World Series, 1986 and 1969. Yankees seats will no doubt be pricier, said Aurigemma, who suggested $1,923 a pair to celebrate the year Yankee Stadium opened.

Other teams have held memorabilia sales in recent years as they have moved into new parks. Tiger Stadium seats in Detroit sold for $279 a pair last year. St. Louis Cardinals fans spent nearly $1 million in 2005 to buy pieces of Busch Stadium after it closed, including the locker used by star slugger Albert Pujols (about $20,000) and a clubhouse urinal that fetched more than $2,000.

The Mets put 16,000 pairs of seats up for sale on the team's Web site Aug. 25 after a pre-sale for season-ticket holders.

The team will ship the seats eight to 12 weeks after the final game at Shea, which the Mets hope will be in the World Series. Then the stadium will be taken down piece by piece. City regulations would not permit Shea or Yankee Stadium to be imploded.

The Mets' field-level orange seats and loge-level blue seats sold out quickly. Red and green seats from the mezzanine and upper levels were still available Thursday.

A pair of sold-out blue seats was being offered on eBay with a "Buy It Now" price of $2,499.99.

Under the deal between the city and the Mets, the city gets 70 percent of the profits from Shea Stadium, with the team donating its 30 percent to charity. The Yankees and the city are negotiating over how to divide profits from the House that Ruth Built.

Jason Fry, a freelance writer from Brooklyn, said he surprised himself by buying green mezzanine seats on the Mets' Web site.

"I'm more than ready for Citi Field," Fry said. "But when I started to think about it, I thought back to all these extraordinary games I saw at Shea ... and I suddenly found myself wanting to have a tangible memory from the Shea Stadium era."

Buono said he, too, is ready for Citi Field, which is being built on Shea's former parking lot and will feature a Jackie Robinson Rotunda to honor the man who integrated Major League Baseball as a Brooklyn Dodger.

"Shea has been our home but it's time for an upgrade," he said. "And I'll have a little bit of Shea Stadium in my basement."