Thirty-six years ago tonight the lights went out at Shea Stadium during a night game. Give or take a couple of minutes, it was 9:34 p.m.—and they also went out in the rest of New York City (save a handful of Rockaway, Queens neighborhoods not served by local utility Con Edison). I was not attending this historic Mets’ game versus the Chicago Cubs, although it would definitely have been a night to remember. I happened to be away from home and listening to the game on my favorite radio of all-time—a Christmas gift that also picked up the audio of local television stations.
I thus wasn’t in the Bronx then when everything went dark, but in a place called Chadwick Beach along the New Jersey Shore. I recall Mets’ announcer Ralph Kiner saying he could see cars going over the darkened Whitestone Bridge in the distance. Ralph had mistakenly called it the Throgs Neck Bridge in the past, which is not visible from the radio booth. The man had a charming knack for getting things wrong on occasion.
Riveted at this blackout that I wasn’t home to enjoy—history in the making—I continued listening to the suspended game. I figured it all would turn bright pretty quickly and that is was a temporary glitch that would soon be remedied—but it wasn’t for twenty-four hours. It didn’t take very long for the Mets’ radio station to lose its signal—several minutes at best—and I, too, was then in the dark concerning the goings-on back in my hometown. Awaiting the power’s return, I subsequently learned that Mets’ organist Jane Jarvis plowed through her entire repertoire, and even started playing holiday carols like “Jingle Bells” and “White Christmas” to keep the fans entertained until the lights came back on, which they didn't that night.
It was also very hot that evening, even in Chadwick Beach, although it wasn’t nearly as brutal as New York City’s weather. The thermometer had hovered close to 100 degrees that day in the Big Apple. That very summer, our neighbors from just up the street shared the same shore house with us. They took the upper floor while we resided in the lower half. Without air conditioning in this two-family rental of ours, which they were accustomed to in the Bronx, it got a little too hot for them a day or so earlier, and they had returned home to bask in refrigerated indoor air until the heat wave broke. As they saw it, it was the preferred alternative to baking on the New Jersey Shore, even if we were within walking distance of both Barnegat Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Ironically, they were back in the Bronx, instead of on vacation in Jersey, when the city went dark and put their air conditioning on ice. I remember wishing that I had been back home with them to sweat and suffer sans electricity. Such was the passion of youth.