In 1969 Joe Pignatano Grew a Vegetable Garden in Shea Stadium
“In 1969 I discovered a wild tomato plant in the bullpen and nurtured it the rest of the season,” he remembered. “We got some tomatoes off it, but most important we won the whole thing. After that, I kept up the garden as long as I was with the Mets as a good luck charm.”
By Albin Krebs and Robert McG. Thomas
New York Times
October 8, 1981
It was back in 1969, Joe Pignatano recalled yesterday, that a stray tomato plant pushed its way up through the dirt beyond the right field fence in Shea Stadium. That was also the year the Mets won the World Series, and to Mr. Pignatano, a Mets pitching coach and amateur gardener, the plant was a good omen.
So the next year he planted a few omens of his own. The Mets never did win another World Series, but Mr. Pignatano never gave up on his bullpen garden: by this year, the 30-foot-long plot held not only tomatoes, but also vegetables such as pumpkins, eggplants, squash, zucchini, radishes and lettuce.
Now that he has been dismissed by the Mets with the rest of the coaching staff, Mr. Pignatano said his garden seemed doomed. According to a Mets spokesman, no effort will be made to replant it next year.
Mr. Pignatano, however, is not a gardener to give up, and as he looks over the list of potential employers for next season, he is giving particular attention to the agricultural possibilities of their bullpens.
”Most of them have Astroturf,” he said, and those that continue with grass, such as the Chicago Cubs and the San Francisco Giants, lack enough room for a garden.
”Los Angeles may have room,” the coach conceded, but he insisted he had made no overtures. He still has hopes that the Mets’ new manager may want a good coaching gardener. If so, he’s available, although it is hard to see why.
”I never did get any of the tomatoes,” he said. ”They’d steal them before I could get to them.”