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02/07/2008 2:26 PM ET
Joel concert to help close Shea era
Piano Man humbled to be a part of 'The Last Play at Shea'
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New York's own, Billy Joel, will help celebrate the closing of Shea Stadium. (
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• Piano man meets the press at Shea  400K
• Billy Joel to play at Shea Stadium  400K
• Amazin' musical moments at Shea
• Historical highlights at Shea
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NEW YORK - If anyone at Thursday's press conference at Shea Stadium needed a refresher on the venue's rock 'n' roll history, they got it in the form of a video montage introduced by Mets Executive Vice President Dave Howard. Footage of the Beatles playing the first major outdoor rock concert in history and now-legendary shows by the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen preceded the introduction of the man who will headline the final musical performance at the Amazin's ballpark: New York's own Billy Joel.

Joel, looking every bit the everyman in a baseball cap and goatee, took the podium to much applause. The native New Yorker acknowledged the honor of being chosen for this performance. "I remember when the Beatles played in '65 at Shea; they were my idols and still are," said Joel. "This is something I never dreamed of back in the day."

The concert, dubbed "The Last Play at Shea," will take place on Wednesday, July 16, 2008. The show will make Joel the first artist in history to perform at all four of New York City's major sporting venues; Shea Stadium, Yankee Stadium, Giants Stadium, and Madison Square Garden, where Joel sold out a record-breaking 12 consecutive shows in 2006.

"Shea Stadium is one of the most hallowed venues in rock 'n' roll history and it's an honor to help throw Shea the ultimate concert farewell party," said Joel, in a prepared statement. "As a sports fan and a music lover, I will always have a place for Shea Stadium in my heart. I thank the Mets for giving me and my fans a chance to rock Shea Stadium one last time for the ages."

Joel expressed his thanks at the press conference, where he was given a Mets jersey with "JOEL O8" inscribed on the back. The rock singer, who has sold over 100 million records worldwide, engaged the press with stories about his boyhood baseball fandom, from overcoming his distress that the Dodgers left Brooklyn to watching Mets pitcher Wilmer "Vinegar Bend" Mizell in the 1960s. "I've been to more Mets games than Yankees games," said Joel, who claimed that he would have written more songs about the Mets had he known more words that rhyme with "Mets."

Despite remaining hugely popular on the concert circuit, Billy Joel has not released a record of original pop music since 1993. When asked if his touring success had inspired him to write more, he smiled. "No. It's inspired me to keep touring," said Joel. "Hopefully we'll have something new to perform here." Joel did not elaborate on whether it would be a new song or a new aspect to his performance.

Since his first solo album in 1972, Billy Joel has had 33 Top 40 hits and 23 Grammy nominations, winning six. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1999, and is also well-respected for his copious amounts of charity work, which earned him the 2002 MusiCares Person of the Year award from the MusiCares Foundation.

Shea Stadium opened in 1964 and has been the home of the Mets ever since. It was the home of NFL's New York Jets for 20 seasons and the New York Giants in 1975, and has also hosted several significant rock concerts, including 1970's Festival for Peace concert with Creedence Clearwater Revival, Jimi Hendrix, Paul Simon, Janis Joplin and many others, and the Elton John and Eric Clapton double bill in 1992. Shea Stadium is scheduled to be replaced by Citi Field, which is currently under construction, in 2009.

Ben Apatoff is an Associate Reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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