Pete Flynn, who tended all three of the Mets’ home fields, drove the Beatles from the stage at Shea Stadium and became a cherished part of the franchise that he served for six decades, died Wednesday morning, the team said. He was 79.
Flynn began working for the club Jan. 29, 1962, months before its first game at the Polo Grounds. He was the head groundskeeper for many years, including the stretch of 1974-75 when the Mets, Jets, Yankees and Giants shared Shea Stadium. When he had the chance to retire, he went back to being part of the crew and stayed on through 2011. He was honored with the Mets Hall of Fame Achievement Award in 2012. Three years later, he was inducted into Major League Baseball’s Groundskeeping Hall of Fame.
A measure of his tenure was that he was the one who drove the Beatles from the stage to an armored car beyond the centerfield fence at their landmark 1965 concert. He also was the one who drove Paul McCartney to the stage for a surprise appearance during a Billy Joel concert at Shea in 2008. Recalling it weeks later, Flynn said, in his unmistakable Irish brogue, “He laughed. I guess he said, `I can’t believe the guy is still here.’ ”
Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said in a statement, “Pete helped make our fields one of the best in baseball. He took such pride in his work and was a pro’s pro. Tom Seaver always said Shea Stadium’s mound had no equal. That’s a pretty good endorsement.”
Flynn left a farm in Ireland’s County Leitrim, tried uranium mining in Canada then followed his two sisters to New York. He applied for a job at Allied Maintenance in Manhattan and was hired three days later to work at the Polo Grounds. “I started out as a handyman, so I built the advance ticket office with blocks and I built a storeroom up on the second level,” he said in a 2008 Newsday interview.
When they needed someone to do grading, he mentioned that he had done a little landscaping in Canada. And a groundskeeping career was born.