As the sun set on Shea Stadium in 2008, many nostalgic Met fans did all they could to take a piece of the ballpark with them. These were figurative gestures, for the most part – a last glimpse at the Homerun Apple in its native habitat; one final stroll through the dark concrete corridors to take in that diamond where Bill Buckner made his fatal error.
But apparently, the memories were not enough for a Brooklyn man who had been tasked with protecting Shea from theft.
Gerald Tacopino, a 44-year-old school bus driver and security guard, appeared in Queens Criminal court on Wednesday, January 27 where he pleaded guilty to petit larceny during his stint working security at Shea in September and October of 2008. According to charges filed at the time of his arrest, Tacopino stole Mets items ranging from stadium seats, to bases, to security caps and jackets, some of which he had already sold on eBay by the time his home was searched on December 8, 2008.
In a statement, Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown noted that as the Mets’ season wound down in 2008, his office and the Mets organization “announced a zero tolerance policy regarding potential theft and/or vandalism at Shea Stadium.” Brown went on, “Apparently, the defendant did not heed the message.”
Through an agreement with the Mets franchise, the city of New York received a majority of the proceeds of the sale of Mets memorabilia after Shea was deconstructed. The Mets’ portion of the proceeds went to charity.
But Tacopino – whose lawyer did not return a call by press time – had other plans for the 23 Mets security caps, three jackets and five shirts; as well as the three seat bottoms and one seat back – valued at $842.50 – and the Shea bases he pilfered.
Hired to prevent contractors and outsiders from looting the stadium, Tacopino ended up with a $500 fine, in addition to paying restitution to the Mets for the seats he stole. But perhaps worse for Tacopino – if he is indeed a Met fan – is the one-year ban from Citi Field that has been imposed on him.