Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two-part series. The first of which chronicles Jon’s (a Yankee’s fan) first trip to the Bronx, while the second will highlight Ryan’s (despicably a Red Sox fan) trip to Boston.
Say what you want about the Yankees. They spend too much, no chemistry, crazy ownership, whatever. As a Yankee fan for the better part of my existence, I’ve heard it all. Say one negative thing about Yankee Stadium, and you have found yourself a sparring partner.
For the first time in my life, I made a pilgrimage to the Bronx; and oh, what a pilgrimage it was.
Before I go any further, I have to make a mention of my lovely girlfriend and her ability to score tickets to the sold-out Subway Series finale that took place last Sunday. I will not, however, make any mention of the one-hour (plus) fight that took place as we were lost in the less-than-safe parts of the Bronx prior to batting practice (whoops).
I have been to my fair share of MLB games, but every game I have gone to has involved either the Pirates or the Blue Jays. Needless to say, this was the first time I had been able to see a marquee match-up live (interleague or not, a game between two NYC-area teams is a marquee match-up), and also the first sellout I had ever attended. I was a bit excited, to say the least.
Whether you have been to a particular stadium/arena once or if you have been there a thousand times, nothing beats the moment where you first lay your eyes upon it while walking towards the entrance. You see the people dressed in your team’s garb, you heart starts to beat a bit faster, you walk faster without realizing it. It’s truly an amazing feeling, and it’s amplified when there is history at a place. We parked in the perfect spot, as we were on the opposite side of a hill, and Yankee Stadium couldn’t be seen until we reached the peak of said hill. As I walked towards the entrance at Yankee Stadium, I gazed upon the legions of cars, fans, street vendors, and merchandise stands and I wondered what it was like during any of the World Series that have been held there. The place was at a fever pitch for a mid-season match-up, I couldn’t even fathom what it would have been like during a WS run. It was truly a sight to be seen.
Anyone who has seen a picture of Yankee Stadium or watched an episode of SNL knows that it is quite plain. The entire way around is basically the same basic off-white stone pattern. I, just like any other hardcore baseball fan, am a sucker for the old stadiums. Prior to Yankee, I have found myself in the area of Fenway Park and Tiger Stadium. I can’t even begin to tell you how beside myself I was just walking around those stadiums for hours on end, not even making my way inside. All of these stadiums have a simplicity to them that has been lost with the construction of new parks. The basic pattern just adds to the mystique, and really puts the focus on the history rather than the aesthetics of the park.
I made my way to the bleacher entrance in the back of the stadium, and I found myself gazing into the aisles as I found my seat, just trying to catch a glimpse of the field that I have seen so many times on TV. We finally descended upon Section 49, my home for the next few hours.
As I sat in my seat at about 6:30 (Gametime- 8:05), I kept reliving some of the great moments that have happened in that stadium that I either watched on TV live or they have become so famous that I have seen the replay a thousand times. I looked to the left field seats and thought “Hey, that’s where Aaron Boone had the only moment of his career that mattered.” I looked towards right center and I saw Tino’s bomb(s) leave the park off of Byung-Hyun Kim. I looked at right and saw a young Jeffrey Maier reach over and steal a home run. I saw Derek Jeter leap into the stands after catching that miraculous foul-pop. There were more than a few times where I couldn’t do anything but shake my head and smile, because I felt like I was there.
The Yanks had just finished up their BP session, and the Mets began to hit. I hung against the bottom railing with a few hundred other people and begged Mets LHP Oliver Perez, who was shagging fly balls, to toss a ball my way. Now, I have been to close to 100 professional baseball games (mostly minor leagues), and never have I caught a ball. Not during BP, not from a batboy, not a foul ball. Nothing. I’m sure you could imagine my excitement as Perez tossed a ball way up in the air in my general vicinity. I got two hands on the ball…….. but unfortunately so did two other men. I struggled for a second, and I’m sure if I kept fighting I could have had it (those who know me know that I’m a pretty big guy, to say the least), but I realized that there may be nothing more pathetic than three grown men fighting for a BP ball thrown by a pitcher that no one will remember in three years. I let go of the ball. As I’ve told myself dozens of times over the years, there’s always next game.
As game time crept closer, I heard a familiar voice that reassured me that I was really at the stadium. Bob Sheppard’s old, deep voice began booming through the stadium, reading advertisements and public service announcements. Of all the recognizable things in the stadium, this one struck the biggest chord with me. Any home Yanks game I have watched since I was born, I have heard that voice. The thing is, he doesn’t have the most, shall we say, “attractive” voice. If you see a picture of him, you may think he is a ghost. But any Yankees fan knows that it will be a sad day in the Bronx when Sheppard finally hangs up the mike.
Gametime finally came, and the game flew by. No, it wasn’t a very good game. No, it didn’t flow well and it was three hours in length, but as far as I was concerned, that game was over in the blink of an eye. I was awestruck throughout the whole thing, and before I knew it, we were in the car going home.
Nearly one week later, I returned to Yankee Stadium. The Yanks offer tours for the price of 15 dollars. Upon completing the tour, I would have paid three times that. We started in monument park. For someone who is a sucker for history, I was in heaven. Like the nerd that I am, I imitated Roger Clemens and David Wells and wiped a bit of sweat from my brow and put it on the Babe’s monument. We then moved to the dugout, and I posed for the token photo-op. We hit up the clubhouse, and the press box. I couldn’t have been more pleased, and if I hadn’t taken the tour before the stadium closed (ETA on new Yankee Stadium: 2009), I can honestly say that I would live my life with a bit of regret.
As I circled the stadium before we took our tour, I looked at one of those plain stone walls, and I said something to the effect of, “Look at her, isn’t she gorgeous?”
The person I was with responded, “It’s just a wall.”
No, it isn’t just a wall. It’s Yankee Stadium.