It was a nostalgic journey. Kathie purchased two tickets from a co-worker to a Yankee game and Kris came down from Haverhill to attend with me in this the team’s last season in the old stadium.
We were determined to get there early and have time for batting practice, a visit to the monuments, and to absorb the history and ambience of the old ball yard.
On the drive in we reminisced about our many visits to the stadium over the years. In those days we always tried to sit in right field so Kris could be near his favorite player, Dave Winfield. We commiserated about the venality of Yankee management for tearing down the House That Ruth Built for a glitzier, corporate luxury box equipped version.
We arrived at 11:00 AM. With a 1:00 PM start, this left us plenty of time to soak up the atmosphere. The first disappointment was that we couldn’t get to Monument Park. The trouble with living in New York is that whatever unique idea you have; a hundred thousand other people have the same one. The line for the park was so long they closed it down to any additional fans.
Next stop, batting practice. We positioned ourselves in the left field ground level boxes near the foul pole. I was unaware of the fact that members of the pitching staff shag the fly balls that don’t leave the playing field. Kyle Farnsworth, the erratic (now former) Yankee reliever, was standing near us. Whenever he would catch a ball, fans would beg and plead with him to toss it to them. I thought it was typical New York chutzpah that a guy wearing an “Anyone but Farnsworth” t-shirt was actually begging the man for a ball.
He was disappointed.
I made up my mind that I would make a reasonable effort to catch anything that came my way. Sure enough a ball hit by A-Rod headed on a trajectory that took it about six feet to my right. An older man made a leap for it just as three other guys crashed into him sending him backwards over the seat and into the next row. The ball came loose and soon all the contenders were crawling under the seats trying to secure this treasure. I was glad to see that the old guy prevailed. I am sure he regretted it the next day. I would have liked to have heard him explain to his wife why a beat up batting practice ball was worth three of his remaining vertebrae.
It started to get very hot. Predictions were that the temperatures would soar into the high nineties with high humidity. Kris and I decided to wander around the corridors of the stadium before going to our seats. Everywhere we went was hot, dark and gloomy, not to mention slick and slimy from generations of spilled beer and sweat.
We went to our seats which were directly behind home plate in the very upper reaches of the stadium. In fact, we were about seven rows from the top. It was a steep climb getting there, but once there we were rewarded with a splendid view of the field. However, it was a little bit like watching the screen of one of the early versions of Sega Baseball with itty-bitty players racing around the bases.
It was also disconcerting to see the birds flying below us.
Soon, the regular season ticket holders started to arrive. They were all old and all male. Several had to take several rest stops before continuing their climb. My guess is that they were retired teachers or postal workers. Soon they started their banter and quaint insults. I can’t remember the last time I heard someone called a “four-eyed jerk.”
As the game wore on, it got hotter and hotter. I kept sending Kris down to refill my water bottle. Kathie had given me huge red bandana and suggested that if I got really hot I should wet it and wrap it around my neck, or drape it over my head. I have seen her do this and frankly would prefer a session with the defibrillator and an intravenous saline solution. Normally, I am not bothered by the heat but it was really getting to me. Maybe it was compounded by the proximity of all of that overheated human flesh. Out came the bandana. I asked Kris to go wet it for me. He stared at it with disdain. “Who did you get this from? Mom?”
And the game wore on and on. From the seventh inning, the fans in the row behind us started cheering on and exhorting the players, which was an exercise in futility since they weren’t even in the same area code, never mind ear shot.
They were strange, convoluted encouragements. Not just “Go, Jeter” but rambling edited- on- the -fly directions: “Hit a homer, Jeter. No, No…..shoot a double between second and third….Wait, wait….lay down a sacrifice…whatever you do, don’t strike out.”
At the top of the twelfth the game was still tied after the Yankees had squandered many opportunities to go ahead. We had had enough, or at least I had.
As we drove down the Deegan headed for the George Washington Bridge we heard the game’s anti climatic-ending when Jose Molina was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded walking in the winning run. We didn’t feel like we missed anything.
We had a great day, but both agreed it was time to tear that dump down.
Note: Kris has done an excellent blog on this same subject at his site www.nyfine.blogspot.com