Thursday, May 17, 2007

Yankee Stadium Still Gets the Real Fans

Our Town downtown
June 19, 2006

The ticket said 105 bucks and there were four of them. Who knew where that meant they’d be? Box seats, of course, but that doesn’t guarantee you’ll be seen on TV behind the home plate netting talking on your cell phone. Box seats can stretch out to where you can cheer Bernie Williams the next inning when he comes out to right field after a home run. They can stretch up high to where you can see the geometry of the diamond which you can’t do a few rows behind the first base dugout which is where 420 dollars in tickets got us the night we saw the Red Sox beat the Yankees two weeks ago.

Here’s what you can see from there. You can see how the lights light up the mustard on your first hot dog of the night. You can marvel at the green of the field. If you’re honest and not being phony like Bob Costas and all the other baby boomers who lament that all games aren’t day games, you acknowledge that night games are great. When else does the Bronx look as verdant and bright as Chavez Ravine or a Padres game? Day games in the Bronx, except on those perfect days that you say to yourself are like California, are grey events with hot dog wrappers blowing in front of the batter. Night games are stunning. They’ve become the greengrass setting that Costas and his kind really mean when they rhapsodize about baseball’s Elysian Fields.

What else you notice and what you’re surprised to observe is how many regular guys and their buddies or regular guys and their families are even closer to the dugout than you are with your ticket that would have cost 105 bucks if you weren’t sitting there compliments of the company your daughter works for like we were. There they are, these guys from New Jersey or in from Rochester for the big series drinking their Buds in brown plastic bottles that cost nine bucks a piece and eating food that they order from the girl in the aisle with the machine on her belt that prints out receipts. They’re having a time.

But you didn’t think they’d be there because you’d been reading newspapers and magazines and watching news stories on the television about the high cost of tickets and the prohibitive cost of
an evening at the ball park for the mythical ‘family of four’. But they were there in their Jeter shirts and their Mattingly shirts with their kids carrying little bats they’d bought from a vendor
on the way in.

It’s always that way and you shouldn’t be surprised that they’re there, but you are because the media has told you they aren’t there anymore.

But you should have known you can’t believe the commentators about baseball. Did you believe ’em when they said they used to know the batting averages of every major leaguer when they were kids? Did you believe ’em when they said – and they ALL say this – that they used to be able to walk down the street when they were kids in the Bronx or Brooklyn or St. Louis and hear the game coming out of the radio in every window they passed? Come on. They’re the same guys who’ll wax poetically about the purity of the game and the perfection of baseball’s slow pace, and then have to belong to a fantasy league to jazz it all up for themselves. That’s like someone telling you how water is the perfect drink and then you catch them dropping a Fizzie in their glass.

In front of us you could see the injured Jeter standing up, his longnecked head above the dugout. You wanted to holler and say hi to him, let him know that he was your guy. But you didn’t because you were shy and hadn’t paid nine bucks a piece for the beers that might have helped you whoop it up a bit. In front of us, they didn’t holler to Jeter. They were saving their voices to boo A-Rod and to get the attention of the girl in the aisle with the receipt dispenser on her belt to get some more beers.

-- Bill Gunlocke

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