stusegal: (Stu & Rashmi)
[personal profile] stusegal

Rashmika and I went to the new (to us) Yankee Stadium on Memorial Day.   

The short version is – the weather was beautiful, the stadium and the whole Yankees experience was amazing, and in the course of the game we got to see Alex Rodriquez hit a Grand Slam! 

And the full story is:

I’m not what people would call a “baseball fan”.  I don’t have season tickets.  I don’t know who the new players are.  I don’t know an ERA from a Coldwell Banker.  In the last 60 years, I have been to four Major League games, and the last time we were in Yankee Stadium, near as we can remember, was 1993.

When I was a little kid, maybe 5 or 6, living in Philadelphia, my Dad took me to a game.  It was a Phillies game, in the old Connie Mack Stadium.  And the Phillies had stars that the fans loved  -  Richie Ashburn who lead the league in hitting twice, and Robin Roberts, one of the best pitchers in the league.  But I wondered what we were doing watching the Phillies; even as a young child I knew that the real stars of the game, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra played for the Yankees.  Even a little kid heard about The Babe, the Iron Horse and the Yankee Clipper.  All the great players, all the great stories, seemed to flow from one source, Yankee Stadium. 

I am, at best, a “casual fan”.  I become interested in baseball in late summer, as the season winds down.  If the Yankees are in the playoffs I watch.  So while not really a baseball fan, over the years I’ve seen all the great Yankee playoff moments - Mantle, Maris, Reggie Jackson, Billy Martin and on and on - and have become a Yankees fan. 

I’d been to games at the old Yankee Stadium twice, and both times had a lump in my throat.  I don’t know if it was just being there in “The House That Ruth Built”, or thinking about my childhood baseball hero Mickey Mantle, or remembering the filmclip of Lou Gehrig, after receiving his devastating diagnosis, telling a deadly silent packed house at Yankee Stadium how he felt he “was the luckiest man on the face of the earth”, or what – but to me it was a magical place.  The epicenter of baseball.  The place where the greatness lived.  The place that all the great players called home.  And (not meaning to offend any non-Yankees fans) the only place on the planet that I ever really wanted to go to watch baseball. 

Rashmika got access to some discount tickets through Bank of America (thank you BofA!) and we decided on the Memorial Day afternoon game, which turned out to be a great decision.  We went on mass transit, also a good decision; we rode in airconditioned comfort, with no traffic issues or parking hassles, in a train then a subway filled with mostly people wearing Jeter or Rodriquez or Gehrig shirts and Yankees caps. 

The crowd exiting the subway at 161st Street, YANKEE STADIUM SUBWAY STOP


90 minutes after we walked out our door in NJ we emerged from the Yankees Subway Stop, directly cattycorner to the stadium! 

The stadium facade is beautiful, but what surprised me most was the staff on the sidewalk in front of the stadium holding signs with the Yankees logo that read “How May I Help You?” 


Amazing.  And I’ll tell you now, that every staff member we came in contact with, not just the How-may-I-help-you staff, but the elevator operators, museum guards, security checkpoint people, the concessionairres . . . all of them, all of them, welcomed us to Yankee Stadium with smiles and words.  My impression by the end of the day was of one of the proudest, most friendly and polite staffs I’ve ever encountered. 

But now, the moment of truth.  What would be my reaction to the “feel” of the new stadium?  Was it even slightly possible that a whole new structure could preserve the magic of “The House That Ruth Built”, where the Babe, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio played?  We took one of the really big elevators that hold a couple dozen people to the main level. 

Rashmi on the Main Level, just before we walked out into the Stadium


We walked out from under the grandstand into the daylight, and it literally took my breath away!  To say they did a great job replacing the old stadium with a new modern facility that had the same look and feel is an understatement.  I immediately noticed the center field wall marker “ 408’ “, the same as the old field, the same distance that Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle had to achieve for a center field homer, and I noticed the architectural detail all around the top of the grandstands, that looked exactly like the old stadium. 

As we walked through we noticed the seats were a little bigger, and the layout was modified a little so that the rise in each level and the setback from the field gave every seat an unobstructed view of the field, and were actually closer to the field (lower) than the old stadium.  Food vendors everywhere, and I mean everywhere.  Restrooms everywhere.  Elevators easily accessible.  Handicapped seating nicely set up on all levels, with great unobstructed views. 

We found our seats  -  third level by the foul pole, and it was a great view.  But being an 87° day, we didn’t want to cook in the sun, so we moved up a level to a couple empty seats under the roof on the fourth level – might seem odd that we’d move up, but the bonus was there was a beautiful breeze up on the fourth level, and in the shade it was pleasantly cool.  (Actually, Rashmika put on her sweater!) 

87° in the sun, but cool balmy breezes on the 4th level!


We got some lunch, and as we finished the announcer introduced some distinguished guests – Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force veterans just home from Afghanistan and Iraq.  So we were able to watch down on the field and/or on the giant screen in center field.  The sound system was fantastic; sound seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere specific. 

After the game got underway, I think in the second inning, we wandered down to the main level and checked out the Yankees Museum.  Small, but full of interesting stuff - the Babe's bat, Lou Gehrig’s shirt, the World Championship trophies, some pretty cool lifesize cast bronze statues of Don Larsen and Yogi Berra. 

Part of the Lou Gehrig exhibit in the museum


Then we wandered around the stadium for a few innings, sitting in a number of locations to watch.  At the top of the 7th inning we again sat down on the shady, breezy, cool fourth level and decided we would leave after the inning.  The Yankees were ahead 2-1. 

All on our feet for a Memorial Day 7th Inning Stretch singing of “G-d Bless America


After the 7th inning stretch we sat down and figured we’d watch the Yankees bat, then head home.  So I’m sitting there thinking, it sure would be nice to see a Yankee home run  -  but hey, who cares, it’s a beautiful day, and we had a great time just seeing the stadium and the game.  So first up is Brett Gardner, who gets a single.  Next up is Derek Jeter, and while he’s batting Gardner tries to steal second, and gets thrown out.  Then Jeter singles and the Indians put in a relief pitcher.  Next Curtis Granderson singles so now there’s Yankees on 1st and 2nd.  Up to bat comes Teixiera, a guy with home run hitting power, and a couple pitches in the pitcher throws a wild ball and both Yankees base runners steal, advancing to 2nd and 3rd. 

Well at this point Cleveland decided they didn’t want to pitch to Tiexiera, so they walk him!  Bases loaded!  I lean over and say to Rashmika I don’t get it, seems dangerous.  She asks me what I mean.  I tell her Alex Rodriquez is up next, and he’s a guy who can definitely hit the ball over the fence, so I don’t really get why the Reds would intentionally walk Tiexiera and then pitch to A-Rod with the bases loaded, and risk a grand slam.   

The Reds put in a second reliever, who can presumably smoke Rodriquez.  He throws a ball, a strike, then 2 more balls.  I lean over to Rashmika and say “Well he’s got to throw it over the plate now”, and he lets loose a blistering fastball, right over the plate . . . .  Rodriquez takes a mighty swing and blasts the ball into dead center field, right over the 408’ marker!  Grand slam!  Unbelievable!  (Rashmika’s convinced I called it, and now thinks I’m at least as amazing as Babe Ruth was with his “Called Shot”).

We couldn’t have asked for a better ending to a really terrific day than to see a grand slam  -  it’s almost like the spirits of Ruth, Mantle, DiMaggio and Gehrig conspired to make it happen for us, and for everyone else who was there, as if to say “Hey, whadid ya think would happen?  You're at Yankee Stadium!”  Like I said, a magical place.


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