Sunday, September 21, 2008

My Yankee Stadium

I had just turned nine years old. I had brought my glove even though my brother kept telling me my seats were seven rows from the top of the third deck in right field. I didn't care; Reggie would hit one there, I just knew it.

They were playing the Red Sox. The hated, stupid Red Sox. Stupid Dennis Eckersley was pitching against Gaylord Perry, whom the Yankees had just gotten in a trade. My brother had just bought a used Datsun, so we drove up to the Bronx, and didn't have to take the 4 train like I would countless times later. As we got close, the Stadium appeared on the horizon—it was the place I had seen so many times on WPIX channel 11 New York and it was right there in front of me. Wow.

I got a program, "The 1980 Yankees"—with a cool cover picture of the Stadium. Then, after climbing almost to the top of the Stadium, my brother and I finally walked through the tunnel and out into the Stadium itself.

I have been in a bunch of parks since then. Fenway, Coors Field, Shea—not one of them has the majesty. Yankee Stadium just says, "Expect noble and heroic occurrences to happen here." In a way no other stadium or park could. Fenway is great, Wrigley is cool—neither of them, or any other stadium, has that kind of majesty. And never could. You could see why the Pope comes here.

So the game begins. Perry gets rocked. He gives up 4 runs and is out of the game before the second inning is done. The Yanks are never really in it as Eckersley mows down the Yankees economically. Still, I put on my glove every time Reggie comes up, ready to catch the home run I am sure is coming my way.

The Yanks don't score till the 8th inning, and then it's just a sac fly by Oscar Gamble. Reggie strikes out. And then, down, 4-1, the Yankees don't bring in the Goose. They bring in Tim Lollar (who?). They don't score in the bottom of the 9th and lose to the Sox 4-1. Oddly, though, I don't care. From my seat, I look down at the 50,000-plus people populating the stands, Monument Park, the bullpens. I am awed. I'm in Yankee Stadium.

More than twenty years later, I take a day off work and bring a friend with me who isn't a baseball fan and had never seen a Yankee game in his life. This time, the seats are better, down the first base line about thirty rows back. The two of us took the 4 train up and sat in the first car, so we got to see the Stadium appear as the train came out of the tunnel approaching 161st Street. We get our dogs, our beers, and our programs. We're early; I want to see batting practice. I watch my friend as we walk through the interior of the Stadium heading towards our seats. I want to see his reaction; a non-baseball fan. Do I love the Stadium because I am a Yankee fan? Or is it as majestic as I think it is? My friend is chatting about something as we make our way through the tunnel, and when the blue sky comes into sight, the white facade, the flawless green grass like an emerald sea, he stops chatting and just stares.

"Wow." he says.

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