July 20th, 2008
Amy and I are sitting on a Delta flight headed to New York City. It’s almost 11pm, and we’re close to take off. The cabin is scurrying to get ready while I wonder if I will get any sleep at all on the red-eye over. It’s the last season for both Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium so I knew this was my ‘last chance’, which helped in selling the trip to Amy. Amy decided to come along on this one, which is increasingly rare since the less ‘sexy’ parks or cities are left, but who can turn down a chance to go to New York City?
We’ve taken off! We’re on our way! Next stop, New York, New York. I can see the stadium in my head, and hear Sinatra… “It’s up to you, New York… New Yooooorrrk.”
July 21st-24th, 2008
I’m writing the same way I did going over, from a cramped, uncomfortable plane seat at a window. We’re on our way back after a packed few days that went about as perfect as it could have. Three ballgames, a Broadway show, pizza, cheesecake – Perfection!
Neither Amy nor I had any luck sleeping on the red-eye over, so by the time we hit the city we were both beat. It was hours before checkout, but we caught a cab to the hotel anyway, hoping we’d be able to check in early and catch a nap. For a small ‘upgrade’ fee, we were able to check in early, which was good, because I don’t know if we would have made it through the day without a little shuteye. The alarm went off with the force of a hammer. I hardly knew where I was, the nap was absolutely crushing, but glorious. We walked down to the Carnegie Deli and had their amazing pastrami sandwich that seemed like it was a foot tall, then toured around Times Square before stopping at the lobby of the Empire State Building. The line at the Empire State Building was brutally long. I was happy to stick it out, but in my head all I could see were clock hands spinning ahead of the night’s game. It must have been the married psychic-connection thing, because Amy suggested we just head to the subway and get to the park. I love my wife. She gets me.
The weather was hot, and muggy, and wet. Something about the humidity in the air really brings out the smell from the trash in the alley ways. It’s almost like there’s a constant and distinct odor – A dull smell of compost and mold. The train tunnels were old, cracked, and hot, and actually less smelly than the city. The subway itself was smooth and really easy to use. 161st St/Yankee Stadium. Next stop.
Yankee Stadium – July 21st, 2008
When you get out of the tunnel, you see it right away. The etched gold letters of Yankee Stadium. The new one. I could see the current stadium across the way, but wanted to get a peek at the new one first. The outside of the new stadium is absolutely mammoth. I walked the outside fence to get a look at the cranes and construction, before making my way down to the end with the eagle emblems. I’ve promised Amy I won’t bug her to go back for at least 5 years. (For the record, we made it almost 6!)
We went into ‘Old’ Yankee Stadium through Gate 6, which is next to ‘The Bat’. The Bat is a pretty common meeting place for the crowds, but this year everything is under construction, so the bat was cordoned off. The ‘tape’ at the top of The Bat is starting to peel at the bottom.
Inside the Stadium is just a mass of people. The halls are cramped and the vending sticks out which makes it that much worse. The paint inside is rusted and chipping, and when we made our way outside I saw the faded and chipped chairs. The first thing I thought was “This place is really trashed.” I didn’t say anything to Amy about it until later when she said she thought the place was “kind of a dump”. I laughed about it, because I thought the same thing. One thing that wasn’t a dump was the frieze, the other was Monument Park.
Monument Park was a no-go the 1st day. Everything I’d read before the trip said that Monument Park closed 45 minutes before game time, but what they don’t tell you is that the line closes about 2hrs before the game starts. The line is full, the line is closed. Well, shit. Good thing is that I had Wednesday to go. I asked the guy at the gate about Wednesday and he recommended getting there about 9:30am for the afternoon game.
Our 1st night’s seats were pretty good. (Especially when you take into account that they were only $5!) The Yankees laid it to the Twins. A-Rod, Jeter, and Cano all hit home runs. I spent close to half the game just staring at the frieze, over at the foul lines, and out towards the new construction. It was awesome to be there. A whole team in pinstripes. Something about Yankee pinstripes feels elite, and it’s something you don’t see on the road, so seeing the full team up close does have a little bit of an aura to it. The only time I’d seen any of the Yankees in pinstripes was at the 2001 All Star Game.
There were the few things about the park that were magic, but there were definitely things that weren’t too. Considering that the stadium was pretty much demolished and rebuilt in the 70’s (the notion of the 1923-2008 really just covers the ground the field is one,) it’s straight out of the 80s’90’s – It hasn’t had a lot of upkeep. The cracked and rusted paint, the faded chairs, the recorded anthem and God Bless America, outdated graphics, distorted speakers. Yankee Stadium made me think of ‘Grandma’s House’. Grandma has lived there forever and keeps the house clean, but you can see the house has aged over time, but she hasn’t noticed. You’d never say anything of course, but you see it when you’re there, but just do your best to ignore it. Were the Yankees oblivious to how worn the Stadium had gotten, or were they just finding a reason to just scrap it and start fresh at that point? Parts of Yankee Stadium were really quite sad, but there were parts that were just as great.
July 22nd, 2008
Tuesday was “Amy Day”. We started the day at the Statue of Liberty, and by the afternoon we were in Lower Manhattan heading towards the Brooklyn Bridge, when we stopped for a slice of pizza. We’d purposely been avoiding the World Trade Center site, not because of any disrespect, but because it still hurts years later. We didn’t see the need to revisit it. We were sitting at the counter of the hole-in-the-wall pizza place when Amy gasped. I looked up at a framed magazine picture of Mama’s clouded in smoke, with the rubble of the World Trade Center behind it. We were 100 yards away and hadn’t realized it.
Pizza was just a snack ahead of our late lunch at the Tavern on the Green. Tavern on the Green is an ‘interesting’ and overpriced restaurant that makes its money off of being located in Central Park, as well as it’s hideously ‘girly’ décor.
Even though there was a game that night, Tuesday was “Show Night”. Amy had a made a list of shows she’d like to see, but what she really wanted to see was ‘Wicked’, which was sold out. We’d flown across the country for a baseball trip, for me, so there was no doubt in my mind we were seeing ‘Wicked’, and it was worth every penny. (A whole lot of pennies.) We’d bought our tickets through a ticket broker, so they weren’t cheap, but like I’ve joked with friends before, if you aren’t spending more on your theater tickets than baseball tickets, you’re doing it wrong.
We ended the night at Da Marino, an Italian restaurant across from ‘Chicago’. Da Marino was one of those restaurants you picture when you think New York Italian; it was a small restaurant with steps that led down from the main brick entry. The lights were low and the tables were close. A host I didn’t recognize was greeting people at the different tables and taking pictures. I got the feeling he was a former ballplayer, but I didn’t recognize him. (I thought about it again years later, when watching ‘Rocky Balboa’. Rocky going and talking to the patrons to tell stories and take pictures.)
(For the record, I love Broadway shows. We go to a number of the touring performances here in Seattle, and I’ve been to a handful of shows in New York since then, even when traveling solo.)
Yankee Stadium – July 23rd, 2008
Wednesday started early! A 1pm game, but we were at the Stadium at 9:20am. We spent the next hour and a half at the head of the line with a family from South Dakota. When the gates opened at 11am, it was straight to Monument Park (after taking a turnstile to my inner thigh – Ouch!).
Monument Park was gorgeous. The flowers were all in bloom. (It was undoubtedly the best thing I’d smelled in New York.) Everything in Monument Park was clean; the sign numbers were spotless and each monument was polished. I touched the faces of a handful of monuments, Ruth, DiMaggio, and Mantle. I even picked a flower. Seeing it all up close made the wait worthwhile. Leaving Monument Park and looking out the windows in Left/Center was like being on the field.
Our seats on Wednesday were awesome. Right Field line, about 10 rows up. I stood at the front of the stands before the game as Jeter played long toss 10 feet in front of me. (Jeter would always play catch up the line from the dugout. I’d watched him do it for years when the Yankees would come to Seattle, so I knew where to stand when I was in the Stadium, and so did everyone else, but the crowd was light that morning.)
The threat of thunderstorms were all talk in the afternoon. As it happened, we didn’t’ see rain until around 11pm that night. Mike Mussina pitched a shutout through 8 and left to a standing ovation. It was 5 to 0, and there wasn’t much left to do but wait out the inning before we left for Shea. I spent the last of the 8th just looking, taking in the sights of Yankee Stadium one last time, knowing it was going to be the last time I’d set foot in this stadium. I just kept looking left, then right, tracing the frieze with my eyes.
Amy asked if we needed to go, since we were heading to another game. I wanted to stay to the end, to hear Sinatra sing ‘New York, New York’ on more time. A part of me was bummed though. I’d seen everything but Mariano Rivera, but it was still a damn good time!
And then something happened…
The Yankees brought in Latroy Hawkins, who proceeded to give up 3 base hits and a run. Girardi went to the mound and I literally said 2 words out loud, “No way!”
The video panned to the dugout entrance to the field and the strings of “Enter Sandman” hit. The hair on my arms stood up – And out came Rivera!
You couldn’t get the smile off my face. I turned towards Amy and she was in tears; she could see I was so excited that her eyes were literally welling, which hit me too. It was the perfect way to leave Yankee Stadium. A Mariano Rivera save and Sinatra.
Shea Stadium – July 23rd, 2008
When you have as perfect of a day at Yankee Stadium, there’s just no way that Shea is going to live up to it. The first thing you see getting off the train, like with Yankee Stadium, is the new building. Citi Field replaces Shea in 2009, and it is pure class. The building is full of brick on the front and sides; when it opens it will be incredible. From the outside it looks more intimate and more like a ‘traditional’ park compared to New Yankee Stadium (which looks cold in comparison). Shea Stadium? Not so much.
Unlike Yankee Stadium, Shea Stadium was at least clean, but like Yankee Stadium, uncomfortable as hell. The view at home plate shoots right at the new park, which undoubtedly beats the view of the transmission and engine repair shops that it’s blocking.
The seats are different colors by level. Orange is on the base level (safely guarded by a bunch of ‘seat police’). We were in the Blue Loge section, where we were able to enjoy some variation of the word ‘fuck’ in nearly every sentence, and vendors walking in front of our seats constantly. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy to have seen Shea, but knowing that I won’t have to see Queens for at least 5 years is a relief!
There were two true bright spots to Shea. #1, we got to see the ‘Home Run Apple’ pop up
– I jumped up to get a picture of the stunning sight of a big papier-mâché looking apple pop out of a top hat. I don’t know why, but Amy acted like it was the lamest thing she’d seen all day. #2, the quote of the night. A guy jumped up in a Philly jersey to catch a foul ball in Right, but dropped it. He was booed. Mercilessly. Well, Amy didn’t see the guy, she just saw the man holding a toddler to which she said:
“Are they booing that baby?!”
It was a combination of horror and disgust. Me? The funniest thing I’d heard all month! (And no, they weren’t booing the baby. We weren’t in Philly.)
It was impossible to beat the Yankee Stadium experience from the morning, but Shea Stadium was still fun, just in a different, if not more ‘authentic’ New York experience, complete with a ton of ‘fucks’ and baby booing.
We ended our night walking through Times Square in the rain, hitting the Hard Rock (touristy, I know,) and staying out past midnight.
It was a perfect ending to the perfect trip, with my perfect wife, who I love infinitely more than Erin Andrews…
I glossed over something else that happened at Shea Stadium. I got a picture with Erin Andrews. You have to understand, 2008 was the absolute peak of Erin Andrews popularity. Let’s face it, she was smoking hot (and still is). When I saw that she was doing the pre-broadcast for the game, I figured I’d hang down there to get a picture. The guy next to me was thinking the same thing. I gave Erin the universal signal for ‘take a picture’ and she said sure, after she was done with the segment. It was probably a good half hour, maybe a little longer, when she came over. So where was my wife through all this? Waiting. “Patiently”, but not at all stoked or particularly happy looking. I probably should have taken the hint and pulled the plug, but instead I did what any person (a very stupid person) would do… I had her take the picture for me.
So here’s a tip for all you married guys. If you ever have the chance to have your picture taken with Erin Andrews, and your wife is at the game with you… Pass. I don’t think she spoke to me until the 5th inning.