Monday, July 28, 2008

“Take Me Out to the Ball Game”*

Last week I went to Yankee Stadium to watch the Bronx Bombers play the Minnesota Twins. There wasn’t anything particularly significant about this game. It wasn’t against a noteworthy rival, nor was it at a pivotal point in the season. It was simply a midsummer’s game on a Tuesday evening.

There are a few essentials for a game at Yankee Stadium: a hot dog and beer (which will only cost you $14.50, your left arm, and your first-born son), the reliable voice of Bob Shepperd (whose career as announcer has lasted more than two of my lifetimes), and the boisterous bleacher creatures (who are incredibly organized when it comes to chanting out the names of the Yankees’ starters—I would be very scared if this group ever decided to use their ability to rally folks for something useful) to name a few.

Then there’s always that fan who is so annoying that by the end of the game you want to ring his neck—or your own—just to put you out of your misery. When we first sat down, my brother and I found our prime candidate: a young boy, maybe about seven or eight (I know, how mean to pick on a little kid). But this kid was seriously annoying. He asked more questions than I thought humanly possible. In fact, I think every sentence out of his mouth was a question. Now I’m all for encouraging kids to explore and think and ask questions, but this was ridiculous.

"Who are the Yankees playing?" The Twins. "What are those things on the field?" Portable cages. "Why are they there?" To protect the players in the field during batting practice. "What's the score?" The game hasn't started yet, so it's 0-0. "What time is it?" 6:54. "Who’s Babe Ruth?" He was a baseball player. "Is he playing today?" No, he’s dead. "Who’s that on the screen?" Derek Jeter. "Is Derek Jeter dead?" No, he’s the shortstop. "What’s a shortstop?"

The questions went on and on and on. I mean had this kid ever even seen a baseball game on TV? After about ten minutes of this, my brother and I were about ready to jump off the upper deck. Anything to make it stop!

Thankfully, we realized we were sitting in the wrong seats and quickly moved one section to the right. In our new seats, the only obnoxious fan we had to deal with was some annoying guy from California who was obsessed with Goose Gossage. For all his enthusiasm, he wasn’t very smart, and he was a bit drunk. He informed us that it took a lot of guts to name your kid Goose (even though Goose Gossage’s real first name is Richard and Goose is just a nickname…but really, this was guy a huge Yankee fan!).

Like I said, the game was nothing particularly special. But maybe it meant a little more to a few of the fans. It was the first time my three-year-old niece had ever been to Yankee Stadium. And it may have been the last time some of us will ever set foot in this Yankee Stadium because pretty soon the House That Ruth Built will be torn down.

I guess the new Yankee Stadium will be state-of-the-art with all kinds of food stalls and really clean bathrooms and all, but what about all the history and memories? Yankee Stadium is where my dad, my brother, and I sat in the bleachers and watched Aaron Boone hit a walk-off homerun in the bottom of the eleventh inning in game seven of the 2003 ALCS. This game gave me a glimpse of my dad as a kid, the way he chose just the right moments to flip his hat to the rally position, only to quickly flip it back when it wasn’t needed so as not to abuse the privilege.

I can’t help but be a little sad that Yankee Stadium is going to be destroyed…out with the old, in with the new. The mystique of an 85-year-old baseball icon reduced to a pile of debris.

*Jack Norworth