If my parents could see me they would die a second time. Last night Suzi and I went to Yankee Stadium and I rooted for the Yankees. I was thrilled when the Yanks popped 4 homers and scored 9 runs in the second inning. I cheered when the scoreboard showed Baltimore losing to Tampa Bay giving the Yanks sole possession of first place with two games left in the season. At the end of the game I sang along with Frank Sinatra, long gone but still beloved , in a chorus of “New York, New York.”
We had planned to see my team, the Mets, at Citi Field but the timing didn’t work and I had to “settle” for Yankee Stadium. With the Yanks and Baltimore tied for first, the season ending on Wednesday, AND the Yankees playing the Red Sox, the Stadium was electric.
I grew up in a religious household, Yankee haters. My family was true blue Brooklyn Dodger. But at the end of the 1957 season the Dodgers left Brooklyn for LA. For four seasons I was without a National League club. Losing my baseball team between the ages of 11 and 14 was a teenage tragedy worthy of a hit song, far more traumatic than losing a girlfriend. When the Dodgers abandoned us, our family could not continue to root for them like our neighbors, the Spooners, who turned in their old Brooklyn blue caps for shiny new Dodger blue caps with “LA” and started listening to Beach Boys’ records.
Of course I still went to ball games, at Yankee Stadium. But I greeted the return of the National League in the form of the Mets with more joy than I would have greeted the second coming. For three seasons in the mid-sixties I worked joyfully for WOR, which originated Mets games from Shea Stadium when the Mets were the worst team in baseball. But they were my team.
So last night I sat in Yankee Stadium cheering the Yanks. Pop once said that rooting for the Yankees was like cheering for General Motors, but, hey, given today’s economic climate it’s patriotic to root for General Motors. And I’m rooting for the Yanks for the same reason I am rooting for GM. It’s the economy stupid. When I ran KUDO we carried the Yanks. They were about the only program we could consistently sell out. Every time I heard John Sterling end a game with his signature “THEEEEEE YANKEES WIN!” I knew we were one game closer to post season play. Extending the Yankees into post season meant more games and more money. And while I no longer have an ownership interest in KUDO those words still bring joy.
I was not sure about going to the game when we downloaded our tickets for the upper deck. The tickets, with all of the conditions, were each 5 pages long. This reinforced every stereotype of the pinstriped corporate Yankees. But when I got to Yankee Stadium I was charmed. The security lady chatted us up while she patted us down and looked into our bags. “Where you all from? Alaska, wow! I always wanted to go to Alaska. Now enjoy the game Honey.” The man who scanned the front page of our ticket novella gave us a hearty “Welcome to The Stadium.” Inside people with buttons saying “how can I help” answered questions, gave me a free guide to the stadium and directed us to our seats.
Yankee Stadium handles people well, and there were a lot of folks to handle. The stadium was clean, open and there is not a bad seat in the house. We had a great view of the action from the upper deck right under the famed Yankee Stadium frieze. We arrived almost two hours early to tour the park, have our Italian Sausage and Pepper sandwiches, gaze down on Monument Park and watch batting practice. About an hour before game time the Stadium organist gave a recital. We could watch him at the keyboard on the giant screen over center field. Before the game each Yankee in the starting lineup appeared on that screen and welcomed us to Yankee Stadium.
The game highlights were, of course, the second inning, four homers and 9 runs and the bottom of the 8th when the Yanks brought in several minor leaguers who they called up in September. Melky Mesa, had his first major league hit, a single, that also gave him his first RBI. Boy that kid was happy. A Cracker Jack vendor wandered the stands shouting “Craaaack, Craaaaack.” That is so the Bronx.
The only dissonant note was during the seventh inning stretch. The Yankees played a recording of Kate Smith singing “God Bless America.” When I was a kid we always watched Kate Smith’s TV show. She ended each show with “God Bless America.” That meant it was over, and I had to go to bed. When my parents tried to get a head start on bedtime I would always win the argument by saying “It ain’t over ‘till the fat lady sings.” I thought that aphorism was a specific reference to the Kate Smith Show. Here it was, the middle of the 7th, the fat lady was singing and it ain’t over. That is just wrong! Right after the seventh inning people started leaving. They too thought Kate Smith was the fat lady singing. Or perhaps it was just the Yank’s commanding lead. Watching a blowout is fun while it’s blowing, but once blown a game can become dull. I kept hoping for a Red Sox late inning rally to make the game more interesting and to teach everyone who left early that Yogi was right, “It ain’t over ‘till it’s over.”
The National Anthem, Kate Smith, Take Me out to the Ball Game, Cracker Jack, Sinatra, Italian sausage, “New York, New York.” It’s all so American. It’s all so New York. It’s so much my game.
I wrote this in Sept, 2012. My memories of the night are slightly tinged with sadness. As a kid I could get on bus, then a subway, pay for upper deck seats, enjoy a hot dog, Cracker Jack and a coke on what I could earn by cutting a few lawns. Today a kid needs a trust fund just to get the cheapest seats at the stadium.