Mariano Rivera: Pride of the Yankees

I can’t believe it. Mariano Rivera won’t be coming in to save the Yankees anymore. And I missed his last game at Yankee Stadium (which sucks, by the way).

Here’s his last appearance on the mound in New York on Sept. 26 (If this video link works correctly, there are multiple clips here):

Pretty cool letting Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter take the ball from him. Pretty sad that Pettitte is retiring from the game as well. His last pitch was thrown Saturday in Texas. And really, Jeter doesn’t have that much longer to play.

One other note of historic significance: Rivera will be the last player in Major League Baseball to wear the number 42. That number has been retired in honor of Jackie Robinson, whose family was in Yankee Stadium for a tribute to Mariano.

This is one of those instances when you think, “Why wait. Just put him in the Hall of Fame now.”

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The new Yankee Stadium sucks

When I was younger, I went to countless games at Yankee Stadium, especially during the 1970s when the team was terrible. (I’m not sure whether you call that time the Horace Clark-era or the Bobby Murcer-era.) I’d sit in the bleachers with the immigrants (usually Puerto Ricans) and join everyone yelling at the opposing outfielders.

And when I was older, when the Yankees were really good, I took my young son to countless games at the old stadium. We’d sit in the bleachers with the drunks from Jersey and join everyone yelling at the opposing players, anyone who liked the Mets, anyone who liked the Red Sox and anyone sitting in box seats. (Box seats suck.)

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I was only comfortable at Yankee Stadium when I was sitting in the bleachers. There was something about them that broke down class boundaries. At the old stadium, you could sit in the front row of the bleachers and look down at the warning track. You’d say something to the players, and they’d acknowledge your existence. The stadium never seemed to open up all of the bleacher area, because we could sit in right field, look toward left field and see that whole section closed. In straight-away center, there were no seats at all. Just a black background covering the area so the batters could follow the ball better as the pitchers delivered (or so the Yankee commentators would say).

But the old Yankee Stadium is gone. It died in 2008. I’ve been out of the country for a while, and when I came back, I never was able to get back to New York when the Yanks were in town.

Until this past weekend. So I went to the new Yankee Stadium.

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I couldn’t believe it. This place is really unpleasant. It’s got all the sterile charm of Nationals Park in Washington, with the added feature of being twice as expensive.

Time for some math.

When I went to Yankee Stadium in 1970, a seat in the bleachers was a buck. When you’re 15, the ability to go by yourself to Yankee Stadium with five bucks and have enough money for a ticket, a drink and some food was a pretty good way to knock off an afternoon. The minimum wage then was $1.60 an hour. That means you didn’t even have to work an hour to afford a Yankees ticket.

Then, 25 years later, as a dad with a kid, I could go to Yankee stadium and a bleachers seat was five or 10 bucks. Not bad. I had a job. Made more than minimum wage. And I could afford to buy the kid food and a souvenir.

But they’ve screwed up the bleachers area at the new park. A ticket now costs $27.80. Put that in perspective. The price of a bleachers ticket has gone up 2,680 percent since 1970. What’s the change in the minimum wage? It’s now $7.25, which is about a 350 percent increase from 1970. But it gets worse. If you use 1996 as the base year, the minimum wage of 1970 was actually the equivalent to $6.47. But today’s minimum wage of $7.25 is the 1996 equivalent of $4.97. So the minimum wage is really lower and the bleacher ticket is a hell of a lot higher.

But the worst part is the new bleachers have awful sight lines. Yankee management put a major snack bar obstruction (They call it the Mohegan Sun Sports Bar and the Batting Eye Seats) right in the middle of the bleachers area. So if you’re sitting in the bleacher seats and something happens deep in the opposite field, YOU CAN’T SEE IT!!!

Oh, and if you want to sit in this tribute to greed, the ticket there is more than $100. To sit in what use to be the bleacher area. To sit in what used to cost $1!

And major league baseball wonders why it is losing fans? Taking a family of four to a Yankee game is not worth $200 when that’s the least expensive alternative.

Yeah, I’m old and cranky. But there used to be a time when poor people could get away from their troubles by spending a buck and killing an afternoon watching their favorite team. When I was a kid, I was poor. But I wasn’t out on the street, idle, figuring out destructive things to do at that age, because I could hop on the subway and see the Yankees. There’s no way I could have done that back then if the Yankees as part of their profit strategy said “Screw the poor.”

I will now modify the chant I learned from my years in the bleachers:

Yankee Baseball!
(Visiting team) sucks!
Red Sox suck!
Mets suck!
Box seats suck!
This stadium sucks!
EVERYTHING SUCKS!

Nationals Park: The reading room for Washingtonians

I regularly complain to friends that one of the frustrating things about going to baseball games at Nationals Park in Washington is that people don’t go there to watch the game. Every time I go to the park, I end up sitting behind a group of young D.C. up and comers who focus on each other and talk about their work and social lives.

And there are plenty of place in the stadium where people never go to their seats. They just hang out on benches and comfortable chairs on the stadium’s second level near the barbecue concessions and the bathrooms, completely oblivious to what’s happening on the field.

Washington Nationals fans don’t pay attention.

I thought I was the only one to notice it, but then I saw this on Deadspin:

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Just this season, we’ve seen a Nats fan doing his calculus homework at the game, a Nats fan doing his taxes at the game, a Nats fan knitting a scarf at the game. Now, three more examples, all from a single day, of Washington fans reading at the ballpark. …

… what is it about Washington that brings out the distraction? The above photo was posted to Instagram during Sunday’s doubleheader, of a lady reading something on her Kindle. And D.C. Sports Bog has a pair of pictures, also from Sunday, of two men absorbed in their newspapers. …

Nats fans are getting a reputation. So put the reading material away.

My team is the Yankees, and one thing for sure … Yankee fans pay attention. They come up with the most creative ways to offend the opposing team, they’re loud and they’re obnoxious. Years ago, back when I lived in New York, I went to countless games, sitting in the bleacher seats, joining the chants on how much everything sucked:

YANKEE BASEBALL!!
[Opposing team] sucks!
Mets suck!
Boston sucks!
Box seats suck!
EVERYTHING SUCKS!!!

Of course, they’ve come up with more creative insults over the years, but this was my rite of passage as a baseball fan.

And one thing for sure. Nobody anywhere near where I was sitting pulled out a book and read it during a game. Because anyone who did would have sucked!

 

Fenway at 100

I’ve written enough times that I’m a fan of the New York Yankees. So, cause and effect, I automatically hate the Boston Red Sox. It’s just what Yankee fans do.

Here’s how bad it is. I was standing in line today waiting to take a tour of the Rose Garden at the White House (That’s a separate post to come later), and a girl walked by in a T-shirt that said: “I only kiss Red Sox fans.”

Now, it never crosses my mind to kiss women on the street, but I REALLY wanted to get her attention to say, “Hey, I’m a Red Sox fan.”

Not to get a kiss. Just to get the kiss and then say: “I was lying. I’m really a Yankees fan. Red Sox suck!”

But I didn’t. Which is sort of a mark against me, because a true Yankee fan would have gone out of his way to be a jerk and done that.

Anyway, now I’m going to further erode my Yankee credentials by saying this.

Happy birthday, Fenway Park!

The home of the Boston Red Sox turned 100 years old yesterday. In this age of new high-tech ballparks specially designed to include as many luxury suites as possible, there’s something admirable about a baseball field that has lasted 100 years and served a loyal (though obnoxious) fan base.

The best seats I’ve ever had at any Major League Baseball game were at Fenway Park. I was in Boston about 17 or 18 years ago to visit a friend who worked at the Boston Globe. She had to work one night, and since I was with my 3-year-old son, I decided to take him to a baseball game.

We arrived at Fenway somewhere around the beginning of the second inning. I hadn’t ordered tickets in advance, so I went to the ticket booth and asked for two. There was no line and no one was behind me, so the woman in the booth asked where I wanted to sit, and I didn’t have any idea, because I’d never been there before. Then she says:

“If you’re willing to pay a little more money, I can give you two really good seats.”

“How much?”

“$25 a piece.”

(Remember when $25 was a lot of money to see a baseball game.)

So I bought the tickets, took my son by the hand and headed in. We got to the designated section on the first level. Behind home plate. Awesome! Then the usher escorted us to our seats, and I realized we were getting closer and closer to the field. Second row directly behind the catcher. It was one of those experiences when you realize your seat is better than anything you could have seen on television. Watching a fast ball come in from that angle is nothing like looking at a big screen television and watching a fast ball arrive.

I don’t remember who the Sox were playing that night. I think it was the Texas Rangers because I remember Jose Canseco was in right field. When the game was over, we went back to my friend’s house and watched SportsCenter. And when the Sox highlights came up, there we were, my son and I, right behind home plate. I’m sure that during the game, someone saw my son bust my lip, when, in a bit of 3-year-old craziness, he lurched back and drove his head into my mouth.

I don’t think he remembers that night. But that was one of my favorite MLB memories. And it took place with the hated Red Sox.

Here’s a little history of Fenway from the Chicago Sun Times and MLB:

The Red Sox won the opener on April 20, 1912, 7-6 in 11 innings over the New York Highlanders (who would soon change their name to the Yankees). Boston went on to win the ‘12 World Series and three more in that decade, but then embarked on an 86-year title drought in which the ballpark became the franchise’s biggest star.

“This ballpark has created as many memories for people in this area and around the world as any venue in the world,” Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said before the ceremony. “The park here has at least a life of its own. A magic to it. It’s the baseball land of Oz. People dream about this place.”

Doomed for the wrecking ball before the current owners bought the team in 2002, Fenway now has seats above the Green Monster and an HD video screen — not to mention lights above the upper decks and black and Latin players in the field — all unimaginable when it opened the same week the Titanic sank.

But you want to know the best part of the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park?

The Sox and the Yanks wore replica uniforms to match the ones the teams wore 100 years ago. And when the game was over the score was 6-2.

THE YANKEES WIN! THHHHUUUUUUHHHHH YANKEES WIN!

Hopefully, he at least got good seats

New York Gov. David Patterson was fined $62,500 for hitting up baseball’s New York Yankees for five free tickets to the first game of the 2009 World Series between the Yanks and the Philadelphia Phillies.

The New York Times story never gives the tickets’ face value, but the fine makes it $12,500 per.

The governor solicited the tickets from a registered lobbyist, and there was a big conflict of interest since the Yankees have a number of “issues before state government, including real estate, stadium development and tax matters,” the Times says.

But something doesn’t follow. He’s the governor and a team from his state was in the World Series. Don’t politicians routinely go to major sporting events when a local team is involved? If so, judging from this fine, they pay for their own tickets. Patterson makes $179,000 a year as governor, so all things considered, the tickets weren’t worth it.

Not to mention, the governor is pretty dim. Why ask for a $12,500 ticket when you can’t see the game? Patterson is legally blind. Just sit in front a big screen TV with a bunch of cronies. It would have been a lot more comfortable and more affordable.

Wait ’til next year

The Yankees are out of the playoffs. The Texas Rangers are going to the World Series after a 6-1 win last night, taking the series four games to two.

There are a lot of happy people out there. But like I said before. I’ve got no worries. The Yankees be back next year.

Reminds me of a story about the Brooklyn Dodgers. During one preseason, there was a lot of media coverage saying that was the Dodgers year and to expect them to take the World Series. On opening day at Ebbets Field, the visiting batter comes up. The first pitch to him is a ball.

Someone in the stands yells: “Wait ’til next year.”

The Dodgers won pennants in 1941, 1947, 1949, 1952 and 1953. Do I have to say who they lost the World Series to in those years?

They beat the Yankees in the 1955 series. But in 1956, order was restored and the Yankees were champions again.

All things considered, if I was around when the Dodgers were in Brooklyn, I would have been a Dodgers fan. Ebbets Field, which is now a housing development, isn’t that far from where members of my family currently live. And Brooklyn broke the color barrier with Jackie Robinson. How could you not support them?

But the Dodgers moved to L.A., betraying a million fans. I’m sure that was a gain for the Yankees.

Damn Yankees

There’s always a specific bad guy that appears in more than one movie. In old Westerns, it used to be the guy in the black hat. In  spy movies during the Cold War, the villains were  Russian. Today’s thrillers use Muslim terrorists.

The typical bad guys in baseball movies are the New York Yankees. The team I normally root for.

They appear in comedies, usually the ultimate foil for a ragtag team of rejects who are making the transition from hopeless to hero, like in “Major League,” where they are the last barrier to the Cleveland Indians winning a pennant.

In dramas, they’re the existential threat to individual players trying to make one last stab at glory, like Kevin Kostner as a Detroit Tigers’ pitcher in “For the Love of the Game.”

They were even the name supplied to the surrogate villain for a Little League team, dashing the hopes, but not the spirit, of “The Bad News Bears.”

When portrayed as a Big League team, The Yankees always seem to be big burly white guys with sinister black mustaches. But when you think Yankees in reality, you think of the clean-shaven, mixed-race Derek Jeter.

No one hates the Yankees because they are a bunch of losers. They’re hated because they win. They often lose the big game on the big screen, but in real life, they pull through. When you think about it, the Yankees aren’t an especially arrogant team like other past winners. The New York Mets and the Cincinatti Reds were more obnoxious when they made their runs at World Championships.

But Hollywood seems to do all it can to make me root against my team. How can you not back the Indians when a stadium is rocking to the song “Wild Thing”? How can you not want Billy Chapel to pitch a perfect game? And why should the Bears lose to those snide little snots?

Still, the depth of drama wouldn’t be there if these teams were up against the Red Sox, or the Orioles, or the Twins. The Yankees are villains because the Yankees crush dreams. The other teams are just dreamers.  They’ve gotta have heart.