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.)
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.
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:
(Visiting team) sucks!
Red Sox suck!
Box seats suck!
This stadium sucks!