Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Yankee Stadium

I swore I'd never go back. After 10/16/03 (and early morning 10/17/03), I never wanted to see Yankee Stadium again. Then the Yankees announced that they were getting a new park, and Ross had an extra ticket to Opening Day... how could I say no to one of the last two Opening Days at Yankee Stadium? Add in the Carl Pavano experience and the A-Rod circus, and the whole thing became too good to pass up.

So there I was defiantly/stupidly wearing my Red Sox hat, getting cross-eyed looks on the subway, having obscenities lobbed at me on 157th Street, and having to explain to a random stranger at the front door of the bowling alley that I just wanted to go inside and mind my own business. Good times.

The stadium itself? I've been there plenty of times before, but I've never really explored it much, mostly because I've been afraid for my life. Sitting in the bleachers yesterday, there really wasn't much to see. I got through the front gate, got searched, walked straight to our seats, and sat there with my trap shut for nine innings. The ceremonies were nice enough, with the Lidle family throwing out the first pitches, and it was a pretty nice day for April 2nd. The sky even cleared up for the last two innings or so, giving us perfect, mid-60's baseball weather just as the Devil Rays bullpen was re-defining "replacement level."

The problem with Yankee Stadium, to me, is that unless you're a Yankee fan, the history and the mystique is lost on you (and in my case, it just plain hurts). I can't appreciate that Ruth and Gehrig and DiMaggio and Mantle and Jackson and Mattingly played there - I hate them all. And there's nothing unique about the park itself, like the left field wall at Fenway or the Ivy at Wrigley. Monument Park is nice, and I do want to take a stroll through it before the park is replaced, but it's outside of the field of play.

I will give the Yankees credit for this: they are all about the game of baseball. From the bat and ball weather vane atop the center field flagpole (of which I should have taken a picture... damn), to the giant vertical bat outside the park on the northwest corner, to the American League flags listed in order of divisional standing in the outfield, you're 100% aware at all times that you are there to see baseball. They over-promote their own team as much as any other franchise, but they pay respect to the game at every turn, which is nice to see.

Random observations:

Of all of the places where I thought I'd never see vendors selling pink rally monkeys, the Yankee Stadium bleachers were on the top of my list. No longer.

Yankee fans love their gay-bashing. Maybe it was just the two guys two rows in front of us (one of whom was wearing one of those hideous batting practice hats, the other of whom was sporting a terrific curly mullet and "angry poet" facial hair; they were all over the poor rookie in the Tampa 'pen who had to carry a pink backpack (a form of hazing that the Red Sox also used in 2005). But I had a few Tim Hardaway-isms tossed my way, too, more so than I ever had during past Red Sox games in the Bronx. And I loved this exchange with mullet boy:

Him: (to nobody in particular after seeing Ruddy Lugo in the Tampa 'pen) "Lugo... is he related to Julio Lugo?"
Me: "Yeah, I think they're cousins."
Him: "Yeah, more like butt buddies."
Did you see how he goaded me into that, knowing that I was a Red Sox fan? Silly me, rooting for a team that has a shortstop who has a homosexual relationship with his cousin who happens to pitch for the team that's opposing the Yankees today! I should just take of my hat and walk back to Boston in shame. He sure told me.

Yankee fans also love to over-react (as do Red Sox fans, I must say). Not only was A-Rod cheered during the introductions, booed after losing that foul pop-up in the top of the first, cheered when he came to the plate in the bottom of the first, and then booed when he struck out; but the guy sitting right behind me actually said, five pitches into the game: "Ah, they should have started Pettitte today." I'm no Pavano fan myself, but... wow. That was the first time of several that I said to Ross, "I love Yankee fans."

Speaking of Pavano, how's this for reaching for something positive to say (during his first inning warm-ups):

And I didn't post it on this site, even though I could have sworn that I did, but I totally called that Elijah Dukes would take Pavano deep during the game. Impressive, perhaps, but that's nothing compared to what happened in the eighth: with a man on and a two-run lead, A-Rod strolled to the plate. About ten seconds before the first pitch of the at bat, I turned to Ross and said "I'll bet this (expletive deleted) hits a home run right now." Sure enough, ten seconds later, he drills the first pitch into dead center, and Ross just sits there laughing at me as the rest of the crowd goes berserk. That was fun. As inevitable as that garbage homer was, it was a pretty impressive shot given the location of the pitch - gotta give that (expletive deleted) credit.

All in all, it was an enjoyable game, but Yankee Stadium itself still leaves something to be desired. I'll freely admit that I can't possibly appreciate it the way others can, but it still seems fairly sterile and unoriginal to me. Maybe once I take Danielle there and we do the whole "out of town fan not wearing Red Sox gear" thing, I'll see some things that I've yet to see, but right now, I don't see any reason to raise or drop it in my rankings.

Updated Rankings:
  1. PNC Park
  2. AT&T Park
  3. Great American Ballpark
  4. Fenway Park
  5. Camden Yards
  6. Comerica Park
  7. Citizens Bank Park
  8. Safeco Field
  9. Kaufman Stadium
  10. Jacobs Field
  11. Yankee Stadium
  12. Rogers Center
  13. Shea Stadium
  14. McAfee Coliseum
  15. Veteran's Stadium

1 comment:

Warren said...

I've never quite understood the fascination with Yankee Stadium, either. It's like that high school hangout that you have fond memories of, but when you go back ten years later you find out it's actually kind of a dump. You've confused the history with the place itself.

But it's still better than Shea.