Monday, September 22, 2008
I was going to write something on the closing of Yankee Stadium, the most lucrative nostalgia stunt I can recall in recent baseball history, but Paul Lukas said everything I wanted to say and more.
And Deadspin collected all the Bronx charm of it all beautifully. ("Fucking Eskimos!")
So all I really have to add is my favorite Yankee Stadium story.
It's game 2 of the 2001 ALDS, and me and two friends managed, with surprising ease, to get three tickets to see the Yankees take on the A's; the party consists of:
--My friend Cameron, who would be a die-hard A's fan if it were legal to be die-hard about anything in the state of California, and who proudly wears a 2001 Wild Card Champions (an oxymoron if ever was one) into The Stadium. Cameron is a large man, bearded, with tremendous mushroomed hair, a beautiful full-blown Hebro.
--Matthew, not really a baseball fan, and thus there mainly for the spectacle and havoc to come.
--Myself, Red Sox fan/antagonist, clad in an unfitted A's cap I'd been given years back by a family friend, plastic backing of which just broke on me yesterday. (Omen?)
The seats we so easily acquired, I might have mentioned, were right field bleacher seats. Cameron and I knew very well we were risking our necks and lives, but he loves the A's, and I hate the Yankees. And after the game at last started, after a bizarre delay (even then, in the wake of you know what) to listen to President Bush give vague and jingoistic answers to questions in a rare press conference, the game begins, as does our unwanted attention.
When the Red Sox are in town, there are plenty of Sox fans in the Stadium stands.
When the Orioles, Blue Jays, or another nearby team are in town, there are pockets of their fans.
Even when the Angels are in town (post-2002), there are fans.
But there are rarely any A's fans in Yankee Stadium, and that night, we had to be the only ones.
Through a taut and thrilling pitching duel between Tim Hudson and Andy Pettite, the fans around us hardly seemed to watch the game. At least if they couldn't awkwardly position themselves to watch the game and wave their fingers at us which chanting that one magic word:
"AAASSSSHOLE! AAAASSSHOLE! AAASSSSHOLE!"
I was at once mildly terrified to be this alone in a sea of assholery and a bit amused, especially when most of the section was turned against us and thus didn't get to see the capper on the game, Ron Gant's 9th inning solo home run, the second and final run of the game. Matthew, clad in no man's gear, grinned ear to ear, contemplating the fiasco of our exit to come. And Cameron was probably too into the game to fully understand what he was in the middle of and would soon become the focal point of.
Because some time before the Gant home run, maybe around the 5th, the crowd seized upon my friend's unruly hair, and seized upon a moment of collective genius. Their invention was a chant.
On our way walk-running out of the Stadium, I didn't hear the very first call of "Take off your hat!" from a truly Bronxian voice, unfair as that ritual is. ("My" team won: therefore, I "win" the right to wear it wherever I please, Sal.) So an anonymous hand tried to rip it off my head, and took my neck back aways with his reach. But I saved my hat and my neck, and the three of us got the fuck back to New Haven. But not before one guy, running faster than us, caught up with me. He had no shit to talk though.
He just said, "Ay, I jus'wanted to let you know, my brother Tom is sorry. He didn't mean it."
I left the old yard with genuine affection for it that day. The new one is such a reach of greed, it's a major reason my friend Patrick, forever a lover of Mattingly, no longer roots for the team.
Rest in peace, Yankee Stadium (II). You were no longer a thing of beauty, but you were what remained of the tarnished Yankee soul.