What could be better than New York in the Fall? Well, some things… Special reasons for being there. As it worked out, the Yankees went down in the first round of the playoffs and that meant no more live baseball for me for this year. Someone tried to persuade that a trip to Citi Field would be worthwhile but we all have our loyalties and so I passed on the Mets. Something else to do. And with me that usually means if not baseball then music.
Well, this time it was a bit of a flying, compact visit to New York but it was well worth the travelling time and the jetlag I’m now suffering back in London. During the time we were there we spent time in four of the five boroughs and attended three games at the new Yankee Stadium. It was a painful experience to see the old Stadium closed up, fenced off and derelict but some people struggle to respect history. Strange to think the last time I was there was in the frivolity and joy of the last game ever held there – now the life has moved across the road into a site which has more comfort, more space but lacks the originality of architecture and atmosphere and the ghosts of great games gone by. Where the new stadium has true class is where it has chosen to echo the old. Let’s just say it’s nice and I’ll get used to it and leave it at that.
Over the next few days I’ll be posting some thoughts about the games we saw and then a summary of September and what I thinks the Yankees chances are in the post-season.
So how was the final night at Yankee Stadium, Darren? Well, I’m back in London and feeling very jetlagged so I might as well gather my thoughts and write them down.
A few days earlier I’d arrived early at the Stadium in order to have a final mooch around Monument Park. That night they closed the line into the park five minutes after the Stadium opened and I didn’t get in. So when they said that they were opening the park at 1.05 pm for a game that didn’t begin until 8.05, I wasn’t going to fall for it again but I did want a good long time to soak up the atmosphere so I arrived in the Bronx about 3. There was a guy on the Stadium gate announcing that Monument Park was already closed – no surprise there – but I decided to go in anyway get myself a hot dog and see what was happening. So I moved forward and presented my ticket. The attendant ran it through his swipe machine – and said there was a problem and that I should go to the "Will Call" window. Mmmmmmm…… I began to worry. But confident that all would be well, I walked round to Will Call. The woman there told me that the season ticket holder who had sold this to my ticket broker and then gone on and re-issued it to himself which is technically very out-of-order but meant that the ticket belonged to him and not to my ticket broker and consequently, no to me. Now, life is beginning to look very grim. Tickets for this game have been changing hands for $20,000 – $70,000 so I’m not about to head to a scalper. Looks like time to head back to Manhattan and settle back to watch the game on TV.
I’m waiting on the subway station when the fog of misery lifted enough to decide to ring my ticket broker who is a good guy and whose fault this wasn’t. I checked my cellphone and found that I hadn’t brought the number with me from the UK. Even bigger crap. Decided to ring my mate, Graham, in London, who is a pastor, only to find he was still at church taking service. Tried my sister in Yorkshire, who didn’t even know I was abroad and, lo and behold, she went on the internet and found a number.
Dialled the number. No answer. Ansaphone message but crucially giving me his mobile. Rang the mobile. No answer. Left a desperate message. Rang again. Still no answer. Mentally gave myself a cut off time that I was going to give back up and decide to do something more fun than sit in a subway station. ……… And then the phone rang. Broker Tim sounded very concerned and said he would call back which he did. Ten minutes later, call he did, and said he’d found a alternate ticket. Amazing. All I’d need was some photo I.D. and it would be at Stub Hub to collect. Only one problem….. my only photo identification, my passport, was in Manhattan and I was in the Bronx. Oh, okay, says Broker Tim, I’ll see what I can do to sweet talk them and get them to break their own rules and give it you without. Somehow or other, he pulled this off and ten minutes later – still only 4 o’clock – I was in the Stadium.
So my own personal crises aside, what else happened? Well, there was marching bands and a whole bunch of guys in the outfield dressed to appear as the 1923 starting line up. There were the greats of years gone by – those who are still in this world and didn’t have another game to be involved in this night. There was Reggie Jackson, Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill, Yogi Berra, Moose Skowron, Bobby Richardson, David Cone, David Wells, Don Larsen, Chris Chambliss, Willie Randolph and a cast of many, many more. There were the sons, daughters, and wives of those who died young. Crowd going crazy and joy unconfined for the devoted baseball fan. So much to see and do that the beginning of the game was definitely going to be at least half-an-hour late. Film and sounds and heroes.
When the game did actually begin, the Yankees were struggling behind a sub-par performance from Andy Pettitte. He gave up two early runs and Waters was pitching well for the Orioles and to be frank the Yankee bats seemed a little over-awed by the occasion. This really had been the story of all the games I had been too. Starting pitching which didn’t look up to the task and the bullpen to the rescue. The problem with this was it had stretched the resources of the ‘pen to the limit and several of the guys had gone out to the mound several nights on the trot.
And then it happened. Remembering where they were the Yankees came to life. Unlikely singles from Matsui (0-for-16 in recent at-bats), and Molina were followed by a home run from Johnny Damon. Pettitte gave up a third run but a two-run homer from Jose Molina (only his third home run of the season and it turned out to be the last ever fence-clearer at Yankee Stadium) in the bottom of the fourth restored the lead.
And then to the bullpen. Veras, Coke and Chamberlain once more delivered the goods. By this time the Yankees had extended their lead to 7-3. And then everyone was on their feet. Enter Sandman once more pumped from the public address. Rivera coming in from the bullpen. Field of Dreams, indeed.
The rest of the night produced laps of honour, speeches from Derek Jeter and more plays of Frank Sinatra’s recording of "New York, New York" than I could count or care to remember.
All this and in bed for three in the morning. Great, great night.
Last night I took a cruise around the East River and the Hudson River on a yellow taxi boat out of the South Street Seaport. Very enjoyable but the guy on the public address talked too much. Meanwhile, over at Yankee Stadium, Alfredo Aceves was leading the Yankees to victory. He’s been everything that Phil Hughes should have been. In a couple of hours, I’m going to wind my way to the Bronx for one last time to see Andy Pettitte start, lots of celebrations and remembrances and the Stadium finally close. Exciting and sad all at the same time. Even if we are getting trounced, it is a very good bet that Mo Rivera will pitch the ninth.
Late tomorrow I fly back to England and arrive there on Tuesday.
Sitting just behind the Yankees dugout last night, watching Carl Pavano struggle horribly for the first four innings, it didn’t look like the Yankees were going to pick up their second win of my stay but they did. A home run from Robinson Cano and some exemplary relief from Brian Bruney, Joba Chamberlain and Phil Coke got us through to Mariano Rivera and the inevitable although there was a wobble before the game finally came to its conclusion. 3-2.
Weather here is still hot and sunny. Fell asleep in Central Park in the green,green grass. It’s nice to relax and be away from work.
Fine game for Mike Mussina in Yankee Stadium last night. In truth, he had a pretty poor first innings (which was partially due to some doubtful calls on the plate umpire’s part) but after that he was smooth sailing. Bobby Abreu – the guy the "insiders" say is on his way out of the Bronx on the end of the season but whom this journal reckons should be the rock they build next year’s outfield around – hit two home runs in his first two at-bats. As usual in September there were a whole bunch of debutantes now the season is winding to a close with no hope of the post-season. So I got my first look at Juan Miranda (first base & the 17th Cuban ever to play for NYY), Humberto Sanchez (subject of many whispers over the last two years but whose arrival in the Bronx has been much delayed by injury) and Francisco Cervelli (whose appearance was too brief to figure out much about other than he is a catcher).
Jeter continues to enjoy a strong finish to the year. The stadium is pretty full but the empty seats are mostly in the most expensive areas which is interesting given that their policy for the "new" Yankee Stadium is to increase the expensive seating areas and private boxes and reduce the numbers seats available for typical baseball fans. Two guys I met had paid $250 for their seats and left in the fifth innings. Now there’s fans for you.
Aside from baseball, I took the ferry over to Staten island and did some exploring (okay, I looked round the baseball stadium there, too) and had a good day soaking up the sun in Manhattan. I’m just heading to Central Park and then tonight it is Yankees play Orioles.
So I’m hanging around Manhattan for a few days as I’m here to take in the last few games at Yankee Stadium. I love this city and it is always great to be here whatever the circumstance but the closure of the Stadium makes me both excited and annoyed in equal measure. Annoyed because they’re getting rid of all tradition and history and things will never be the same. Excited because at least I get to be a part of the big wind-down and the final game.
After that back to the UK and hopefully take the two Swarf concerts that are happening during the last week in September.