Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
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Lasting Yankee Stadium Memory #2
2008-09-09 11:33
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

By Dayn Perry

I'm a to-the-grave Cardinals fan. I'm not a Yankees fan. Never was. I don't dislike them--in fact, I appreciate what they've meant to the sprawling history of this game. Mostly, I'm indifferent to them as a team. What I am not indifferent to, however, is New York City and the Yankees' indelible place in it.

I grew up in a small town in South Mississippi, which, other than the human elements native to all of us, had little in common with New York. When I was in second grade, however, I read a story about young girl named Frieda who lived in New York. The story told me about her walks to school, her rides on the subway, and her interactions with kinds and colors of people I'd never imagined. Frieda's life seemed impossibly different from mine, and this place she called home, well, I needed to know more about.

When I got home from school that day, I dragged down the "N" volume of our World Book Encyclopedias and looked up Frieda's home town. The foldout map of New York was like nothing I'd ever seen before. It was sinewed with roads, train lines, expressways, side streets, and all the rest. It was just a map, but you could almost sense the clots of humanity that made the map a real place. And the names in and around New York were just as fascinating--fascinating in their hard sounds and the hard places they evoked. Hoboken. Brooklyn. Bayonne. Canarsie. Nyack. Red Hook. Hell's Kitchen. Pelham Bay Park. Bensonhurst. Scarsdale. And my favorite name of all: The Bronx. It was the toughest, most perfect word I'd ever heard. It sounded like a punch in the gut. It grabbed you by the collars. Bronx. And what kind of place had "the" in front of it? Whatever it was, there could only be one. After all, it was "A Bronx."

I don't remember how old I was when I found out that the Yankees toiled in the Bronx--that place with the unforgettable name--but I do remember that my estimation of them increased dramatically. I was 19 years old when I finally made it to New York City, and I greeted it with wide, mystified eyes. I was 30 when I finally made it to Yankee Stadium (via the 4 Train, of course), and I've never paid less attention to a baseball game in all my life. I was too busy taking in the architecture, the perfect weather, the cold beer, and, from my seats in the distant reaches of the upper deck, the view of that perfect word: Bronx.

In the years between the time I first read about Frieda's New York and first set foot in Yankee Stadium, my fascination with the American urban experience consumed me. As it was for so many people drawn to the stew of the city, New York was it. It was everything, including those guttural names on the map. I'll always remember Yankee Stadium for bringing together two of my abiding passions, baseball and the city of cities, like no other venue--no other thing--could have. It's an urban game to me, baseball, despite its apocryphal origins in the countryside. It's always been about cities and energy and crowds and fathers and sons and those without fathers and without sons. Hell, the ballpark, in some regards is itself a city--people thrown together, haphazardly and at times uncomfortably, to feel and live. Some arrive late; some leave early; and some stay for the full nine innings, never thinking of going anywhere else.

On that day in Yankee Stadium, I didn't pay much heed to what was a damned fine game. But I stayed all nine innings, and I never thought of going anywhere else.

Dayn Perry writes about baseball for Fox.

Comments
2008-09-09 12:06:38
1.   Ben
Wow. Beautiful. Willie Morris, eat your heart out.
2008-09-09 14:43:22
2.   ms october
yeah wow - very nice piece.

i can definitely appreciate the connection of yankee stadium to new york city and especially the bronx.
i also grew up in the south (al) and had a similar fascination with new york - as i somehow always thought that is where i should have grown up.

2008-09-09 15:28:36
3.   Schteeve
You just articulated something I've loved about New York and never really thought about spefically until now. The names of the places are so full of character.

The Meat Packing District, SoHo, Dumbo, Alphabet City, Bed Stuy. New York has more magic to it than any other place I've ever lived.

I grew up in Bay Ridge, and have since lived in D.C., San Fran, Atlanta, and Chicago, but there is truly nowhere like New York.

Great piece, thank you.

2008-09-09 15:34:50
4.   Repoz
Wonderful, Dayn...simply wonderful.

Hey...for years, just the thought of Throggs Neck existing scared the throbbing gulps out of me.

But then I realized it was an off-kiltered tribute to Reg Presley and everything was ok after that.

2008-09-09 15:57:52
5.   Chyll Will
Yonkers! (YON-kuz)
Long Island (lun-GUY-lin)
Newark (brik-SIT-ee)
>;)
2008-09-09 17:35:13
6.   NetShrine
Remember when Archie Bunker tagged along with Mike and Gloria when they went house hunting in the Bronx?

What was it again that A.B. said about the Bronx?

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