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Lasting Yankee Stadium Memory #43
2008-10-22 08:38
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

By Jacob Luft

I was lucky as a kid in that my parents used to let me tag along on business trips. Oftentimes that meant New York City, though it could also be Chicago or D.C.. On one such trip to the Big Apple, I remember taking in the view atop the Empire State Building, looking west across the Hudson River and asking my dad, "What's that over there?"

"Oh," he replied, "that's just New Jersey."

(Little did he know he was talking to a future bridge-and-tunnel boy and proud resident of West Orange, N.J.!)

If mom and dad didn't have time to take me out to see the sights themselves, they would leave me with my great aunt or some other family friend. Funny thing, though: I can't recall ever being consulted on the destination. I was at the grownups' mercy of what they considered to be a good time for a kid. That changed one day -- I don't remember the year, sometime in the mid-1980s -- when my mom got in touch with an old friend of hers from the old country (Nicaragua) who volunteered to watch me for the day.

Upon picking me up at the hotel he asked, "Where do you want to go kid?"

That was my cue.

"Yankee Stadium."

It was the dead of winter. I had heard the newsman on the TV say it would be in the teens with minus-7 wind chill. Suffice it to say, there was no baseball scheduled on this day. Don Mattingly was on a beach somewhere in the Caribbean bashing coconuts. He wasn't bashing baseballs at the Stadium.

"Uh, you know it's not open right?"

"I don't care," I said. "I just want to see it."

"OK let's go."

He was kind enough to leave some frost on his windshield that morning for the benefit of a kid who had never seen snow, but it was more slush than anything at that point. Still, I was duly impressed. I recall crossing the river, heading toward the Bronx on the highway and seeing the big grey hulk of the Stadium rise up. He drove around in circles for a little while trying to afford me the best view possible. As many longtime Yankee fans have told me, the Stadium in the '80s was drab and dreary, and that jibes with what I saw that day. From the outside it seemed a lifeless edifice, especially with heavy sleet providing all of 30 feet of visibility. But hey, that was The House That Ruth Built, and Lou Gehrig played there and so did Joe D. and Mickey Mantle and all those guys on the baseball cards I had back home in a shoebox. I was on Cloud 9 just being so near to hallowed ground for the first time.

Unable to gain access to the Stadium itself, we did what I considered to be the next best thing: We ate a McDonald's a couple blocks away. Nothing like a Quarter Pounder, French Fries and a Coke to ease the sting. I remember the fries being extra salty, which went in perfect balance with the gritty neighborhood. And it wasn't just any McDonald's. It was a Yankee Stadium McDonald's, with pictures of Gehrig and Ruth and other legends all over the wall. My pilgrimage felt complete.

"So," my guide asked, "how about we go to the Statue of Liberty now?"

Jacob Luft is a senior editor at SI.com.

Comments
2008-10-22 10:21:40
1.   Mattpat11
I'll be going on my final tour of Yankee Stadium on Friday
2008-10-22 10:34:32
2.   thelarmis
0 so...did you go to Lady Liberty?! i love her!!! : )

Yankee Stadium & Lady Liberty would make for a pretty awesome day!!!

2008-10-22 11:12:34
3.   Ian Capilouto
0 Haha, my one and only Yankee Stadium experience is very similar to yours! The first time I was in New York City was about 6 years ago. It was something like the coldest day in the city in the last 20 years or something and it was just brutally cold especially for a kid born and raised near the beach in Southern California. But I had to see Yankee Stadium. (I was a Yankee for two years in little league and that rag tag little league team of players with non-dads for coaches really took the league by storm. I am still convinced it was because we wore the pinstripes. Magic or something) So I dragged my girlfriend away from her friends and took the subway out to the Bronx. I always envisioned the Stadium to be in the middle of large skyscrapers. The tv makes it seem that way for someone not from there. It was freezing cold as we walked around the old cement looking ball yard. I thought the inside must be like a pearl compared to the surprisingly plain outside. So the inside will only ever be in my imagination and I am cool with that. And the tour office was nice enough to allow us to hang out inside for a few minutes to warm up.
2008-10-22 11:47:26
4.   JL25and3
2 I used to love taking the D train over the Manhattan Bridge, just for the view of the Statue of Liberty.
2008-10-22 13:06:22
5.   Cliff Corcoran
You know, I've lived in northern Jersey for nearly all my life and I've never been to the Statue of Liberty. I've seen it out car, train, plane, and building windows thousands of times. I've even walked around the peer near Ellis Island, but I've never actually visited the statue itself.

What I like about Jake's piece above is that it speaks to the power of the history of the game, that looking at a dirty, grey, concrete wall through cold and slush and sleet could give a kid, never mind an adult, but a kid, such a total thrill simply because he knew what that place meant.

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