Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
Lasting Yankee Stadium Memory #12
2008-09-19 09:34
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to

By Brian Gunn

I went to my first and only game at Yankee Stadium earlier this year, a Sunday game in April against the Rays. As I took my seat behind home plate I drank in the stadium – the green lawn, the Facade running along the bleacher billboards, the retired numbers out in Monument Park – and I tried to imagine all the greats who made the stadium come alive. I tried to imagine Babe Ruth circling the bases with his little birdlike feet, or Joe DiMaggio gliding in from center to snag a fly ball.

I tried.

And I tried.

And I just couldn't do it.

I was so goddamn cold I could barely concentrate on anything but the weather. I know, I know – just what you'd expect from a Californian. But I swear I wasn't the only one. A cold wind whipped in from left field and had the sparse crowd huddled together for warmth. Whenever the Yanks retired the side or scratched out a hit the fans would let out a perfunctory clap or two before sticking their hands back in their pockets. Sometime around the 4th inning a fan sitting behind us accidentally spilled his beer all over my four-year-old nephew. It was about as far as you could get from my first-ever baseball memory – seeing Reggie Jackson, on TV, go deep three times in a row against the Dodgers. I can still remember how the air looked in Yankee Stadium that night (at least as it came across our Zenith television): thick with pitch and moment, steam from 56,000 fevered bodies rising into the October night.

My experience with Yankee Stadium was nothing like that. There was no momentousness, no steam, no October magic, and certainly no Babe or Joe D. It was, instead, a pretty ho-hum experience – a stiff reminder that Yankee Stadium isn't, after all, a vending machine. Its wonders aren't available on demand.

Brian Gunn is a screenwriter living in Los Angeles.

2008-09-19 09:45:41
1.   williamnyy23
As important as Yankee Stadium is to baseball history, I am not sure you can really have a great moment without having grown up with the old place (unless your one game does happen to be a classic). I think that is true because the remodeled Stadium was a major break from the old one.

Quite frankly, I don't look out at the Stadium as the place where Babe and Lou played because the ballpark looks so different. As a result, the memories that I have come from growing up with the New YS and experiencing the teams over the past 25 years. I am not sure if that would translate well to non-Yankee fans who have grown up in the area. I know that everytime I go to a game, I bring with me 25+ years of walking through the turnstyles. I can go back each year from now to my childhood and remember something about attending a game. Without that, the closing of YS might not have the same meaning to me.

Having said all that, I do think there is some relevance to the fact that the new remodel was on the same hallowed grounds, but that is tempered somewhat by the fact that the team is moving about 50 yards away. Now, if only some tagible monument to the old ball park would be maintained, I think I'd feel a lot better. If it is raized completely and turned into a parking lot, however, I think that will be the sad day. I think only at that point will it hit me.

2008-09-19 10:52:49
2.   Sliced Bread
Sorry, Mr. Gunn.

I tried.

And I tried.

And I just couldn't understand how anyone could go to a Yanks-Rays game in early April expecting to find momentousness, October magic, or that vending machine stocked with baseball wonders.

Ah well. Tear the sucka down.
Maybe if fans can't find history on demand in the new place, they can at least have heated seats.

PS - it might have been a lousy game on a cold day, but you saw Mariano Rivera close out a 2-0 win, so there was, in fact, Mo-mentousness to the "ho-hum" occasion if you opened your eyes, or knew where to look for it.

2008-09-19 11:10:38
3.   Jon Weisman
2 - That seemed like an unduly harsh reaction. It seems like you missed his point.
2008-09-19 11:25:05
4.   Alex Belth
"Yankee Stadium isn't, after all, a vending machine. Its wonders aren't available on demand."

I actually really liked that sentiment.

2008-09-19 11:48:01
5.   Sliced Bread
3] Fair enough, I may have missed his point, but what is his point as you see it?

One shouldn't expect any ballpark, even one as storied and hyped as Yankee Stadium to be a vending machine of wonders, a baseball Disney Land, where, whenever you visit, you're sure to run into Mickey or Babe, or whatever character you're looking for.

Sorry for the harshness, but my once vibrant baseball home is a condemned building, to be knocked down, and replaced by a sterile something that I didn't ask for, and don't want. I hate seeing Yankee Stadium on it's death bed, in these final hours. Mr. Gunn's remembrances strike me as a tourist's complaints about a "ho-hum" experience at place that didn't live up to his expectations -- but I probably should have kept the bitterness of my perceptions to myself. Sorry again.

2008-09-19 12:47:58
6.   JL25and3
1 I was 16 at the end of the 1972 season, so I went to the old Stadium quite a few times. I've always thought of this version as a renovation and revision of the old Stadium, never as a different place. The field was the same field where I watched Mantle (and Horace Clarke) play, where my father and grandfather watched Ruth and Gehrig play. The outfield dimensions were changed dramatically, but that old outfield wall was still right there to marvel at, those monuments that Joe Dimaggio ran behind to catch fly balls. There was never any question in my mind that all of that family history was right there in that building, even after a graceless renovation.

The new place is just that, an entirely different place modeled after an old Stadium. I doubt that it will ever feel like home.

2008-09-19 13:07:26
7.   Biscuit Pants
6 I went to the old stadium about a half-dozen times and I have exactly the opposite reaction. The field may have occupied the same space as the original field did, but it wasn't the same field. The playing surface was torn up, the bowl was reduced practicially to it's very foundation and the new design was, IMHO, a mid-70's cookie cutter impression of the original . . . it had more in common with The Vet than the House that Ruth Built.

I'm amazed that there is so much emotional response over this new stadium on a blog who's readers and writers are guided by statistical analysis. This is not Fenway or Wrigley, relatively untouched since begin built. This was putting up aluminum siding on St. Pat's.

I don't care for the ticket price increases, the tax breaks, and the possible graft that went into this project. But I do look forward to the new stadium and I may consider taking out a 2nd mortgage for a bleacher seat.

2008-09-19 16:53:52
8.   briangunn
Yes, Sliced Bread -- you missed the point. When I said that I was expecting to see October magic in April, or that I was expecting Yankee Stadium to be a vending machine with wonders on demand, I was making fun of MYSELF, not Yankee Stadium.

Yankee Stadium is an exceptional place, laden with great memories (like the one I alluded to from 1977). I don't think it dishonors anyone to say that you need to be a devoted fan of the team, and the stadium, to truly share in these memories. Quite the opposite.

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