Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
Lasting Yankee Stadium Memory #37
2008-10-14 09:27
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to

By Tyler Kepner

[Editor's Note: This piece was written and submitted before the end of the regular season...]

My seat in the press box is Row 1, Seat 1. I have sat there for seven seasons as the Yankees' beat writer for the New York Times. The Star-Ledger is to my right, and the visiting television booth is to my left.

The color analyst sits on the right side of that booth, so I am separated from him by a glass panel. You can't really talk unless you lean out the front of the box, but you can communicate by signals. Was that pitch a slider or a curve? A changeup or a splitter? You make the universal hand motions for the pitch, and you get your answer.

Most of the analysts wear a World Series ring, it seems. Bert Blyleven of the Twins wears his 1987 ring. (I've never seen his '79 model, from the Pirates.) Rod Allen of the Tigers wears his 1984 ring, Rex Hudler of the Angels wears his 2002 ring, and so on.

When Ron Fairly worked for the Mariners, he wore a 1989 Giants N.L. champs ring, from his days in the booth in San Francisco. I always wondered what happened to the three rings he won as a player with the Dodgers.

The broadcasters have their quirks. Hudler always holds onto a baseball when he calls a game. He calls it his pacifier. Jerry Remy of the Red Sox does every game with a little stuffed "Wally The Green Monster" on the desk in front of him. Nobody keeps more meticulous notes than Blyleven.

Sometimes I'll look up the broadcasters' career stats on my laptop, careful to tilt the screen away, in case they catch a glance. I remember learning that Candy Maldonado (he wears a '92 Blue Jays ring) pinch-hit in the ninth inning of the game that made me happier than any sporting event ever – the final game of the 1983 N.L.C.S., when the Phillies won the pennant. (I was 8. Candy struck out.)

I'll miss stuff like that when the Yankees move. Maybe I'll have the seat next to the visiting broadcasters again, but I doubt it. And I doubt I'll walk down the ramps after night games, instead of taking the elevator.

The ramps from the loge level to the street remind me of how old the place really is – they're impossibly cramped, with low ceilings, thick black bars on the sides, and what I assume to be the original structural bolts, painted over many times. It's better to walk the ramps when it's empty, I suppose, late at night.

I remember covering the Angels in 1998, when a chunk of steel fell into the loge level seats down the left field line before a game at the Stadium that April. You knew then that the place was doomed, but it has stood for one more decade.

Now it has finished with a string of seasons where four million people packed in. The fans should be proud of that. The fortunes of the team rise and fall, but to the end, Yankee Stadium never lost its appeal.

Tyler Kepner is the Yankee beat writer for The New York Times.

2008-10-14 14:05:44
1.   Todd Drew
Nice inside stuff, Tyler. I especially liked your thoughts on walking the ramps.
2008-10-14 16:37:26
2.   rilkefan
What are the universal hand motions? What's cutter for example?
2008-10-15 05:24:45
3.   Todd Drew
That's a good question and I hope Tyler stops by and answers. On the first read I kind of assumed it was the universal: one finger for a fastball, two fingers for a curveball, etc. But then I thought since Kepner is an "old" pitcher he might actually flash his slider grip or his cutter grip especially to other "old" pitchers like Bert Blyleven. Only the man knows though.
2008-10-15 14:01:25
4.   rilkefan
3 "he might actually flash his slider grip"

That's what I assumed. But it's not clear to me in my ignorance that all pitches can be separated via grip alone - I thought e.g. a cutter is like a fb but with lateral pressure from a finger.

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