It's a long subway ride from my apartment in Brooklyn to Yankee Stadium, but I usually enjoy the trip uptown. By the time you pass Grand Central, the train is packed, and almost everyone is wearing Yankee gear and talking baseball. I remember being on the 4 train a few years ago, when a young businessman casually turned to his friend and asked, "So, how many innings do you think Kevin Brown will go tonight?" At which point literally half the subway car turned around young and old, black and white and hispanic, Christian and Jew -- and offered opinions ranging from one to four. Yesterday, I sat next to two college-age girls who rode through most of Manhattan lamenting the fact that Carl Pavano, who should be so hot, has sucked too much to crush on. (But, they agreed, it's going to be okay: Andy Pettitte is back).
In that same vein, while the view could be better, you absolutely cannot beat the Yankee Stadium bleachers for color commentary. They're a testament to the diversity of this city's residents and, also, to their remarkable and ceaseless innovation in the field of smuggling booze past stringent security. The bleacher experience is only as good as your neighbors, though, so I lucked out yesterday when, deep in the left field side, I found myself sitting in front of Statler and Waldorf.
These two were probably in their 50s, with old-school accents, and had clearly been perfecting their routine over the course of decades. They bet one dollar on almost every inning or at-bat:
Statler: Okay, I'm up two?
Waldorf: You're up two.
Statler: I've got Wiggington to get on base here.
Waldorf: I'll take that... (pause) Okay, I've got the Yanks scoring this inning.
Statler: So I'm up one now?
Waldorf: You're up one.
Statler: I have A-Rod with the collar.
At the end of the game Statler was up three, by a score of something like 32-2, and throughout it all they kept up a constant stream of, well, banter:
Waldorf: Well, for $45 million, you can't expect them to catch EVERY ball on that side of the infield.
Statler: Heyyy! From shallow center an 80-hopper to third! Nice arm, buddy.
Waldorf: Good thing we got that good defense at first base.
Statler: Well, who do you want playing first? "Scoop" Giambi?
Waldorf: They're squeezing him. Carl, they're squeezing you, big guy!
Random guy a few rows back: HEY UMP, GET OFF YOUR KNEES, YOU'RE BLOWING THE GAME!
Statler: Well, the ump probably doesn't recognize him after all this time. He doesn't know who he is.
Waldorf: That's right. The scoreboard guy had to look up how to spell his name.
(a minute later)
Waldorf: Okay, he's lost the plate.
Statler: Look at that, he's picking up right where he left off .
I don't know if they keep this up the whole season, but I certainly like to think so.
All in all it was a gray, chilly day and a sloppy game, but I would've hated to miss it. A few other notes from Opening Day:
-The A-Rod booing seems to have changed since last season. Then I thought it felt cruel at times, especially when he was really struggling; but yesterday I got the impression that the crowd was in on the ridiculousness of the entire situation. Those early boos seemed half- joking. I think it's just becoming part of the Yankee Stadium tradition you know, head up to the Stadium, check out Monument Park, buy a hot dog, do the YMCA dance, and boo A-Rod whenever he makes an out but not with any particular venom behind it. All bets are off if he really slumps, but I think we've reached a kind of truce. I could be wrong, though: maybe it was just the warm and fuzzy home opener feelings at work. Was anyone else at the game? What did you think?
-Brian Bruney entered the game to The Killers' alt-rock anthem "Mr. Bright Eyes". Nice. Kyle Farnsworth and his newly-shaved head, on the other hand, entered to some kind of unnerving, thrashing, ear-splitting death-metal. I couldn't make out the lyrics and have no idea who the band is, but I'm pretty sure they'd consider Metallica to be pussies.
-My section really threw itself into the "We Want Bernie" chant in the early going. It's a little embarrassing, given that New York fans are supposed to be oozing baseball knowledge out of their ears, but what the hell -- the heart wants what the heart wants.
Emma Span is now a freelance writer, apparently, and lives in Brooklyn. She blogs about New York baseball atEephus Pitch.