I attend one Yankee game per year and this year I decided on the Orioles game yesterday because it was a Sunday afternoon game which fit best into the schedule of my brother (who lives in DC and works a normal Monday to Friday 9-5 schedule) and myself (who lives outside of Philadelphia and works evenings). I made the decision several months back and purchased them tickets online way back in March. Here they are sitting on my desk:
And here they are sitting on my desk after I left:
I discovered that my tickets were not in the car with me about 30 minutes into a two hour trip and there was no way to turn back and get there in time. The discovery was random - suddenly the image above popped into my head while on the Jersey Turnpike. I almost drove off the Turnpike in shock.
My lovely wife called Ticketmaster to explain our plight and the organization took time away from offending Pearl Jam (and anyone who had ever paid a $10 fee for $25 tickets to anything) by actually helping us out, saying that replacement tickets would be at Will Call. No charge. I almost drove off the Turnpike in my surprised excitement.
The rest of our journey from the land of cheesesteaks was uneventful. I joined my brother and a friend of his at a hotel in Jersey with plans of leaving his car there and piling into mine, however his friend had a neck brace on and she was worried that being in a crowded back seat would be bad for her so we took two cars.
There was minimal traffic going from East Rutherford to Yankee Stadium and much to my shock, I was able to find a parking spot on the street near the corner of River. Here is a Google Maps rendition of my Seinfeldian parking prowess:
Meanwhile, my brother had to pay $31 for the lot closest to the stadium. He was closer than I, by a couple of blocks. But I saved $31. I have to say that the first victory of the day belonged to me. To celebrate, I bought a dirty water Sabrett ($2).
Once we joined forces, my wife and another brother who hate baseball and all sports respectively, departed on the Subway for Potted Potter, and the rest of us made our way to Will Call. After some waiting in line there, we were able to retrieve our tickets.
After a quick stop for a beer (a 312 Urban Wheat chosen because it was hot, not for the $12 price tag), we made it to our seats just after the National Anthem and in time for the start of the game. Here is what $80 per seat will get you these days:
We were right at the first base side in the 300 level. A really nice view although plenty far from the action. This picture was taken right as the Yankees took the field for the game. You can see a ton of empty seats and it wouldn't get much better as the game went on.
The lack of a crowd and the distance from the game meant that things were lackluster in the crowd. I am sure the heat had a lot to do with it, but the attending people were lethargic and uninspired. So was the Yankee offense (another contributing factor) though man, was Hiroki Kuroda amazing to watch!
We made a couple more pit stops for water, some refreshing Carvel and some Nathan's Famous. These had meaning for me as an ex-pat New Yorker who grew up on Fudgie The Whale commercials and Coney Island.
As we got close to the 9th inning, I said to my brother that I never got to watch Mariano Rivera pitch in person and it looked like we would have the chance. "Unless we score like five runs," I said. A small part of me even rooted against such a thing, quietly, just so I could actually attend a game where the greatest closer of all time got to play.
Sure enough, we got to hear "Enter Sandman" (in other news, as a metalhead Yankee fan, I enjoyed the great many metallic songs that were played - Black Sabbath, Ozzy and Travis Hafner has Megadeth for his at bat intro). I took this photo expecting to be able to post it on my Facebook page:
I am not sure whether that was the ball that was a really long and scary foul ball down the right field line hit by Nick Markakis. Or the single that Mo gave up on the next pitch. Or the two-run blast that Adam Jones would subsequently hit. I would say that the stadium deflated, but it wasn't very inflated to begin with. Regardless, I was certainly dispirited. I even took to blaming myself - if I hadn't wanted so badly to watch him pitch, we get those five runs and win the game... Well, actually I am superstitious but there is no chance I am responsible for this horrid offense. Even I lack those kind of powers.
After complaining that with the game on the line I had to watch, with the game on the line, an un-pinch hit for Lyle Overbay (.244), Luis Cruz (.222) and Eduardo Nunez (.221) fail against one of the worst closers in the league this year, I walked away knowing I witnessed one of the best closers in history do something exceedingly rare: Blow a save. He's only done it 75 times in 19 years - and in the one game I attend, he does it.
Hurrah for history.
After the game, I got out of my great parking spot and made my way to the best pizza in the land: Di Fara Pizza in Brooklyn. Last year the owner Dominick DeMarco, was on vacation during my Yankee pilgrimage so we missed out. This year I was begging him and his daughter Maggie online to please delay his usual two-week July sabbatical to sometime after my visit. I would like to think that they did it just for me...
This is me and the master as I kiss his ring and pick up my pie:
And here I am about to eat an entire Sausage pie myself:
The pizza was as good as ever. Getting to hang with my brother was also nice since we don't see each other that much.
The summary of the trip was as follows: One master of his craft let us down, one did not. So we batted .500 on the trip. Our offense could learn from this, methinks.
I wanted to end this trip report there, but I can't. It would be incomplete without me stressing how much I really don't like going to the new stadium.
I am someone who thought the Grand Cathedral was a shrine, something that should never have come down. I remember when I went to my first game in the new place in 2009, walking past the corpse of the house that Ruth built, feeling sick to my stomach that the team I loved since I collected Graig Nettles cards as a kid was now shilling dirt to fans - and treating them like it.
That year, the game was a rain delay at the end of the game. After a long delay, the game resumed for the final few outs. During this time there were almost no fans left in the bottom rung. This didn't stop security from warding off fans who wanted to maybe watch a few outs from seats they could never afford and were completely empty. I actually texted the Yankees information number back then, asking if I could sit in the cavern of empty seats. I was just told "No."
If that trip didn't do it, seeing a half empty stadium witness a weekend game while spending a grand fortune to do so was the straw that broke my back. If the Yankees are going to use loopholes on the CBA to save their luxury tax, they need to stop gouging fans. Besides, watching games where half the seats are empty makes it hard to be enthusiastic.
Right now I am making the promise that I will not attend another game at Yankee Stadium. Next year, I will probably catch a game in Baltimore. New York will always have pizza worth the trip. Right now, for a myriad of reasons, the baseball team isn't worth the trip. And if you think it's just because I am a spoiled fan upset we're not 10 games up on everyone, so be it. All I can say about that is I am a Knick fan and they haven't won anything in my life and even them I catch on the road - mainly because tickets to the Garden are insanely priced. But at least the Garden has energy and still gets packed. The Yankees offer no such solace. And it pains me to admit it.