Sunday, August 10, 2008

Last Sunday J. and I went to Yankee Stadium. J. had asked if we could go see the ballpark during it's last season. Needless to say, I didn't need to have my arm twisted too hard! A few months ago I hopped on StubHub and got some pretty decent seats in the upper deck for only $5 over face. Even better, I got tickets for a Sunday game against one of the top teams in baseball, the Los Angeles Angels. Here's the view from our seats.

Our adventure started the night before. Much like our trip to New York City back in May, we drove to New Haven and took the MetroNorth commuter rail. I decided that getting up at 5:30 in the morning and doing the trip all in one day would be a little too much, so we stayed at the Clarion Inn in Hamden, CT the night before. It was a nice enough place. It was clean and had a small pool which we took a dip in on Saturday evening. Best of all, we were able to get up at a much more civilized 7:30 and still make our train.

J. and I watched movies and played games to pass the time (him on his PSP, me on my iPod touch) and soon enough we got to 125th St. station in Harlem. We followed the mass of Yankee fans off the train and got onto the number 4 train that would take us three stops to 161st St - Yankee Stadium.

One funny thing happened on the subway. There was a little boy (about 4) wearing a Red Sox hat. A man on the train was teasing him (nicely) about wearing a Red Sox hat to Yankee Stadium - his father even said that he tried to talk him out of it. I had decided to go without any Red Sox gear to avoid the abuse, especially with my 10 year old in tow. I whispered to Jeremy, "that little kid is braver than me!"

As we got off the subway, we could see the gleaming new Yankee Stadium under construction across the street. It reminded me of going to old Comiskey Park in the early '90s with the new one going up on the other side of the street.

We entered the Stadium minutes after the gate opened with the intention of heading directly to Monument Park. Unfortunately, there were already huge crowds in the narrow Yankee Stadium councourse and two of New York's finest told us that Monument Park was too crowded and already closed. That was a bit disappointing, but J. was OK with it. I told him that the monuments would no doubt the moved across the street to the new Yankee Stadium, and maybe they would plan it out without this ridiculous limitation that the park closes 45 minutes before the game.

Yankee Stadium may have been renovated in the '70s, but it's still very much 1923 under the stands. The concourses are very narrow and insufficient for the 55,000 people entering the ballpark. The Red Sox have done a lot of work the last few years to expand the area for fans in the concourses at Fenway (closing Yawkey Way on game days, the Big Concourse, the new concourse in left field). Obviously, with a new stadium coming, the Yankees have felt no such need to do that kind of work. The corridors are made even more narrow by numerous concession carts set up.

My impression of Yankee Stadium hasn't changed much since my first visit. The amazing weight of history is here - the 26 World Series championships, the great players from Ruth and Gehrig to DiMaggio and Mantle to Reggie to Jeter. However, the ballpark itself isn't great, although the sightlines are very good. What makes Yankee Stadium the place it is are the players and events that made it legendary. By almost any measure, places like Camden Yards and PNC Park are better ballparks.

The game itself was fantastic. The Angels went up 5-0 after four innings as Yankees starter Darrell Rasner was gone after four innings. Meanwhile, the Angels John Lackey, who nearly no-hit the Red Sox in his last start, looked strong.

Then the Yankees offense started to come back. Pudge Rodriguez hit a solo himer in the 5th for the first run. Then the Yankees scored 3 in the 6th and 4 in the 7th to take an 8-5 lead. In the top of the 8th the newly acquired Mark Teixeira hit a grand slam to give the Angels a 9-8 lead. I whispered to Jeremy at that point, "I can hardly contain my joy!"

The joy was to be short-lived. The normally reliable Scott Shields was knocked around by the Yankees and they scored six runs in the bottom of the 8th. The Angels went down quietly in the 9th and the Yankees took the 14-9 win. Amazingly, the Angels made four errors in the game (and there was another play that could have been called an error). You simply cannot give the Yankees offense that many extra outs and expect to win the game.

The ride home was pretty uneventful. We went to Grand Central Station to get the train back to New Haven, since I figured 125th St. would be mobbed and we would have a better chance of getting a seat if we got on at the beginning of the line. The only difficulty we had getting home was when the Connecticut highway department decided to close down two lanes of both I-91 north of New Haven and I-84 east of Hartford for construction. Fortunately, I had my TomTom GPS hooked up and told it to steer a course around the backup. It took us off the highway in a couple of roundabout courses (including a dirt road!), but we got back to the highway past the construction slowdown. I figure we saved at least 25 minutes by going around the backups.

So it was a great day and J. will be able to tell his grandchildren someday that he went to the original Yankee Stadium. And that was sort of the point, wasn't it?


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