View From Lodi, CA Pittsburgh, PA: Enough About The Wall Street Bailout—Let's Talk About Yankee Stadium!
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Although I promised I wouldn't watch, I found myself glued to ESPN's seven-hour tribute to Yankee Stadium before the last-ever game in the old park.

I had intended to write about my favorite Yankee Stadium moment last week. But the financial crisis rerouted me. Under the assumption that you, like me, don't want to read any more about the proposed bailout, I'm returning to the ballpark.

Now that I think about it, I wonder how many people care about my personal perspective when the sport pages are overflowing with reminisces from Yogi Berra, Alex Rodriguez, Wade Boggs and dozens of other players including many who are or will be in the Hall of Fame.

But since I have the stage to myself, I'll proceed.

My early recollections of Yankee Stadium were tales told to me by my father who grew up in its shadow.

Raised in the Bronx a mere walk away from Yankee Stadium, Dad saw all the great ones: Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig from the hometown team and Walter Johnson and Jimmie Foxx from the long gone Washington Senators and Philadelphia A's.

To a baseball-obsessed young boy growing up in Los Angeles' pre-Major League Baseball, Dad's stories thrilled me.

When one spring day in 1956 my father came home and announced that our family would be moving to Puerto Rico, and that our routing would take us via New York, I realized that if the timing was right, I might be able to watch the Yankees.

And as good fortune would have it, our layover put us there on September 6th, when the Yankees took on the Senators.

During the morning, it rained hard. I expected the game to be cancelled.

But by mid-afternoon the skies cleared and we took off for the Bronx via subway.

My biggest hero, Mickey Mantle, didn't get a hit. But Whitey Ford pitched a great game, shut the Senators down, 2-1, and struck out eleven during his complete game victory.

Eventually, I lived in Manhattan for nearly two decades. During those years, I watched many games, some at the original site and others at the 1975 renovated Yankee Stadium II.

I loved the 1978 Yankees, generally recognized as the George Steinbrenner/Reggie Jackson/Billy Martin era.

Among my favorites were Catfish Hunter, Graig Nettles, Chris Chambliss, Ron Guidry, Thurman Munson and Lou Pinella.

That was the year the Yankees came from 14.5 games behind in July to overtake the Boston Red Sox in a one-game play off. While the excitement from my first game lasted three hours, the 1978 comeback exhilaration stretched out over four months.

Since the free agency era that the Yankees have used to their great advantage, I've lost interest. Instead, I pull for the local teams—until recently the San Francisco Giants and Oakland A's and now the Pittsburgh Pirates. Those teams challenge their fans since none of them are close to playing .500 baseball. 

My apathy to the Yankees translates into indifference toward the stadium's demise.

Like the old Yankee teams and baseball in general, the stadium isn't the same.

The new stadium reflects baseball today—bigger and richer. Unfortunately, that doesn't translate to better.

Among the things a fan will be able to do, assuming he has no interest in baseball, is host corporate events in luxury boxes, conferences, business meetings, parties, fundraisers, bar and bat mitzvahs and weddings at the Sony Stadium Club or the Johnny Walker Pinstripe Pub.

Of the 150 million fans that have attended since it was built in 1923, few traveled further to see his first Yankees game than I did.

Even though I'm in New York from time to time, I'll probably never see a game again. The 4,300 premium seats located behind home plate cost between $500 and $2,500 each—and they are nearly sold out.

Some things—Yankee Stadium is one —are better left off seen through time's prism.


One thing the farewell made crystal clear is how far baseball has swung toward Caribbean players.

As the old stars—Berra, Ford, Bobby Richardson, Don Larsen, Moose Skowron and Graig Nettles stood in the dugout waiting to trot onto the field for their accolades—the current players looked on—Mariano Rivera, Robinson Cano, Bobby Abreau, Jose Molina, Melky Cabrera, among others.

A roster heavily stacked with Latin players certainly helps to sell tickets to New York's rapidly changing fan demographic. Whether it produces good baseball teams is the subject off my on-going debate that I'll return to in early October with my post-season analysis.

In the meantime, the Yankees finished in third place in the Eastern Division, missing the playoffs for the first time in thirteen years.

Joe Guzzardi [email him] is a California native who recently fled the state because of over-immigration, over-population and a rapidly deteriorating quality of life. He has moved to Pittsburgh, PA where the air is clean and the growth rate stable. A long-time instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, Guzzardi has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.

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