"Thank the good Lord for making me a Yankee." -- Joe DiMaggio
Today, on the first official home opener of the new Yankee Stadium, I was planning to write an essay about the glory of Yankee history. But the Yankees lost. So let me just talk about the stadium itself as I try to quell my fanatical emotions and attempt to convince myself that it's "only a game."
Being a Yankee fan, I guess you become spoiled. It's only April, but every loss still feels like a punch in the gut. By the end of the season, if the race for the championship comes down to a couple of games, these wins and losses in April could make the difference.
The multiple championships of 1996 to 2000 have spoiled me, no doubt. Hey, I lived through the drought of the 1980s when the Yankees couldn't even make it to the Playoffs, when we only had the great Donnie Baseball to get us through the dark years of George Steinbrenner's revolving door of managers. But there was something about the game of baseball, and more importantly, the aura of the New York Yankees, that kept drawing me to the Stadium to watch the Bronx Bombers play, even if they didn't always win.
Being in that sports cathedral, the House That Ruth Built, was magical. Knowing that the field before me was the same place where so many legends were made was reason enough to go there.
Now there's a new ballpark in town -- two actually. But let's not talk about CitiField. My dad's the Mets fan, not me. I bleed pinstripe blue.
The new Stadium looks beautiful, but allow me to vent a little.
At a median ticket price of over $100, are the die-hard fans like me being priced out of the game? Baseball season is a marathon with over 160 games on the schedule from April through September leading up to those glorious October days (I mean nights, since the time of daytime World Series games is no more, but that's a rant for another day). America's pastime is meant to be a leisurely experience during the dog-days of summer, something you should be able to do multiple times throughout those balmy days and nights, with friends and family.
Now, if I see one game a year I consider myself lucky. The Baseball Moguls seem to want to turn our beloved sport into a Walt Disney World experience, or maybe a Broadway show event. The new stadiums seem to be more about the "amenities" (which are fantastic I hear) than about the game itself.
It used to be perfectly fine to go to a game with a scorecard and eat a hot dog, peanuts, Cracker Jack, drink a beer or soda, and have a grand ol' time just enjoying the game. Now, the teams make their money from the fancy food concessions, luxury suites, and high-priced season tickets, a lot of which are being sold to corporations rather than the average Joe or Jane rooting for the team.
I'm still a little frustrated that they didn't just build the new Stadium on the same spot as the old stadium. It's ridiculous to me to see two new arenas opening in New York City in the same year. I wish the Yankee organization had agreed to play in CitiField (like they did in Shea Stadium in the 1970s when the original Yankee Stadium was being renovated) until the new Yankee Stadium could be built on the same hallowed ground that saw the likes of Ruth, Gehrig, Berra, DiMaggio, Mantle, Maris, Jackson, Mattingly, Jeter, Rivera, and so many more. The new Stadium is right across the street from the old one, but, man, how sweet would it have been for it to be in the same exact place?
I'm just bitter today because the Yanks lost. Once I actually go to a home game at the new park I'll probably change my tune and fall in love with the place, calling it home.
But, like other fans, I'll carry the memories (and ghosts) of the original Yankee Stadium with me, as I count the days to when new championship memories will be made at the new House That Money Built. Yes, baseball is a business, and the new stadiums are all about the revenue. However, I hope that when all is said and done, baseball will still be about the real fans in the seats and at home...watching the game.