Friday, September 24, 2010

How to Be a Red Sox Fan in New York

After doing this for Yankee roadtrips to Baltimore and Toronto, and for Met fans in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh – with Yanks to Boston and Mets to Washington upcoming – I thought I’d do the reverse, and send this link to some prominent Red Sox fan blogs, and show their fans how they can attend Yanks-Sox games at Yankee Stadium (especially since most of you probably haven’t been to the new one yet) and get out in one piece.

Well, one piece apiece, anyway.

Getting There. Getting to New York is fairly easy. However, I do not recommend driving, especially if you have Red Sox or other New England sports paraphernalia on it (bumper sticker, license-plate holder, decals, etc.). Chances are, it won’t get vandalized, but you never know.

If you must drive, it’s 208 miles by road from Downtown Crossing in Boston to Yankee Stadium II, 206 miles from Fenway to the House That Steinbrenner Built.

If you’re going from Boston, or anywhere else in Massachusetts, take the Massachusetts Turnpike, Interstate 90, to Exit 9 for Interstate 84 South, into Connecticut. At Hartford, take Exit 86 to Interstate 91 South, taking it all the way to the end, switching to Interstate 95 South at New Haven.

If you’re starting out in Rhode Island, simply get on I-95. If you’re starting out anywhere in Connecticut, take any highway that leads to I-95, whether it’s I-91, I-395, U.S. Route 7 or Connecticut State Route 8. If you’re starting out in New Hampshire, take I-93 to I-495 to the Mass Pike (so you don't have to go through Boston itself) and then follow the directions for starting from Massachusetts as listed above. If you’re starting out in Maine, take I-95 across New Hampshire and into Massachusetts, then take I-495 and follow the directions from Massachusetts. If you're starting out in Vermont, I'll get to that in a moment, because the directions are a bit different.

If you’re only going to one game, and not “doing the city,” then, once you’re in New York, follow signs for Interstate 278, the Bruckner Expressway. Take that to Interstate 87 North, the Major Deegan Expressway. (Henry Bruckner was a Bronx Borough President, and William F. Deegan was one of the founders of the American Legion and a Democratic politician in New York.) Do not be confused by signs for the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge: It’s the new name for the Triboro Bridge, and we know Bobby Kennedy was connected more to Massachusetts, even though he represented New York State in the U.S. Senate from January 4, 1965 to June 6, 1968.

Anyway, you don’t want the RFK Bridge, you want the Deegan, taking Exit 5 for Yankee Stadium. The “classic address” is 161st Street & River Avenue, and that hasn’t changed with the new Stadium, it’s just on the other side of 161st. The official mailing address is 1 E. 161st Street, Bronx, NY 10451.

The one New England State that's an exception to the above sets of directions is Vermont. If you’re starting out there, take US-4 into New York State, across the Hudson River, and take I-87 South, known first as the Northway and then as the New York State Thruway, on down, until you cross the City Line and it becomes the Major Deegan Expressway. You'll still take Exit 5 to get to the Stadium, unless you get a hotel and head there first.

Do yourself a favor and get a hotel outside the city. I’ve heard it said that Boston drivers 2 classes, depending on how big their car is: Homicidal and suicidal. Well, New York drivers are the same way, and traffic is every bit as bad as what you're used to. You can probably find something affordable in Westchester County or North Jersey. Hotels in the City will be prohibitively expensive. Worse than Boston. Worse even than Washington, D.C.

Boston is too close to fly to New York, and once you factor in fooling around with everything you gotta do at each airport, it doesn’t really save you much time compared to driving, the bus or the train. Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey isn’t very good, John F. Kennedy International Airport (and why didn’t you guys rename your airport after JFK? That would’ve made sense, and we should’ve named ours for New Yorker Franklin D. Roosevelt) in southern Queens is good only for international travel (if that), and LaGuardia International Airport in northern Queens is a joke – and not just because it’s close to Rikers Island and the Mets’ ballpark. (I know, I know: “What’s the difference?” When you’re a Met fan, the sentence never ends, and nobody tries to escape to Yankeedom.)

If you can afford Amtrak, the train is a good option. It takes about 5 hours to get from South Station to Pennsylvania Station, at 32nd Street and 7th Avenue. Boston-to-New York (and the reverse) is one of Greyhound’s best runs, and while the Port Authority Bus Terminal is still no picnic, it’s a lot safer and cleaner than it was in the Seventies and Eighties. It’s at 41st Street and 8th Avenue, just off Times Square.

When you get to Penn Station or Port Authority, go to a Hudson News stand and pick up copies of The New York Times and the Daily News – and you may even be able to pick up the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald, if you didn’t already do so when you left Boston - although they will be more expensive here.

Don’t read the New York Post. Like anything owned by Rupert Murdoch, it’s a bunch of right-wing lies with an occasionally good sports section added. The Times and the Daily News, however, are not only manned by responsible journalists, but have great sports sections. The Times is the face New York City likes to show the rest of the world. The Daily News is the face the City prefers to show itself. The Post is a face only a mother could love. Not my mother, though. Nor hers.

To get from either Penn Station or Port Authority to Yankee Stadium, you need to take the Subway. Trust me, it’s cheaper than a cab, and, despite horror stories from recent period-piece TV productions like Life On Mars and The Bronx Is Burning, it’s not the scary place it was in the Seventies. If you can handle the T’s Green Line, you can handle the New York City Subway.

The first thing you need to do when you get into a Subway station is buy a MetroCard. No more tokens, they were used from 1953 to 1995 but they were phased out, just like they were in Boston. It’s $2.25 a ride, but do yourself a favor and get a multiple-ride card. If you’re there only for the day, get a 1-Day Fun Pass for $8.25; for the entire weekend, getting a 1-Day Fun Pass each day may be cheaper than the next option, which is an Unlimited Ride MetroCard good for 7 days at $27. Whichever kind you get, they can be used on both Subway trains and buses.

The A Train goes to both Penn Station and Port Authority, so take it to 59th Street-Columbus Circle. Change there, a free transfer, for the D Train. Or, from both Penn Station and Port Authority, you can walk over to 6th Avenue (a.k.a. Avenue of the Americas) and take the D all the way up to 161st Street.

If you get a hotel in the City, and it’s on the West Side, simply follow the above directions for the Subway. If your hotel is on the East Side, then take the Number 4 train up to 161st Street. Unlike the D, this one will be above ground as you approach The Stadium.

Tickets. Don’t have ‘em already? You’re probably screwed. The Yankees are averaging 46,000 fans a night, highest in baseball. The only empty seats are the insanely priced super boxes (whatever they’re officially called) in the infield, going for $1,250 last I heard. Last season, they only got filled in the postseason, and those were basically celebrities who could afford them – some thanks to the Fox Network.

Definitely get your tickets beforehand, either from the club through Ticketmaster, or on StubHub. If you don’t have them already, I suggest waiting until next season (when the Sox will probably be healthier and more ready for such a series anyway), finding out what day they go on sale, and then getting them then.

Do not trust the scalpers, and there will be loads of them. Back in the Eighties, I bought a ticket “right over the dugout.” Yeah, way over the dugout in the upper deck. The next night, I bought one “right on the left-field foul line.” Yeah, right behind the left-field foul pole. To make matters worse, the Yanks lost both games!

If you order from the club through Ticketmaster, you may be able to snag tickets in the first level of the outfield, which could run you $125 or $90. You might get Main Level (second deck) seats for $90 or $75. Grandstand (upper deck) seats could be had for a much cheaper $25 or $20, but these are probably gone already. And, of course, Ticketmaster adds a surcharge. But then, being used to Fenway prices, you’re probably not surprised at any of the inconveniences, from the prices to the surcharges to the jumping-through-hoops to get them.

Do not buy a ticket for the Bleachers. If someone offers you a free ticket in the Bleachers, do not take it. Even free, it will not be worth it. As a Red Sox fan, ignoring this warning may be the biggest mistake of your life. The “Bleacher Creatures,” those are hard-core people out there. If you are familiar with what happens at English soccer games, note that this is one of the few places in North American sports that can get like that. Of course, as I well know, Fenway, particularly its bleachers, is another. And remember, after the rise of the Red Sox during the Nomar-Pedro era, into the Papi-Schilling-Youkilis-Papelbon years, these people now hate you almost as much as you hate them. And they like to drink. They really, really like to drink. Do not say I did not warn you.

Going In. There are 4 gates. Gate 2 is at the left field corner, Gate 4 behind home plate, Gate 6 at the right field corner, and Gate 8 in straightaway center field. Your ticket will suggest which gate at which you should enter.

If you can, try to enter at Gate 4 or 6. They are connected by a “Great Hall,” containing large banners featuring past Yankee greats, from Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in the 1920s to the since-retired stars of the Joe Torre era including Paul O’Neill and Bernie Williams. (But not, as yet, the still-active Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera.)

Entering by Gate 2 will give you your best shot at seeing Monument Park, but there will already be a long line there, and it closes 45 minutes before first pitch, so you may be out of luck unless you have time to take the Stadium Tour before one of the other games in the series. However, if you enter by Gates 4 or 6, you will be able to get to the Yankee Museum, which is open all game long.

Also, use the bathrooms before the game. They’re big and clean, a big difference from the old Stadium, and this is something George Steinbrenner always talked about when he said he wanted a new Stadium. That and more concession stands. Speaking of which...

Food. At the old Yankee Stadium, back in the good old days, the food wasn’t great, but at least it was overpriced. This concept should also be familiar to a Fenway regular. As the team moved into the Nineties and got better, to his credit, George demanded that the fans get a better food experience. A few specialty stands went up, including a little bakery stand behind home plate on the Main Level.

Sadly, that stand didn’t make the trip across the street. But chain restaurant stands are there, including Nathan’s Hot Dogs, Johnny Rockets, Brother Jimmy’s Barbecue, and others. There’s a Hard Rock CafĂ©, and a restaurant called NYY Steak. (If you want to eat there, assuming you can afford it, you don’t have to wear a jacket and tie, but forget about wearing a T-shirt and jeans, and definitely don’t wear a team jersey – even a Yankee jersey will be denied entry.)

Pretty much anything you get will be expensive, but it’ll be good. Think of it this way: It would cost the same as movie theater food, but it’s better, there’s more variety, and the show is better and longer than most movies. Both the show on the field and the show in the stands.

Team History Displays. No team in all of sports does this better than the Yankees - as they've told us time and time again. 161st Street outside the Stadium is known as Babe Ruth Plaza, and there are notations on light poles telling the Babe’s story.

As I mentioned, inside the Stadium on the 161st Street side is the Great Hall, and on this same side, the Yankee Museum has various artifacts, including seats from the old Stadium (both pre- and post-1973 renovation), old uniforms, game programs, World Series rings and press pins, and the 7 World Championship trophies. (Strangely, there never was such a trophy until 1967. So the Yankees only have them for 1977, ’78, ’96, ’98, ’99, 2000 and ’09. So far.) They also have Thurman Munson’s locker, which was kept empty and waiting for him, as if it were Elijah’s cup at a Passover seder. (In the new clubhouse, there’s a new empty locker for the 1976-79 Captain.)

One of the club's goals for the Museum is to have baseballs with the autographs of every player who ever played for the Yankees. This might be difficult, considering some of them have been dead for decades, particularly those who played from 1903 to 1920, before the first dynasty began. But from 1921 onward, they've got just about everybody. They're arranged in the middle of the museum, between statues of Don Larsen and Yogi Berra (representing Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series), the statues being life-size and 60 feet, 6 inches apart.

The retired numbers and the World Championships are noted on the walls at the back of the outfield seating. In Monument Park, there are additional notations for the retired numbers, and the Monuments and Plaques. It’s not as visible from the rest of the Stadium, leading some to call it Monument Cave. But, unlike the old Stadium in its last few years, there is room to add more Plaques.

“Monuments” are meant only for the greatest of the great, and then only after they die. It started in 1932 for Miller Huggins, who died while still Yankee manager in 1929. His was joined, on the field in center field, by Lou Gehrig’s in 1941 and Babe Ruth’s in 1949. Plaques for owner Jacob Ruppert and general manager Ed Barrow were placed on the wall of the old Stadium, as were Plaques for Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and one donated by the local Knights of Columbus to commemorate the 1965 Mass delivered by Pope Paul VI, the first Papal Mass ever delivered in the Western Hemisphere.

When the old Stadium was renovated from 1973 to 1976, they were placed away from the field in the first “Monument Park.” When Mantle died in 1995, his Plaque was removed the next year and replaced with a Monument; the same was done for DiMaggio early in the 1999 season, shortly after his death. A Monument to the 9/11 victims and rescuers was added on the first anniversary of the attacks, and the one to Steinbrenner was just added. (And, yes, I know, it’s too big. Nothing I can do about it now.)

The players with Plaques rather than Monuments are: Catchers Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra, Elston Howard and Thurman Munson; first baseman Don Mattingly; second baseman and manager Billy Martin; shortstop and broadcaster Phil Rizzuto; right fielders Roger Maris and Reggie Jackson; pitchers Lefty Gomez, Red Ruffing, Allie Reynolds, Whitey Ford and Ron Guidry.

All of these have had their uniform numbers retired, except for Gomez (11), Ruffing (15) and Reynolds (22). The numbers are: Martin 1, Ruth 3, Gehrig 4, DiMaggio 5, Mantle 7, 8 for both Dickey and Berra, Maris 9, Rizzuto 10, Munson 15, Ford 16, Mattingly 23, Howard 32, Jackson 44, Guidry 49. Not yet officially retired, but with their numbers not given back out, are former manager Joe Torre (6), right fielder Paul O'Neill (21, with the briefly, disastrous, heavily-booed exception of pitcher LaTroy Hawkins), and center fielder Bernie Williams (51). These three, along with the still-active Derek Jeter (2), Alex Rodriguez (13), Jorge Posada (20), Mariano Rivera (42) and Andy Pettitte (46), will almost certainly receive Plaques and get their numbers retired.

Although he does not have a Plaque, a notation is made for the Number 42 retired for all of baseball for Jackie Robinson, even as Rivera is the last of the players wearing it at its retirement in 1997 and thus allowed to continue wearing it.

Also honored with Plaques are managers Joe McCarthy (never wore a number even though he managed well into the numbered era, unlike Huggins) and Casey Stengel (Number 37 retired), broadcaster Mel Allen and public-address announcer Bob Sheppard. And there are Plaques honoring the Masses delivered by Popes Paul VI in 1965, John Paul II in 1979, and Benedict XVI in 2008.

Strangely, there are Yankees in the Hall of Fame who have not been honored with either a Plaque or a retired number: pitchers Waite Hoyt, Herb Pennock (both pitched mostly before numbers were worn and did not have a regular number thereafter), Jim "Catfish" Hunter (29, although the Oakland Athletics retired his 27) and Rich "Goose" Gossage; second basemen Tony Lazzeri and Joe Gordon (both 6); outfielders Earle Combs (1) and Dave Winfield (31).

Stuff. There are souvenir stands all over the place, and large souvenir stores on both the first-base and third-base sides of the Stadium's lower level. Essentially, if you want it, and you can afford it, you can get it. But then, as a Red Sox fan, you’re probably not interested in buying any of it. Still, it’s fun to look at, and to watch other people go nuts over it. Seriously, if the Red Sox had (or have, you would know better than I would) an equivalent to Joba Chamberlain, especially if he wore a number as high as 62, would one of you grow rapturous over the thought of possessing it?

During the Game. If you plan to wear Red Sox gear into Yankee Stadium, I strongly recommend before starting out – and that includes before ordering the tickets online or over the phone – that you find friends to go with you, so that you can go in numbers. At least 4. That’ll make it less likely that Yankee Fans will give you anything more than verbal abuse.

And the further you get from the Bleachers, the likelier it’ll be that you will avoid violence. The security force, including actual NYPD officers, will eject anyone who fights. If they catch them in the act, that is. The fans know this, and most will not be so drunk that they won't care about getting tossed and arrested. The vast majority who will remain completely (or mostly) sober will care, and will not do anything that will invite that risk. New Yorkers (and New Jerseyans) can be nasty, but most of us are not that stupid. (Be advised, though, that most of the cast of the TV show Jersey Shore is actually from New York City or New York State - and, yes, they are that stupid.)

In the top of the 1st inning, out in the Bleachers, the Bleacher Creatures will begin their “Roll Call.” They will chant each starting player’s name or nickname until the player waves back to them. They will also salute broadcasters John Sterling (WCBS 880 AM radio with Suzyn Waldman) and Michael Kay (YES Network TV with various partners, including Yankee legend Paul O’Neill and former Baltimore Orioles star Ken Singleton, a New York native).

In the bottom of the 1st, presuming he’s not hurt (he’s the kind of guy you need a crowbar to get out of the lineup otherwise), Yankee shortstop and Captain Derek Jeter will come to the plate. Unlike the other players, who are introduced by new public address announcer Paul Olden (a former broadcaster for the Yanks and Cleveland Indians), he asked Bob Sheppard, the Voice of Yankee Stadium for 57 years (1951-2007), to record an introduction for him. Sheppard, who died a few weeks ago at age 99, was nicknamed the Voice of God by Reggie Jackson, and it was easy to see why. (When he got his Plaque in 2000, to celebrate 50 years with the team, obviously he couldn’t announce his own ceremony. So the announcer was one of the most trusted voices in America, retired CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite.)

Jeter also has this nasty habit, one which would drive me up the wall if I were not a Yankee Fan: He holds his right hand up, to let the umpire know that he's not quite ready to receive the pitch, as if to say, "Excuse me, you inconsequential man in blue, but I'm Derek Jeter, Captain of the New York Yankees, a 5-time World Champion, future hall-of-Famer and member of the 3,000-Hit Club. This next pitch will be thrown when I say it is to be thrown. Do you understand?" It's just about this only time Jeter, normally a modest guy, takes on a "Don't you know who I am?" approach. This is in stark contrast to Alex Rodriguez: A-Rod is considerably more modest at the plate than off the field, although he does tend to admire his handiwork when he cranks one.

When the Yankees score – any run, not just on a home run – just after the runner crosses the plate, a very loud version of the Westminster Chimes are played. “DING-dong-DING-dong... Bomp-BOMP-bomp-BOMMMMP!” This is one of those things that Yankee Haters do, or should, find very annoying about the team.

You may notice a particular fan going through the stands. You’ll hear him well before you see him. Freddy Schuman is an elderly Bronx native, who lost an eye decades ago, who goes through the stands banging a spoon on a metal pan, and carrying a sign attached to the pan, with a message-of-the-day, always beginning with the words “FREDDY SEZ.” I don’t know how he reacts to Red Sox fans, but at his age he’s probably harmless. But don’t mess with him, because Yankee Fans are very loyal to him and protective of him. He’s such a beloved figure that he’s been invited to ride on a float in each of the Yankees’ last 5 World Championship victory parades.

UPDATE: Freddy died on October 17, 2010. He was 82.

At some point, usually between the 3rd or 4th inning, the video board will do “The Great City Subway Race.” This is a variation on the Milwaukee Brewers’ “Sausage Race,” except it’s totally on the board, no people in costumes on the field. Choose which train will get to The Stadium first: B, D or 4. You don't get anything if you pick the right train, though. (The B only goes to Yankee Stadium during evening rush hours, and away from it, into Midtown Manhattan, during the morning rush, which is why I recommend the A to the D, or the 4 if you have an East Side hotel.)

After the 5th inning, the grounds crew will drag the infield. The song “YMCA” by the Village People will come in over the loudspeakers. And thousands of people, including kids, will sing along, most of them not realizing that the song is narrated by a gay man cruising for easy bait. The grounds crew will drop their rakes and drag-cages to spell out Y-M-C-A with the fans. It’s stupid -- as Chicago White Sox fans taught us, disco sucks -- and it’s not even a particularly old “Yankee Tradition,” having been started in 1996. But the Yanks won the Series that year, for the first time in 18 years (I know, doesn’t seem like a long time to you guys), since the song was new, and you know how superstitious baseball people can get.

It gets worse. Much worse, in terms of both physical pressure and style. If you needed any more reasons to not be a Red Sox fan in the Yankee Stadium Bleachers, at this stage of the game, the Bleacher Creatures will already have found someone wearing “enemy colors,” and as “YMCA” begins play, a few of them will surround him, insuring that he can’t get away, while the rest clap along. They don’t touch him, so they can’t be charged with assault, but this is true harassment, and the cops in the section don’t give a damn. They have made up their own words to this song, and instead of “YMCA” they sing “Why Are You Gay?” The words are too vile to be printed here: Even though this blog occasionally includes some nasty profanities, this entry is for guests of our City and our team, and in the interest of courtesy I won’t go that far on this occasion.

Sure, it’s funny – until you imagine what might happen if the “victim” tries to fight back. And, I’m sure, a few of the fans who got this treatment might actually have been gay, and this must be horrible for them – especially if they’re still closeted. But then, if they were stupid enough to wear an opposing team’s gear into that Stadium, into that section, then it’s hard to sympathize when they get this treatment. (Most of the Bleacher Creatures are Irish, Italian and Hispanic, and thus Catholic, and have had it drilled into their minds from the time of puberty that being gay is a mortal sin.)

UPDATE: After a series of events in early October 2010, Yankee Stadium security announced the "Why are you gay?" song would no longer be tolerated. Here's a link to the story: http://gayrights.change.org/blog/view/new_york_yankees_put_a_stop_to_homophobic_fan_song

During the 7th inning stretch, a moment of silence for American troops will be, uh, requested. Then “God Bless America” will be played, usually Kate Smith’s legendary 1938 recording, although sometimes there will be a live singer. Compared to that, the follow-up of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” will be relatively muted.

During the middle of the 8th inning, the Yankees do something worse than the Orioles, in their tough, gritty, Northeastern city, do when they play John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.” They play “Cotton Eye Joe” by Rednexx, and from the luxury boxes behind home plate, a yutz in overalls and a straw hat named Cotton Eye Joey will be shown on the video board doing his stupid dance. (The original “Cotton Eye Joe” was fired for showing up drunk, so they got “Joey” to replace him.) Why this stupid song is played in New York City, of all places, I don’t know. Suddenly, “Sweet Caroline” doesn’t sound so cheesy, does it? (Though I do wonder why the Red Sox play it. After all, Neil Diamond is from New York! But not a Yankee Fan: Like the Dodgers, he moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, and unlike most Brooklynites he stayed loyal to the Blue.)

In 1978, Ron Guidry set a Yankee record that still stands (and a former AL record for lefthanded pitchers) with 18 strikeouts in a game, against the California Angels. That game began the tradition of fans standing up and clapping on a two-strike pitch. It gets especially intense when it’s the potential last out of the game.

It used to be that, if the Yankees won, Frank Sinatra’s version of “Theme From New York, New York” would play over the PA system; when they lost, they would play Liza Minnelli’s version – which, everybody forgets, is the original version, coming from the movie in which Liza plays a 1940s Big Band singer and Robert DeNiro her saxophonist husband. Liza found out about being linked with losing games and objected, and the Yankee brass did something they almost never do: They caved in. After all, Liza, like the Yankees, is a New York icon, just as Sinatra was. Now Frank’s version plays, win or lose. Oddly, the Mets sometimes play Liza's version at Citi Field, especially since she sang it live at Shea Stadium in 2001, when the Mets played the first sporting event in the City after the 9/11 attacks. But their game-closing song is “New York State of Mind” by Billy Joel, even though Joel is a Yankee Fan.

But before the Chairman of the Board (Sinatra, not the similarly-nicknamed Whitey Ford) is cued, if the Yankees win, they will play a recording of broadcaster John Sterling giving his signature radio call: “Ballgame over! Yankees win! The-e-e-e-e-e-e… Yankees win!” If you look in the press box – you may need binoculars for this – you can see Sterling in the WCBS radio booth, doing “the Sterling Shake” when he actually says it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5hK90Itwb8

At least, if you don’t bring a radio, you won’t have to hear his home run call: “It is high! It is far! It is... GONE!” Which, all to often, ends up as, “It is... a foul ball!” Or “It is... caught at the wall!” I hate it when he does that. Like Mel Allen in the Yankees’ most glorious era, Sterling tends to watch the ball. Red Barber, who broadcast for the Brooklyn Dodgers at that time, and later switched to the Yankees, taught people to watch the outfielder, to see if he thinks he can catch it, so you’ll have a better idea if he can catch it. Sterling doesn’t do this. Between Sterling, his radio partner Suzyn Waldman (“Oh my good, goodness gracious!” for Roger Clemens’ ill-fated 2007 comeback), and Michael Kay, who was Sterling’s radio partner before moving to the TV booth, I don’t think there’s any fans in all of sports who dislike their own broadcasters as much as Yankee Fans do. They’re all decent people, but they’re damn near impossible to listen to.

And if the Yankees get a walkoff hit, the player who got it will be almost immediately corralled by Kim Jones of the YES Network, and, in mid-interview, will get hit in the face with a pie by pitcher A.J. Burnett. If the Yanks go to the bottom of the 9th tried or trailing by a run, you may even see a sign or banner reading, “WE WANT PIE.” Another “new tradition,” starting in 2009 when Burnett arrived.

After the Game. Win or lose, you do not want to go to one of the bars across River Avenue from The Stadium. Forget Billy’s, Stan’s and the rest. Regardless of whether they won or lost, the people there do not want to see Red Sox fans. The best thing you can do is head for your car or the Subway (depending on how you got there), and get out as quickly and as quietly as you safely can.

If you’re staying for more than just the one day, there will be plenty of time to take in an famous New York restaurant other than after the game. I would suggest staying away from really big names like the major steakhouses (Smith & Wollensky’s, Gallagher’s, Peter Luger’s, Delmonico’s, Del Frisco’s, Morton’s) because of the insane prices and the need for reservations. Also stay away from the Russian Tea Room, next-door to Carnegie Hall: It’s not only really expensive, but the food is rather ordinary. But the Carnegie Deli and the Stage Deli, neither of which is all that far from Carnegie Hall (on 7th Avenue at 55th and 54th Street, respectively, B, D or E Train to 53rd Street) are terrific if you don’t mind paying 20 bucks for a sandwich – they are big sandwiches. And New York pushcart hot dogs and pretzels? Believe it or not, they are cheap, far more sanitary than legend would suggest, and tasty. A big bargain.

Sidelights. If you have time to look around New York, and are interested in other baseball-related sites, read on. If not, skip to the end of this article. I won’t mind, but you may be sorry you missed these:

* The original Yankee Stadium. Across 161st Street from the new one, the Yankees played there from 1923 to 1973 and again from 1976 to 2008. The NFL’s Giants played there from 1956 to 1973, winning the NFL Championship Game (they didn’t call them “Super Bowls” back then) there in 1956 (it was said the “De-FENSE!” chant was invented there in that season with Sam Huff and Andy Robustelli defending while Charley Conerly and Frank Gifford ran the offense), and losing title games there in 1958 (to Johnny Unitas and the Baltimore Colts in “the Greatest Game Ever Played”) and 1962 (to Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers). It also hosted several Army-Notre Dame games, including 1928 (Knute Rockne giving his “Win One for the Gipper” speech) and 1946 (they came in ranked Number 1 and Number 2 and played “the Game of the Century” to a 0-0 tie). Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano and Muhammad Ali all defended the heavyweight title there, most notably Louis knocking out Max Schmeling in 1938 to strike a blow against prejudice – at home as well as abroad.

And, as Red Sox fans, you know it as the place where Monte Pearson in 1938 and Dave Righetti in 1983 pitched no-hitters against the Sox, where your hopes for the 1949 Pennant died, where Billy Rohr nearly pitched a no-hitter to start the 1967 “Impossible Dream” season, where Jim Lonborg and Thad Tillotson had the beanball war later that year, where Lou Piniella and Carlton Fisk collided to start a 1976 brawl, where Aaron Boone homered to win the 2003 Pennant, and where the Sox finally slew all the ghosts and curses in 2004.

* Citi Field and the site of Shea Stadium. Almost certainly, when one team is at home, the other is on the road. The Mets do offer tours of their new ballpark, with its exterior reminiscent of Ebbets Field. Citi Field was built next-door to the William A. Shea Municipal Stadium, since demolished. (Shea was a lawyer and a member of the baseball Giants’ board of directors, who spearheaded the drive to get the National League to expand back to New York after the Giants and Dodgers left.) The Mets played there from 1964 to 2008; the Yankees in 1974 and ’75 while the old Yankee Stadium was being renovated; the AFL/NFL’s Jets from 1964 to 1983; the NFL’s Giants in 1975; and the Beatles in 1965 and ’66. 126th Street & Roosevelt Avenue, in the Flushing Meadow section of Queens. Take the Number 7 train to “Mets-Willets Point” station.

* The Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. It’s across Roosevelt Avenue from Citi Field, in Flushing Meadow-Corona Park, site of the 1939-40 and 1964-65 New York World’s Fairs. A few things remain from the ’64 Fair, including the Unisphere globe (which you might remember being destroyed in the film Men In Black), but almost nothing remains from the 1939 fair, just the crumbling relic of Billy Rose’s Aquacade water-show stadium and the Queens Museum. The U.S. Open has been held at Flushing Meadow since 1978, with the opening of Louis Armstrong Stadium. (The legendary jazzman lived in nearby Corona, and his house is now a museum. He was a Yankee season-ticket holder and, surprisingly for a black man of his time, a big tennis fan.) Prior to that, the Open was held from 1915 to 1977 at the 14,000-seat Forest Hills Stadium (which also hosted a 1964 Beatles concert – 69th Avenue & Burns Street, E, F, M or R Train to 71st Avenue-Continental Avenue). Since 1997, with the opening of the Arthur Ashe Stadium, Armstrong Stadium has been the tournament’s secondary facility.

* The Polo Grounds. Definitely not a place to visit at night, but definitely a place to visit in daylight if you’re a baseball fan. There were 2 stadiums built on the site, the first in 1890 and burned down in 1911, the second built immediately afterward and torn down in 1964. The baseball Giants played here from 1890 to 1957, the football Giants from 1925 to 1955, the Yankees from 1913 to 1922, the Mets in 1962 and ’63, and the AFL’s Titans (forerunners of the Jets) from 1960 to 1963. It also hosted some legendary college football games, including the 1924 Army-Notre Dame game where sportswriter Grantland Rice named the Notre Dame backfield “the Four Horsemen,” and the 1937 duel between Number 1 Pittsburgh and Number 2 Fordham (with Vince Lombardi playing) that ended scoreless. In 1923, Luis Firpo knocked heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey out of the ring there, before Dempsey got back in and knocked Firpo out. In 1960, after Ingemar Johansson knocked Floyd Patterson out to win the title the year before at Yankee Stadium, Floyd got his revenge, knocking Ingo out to become the first man ever to regain the heavyweight title.

Of course, the Polo Grounds site is now best known for the 1951 Bobby Thomson home run where “The Giants win the Pennant! The Giants win the Pennant!” and the 1954 World Series catch by Willie Mays. Now home to a housing project called Polo Grounds Towers, a plaque commemorating the ballpark is at the entrance to one of the buildings, roughly where home plate was. 157th Street & 8th Avenue (Frederick Douglass Blvd.). Take the D train to 155th Street. Right across 155th Street is Rucker Park, home of a legendary local basketball tournament.

* Ebbets Field. Home of the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1913 to 1957. Where the Dodgers, in their “Daffiness Boys” days of the 1930s, ended up with 3 men on base. “Yeah? Which base?” Where Jackie Robinson reintegrated the game in 1947. Where Leo Durocher argued with umpires, where Hilda Chester rang her cowbell, and where the Dodger Sym-Phony Band played their instruments, but not well. And where Brooklynites – really, people from all over the Tri-State Area – of all races, religions and ethnicities learned about baseball and life itself, and got a million thrills, and a few heartbreaks, none worse than when the team was taken from them in the days before the launch of Sputnik. (The very night of the last game, September 24, 1957, was the night President Eisenhower sent the 101st Airborne to integrate Little Rock Central High School. Ten years after Jackie, some people still didn’t learn. Over half a century after that, some still haven’t learned.) There was also a Brooklyn Dodgers football team that played there from 1931 to 1944.

Now home to a housing project called Ebbets Field Apartments, it is safe to visit during daylight. Bedford Avenue & Sullivan Place, where the neighborhoods of Flatbush, Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant come together. Take the B or Q train to Prospect Park.

* MCU Park, formerly known as KeySpan Park. Home to the Brooklyn Cyclones, a Mets farm team in the Class A New York-Penn League, since 2001. The team takes its name from Coney Island’s iconic rollercoaster. A statue honoring Dodger legends Jackie Robinson and Harold “Pee Wee” Reese is outside. It’s not Ebbets Field, but it’s a lot more convenient. The Cyclones are not the old Dodger “Boys of Summer,” but they win more often than not – unlike their parent club! 19th Street & Surf Avenue. Take the D, F, N or Q train to Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue.

* Richmond County Bank Ballpark. Home to the Staten Island Yankees since 2001. Like the Cyclones, technically their arch-rivals, the “Baby Bombers” have had a bit of success since their arrival. Richmond Terrace & Hamilton Avenue. Take the Number 1 train to South Ferry, then cross the street to the Whitehall Terminal. The Staten Island Ferry is free, it takes 22 minutes, and you get a pretty good view of the Statue of Liberty. (You’re probably better off skipping this icon, considering the lines and security measures.) Then it’s a 5-minute walk from the St. George Terminal.

* Madison Square. This is where baseball was invented. Seriously. No, it wasn’t in Cooperstown, New York, and General Abner Doubleday, Civil War hero though he was, had nothing to do with it. The Knickerbocker club used it as their home ground, and it was here that they tested the rules written by one of their members, surveyor (which job led him to conclude that 90 feet between the bases was best) and fireman Alexander Cartwright, that became the difference between baseball and all baseball-like games that came before it. Named for James Madison, Father of the Constitution and the nation’s 4th President. At the intersection of 23rd Street, 5th Avenue and Broadway. At the southern end is the Flatiron Building, which was the tallest in New York from its 1903 opening until 1909 and remains a City icon. At the northeast corner, at 26th Street and Madison Avenue, is the New York Life Building, built on the site of the first two buildings to have the name Madison Square Garden, 1879-1890 and 1891-1925. And now you know how the building got the name when it’s not at Madison Square. Take the N or R train to 23rd Street.

* Worldwide Plaza. This skyscraper marks the site of the third Madison Square Garden, still known as “the Old Garden” to old-timers. From 1925 to 1942, it was home to the NHL’s New York Americans; from 1926 to 1968, the NHL’s New York Rangers (sort-of named for the building’s fundraiser and owner, boxing promoter George “Tex” Rickard – “Tex’s Rangers,” get it?); and from 1946 to 1968, the NBA’s New York Knickerbockers (named for Washington Irving’s character Diedrich Knickerbocker, in whose voice he wrote his story collection A History of New York), or “Knicks.” It also hosted the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) and a few of the early NCAA basketball tournaments, until the 1951 point-shaving scandal knocked it, the NIT, and the schools that used the Garden as a second home court (NYU, CCNY, St. John’s and Long Island University) off the national radar. Rickard made it the Mecca of Boxing, and Ned Irish, who promoted the legendary collegiate and pro doubleheaders and was one of the Knicks’ owners, made it the Mecca of Basketball, although as Red Sox fans you are probably also Celtic fans and may disagree with that. Neither Elvis Presley nor the Beatles ever played the old Garden. 50th Street & 8th Avenue. Take the C train to 50th Street.

* Madison Square Garden. This “New Garden,” which opened on February 11, 1968 and has been home to the Knicks, the Rangers, the NIT and (secondarily) Jamaica, Queens-based St. John’s University ever since, became the longest-lasting building with the name this past May. It was also home to the WNBA’s New York Liberty from 1997 until this year; a renovation, most of which will take place in the NBA and NHL’s off-seasons, has led the Libs to take up residence at the Prudential Center in Newark, which they will share with the NHL’s New Jersey Devils and the NBA’s New Jersey Nets – who are currently scheduled to move to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn in the fall of 2012, but you never know. The Libs will resume play at the Garden in June 2013. Unfortunately, this renovation (at least the 3rd they’ve had since 1992) means that the Garden Tour is currently unavailable.

Elvis played a few shows at the Garden in June 1972, and the Beatles did so on their individual solo tours, most notably George Harrison for his 1971 Concert for Bangla-Desh and John Lennon for his 1972 One-to-One Concert. Other notable shows include the 1973 Led Zeppelin show filmed for The Song Remains the Same, the Bob Dylan tribute in 1992, the Concert for New York City in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in 2001, and the Big Apple to Big Easy show after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Elton John and Billy Joel have played the place more than any other performers, and thus have “retired numbers” in the Garden rafters along with Knick and Ranger legends such as Walt Frazier and Mark Messier.

At 32nd Street & 7th Avenue, on top of Penn Station (much as the Boston Garden and its successor were built on top of North Station). Because it’s between 7th and 8th Avenues, just about every Subway line on the West Side comes within a block of the place.

The other major league sites – I won’t call them “suburban,” since Newark is a hard city and even Hempstead is a bit rundown – are a bit harder to reach. You can take a New Jersey Transit bus from Port Authority to the Meadowlands Sports Complex, just off the New Jersey Turnpike’s Exit 16W, at NJ-Routes 3 & 120. You can also take a train there from Penn Station, but only on Giants or Jets game days.

The Giants played at Giants Stadium from 1976 to 2009, the Jets from 1984 to 2009, the North American Soccer League’s New York Cosmos from 1977 to 1985 (after a few years moving around to other sites, including the 1971 and 1976 seasons at Yankee Stadium), and Major League Soccer’s local team – known as the New York-New Jersey MetroStars until 2005 when they became the New York Red Bulls – from 1996 to 2009. Both NFL teams just moved into what’s still officially known as the New Meadowlands Stadium. The Nets played at the Meadowlands arena, which has had a bunch of names and is currently known as the Izod Center, from 1981 to 2010, and the Devils played there from 1982 to 2007.

The Devils and Nets, and sometimes the Seton Hall University basketball team, play at the Prudential Center, at Broad & Lafayette Streets in downtown Newark. Take NJT’s Northeast Corridor Line train from New York’s Penn Station to Newark’s station of the same name, or the PATH (Port Authority Trans-Hudson) train from 33rd Street & 6th Avenue (Herald Square, 1 block from New York Penn Station) to Newark Penn. Red Bull Arena, new home of the soccer team, is in Harrison, a 5-minute walk from the Harrison station on the PATH line.

The Louis Brown Athletic Center, formerly the Rutgers Athletic Center and still known as the RAC, home to the Nets from 1977 to 1981, is in Piscataway, as is Rutgers Stadium. If you must see either, take New Jersey Transit’s Northeast Corridor Line to New Brunswick, and take a Rutgers “Campus Bus,” the A to the Busch Campus to the stadium, the L to the Livingston Campus to the RAC, or the B between them.

The Nassau County Veterans Memorial Coliseum, home to the NHL’s Islanders since 1972 and the ABA edition of the New York Nets from 1971 to 1977, is a pain in several body parts to get to. Take the Long Island Rail Road’s Hempstead Branch all the way to the end. Across the street is a bus station. Take the N70, N71 or N72 bus, and it’s a 10-minute ride down the Jericho Turnpike to Uniondale. Just in case you feel like going there for a Bruins-Islanders game, and wondering what it was like to see both teams when they were good – these days, at least the Bruins are interesting, the Isles can’t even claim that. Adjacent is Hofstra University, including its stadium (they just dropped their football program) and the former Jets offices and training complex, Weeb Ewbank Hall.

The Isles just announced that they will fulfill their lease, which currently runs through 2015, but with the Pittsburgh Penguins now moving into a new arena, the Isles are now the NHL team in most danger of being moved. To prevent this, there’s been talk of a new arena somewhere on Long Island, to the Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn (to share it with the Nets), or to a new arena on the site of Shea next to Citi Field. The likeliest plan is still “the Lighthouse,” a renovation-expansion of the current building, while the team plays at the Barclays Center in anticipation.

There are also several minor-league baseball teams nearby, in addition to the Cyclones and the Baby Bombers. Central Islip in Suffolk County has the Long Island Ducks. North Jersey has the Newark Bears, the New Jersey Jackals (at Yogi Berra Stadium on the campus of Montclair State University) and the Sussex Skyhawks. Central Jersey has the Trenton Thunder, the Somerset Patriots in Bridgewater, and the Lakewood BlueClaws. The lower Hudson Valley has the Hudson Valley Renegades in Fishkill. And in Connecticut, you can see the Bridgeport Bluefish and the New Haven County Crosscutters, who play at Yale Field in West Haven, across from the Yale Bowl, where Yale University has played football since 1914 and where the NFL Giants played in 1973 and '74. (When Yankee Stadium was renovated, Mayor John Lindsay got revenge for them announcing they would move to New Jersey by denying them permission to play at Shea, which the City owned. So they moved 80 miles to Yale. When that contract ran out, new Mayor Abe Beame let them use Shea for 1975.)

You might also want to visit some of New York’s other attractions. I would advise against seeing a Broadway show: Tickets are expensive, hard to get, and most of the shows aren’t really worth it. But the Empire State Building (34th Street & 5th Avenue, D Train to 34th Street), Grand Central Terminal (42nd Street & Park Avenue, Number 4 Train to 42nd Street or Number 7 Train to Grand Central), the American Museum of Natural History (81st Street & Central Park West, C Train to 81st Street), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (82nd Street & 5th Avenue, Number 4 Train to 86th Street & walk 10 minutes), and the South Street Seaport (Fulton & Front Streets, A Train to Broadway-Nassau) are well worth a visit. The site of the World Trade Center (Church & Vesey Streets, E Train to World Trade Center) is across Manhattan Island from the Seaport, but at that point the island is so narrow that the walk takes just 10 minutes.

If you follow these directions, you should be able to attend a game at the new Yankee Stadium, and even do other things in New York City, and be able to go home to New England without getting hurt. Who knows, you may even win. Maybe.

1 comment:

gmgm said...

What a great post. Imagine, those words spoken by a Sox fan! I think most fans love to hate the other team, however a mutual love of baseball runs deeper. When I am at Fenway and I see a NY hat, I smile...I figure we share a love of our own team. Today I will head to the new stadium for the first time with a couple of Yankee fans, and I will be wearing my B. Looking forward to some good ball, and maybe, just maybe a Sox sweep!