Hard to believe, but the 2014 baseball season is upon us.
Included in this series is "How to Be a Yankee Fan at Citi Field" for the intracity series (it's not a "Subway Series" unless it's a World Series), and "How to Be a Red Sox Fan in New York." Last year, I did it for 28 of the 30 teams, failing to do it for Cincinnati and Houston, because of a technical problem.
This time, I'm starting with the most familiar. This guide is for all visiting fans, designed to make the trip to Yankee Stadium as enjoyable as possible, and to keep you from getting hurt.
I will put aside my usual insults for various opposing teams, and I will watch my language as well. This post will be rated PG. For those of you who watch ESPN, no, that doesn’t stand for Peter Gammons.
Before You Go. This is the time to buy your tickets, before the season starts, and do it online. If you don’t have tickets already, you’re probably out of luck. But try StubHub or a similar site anyway. You’ll have better luck, price-wise, with them than with the scalpers.
The weather is, of course, a factor. It can be chilly in New York in April, and starting in May and running through the rest of the regular season, it can be hot. The stands are not covered, so you'll have to go under the stands to avoid rain if it comes. Once you know when you're going, wait until the day before you leave, and check the online weather reports.
Tickets. More than any other team, the Yankees are hard to get tickets for. So right after you next get paid, order 'em. The Yankees averaged 40,489 fans per game last season, more than any except the Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants -- and that was in a down year for the club.
The only seats that tend to stay empty are the Field MVP seats, which only get filled for Red Sox, Mets and postseason games, and those are basically celebrities who could afford them – some thanks to the Fox Network.
Do not trust the scalpers, and there will be loads of them. Back in the 1980s, 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 as low as $85. You might get Main Level (second deck) seats for $95. Terrace seats (third deck, equivalent to the upper deck box seats at the old Stadium) go for $50. Grandstand (upper deck) seats could be had for a much cheaper $33 or $23. Believe it or not, those figures are cheaper than last year's.
Of course, Ticketmaster adds a surcharge. But then, if you root for the Red Sox, Giants, Philadelphia Phillies or Chicago Cubss, being used to high 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. Face value is $23, but even free, it will not be worth it. Ignoring this warning may be the biggest mistake of your life, especially if you are a Red Sox fan. The “Bleacher Creatures,” those are hard-core people out there. If you are familiar with what happens at European 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, those of you who are Red Sox fans: After the rise of your team during the Nomar-Pedro era, into the Papi-Schilling-Youkilis-Papelbon years, and now into the Pedroia years, these people now hate you almost as much as you hate them. And, like Sox fans, they like to drink. They really, really like to drink. Do not say I did not warn you.
If you root for the Mets and you want to see an interleague game at Yankee Stadium, the same thing applies. If you root for another American League Eastern Division team -- the Baltimore Orioles, the Tampa Bay Rays or the Toronto Blue Jays -- you'll be better off, but still don't go for the Bleachers. And if you root for anyone, else, still: Think of the Bleachers as the barn, or the basement, in a horror movie: Don't go in.
Getting There. Getting to New York is fairly easy. However, I do not recommend driving, especially if you are a Red Sox fan and have 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.
For those of you who are not Red Sox fans: If you are coming from Baltimore or other points south, take Interstate 95 North up through New Jersey (this includes the New Jersey Turnpike), over the George Washington Bridge, and then Interstate 87, the Major Deegan Expressway, south to Exit 5 for The Stadium. (William F. Deegan was one of the founders of the American Legion, and a Democratic politician in New York.)
If you are coming from Cleveland, Toronto, or other points west, find your way to Interstate 80, which will also flow into the GW Bridge. Be warned, though: That bridge is notorious for traffic delays.
In fact, it would be a shame if you came to New York only for one baseball game -- especially if it is your first visit. My recommendation, then, is to make it a weekend visit, and get a hotel outside New York City, preferably in New Jersey, where it will be a lot cheaper, and you can leave your car in a safe parking lot. Most cities and towns in New Jersey have bus or train service, with New Jersey Transit as the main (but not only) carrier, into Manhattan, and from there, you can take the Subway up to The Stadium. Yes, the bus and the train will cost a bit, but the money you'll save with an outside-the-City hotel will more than make up for it.
And you really shouldn't drive in the City. I’ve heard it said that Boston drivers come in 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. If you're coming from New England, approaching New York from the north, you can probably find something affordable in Westchester County or Connecticut, and then take the Metro-North Commuter Railroad in.
If you are coming from New England, and you feel that 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 I-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. (Henry Bruckner was a Bronx Borough President.) Take that to Interstate 87 North, the Deegan. 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 East 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, once you get through Albany, as the New York State Thruway, on down, until you cross the City Line into The Bronx and it becomes the Deegan. You'll still take Exit 5 to get to the Stadium, unless you get a hotel and head there first.
Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington are 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.
Anyone coming in from outside the Northeast Corridor, if you can afford to fly, that is probably your best option. Even though Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey isn’t very good. John F. Kennedy International Airport in southern Queens is good only for international travel, if that. And LaGuardia International Airport (named for the 1934-45 Mayor) 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 -- if you're coming from the Northeast Corridor or Chicago. If it's the Corridor, you can come to New York and it will take less than 5 hours. If it's Chicago or the South, the ride will be overnight, and you can get a decent night's sleep. But anything farther than that, and it will require more than one night. If you're coming from Cleveland or Detroit, you're talking about boarding a train in the middle of the night, which is no good. And if you're coming from Toronto, there's only one train per day in each direction: You'll be leaving in the morning and arriving too late to catch that night's game, and reversing the trip, too early to attend the next day's game.
Bus schedules are better, with far more runs to New York from most cities. But riding the bus is no picnic, especially from outside the Northeast Corridor. I've ridden buses from New York to Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit and Chicago, and back. If you can't afford to fly and don't want to drive that far, the bus is better than the train. But if you can afford to fly, do it.
Once In the City. Pennsylvania Station, a.k.a. Penn Station, is between 31st and 33rd Streets, between 7th and 8th Avenues. Port Authority Bus Terminal is between 40th and 42nd Streets, between 8th and 9th Avenues. They are one stop apart on the Subway's A, C and E trains. Outside Port Authority, there is a statue of Jackie Gleason dressed as bus driver Ralph Kramden on The Honeymooners, one of a series of statues commissioned by cable network TV Land.
When you get to your hotel, Penn Station or Port Authority, go to a Hudson News stand and pick up copies of The New York Times and the Daily News. 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 1970. If you can handle the Boston T’s Green Line, or Chicago's El, 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 most cities. (As far as I know, the only cities in North America that still use tokens are Philadelphia and Toronto.)
The fare is $2.50 for a one-way ride, but do yourself a favor and get a multiple-ride card. And there's a $1.00 surcharge for a new card, so if you live within the Northeast Corridor, and expect to be back within the next year (cards are good for one full year from the date of purchase), it's probably better to keep your card at the end of your trip. A 7-Day Unlimited Pass is $30. Whichever kind you get, they can be used on both Subway trains and buses.
The A and C Trains go to both Penn Station and Port Authority, so take either one 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, but only the street signs and the Postal Service call it that) 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. (You may have to take the Number 6 to a transfer point to get the 4.) Unlike the D, this one will be above ground as you approach The Stadium.
The city of New Amsterdam, and the colony of New Netherland, was founded by the Dutch in 1624. In 1664, the English took over, and named both city and colony New York, for the Duke of York, brother of King Charles II. As none of Charles' many children were legitimate, when he died in 1685, that brother became King James II -- and his reign did not end well, and let's leave it at that.
New York County, a.k.a. the Borough of Manhattan, was also named for James. "Manahatta" was an Indian word meaning "island of many hills." Kings County was named for King Charles, but the Dutch name Breuckelen stuck, and it became the City, and after 1898 the Borough, of Brooklyn. Queens County, or the Borough of Queens, was named for King Charles' Portuguese wife, Catherine of Braganza. Richmond County was named for one of Charles' sons, Charles Lennox, Earl of Richmond, but the Dutch name Staaten Eylandt stuck, and it became the Borough of Staten Island. And Jonas Bronck settled the land north of Manhattan, which became known as Bronck's Land, which somehow morphed into "The Bronx." Apparently, the "The" became attached because of the Bronx River that passes through it, as rivers are still frequently called that: The Hudson is, although never "The Harlem" or "The East." Anyway, it's the Borough of The Bronx and Bronx County.
New York has been the most populous city in America since surpassing Philadelphia in the post-Revolutionary period, and now has about 8.4 million people living in the Five Boroughs. About 20 million live in the New York Metropolitan Area, a.k.a. the New York Tri-State Area.
New York has a street grid, but doesn't quite follow a centerpoint system. For the east-west numbered Streets, below Washington Square Park, Broadway is the divider between the East Side and the West Side; above Washington Square to the Harlem River, it's 5th Avenue; in The Bronx, it's Jerome Avenue, which borders the 3rd-base stands of the new Stadium.
On the East Side, the Avenues go 5th, Madison, Park (which takes the place of 4th Avenue above Union Square), Lexington, 3rd, 2nd, 1st, York, East End. Numbered Streets will reach an address of 1 at 5th, 100 at Park, 200 at 3rd, 300 at 2nd, 400 at 1st. On the Lower East Side, this extends to 500 at Avenue A, 600 at Avenue B, 700 at Avenue C and 800 at Avenue D. (A, B, C and D, hence the nickname for this neighborhood: "Alphabet City.") The Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive (FDR Drive), formerly the East River Drive and once so dangerous it was called the Falling Down Roadway, separates the island from the East River.
On the West Side, the Avenues go 6th, a.k.a. Avenue of the Americas, Lenox Avenue or Malcolm X Blvd. above Central Park; 7th, a.k.a. Fashion Avenue, or Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. above Central Park; 8th, Central Park West above 59th Street, or Frederick Douglass Blvd. above Central Park; 9th, Columbus Avenue above 59th, or Morningside Drive above 110th; 10th, Amsterdam Avenue above 59th; 11th, West End Avenue above 59th, merging with Broadway at 108th; and Riverside Drive. The West Side Highway, a.k.a. the Joe DiMaggio Highway, separates the island from the Hudson River.
The north-south numbered Avenues start with 1 at their southern ends, and the addresses go up going Uptown, but there's no set pattern (every X blocks = 100 house numbers), and the vary as to where they begin:
Broadway, The Battery at the island's southern tip; 1st and 2nd, Houston Street (roughly, Zero Street -- and that's pronounced HOW-stin, not HEW-stin like the Texas city); 3rd, 9th Street; Lexington, 21st Street; Park, 32nd Street (Park Avenue South extends to 17th Street); Madison, 23rd Street (at Madison Square); 5th, Washington Square North (roughly, 6th Street); 6th, Franklin Street (the only numbered Avenue below Houston, so it's about -12th Street); 7th, 11th Street (7th Avenue South extends to Carmine Street, roughly at Houston or Zero); 8th, Bleecker Street (roughly 10th Street at that point); 9th, Gansevoort Street (roughly 12th Street); 10th and 11th, 13th Street; 12th, 22nd Street.
Going In. Parking decks are on River Avenue at 157th Street (the old deck, across from where the old Stadium was, by the Big Bat) and at 165th Street (north of the new Stadium). I wouldn't recommend driving to the Stadium, though, and don't even ask how much parking is. Take the Subway.
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. It remains to be seen if the newly-retired Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte have been added.)
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.
About the Stadium Tour: Classic Individual Tours may be purchased for 14 people or less and commence every 20 minutes primarily from 12:00 noon to 1:40 PM. When these tours sell out, other time slots may become available, from as early as 9:00 AM to as late as 4:40 PM. Buying a ticket online is $20; at the Stadium ticket window or at a Yankees Clubhouse Shop, $25.
The Stadium, like its predecessor, points due east, although it will look like it points northeast on some maps, including the Subway system map, as Manhattan Island is not quite a north-south pointer. The view of the City beyond isn't much, mostly high-rise apartments, many of them housing projects, some of them still classifiable as "tenements" or "slums." The best part of the City is behind the first base stands. And, on a number of occasions, Phil Rizzuto would announce that a home run had been hit "all the way to Jersey." The Scooter got mixed up sometimes: New Jersey would be in foul territory.
Distances are 318 down the left field line, 399 to left-center, 408 to center, 385 to right-center, and 314 down the right-field line. These are the same distances the old Yankee Stadium had from 1988, when Monument Park was expanded, until it closed in 2008.
The longest home run at the current Stadium was hit by Raul Ibanez -- but not while he was a Yankee. Rather, he hit it as a Phillie in an Interleague game on May 22, 2009, off Chien-Ming Wang: 477 feet. The longest by a Yankee was 460, but Alex Rodriguez on June 10, 2011, off Fausto Carmona (now Roberto Hernandez) of Cleveland. The longest homer at the old Stadium, unless someone can prove Babe Ruth hit one longer, was by Mickey Mantle, off Ray Herbert of the Chicago White Sox, on August 12, 1964 -- helping to make a winner of Mel Stottlemyre in his major league debut. The length of this homer is in dispute: I've seen it listed as 502 feet and 540. Regardless, it was batting lefthanded, and to straightaway center -- which would have been in the blacked-out hitters' background in the 1976-2008 configuration.
Speaking of configurations, the new Stadium has been used for college football games, including the Pinstripe Bowl since 2010, with the field laid out from home plate to center field. (In the old Stadium, which had a lot more field space, it was from 1st base to left field.) In 2014, the NHL's Stadium Series gave both the Devils and the Islanders home games at The Stadium against the Rangers, but the Rangers won them both.
Use the bathrooms before the game. They’re big and clean, a big difference from the old Stadium, and this is something the late Yankee owner 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 some of you from your home parks. 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, Famiglia Pizzeria, Carvel Ice Cream, and others. There’s a Hard Rock Café, 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 than most movies, and longer, too. Both the show on the field and the show in the stands will be better.
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. 161st Street east of River Avenue, extending to the Grand Concourse past the Bronx County Courthouse (that big white building that you used to see beyond right field at the old Stadium), is Lou Gehrig Plaza. The West Side Highway in Manhattan has been renamed the Joe DiMaggio Highway, but nobody calls it that.
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. If balls with autographs for the missing players are still in existence, they'll be hard to find. 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. (Oddly, Larsen’s statue is not raised 15 inches, the height of the pitcher’s mound in prior to 1969.)
Coming into Gate 4, there is a statue of George Steinbrenner -- the only figure besides Berra and Larsen so honored at The Stadium. Unlike his Monument, it was unveiled when The Stadium opened, before he died. Also unlike his Monument, it's life-size.
Behind home plate on the main level is a display honoring the Yankee players who’ve won AL Most Valuable Player Awards: Babe Ruth (1923, under a format when a player was allowed to win it only once), Lou Gehrig (1927 and, after a 1931 format change allowed multiple winners, 1936), Joe DiMaggio (1939, ’41 and ’47), Joe Gordon (1942), Spurgeon “Spud” Chandler (1943), Yogi Berra (1951, ’54 and ’55), Mickey Mantle (1956, ’57 and ’62), Roger Maris (1960 and ’61), Elston Howard (1963), Thurman Munson (1976), Don Mattingly (1985) and Alex Rodriguez (2005 and ’07).
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 won the club's first 6 Pennants and its first 3 World Series, and died while still Yankee manager in 1929 -- the only Yankee manager to die in office. It was placed on the field, in front of the center field flagpole. This was not a new innovation, as the New York Giants had already done it at the Polo Grounds for ex-player Eddie Grant, who had been killed in World War I; the monument was lost after they moved to San Francisco. The Pittsburgh Pirates had also placed a monument in center field of Forbes Field for owner Barney Dreyfuss, and moved it to Three Rivers Stadium and now to PNC Park.
Huggins’ Monument was joined by Gehrig’s in 1941 and Ruth’s in 1949. It was Gehrig, Huggins, Ruth, from left to right. Legend has it that a ball was hit out there one time, and Mantle couldn’t catch it, and manager Casey Stengel yelled, “Ruth, Gehrig, Huggins, somebody throw that ball in!” (Most likely, there was a profanity mixed in there.) While this play does not survive on film, there is a surviving 1970 clip of Bobby Murcer letting a ball go off his glove, and it rolled to the wall, and he squeezed between the Huggins and Ruth Monuments to get it.
Plaques for owner Jacob Ruppert and general manager Ed Barrow were placed on the wall of the old Stadium, as were Plaques for DiMaggio, 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. Barrow’s Plaque was to the left of the Monuments, the others to the right.
When the old Stadium was renovated from 1973 to 1976, the Monuments and Plaques 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 added in 2010 after his death. (And, yes, I know, it’s too big. Nothing we can do about it now.)
The figures with Plaques rather than Monuments are: Owners Ruppert and Steinbrenner, and GM Barrow; catchers Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra, Elston Howard and Thurman Munson; 1st baseman Don Mattingly; 2nd 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; managers Joe McCarthy and Casey Stengel; broadcaster Mel Allen, and public-address announcer Bob Sheppard. Presumably, with Mariano Rivera's number now having been retired, a Plaque for him will soon be added, as it now has been for the universal Number 42, Jackie Robinson. Mattingly is the only one of the honored players never to have won a Pennant -- in fact, aside from "Donnie Baseball," all of these have won at least 3 Pennants and at least 2 World Series.
There are also Plaques honoring the Masses delivered by Popes Paul VI in 1965, John Paul II in 1979, and Benedict XVI in 2008. The first 2 led to a dumb joke: “Who are the two Cardinals honored in Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park?” The answer is “Miller Huggins and Roger Maris.” They both played for the St. Louis Cardinals. Now there are three former Catholic Cardinals in the Park, but, of course, when former manager Joe Torre gets his Plaque (which could be soon, now that he's been elected to the Hall of Fame), that’ll be 3 ex-St. Louis Cardinals as well. (It is believed that the new Pope, Francis I, may visit America in 2015, which could make it 4 "Princes of the Church" with Plaques. So unless Tino Martinez, who briefly played in St. Louis, gets a Plaque -- possible but not likely -- the joke is finished for some time to come.)
Huggins died just as uniform numbers were first used, in 1929, and he did not wear a number. Nor did McCarthy, even though he was managing in the major leagues as late as 1950. All of the other players and managers have had their uniform numbers retired, except for Gomez (11), Ruffing (15) and Reynolds (22). The retired 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, Stengel 37, Rivera 42, Jackson 44, Guidry 49.
Not yet officially retired, but with their numbers not given back out, are Torre (6), catcher Jorge Posada (20), right fielder Paul O'Neill (21, with the brief, disastrous, heavily-booed exception of pitcher LaTroy Hawkins), pitcher Andy Pettitte (46), and center fielder Bernie Williams (51). These five, along with the still-active Derek Jeter (2), will almost certainly receive Plaques and get their numbers retired. With performance-enhancing drug controversy swirling around him again, the question of whether Alex Rodriguez (13) will get his number retired or receive a Plaque appears to be settled -- and, like Roger Clemens (22), not in his favor.
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 (54); 2nd basemen Tony Lazzeri and Joe Gordon (both 6); 3rd baseman Wade Boggs (12), and outfielders Earle Combs (1) and Dave Winfield (31).
Outfielder Enos Slaughter (17) is in the Hall, but is better remembered as a Cardinal (they retired his 9, after Maris and Torre had worn it with them). 1st baseman Johnny Mize (36) is better remembered as a Cardinal (they didn’t retire his 10) and a Giant (they didn’t retire his 15). Jerry Coleman (42 long before Rivera) played 2nd base for the Yankees and then broadcast for them, but is in the Hall for his broadcasting for the San Diego Padres. And outfielder Rickey Henderson (24) is in the Hall, but since he was probably more hindrance than help in Pinstripes, I don’t consider him a “True Yankee.”
Mantle is honored with statues, but in his native Oklahoma rather than New York: Outside a field named for him in his hometown of Commerce, and outside Bricktown Ballpark, home of the Triple-A Oklahoma City Redhawks. That park also has statues of Johnny Bench (the next-greatest ballplayer from Oklahoma) and Warren Spahn (a Buffalo native who married an Oklahoma woman and settled on a farm in the State).
The Yankees' spring training complex in Tampa is named for Steinbrenner, and there's a statue of him outside it. Stengel is honored with 2 statues in the Tri-State Area, but neither is at Yankee Stadium, and I'll get to those later; he's also honored with one at the National Art Museum of Sport in Indianapolis. Ruth is honored with statues at Camden Yards in his hometown of Baltimore and at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown; DiMaggio at the National Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame in Chicago; Slaughter at Busch Stadium in St. Louis; Coleman at Petco Park in San Diego; and Cory Lidle, who was a Yankee when he was killed in a plane crash, has a statue at Big League Dreams Sports Park in his hometown of West Covina, California.
In 1969, in commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of professional baseball, an All-Time Team was selected. Ruth was selected as the Greatest Player Ever, DiMaggio as the Greatest Living Player (a conceit he insisted upon being introduced as for the rest of his life), and Gehrig was named the team's 1st baseman. They, Mantle and Berra were named to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team in 1999, as was the still-active and newly-acquired Roger Clemens. That same year, they, Dickey, Gomez, Ford, Jackson, Winfield and Boggs were named to The Sporting News' 100 Greatest Baseball Players.
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 if you can afford it, you can get it. It’s fun to look at, and to watch other people go nuts over it.
There are 5 Yankee Clubhouse Shops: 245 W. 42nd Street (between Port Authority and Times Square), 1501 Broadway (at 43rd Street, in Times Square), 745 7th Avenue (at 49th Street, just north of Times Square), 393 5th Avenue (at 37th Street, between the main Public Library and the Empire State Building), and 110 E. 59th Street (east of Central Park). There's also one on Long Island, at the Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove, Suffolk County.
Regardless of where you shop, I don't mind if you get one of those floppy, fake-fur, star-spangled top hats that resemble the one in the Yankee logo. But, please, if you're going to buy a Yankee cap, make it a real Yankee cap: Navy blue with a white interlocking N-Y. The Yankees do not wear red caps, green caps, yellow caps, or, God forbid, pink caps. If you're a woman who loves the Yankees, respect them enough to get the real thing, not a pink one.
During the Game. If you plan to wear opposing team gear into Yankee Stadium -- especially Red Sox or Mets -- I strongly recommend before starting out, including 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. Chances are, nobody will take a swing at you or push you, but the ones who might will be far less likely to go after more than one Sox or Met fan.
And the further you get from the Bleachers, the likelier it will 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, arrested, jailed for a night, and forced to show up in court, where they will inevitably lose their case, and get fined and publicly humiliated. The vast majority who will remain completely (or mostly) sober will care about such treatment, 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 was actually from New York City or New York State - and, yes, they are that stupid.)
The Yankees have a theme song, "Here Come the Yankees," introduced in 1967 as a counterpoint to "Meet the Mets." It's still played before and after every Yankee radio broadcast. It sounds a lot better without the lyrics.
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 always start with the center fielder: “CAR-los BEL-tran! (Clap, clap, clap-clap-clap!) They will also salute broadcasters John Sterling and Michael Kay, who used to do the games together on WABC 770 AM radio. Now Sterling is on WCBS 880 AM with Suzyn Waldman, and Kay is on YES Network TV with various partners, including (depending on the night) Yankee legends David Cone and Paul O’Neill, and former Baltimore Orioles star Ken Singleton, a New York native.
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, a future Hall-of-Famer, and a 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 the only time Jeter takes on a "Don't you know who I am?" approach.
The Yankees do not have a mascot. They tried one once, calling him Dandy (after the song "Yankee Doodle Dandy"). After consulting with the company that made the Phillie Phanatic's costume, the Yankees were ready to introduce Dandy late in the 1979 season. Then Munson was killed in a plane crash, and it was decided that Dandy, who had a big bushy mustache, looked too much like Munson (others said he more closely resembled recently-traded pitcher Sparky Lyle), so he was shelved. He was introduced at Opening Day in 1980, but the fans, for reasons that probably had nothing to do with Munson, reacted badly to him, even punching him. The guy in the suit was a college kid trying to make a few extra bucks, and his mother complained to Yankee management and making him quit. That was the end of Dandy.
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.
On clips of old Yankee games (such as on YES’ Yankees Classics), you might hear somebody banging a spoon on a metal pan. This was Freddy Schuman. An elderly Bronx native, who lost an eye decades ago, he walked 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.” Yankee Fans were very loyal to him and protective of him. He was such a beloved figure that he was invited to ride on a float in each of the Yankees’ last 5 World Championship victory parades. Sadly, you won’t see him now: Like Steinbrenner and Sheppard, Freddy died in 2010. He was 85.
At some point, usually between halves of 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 taking the A to the D to get to The Stadium, or taking the 4 if you have an East Side hotel.)
It used to get worse -- much worse, in terms of both physical pressure and style. If you needed any more reasons to not wear opposing team gear in the Yankee Stadium Bleachers, at this stage of the game, the Bleacher Creatures would have already found someone wearing “enemy colors,” and as “YMCA” began to be played, a few of them would surround him, insuring that he couldn’t get away, while the rest clapped along. They didn’t touch him, so they couldn’t be charged with assault, but this was true harassment, and the cops in the section didn’t seem to give a damn. The Creatures made up their own words to this song, and instead of “YMCA” they sang “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. They can be found on YouTube, if you dare; I won't post a clip.
After a series of events in early October 2010, Yankee Stadium security announced the "Why are you gay?" song would no longer be tolerated. As far as I know, it has stopped. Sure, it was funny – until you imagine what might have happened if the “victim” tried 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 with them for getting some kind of poor 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.)
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 own 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 a stupid dance. (The original “Cotton Eye Joe” portrayer was fired for showing up drunk, so they got “Joey” to replace him.)
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. Met fans claim they started this tradition with Dwight Gooden in 1984, but we have the video evidence showing that, as usual, Met fans are full of baloney.
They did, however, at that time, invent the “K-Korner,” although Yankee Fans took it to a new level in the 1990s; but such cutesy stuff as traffic cones or ice cream cones for David Cone, beer mugs for David Wells, rockets for Roger Clemens, pictures of John “the Duke” Wayne for Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez and Bullwinkles for Mike “Moose” Mussina have long since gone by the boards.
When Mariano Rivera was pitching, if the Yankees were winning in the 9th inning, and it was a save situation, he would come out of the bullpen, and the loudspeakers would blast "Enter Sandman" by Metallica. Translation: "Game over." It remains to be seen what will be done for the new closer, probably David Robertson, a setup man since 2010.
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.
Between Sterling, Waldman (“Oh my good, goodness gracious!” for Clemens’ ill-fated 2007 comeback), and Kay (infamous for “The Curse of Kay,” citing an overwhelming stat which gets reversed in that very at-bat), 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.
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.
Now that pitcher A.J. Burnett is gone, there is no more "walkoff pie." In 2009, when he arrived, and the Yankees got a walkoff hit, the player who got it was almost immediately corralled by Kim Jones of the YES Network, and, in mid-interview, he got hit in the face with a cream pie by pitcher A.J. Burnett. If the Yanks went to the bottom of the 9th tied or trailing by a run, a fan brought out a banner reading, “WE WANT PIE.” But with Burnett gone, no one took up the, uh, mantle, and this relatively new “Yankee Tradition” went the way of multipurpose concrete oval stadiums.
After the Game. Win or lose, I would advise against going to one of the bars across River Avenue from The Stadium. Forget Billy’s, Stan’s, the Yankee Tavern, the Yankee Eatery and the rest. Regardless of whether they won or lost, the people there do not want to see opposing 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 a 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. Don’t bother with the 21 Club, despite its featuring in the ESPN miniseries about the 1977 Yankees, The Bronx Is Burning ; Reggie was right, it’s no big deal, except when you get the check. 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 legendary Carnegie Deli, so named as it's near Carnegie Hall (on 7th Avenue at 55th Street, B, D or E Train to 53rd Street) is terrific -- if you don’t mind paying 20 bucks for a sandwich. (They are big sandwiches. The nearly as famous Stage Deli, one block further down 7th Avenue, closed in 2012 after 75 years.) And New York pushcart hot dogs and pretzels? Believe it or not, they are cheap (usually $2.50), far more sanitary than legend would suggest, and occasionally tasty. A big bargain.
Sports 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). The Army-Navy Game was played there in 1930 and 1931.
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. Jack Dempsey also fought and won there, but that was after he lost the title, knocking out future champ Jack Sharkey (who grew up in Boston) in 1927, between his 2 losses to Gene Tunney.
* Citi Field and the site of Shea Stadium. Almost certainly, when one team New York 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 who spearheaded the drive to get the National League put an expansion team in 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 on August 15, 1965 and August 23, 1966.
The home plate entrance to Citi Field includes the original Home Run Apple from Shea (replaced on the inside), and the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, acting as a sort of "Presidential Library" for the man who reintegrated baseball. Ironically, I can find no evidence that Jackie ever even visited Shea Stadium. To the right of the entrance is the Mets Hall of Fame, with their own "Monument Park" type setup, their 1969 and 1986 World Series trophies, seats from the Polo Grounds and Shea, and a statue of Casey Stengel.
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 the only thing that remains from the 1939 fair is the Queens Museum of Art, which contains exhibits about both fairs, including “The Panorama of New York City,” a scale model of the City that was updated until 1992 – in other words, it doesn’t show the newer skyscrapers, and it still shows the old World Trade Center. This building was also the first home of the United Nations, from 1946 to 1950.
The U.S. Open has been held at Flushing Meadow every late August and early September 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 the Beatles on August 28 & 29, 1964 – 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.
* Site of 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. The Polo Grounds hosted the Army-Navy Game in 1913, 1915, 1916, 1917, 1918, 1919, 1920, 1921, 1923, 1925 and 1927.
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, with few living people who remember seeing John McGraw manage the Giants there, and possibly no one who saw Christy Mathewson pitch there, 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. (If you see the plaque, you’ll notice that it calls the Giants “1904 World Champions” – and Red Sox fans may feel free to laugh, as the Giants were too chicken to play the Boston Pilgrims in that year’s World Series; while the Sox don’t recognize themselves as 1904 World Champions, they should.) Part of the complex is a playground named Willie Mays Field, though it's not really a "field."
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.
The original Polo Grounds, where polo actually had been played, was at 110th Street and 5th Avenue, at the northeast corner of Central Park, from 1876 to 1889, until the City ordered 111th Street built through it, forcing the Giants out. Number 2 or 3 train to 110th Street.
* Site of 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. Walk up Flatbush Avenue, with Prospect Park on your left, turn right on Empire Boulevard, then walk 3 blocks to McKeever Place, and one more block to Sullivan Place. To your right will be the project. To your left will be a school named after Robinson. At the corner of Bedford & Sullivan will be the complex’s cornerstone, revealing it as the site of Ebbets Field.
* 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. (It used to be known as the Pennsylvania-Ontario-New York League, or the PONY League.) The NYPL league is "Short-Season A-ball," meaning that they don't start until mid-June -- so if you want to see the Cyclones, the Staten Island Yankees, or any other team in the league, you'll have to wait until summer.
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. The Parachute Jump, an icon of Coney Island that had stood at the 1939-40 World’s Fair and was a model for similar rides at Six Flags’ parks, is outside the right field corner; although restored so that it won’t collapse, it’s no longer a functioning ride.
With 7,500 seats, and not a lot of history, MCU Park is not Ebbets Field, but it’s a lot more convenient, and it’s a nice place to see a professional game. The Cyclones are not the old Dodger “Boys of Summer,” but they win more often than not – unlike their parent club! They've won 5 Division Titles, and, since the 2001 NYPL finals were underway when the World Trade Center was attacked, the series was called off, and the Cyclones were declared Co-Champions, so they have won a Pennant.
1904 Surf Avenue, at 19th Street. Take the D, F, N or Q train to Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue. The Cyclone, still in operation, is at 8th & Surf, and the original Nathan’s Famous hot dog stand is at Stillwell & Surf.
* 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, winning 6 NYPL Pennants, most recently in 2011. The park has a magnificent view of Lower Manhattan, across the harbor (though it had a better view for its first 2 months, before 9/11), and it’s been remarked that it looks like the Statue of Liberty is playing a distant center field.
75 Richmond Terrace at Hamilton Avenue. Take the R train to Whitehall Street -- Hurricane Sandy damaged the South Ferry station on the Number 1 line in 2012 and it hasn't reopened as of this writing -- then cross the street to the Whitehall Terminal. The Staten Island Ferry is free, it takes 22 minutes in each direction, and you get a pretty good view of Lady 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 Park. 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 Base Ball Club used it as their home ground, and it was here that they tested the rules they wrote.
Surveyor (which job led him to conclude that 90 feet between the bases was best) and fireman Alexander Cartwright has generally gotten credit, but Club members Daniel "Doc" Adams and William R. Wheaton were also heavily involved in writing the rules, and getting them approved at 1857 and '58 conventions that standardized the various regional versions of what was then spelled as 2 words as "base ball," that became the difference between baseball and all baseball-like games that came before it.
The Square and Park were 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.
In addition to boxing, the earlier Gardens hosted all kinds of shows, from the Westminster Kennel Club show to Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show to the 1924 Democratic Convention, taking 103 ballots -- a 2/3rds majority was needed to nominate under the rules of the time -- to nominate John W. Davis as a sacrificial lamb to Calvin Coolidge.
51 Madison Avenue at 26th Street. Take the N or R train to 23rd Street.
* Worldwide Plaza. This skyscraper, built in 1989, 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 Red Sox fans, who are probably also Celtic fans, may disagree with that latter distinction. Neither Elvis Presley nor the Beatles ever played the old Garden.
50th Street & 8th Avenue. Take the C train to 50th Street, and on the downtown side of the station, you’ll see a marble mural depicting the old Garden.
* 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 in May 2010. It was also home to the WNBA’s New York Liberty from 1997 until 2010, and will be again this summer, after a renovation, most of which took place in the NBA and NHL’s off-seasons, led the Libs to take up residence at the Prudential Center in Newark. Now that the renovation is finished, tours of The Garden are again available, at $18 and $27, depending on the level of acces.
Elvis played a few shows at the Garden from June 7 to 10, 1972, and the Beatles did so on their individual solo tours, most notably George Harrison for his August 1, 1971 Concert for Bangladesh (which had fellow ex-Beatle Ringo Starr, plus Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton) and John Lennon for his August 30, 1972 One-to-One Concert (with wife Yoko Ono, Stevie Wonder and Roberta Flack).
Other notable shows include the July 27-29, 1973 Led Zeppelin shows filmed for The Song Remains the Same, the Bob Dylan tribute on October 16, 1992, the Concert for New York City on October 20, 2001 in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the Big Apple to Big Easy show after Hurricane Katrina on September 20, 2005, and the "12-12-12" concert for Hurricane Sandy relief on December 12, 2012. 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. Indeed, there have been years when Elton and the Grateful Dead sold the Garden out more than the Knicks did.
The Democratic Convention was held here in 1976 and 1980, both times nominating Jimmy Carter; and in 1992, nominating Bill Clinton. The Republican Convention was held here in 2004, renominating George W. Bush.
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.
* Barclays Center. The first new indoor sports arena in New York City since the "New Garden" in 1968, it opened in September 2012, and is the home of the NBA's recently-moved-and-renamed Brooklyn Nets. In October 2015, it will become the home of the NHL's New York Islanders.
It actually has a smaller seating capacity than The Garden: Basketball, 17,732 to 19,763; hockey, 14,500 to 18,200. In fact, when the Isles move in, unless some other team has an unexpected move in the interim, the Barclays will have the smallest capacity in the NHL, less than the Nassau Coliseum's 16,297. But it will be incredibly more convenient and comfortable than the "Mausoleum," especially for Ranger and Devil fans wanting to see their team play away to the Isles.
Barclays is a banking and financial services company based in London, and has long been a sponsor of English's soccer's top division, the Premier League. (BPL stands for "Barclays Premier League," not "British Premier League.") It seems kind of odd that an arena in Brooklyn would have this sponsor, but then, the new Boston Garden is named for TD Bank -- the TD stands for Toronto Dominion. Besides, what Brooklyn-based company could they have gone to? Nathan's? Dr. Brown's? (The soda, not the Back to the Future scientist.) With all the Brooklyn pride the arena has tried to generate (and has begun to succeed in doing), it would have been rather awkward to call it the Manhattan Special Arena, even though beverage company Manhattan Special is headquartered in Brooklyn.
620 Atlantic Avenue, at Flatbush Avenue, across Atlantic from the Brooklyn Terminal of the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), on the site that Walter O'Malley originally wanted for the site of the replacement for Ebbets Field, but they wouldn't let him build there. D or 4 Train to Atlantic Avenue.
* College football. Although NYU (New York University) and CCNY (City College of New York) once had strong football teams, only 2 Division I college football programs are left in New York City: Columbia in Manhattan, and Fordham in The Bronx.
While Columbia won win the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day 1934 (back when Ivy League teams were allowed to play postseason games), and their 1947 win over mighty Army is known as "The Miracle of Morningside Heights," the program is now best known for their 44-game losing streak from 1983 to 1988, a Division I record since broken. While the broken window scene from The Pride of the Yankees, the film with Gary Cooper playing Lou Gehrig, did actually happen, at South Field, on College Walk (116th Street) between Broadway and Amsterdam (10th) Avenue, across from the stately Low Library, Columbia moved even further uptown shortly after Gehrig reached the Yankees. They played at Baker Field from 1923 to 1983, and the first televised baseball game ever was broadcast from there in 1939, between Columbia and Princeton. (The Dodgers would host the first televised major league game later in the year.)
In 1984, Baker Field was replaced with Lawrence A. Wien Stadium, named for a real estate tycoon who left the university a lot of money. The field within the stadium has recently been named for another Columbia graduate and major donor, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. So, yes, a notable New York City sports facility is named after a New England sports legend.
Later in 1939, Fordham played in the first televised football game, beating Waynesburg 34-7. That game was played at Triborough Stadium on Randall's Island in the East River, later to be renamed Downing Stadium (home to the Cosmos in 1974 and '75 and the World Football League's New York Stars in '75) and replaced by the current Icahn Stadium. Fordham's best days were already winding down by '39 (they had memorable battles with the University of Pittsburgh the preceding 2 years, '37 at the Polo Grounds and '38 at Pitt Stadium), and they could no longer command big crowds at the Polo Grounds or Yankee Stadium.
Baker Field/Wien Stadium/Kraft Field is at 218th Street & Broadway, at the northern tip of Manhattan Island. (1 train to 215th Street.) Fordham plays at Jack Coffey Field, opened in 1930 and renovated in 2004, at 441 East Fordham Road at Kazimiroff Blvd. Metro-North to Fordham, or D train to Fordham Road, and then walk down Fordham Road. While both schools are noted for their toniness and good security forces, neither of these locations is to be visited at night.
* Site of St. Nicholas Arena. From 1896 to 1962, this arena was used for ice skating, hockey and boxing. It was also used as a TV studio for ABC from 1953 onward. After its demolition, ABC built a new studio on the site, and the local Eyewitness News, Live (formerly with Regis Philbin and Kathie Lee Gifford, now with Kelly Ripa and former Giant Michael Strahan), Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? (formerly hosted by Philbin, now by Meredith Vieira) and The View are taped there.
69 W. 66th Street at Columbus Avenue, across from the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. 1 train to 66th Street-Lincoln Square.
NBC's studios are at the GE Buildng on Avenue of the Americas, which everybody still calls the RCA Building on 6th Avenue. 30 Rockefeller Plaza, or 30 Rock for short, between 49th and 50th Streets. A walkway leads from it to 5th Avenue, across from St. Patrick's Cathedral. B or D train to 47th-50th Streets-Rockefeller Center.
CBS' studios are at the CBS Building, fronted by black marble and thus known as Black Rock. 51 W. 52nd Street at 6th Avenue. Reached by the same station as NBC.
* Soccer. If you're a soccer fan, and you're visiting during the European "football" season (mid-August to mid-May), Legends: The Football Factory is at 6 West 33rd Street, across from the Empire State Building. Nevada Smith's, opened in 2002 and already a New York soccer institution, had to move in 2011 when its building at 74 3rd Avenue & 11th Street was condemned as unsafe. After "groundsharing" around the corner at Webster Hall, an older theater, their new home, at 100 3rd Avenue between 12th and 13th, is now open. However, most local soccer fanatics have already made the switch to Legends, unless the clubs they support have their own setups elsewhere.
Legends hosts the 2 most popular English clubs in New York, Manchester United and Chelsea; the 2 most popular Italian clubs, AC Milan and Juventus; and Spanish giants Barcelona. Italy's Inter and AS Roma are based at Nevada's, Liverpool are at the 11th Street Bar at 510 East 11th off Avenue A (L train to 1st Avenue), "the other Merseyside club" Everton and Spanish giants Real Madrid at Mr. Dennehy's at 63 Carmine Street at Bedford (1 train to Houston St), Arsenal at the Blind Pig at 233 East 14th off 2nd (L to 3rd Avenue), Manchester City at the Mad Hatter at 360 3rd Avenue off 26th (6 train to 28th Street), and East London's West Ham and German titans Bayern Munich at Lunasa at 126 1st Avenue off St. Mark's Place/8th Street (6 train to Astor Place).
New York City FC, founded by English team Manchester City, begins play next year, but hasn't finalized a home field yet; one plan is at the site of the 157th Street parking deck that was south of the old Yankee Stadium; Flushing Meadow-Corona Park, near Citi Field and the National Tennis Center, has also been suggested. They may end up playing at Yankee Stadium for a while. As for the Red Bulls and the new version of the Cosmos, I'll get to them shortly.
* New Jersey. You can take New Jersey Transit's 320 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. The Army-Navy Game was held there in 1989, 1993, 1997 and 2002.
Both NFL teams moved into MetLife Stadium. Like Giants Stadium, MetLife is also a major venue for big-act concerts and soccer. The U.S. team played 9 games at Giants Stadium, winning 4, losing 2 and drawing 3. They've now played 2 at MetLife, a loss to Brazil in 2010 and a draw vs. Argentina in 2011. (I was there, watching North Brunswick, New Jersey native Tim Howard stop Lionel Messi on all 5 shots he took.)
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, the Seton Hall University basketball team (in games too big for their 3,200-seat on-campus gym in South Orange), and, temporarily, the Liberty, 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. In spite of a bad reputation for the city in general, downtown Newark is safe.
Red Bull Arena, the new home of the soccer team, is in Harrison, a 5-minute walk from the Harrison station on the PATH line. This will also be safe, even if you root for D.C. United. (A new Harrison station is in the first stages of construction, because the old station is a major bottleneck.) It's hosted the Red Bulls, and some international matches, including the U.S. team's October 11, 2011 loss to Ecuador.
Less safe is the site of Ruppert Stadium, home of the International League's Newark Bears (farm team of the Yankees) starting in 1926 and the Negro Leagues' Newark Eagles starting in 1936. At 19,000 seats, it was one of the biggest ballparks in the minor leagues, and was home to, among others, future Hall-of-Famers Yogi Berra, Monte Irvin and Ray Dandridge. But the integration of the majors killed the Negro Leagues, and television nearly killed the minor leagues. Both teams were gone after the 1949 season, and Ruppert Stadium was torn down in 1967. If you simply don't have time to visit all these sites, and have to cut some, this should be the first one you cut. 258 Wilson Avenue at Avenue K. NJT 25 Bus.
The new team called the Newark Bears has been suspended due to financial difficulties. They played in the Atlantic League from 1998 to 2009, and in the Can-Am League from 2010 to 2013. Their Twitter feed says they will play again in 2015, but I don't know about that. They played at Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium (honoring both of Ruppert's tenants), at 450 Broad Street at Division Street, across from NJT's Broad Street Station. You're better off taking NJT to Newark's Penn Station and then taking Newark Light Rail to Riverfront Stadium stop.
These Bears won Pennants in the Atlantic League in 2002 and 2007, and previously had a rivalry with the Somerset Patriots, who play at TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater, Somerset County, between Somerville and Bound Brook. The Pats have won 5 Atlantic League Pennants, with former Yankee reliever Sparky Lyle managing them until 2012. East Main Street & Cole Drive. Bridgewater station on NJT's Raritan Valley Line, although you'll need to change trains at Newark Penn Station.
Upon switching to the Can-Am League, the Bears' new rivals were the New Jersey Jackals, who play at Yogi Berra Stadium on the campus of Montclair State University in Little Falls. (The campus straddles the line between that town and Montclair.) The Jackals have won 4 Pennants, most recently in 2004. Attached to the ballpark is the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center, honoring Yogi, the Yankees, and local baseball in general. The original Plaques that DiMaggio and Mantle got, before being replaced by Monuments, are there, as are a statue of Yogi, his 3 Most Valuable Player trophies, and some seats from the old Yankee Stadium. MSU stop on NJT's Montclair-Boonton Line, or NJT Number 28 bus.
Another site that hosted the "high minors" was Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City. Built by Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal agency, the Works Project Administration, and named for him by the city, it was at Danford Avenue and State Route 1 -- now State Route 440 because U.S. Route 1 cuts through the city -- and seated 24,000, making it home of the International League's Jersey City Giants from 1937 to 1950 (the Giants farm team was yet another minor-league club killed by TV), and a few other teams until its demolition in 1985. The stadium also hosted 15 Brooklyn Dodger "home games" in 1956 and '57, as Walter O'Malley saw a stadium even smaller than Ebbets Field but with a hell of a lot more parking. It also hosted high school football games, including doubleheaders on Thanksgiving Day. This is another site to take in only if you have lots of time and can visit it in daylight.
Three New Jersey cities have statues honoring Baseball Hall-of-Famers: Jersey City, where Jackie Robinson played his first game in "organized ball" (Montreal Royals at Jersey City Giants), has a statue of him in Journal Square; Larry Doby, born in South Carolina but raised in Paterson, has one at a field named for him; and the now heavily-Hispanic Newark has one of Roberto Clemente in Branch Brook Park.
The Yankees' Double-A farm team is the Trenton Thunder, who play at Arm & Hammer Park (formerly Mercer County Waterfront Park), at Cass & Lamberton Streets in Trenton. Players working back into shape after injuries will often be sent here for rehab games. Although the Thunder have been enormously successful in attendance -- the high prices and lack of availability of Yankees and Phillies tickets has caused this -- they were not been all that successful as a Red Sox farm team. They blew sure Pennants in the 1996 and '99 Eastern League Playoffs, finally winning Pennants as a Yankee farm team in 2007, '08 and '13.
NJT Northeast Corridor Line to Trenton Transit Center, then RiverLine to Cass Street, and 8 blocks to the ballpark. Yeah, it's a long walk, and you'll pass the New Jersey State Prison; but the buses don't go there, and you'll pass a nice ballpark mural along the way.
The Phillies have a Class A team near the Jersey Shore, the Lakewood BlueClaws. They've won South Atlantic League (a.k.a. "Sally League") Pennants in 2006, '09 and '10. Cedar Bridge & New Hampshire Avenues. NJT to Newark, then 67 Bus to New Hampshire Avenue. Though you're more likely to want to go there if you're a Phillies fan, so: From Philly's Greyhound station, take NJT's 317 Bus to New Hampshire Avenue.
The Louis Brown Athletic Center, formerly the Rutgers Athletic Center and still nicknamed the RAC, home to the Nets from 1977 to 1981, is in Piscataway, as is Rutgers Stadium. Built in 1938 for 23,000 fans, totally reconstructed in 1994 for 41,500, and expanded in 2009 for 52,454, the location has hosted 4 U.S. soccer team matches, most recently a 1995 draw against Colombia.
To get to Rutgers, take New Jersey Transit’s Northeast Corridor Line to New Brunswick, and switch to 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.
Princeton, a much nicer college town, features Powers Field at Princeton University Stadium and Jadwin Gym. Powers Field was built on the site of Palmer Stadium (1914-1996), and Jadwin, long the home of the State high school wrestling championships (since moved to Atlantic City), is at the open, southern end of the horseshoe. In 1905, Palmer's predecessor, Osborne Field, hosted the Army-Navy Game. It's also worth noting that the University of Michigan's "winged" helmet design was brought there by coach Fritz Crisler, who originated it at his previous head coaching post, Princeton. A few years back, Princeton started wearing the design again, with black wings on an orange helmet.
The town can be reached via Coach USA bus from Port Authority. It can also be reached via NJ Transit's Northeast Corridor to Princeton Junction, and then transfer to a shuttle (known locally as "The Dinky") to Princeton proper.
* Long Island. 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 LIRR's Hempstead Branch all the way to the end. Across the street is a bus station. Take the N70, N71 or N72 bus (N for Nassau), 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, the Bruins are, but the Isles aren’t even interesting.
The Isles now have the 2nd-oldest arena in the NHL, and unlike The Garden, now the oldest, it's probably the one least suitable for 21st Century crowds. A bond issue to build a new arena failed, thanks to the County government that was handed over to Tea Partiers in the 2010 election. With no better options, the Isles have agreed to play out their lease until 2015, and then move into the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Ironically, with the Atlantic Terminal for the LIRR being just across the street, it will be easier for Long Islanders to get there via public transportation.
What will happen to the Coliseum after the 2014-15 NHL season has not yet been decided, but don't expect the building to last much beyond that in its current form.
Adjacent is Hofstra University, including its 15,000-seat James M. Shuart Stadium (they recently dropped their football program) and the former Jets offices and training complex, Weeb Ewbank Hall. The Hofstra baseball field has a statue of Casey Stengel. While its football program has been dropped, Shuart Stadium still hosts decent soccer and lacrosse programs, was the home field of the NASL's New York Cosmos from 1972 to 1974, and has begun to host the reborn Cosmos until a new stadium can be built in, or at least closer to, New York City. The Cosmos are in the new NASL, which is technically the 2nd division of North American soccer; although they won the title last year, they are not yet eligible for promotion to MLS.
The Long Island Ducks, an Atlantic League baseball team named for a former minor-league hockey team, are the only professional sports team in The Island's Suffolk County. They play at Bethpage Ballpark, but it's not in the town of Bethpage. Rather, it's at Court House Drive & Carleton Avenue, on the campus of the New York Institute of Technology in Central Islip. (Try not to pronounce that as two words: "I slip.") LIRR Ronkonkoma Line to Central Islip station, then it's a 2-mile walk down Lowell & Eastview Avenues. (Taxis are available at the station.)
* Lower Hudson Valley. The Hudson Valley Renegades have won New York-Penn League Pennants in 1999 and 2012. They play at Dutchess Stadium in Wappingers Falls in Dutchess County. Although the ballpark is just a mile or so from the Hudson River, and the river-hugging Hudson Line of the Metro-North Commuter Railroad, Wappingers Falls does not have a Metro-North Station. You'd have to take the Hudson Line (formerly the centerpiece of the New York Central Railroad) to Beacon, and then either walk or take a cab over the remaining 2 miles up N.Y. State Route 9D.
That's on the east bank of the Hudson. On the west bank is the Tri-State Area's newest pro baseball team, the Rockland Boulders. They play at Provident Bank Park at 300 Pomona Road in Pomona, Rockland County. Don't bother trying to reach this one by public transportation, as it's over 4 miles from the nearest train line and there's no bus that goes there.
* Connecticut. The Bridgeport Bluefish play at The Ballpark at Harbor Yard, in Bridgeport, the most populous city in the State of Connecticut, and the seat of Fairfield County. Adjacent is Webster Bank Arena, formerly The Arena at Harbor Yard, which hosts the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, a farm team of the Islanders. This is made a lot easier by the fact that there's a ferry between Bridgeport and the Long Island town of Port Jefferson, across Long Island Sound.
The Fish have won just 1 Atlantic League Pennant, in 1999, but have been Division Champions as recently as 2010. A statue of Bridgeport native Jim "Orator" O'Rourke, a Hall-of-Famer, is outside. Metro-North New Haven Line to Bridgeport, then 5 blocks down Water Street, under I-95/Connecticut Turnpike.
(Most of the New York side of Connecticut remains Ranger fans, and even the Boston side has a lot of Ranger fans because their farm team, the Hartford Wolf Pack, is a Ranger farm team, standing in for the now-gone Hartford Whalers at the XL Center, formerly the Hartford Civic Center. So while there are a few Bruin fans on the Boston side of the Nutmeg State, Islander fans in and around Bridgeport, and a few people trying to bring the NHL back to Hartford in a renovated Civic Center or a new arena, the Rangers lead the State's hockey fandom.)
Yale Field in West Haven, just outside the New Haven City Line, was built in 1928, and is one of the oldest surviving ballparks. It hosted the New Haven Ravens of the Eastern League from 1994 to 2003, and the New Haven County Cutters of the Can-Am League from 2004 to 2007. It is still used by Yale University, but no pro team plays there now.
I saw the Ravens beat the Trenton Thunder there, 3-2 in 10 innings, on July 18, 1999, a brutally hot day. There's a little (maybe 10 seats) sports bar in the left field corner, with TVs. Late in the game I saw, it was announced that David Cone had a perfect game after 8 innings. There were maybe 3,000 people in the park, and about 2,900 of them rushes to that little bar to see if Coney could finish it off, even though there was a pretty good game going on below, for which they had already paid. (Cone did finish the perfect game.)
Yale University's athletic complex straddles Derby Avenue, with the Field on the south side. On the north side is the Yale Bowl, where the Bulldogs have played football since 1914. A recent renovation has cut the seating capacity from 71,000 to 61,446, but it's in much shape as it celebrates its centennial.
Due to Mayor John Lindsay's anger at the Giants for leaving the City for the Meadowlands, into whose stadium they wouldn't be able to move until 1976, he denied them use of Shea once Yankee Stadium closed for renovation. So they went to the Yale Bowl, even though it's 75 miles northeast of Midtown Manhattan, and played the rest of their 1973 home games and all their 1974 home games there, before new Mayor Abe Beame let them play at Shea in 1975.
The first Giants-Jets game ever was played at the Yale Bowl, in the 1969 preseason, and the Jets won that, solidifying themselves as champions of not just the world, as they'd shown in Super Bowl III 7 months earlier, but of New York City. The Yale Bowl has also hosted 2 U.S. soccer matches, a loss to Brazil in 1993 and a draw with Greece in 1994.
Derby & Yale Avenues. Metro-North New Haven Line to New Haven Union Station, walk to New Haven Green, and then Connecticut Transit B bus.
Oddly enough, from 1972 to 1979, when the Yankees had a Double-A farm team in "New Haven," they were the West Haven Yankees, but they did not play at Yale Field, which was then rather dilapidated. (I guess all those Yalies weren't donating money to fix the athletic facilities.) They played instead at Quigley Stadium, at 362 Front Avenue, which has a much smaller capacity and is also pretty old, dating to 1947. It now hosts only high school football.
In retirement, Jackie Robinson and his family left Brooklyn and settled in Stamford. Jackie Robinson Park of Fame, including a statue of him, is at 860 Canal Street at Henry Street. A 15-minute walk from the Stamford Station on Metro-North.
Legends Laid to Rest. The cemeteries at which Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig are buried are right next-door to each other, even though they're officially in separate towns.
Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, Westchester County, is the final resting place of Ruth, Billy Martin, umpire John McSherry, football Giants owners Tim and Wellington Mara, Los Angeles Rams founder-owner Dan Reeves (no relation to the former Giants, Denver and Atlanta coach), sportswriters Heywood Broun and Bob Considine, journalist & What's My Line panelist Dorothy Kilgallen, actor and Yankee Fan James Cagney, actor Sal Mineo, legendary comedian Fred Allen, 1920s New York Mayor Jimmy Walker, union leader Mike Quill, and mobster Dutch Schultz. 10 W. Stevens Avenue, Hawthorne. Metro-North to Mount Pleasant.
Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, of which Gate of Heaven is an offshoot, is the final resting place of Gehrig, Yankee owner Jacob Ruppert, infamous Red Sox owner Harry Frazee, actress Anne Bancroft (presumably, her husband, Mel Brooks, will join her there), comedian Danny Kaye, Big Band leader Tommy Dorsey (but not his brother Jimmy), composer Sergei Rachmaninoff, RCA (and therefore NBC) founder David Sarnoff, poet Gil Scott-Heron, Broadway producer Florenz Ziegfeld, author Paddy Chayefsky, 1930s New York Governor Herbert Lehman, and opera singers Robert Merrill (who frequently sang the National Anthem at Yankee games) and Beverly Sills. 273 Lakeview Avenue. Metro-North to Valhalla.
Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn is where you can find several early baseball legends, including "The Father of Baseball," Henry Chadwick, America's 1st great sportswriter. (But not, as was long believed, the inventor of the box score.) His gravemarker is one of the more elaborate you'll ever see. So is that of James Creighton, the early player who appears to have been the first pitcher to purposely throw hard, thus inventing the fastball. He was the 1st real baseball superstar, but no sooner had he achieved that status than he died of causes still debated -- at age 21, in 1862. Charles Ebbets, Brooklyn Dodger owner and ballpark builder, is also buried there.
Non-baseball personalities buried there include composer Leonard Bernstein, longtime New York Governor and Senator DeWitt Clinton, sewing machine inventor Elias Howe, Constitution signer and 1st New Jersey Governor William Livingston, legendarily corrupt New York political boss William Tweed, painter and telegraph inventor Samuel Morse, abolitionist preacher Henry Ward Beecher, artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, both Nathaniel Currier and James Ives, Louis Comfort Tiffany, mobster Albert Anastasia, actor DeWolf Hoppper (whose onstage recitation, in those days before most people had record players, popularized "Casey at the Bat"), Wizard of Oz portrayer Frank Morgan, piano manufacturers Henry and William Steinway, and songwriter Fred Ebb, who wrote the lyrics to "Theme From New York, New York." (You know: "Start spreadin' the news... ") Also the parents, uncle and first wife of President Theodore Roosevelt. And the namesakes of 2 of the major components of New Jersey's Rutgers University: Revolutionary War hero and philanthropist Henry Rutgers, and educator Mabel Smith Douglass. 500 25th Street, Brooklyn. N train to 36th Street.
Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx is not the final resting place of any Yankee Legends, unless you count 1947-64 co-owner Dan Topping. And the only Baseball Hall-of-Famer buried there is Bronx native and Giants star Frankie Frisch. But its the burial place of 1970 Knick Dean Meminger, swimmer Gertude Edele, boxing promoter and "old Garden" builder Tex Rickard, and sportswriters Grantland Rice and Damon Runyon. Music legends buried there include Irving Berlin, George M. Cohan, Celia Cruz, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton and W.C. Handy. It's also where you can find Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, early 20th Century Republican political figure Charles Evans Hughes, New York's master builder (but also a big reason why the Dodgers moved) Robert Moses, diplomat Ralph Bunche, Civil War naval hero David Farragut, department store founders Rowland H. Macy and James Cash Penney, novelist Herman Melville, cartoonist Thomas Nast, newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer, journalism pioneer Nellie Bly, and Wild West figure Bat Masterson. 517 East 233rd Street. 4 Train to the end of the line, Woodlawn station.
Cypress Hills Cemetery straddles the Brooklyn-Queens "border." It is the final resting place of Jackie Robinson. An earlier Brooklyn baseball star buried there is Bob Ferguson, who, by the standards of his time, was such a good fielder he was known as "Death to Flying Things." It's also where you can find late 19th Century heavyweight champion Gentleman Jim Corbett, jazz pianist Eubie Blake, and actress Mae West. In case you want to "Come up sometime and see me," it's at 833 Jamaica Avenue. J to Cypress Hills.
Non-Sports Sidelights. If you're looking for a good time to visit New York other than during baseball season, I would recommend the week before Christmas. Yes, it is likely to be cold, but the City never looks better than in the walk down 5th Avenue from 59th Street (Central Park, Plaza Hotel, legendary toy store FAO Schwarz), past the Trump Tower (57th), St. Patrick's Cathedral (51st), Rockefeller Center (49th), the main library (42nd) on down to 34th (the Empire State Building). Along the way, you'll pass stores even more legendary than FAO Schwarz, including Tiffany and Lord & Taylor, although B. Altman's is long gone.
Do not visit Times Square on New Year's Eve. I cannot emphasize this enough. The Square will be packed before dark. If you don't get there before dark, you won't get anywhere near it. And if you do get there before dark, you'll be stuck there for hours, until the crowd finally thins out a few minutes after midnight. I was once there at about 2:00 in the afternoon of December 31, and it was already a zoo. Don't do it! Also, don't visit on March 17 to see the St. Patrick's Day Parade, unless you like very raucous behavior by people who aren't the least bit Irish and are using it as an excuse to get as drunk as they think the stereotypical Irishman is.
I would advise against seeing a Broadway show: Tickets are expensive, hard to get, and most of the shows aren’t really worth it.
The Ed Sullivan Theater, previously known as CBS Studio 50, was the site for The Ed Sullivan Show from 1948 to 1971. Elvis appeared there on September 9 and October 28, 1956, and, from the waist up only, on January 6, 1957. The Beatles played there on February 9, 1964 -- where a since-broken U.S. TV record of 73 million people watched -- and September 12, 1965. CBS now broadcasts The Late Show with David Letterman from there. 1697 Broadway at 54th Street; B, D or E train to 7th Avenue.
Also well worth a visit: 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), the Intrepid Museum (the World War II-era aircraft carrier is at Pier 86, 46th Street & 12th Avenue, and includes several aircraft, including the prototype space shuttle Enterprise), and the South Street Seaport (Fulton & Front Streets, A Train to Broadway-Nassau).
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 15 minutes: Fulton to Church to Vesey.
Presidential Sites. Theodore Roosevelt is the only President to have been born in New York City. The townhouse where he was born was demolished in 1916, while he was still alive. After his death in 1919, it was rebuilt, and serves as a museum in his honor. 28 East 20th Street, between Park Avenue & Broadway.
His home on Long Island, Sagamore Hill, is currently closed for renovations until 2015, although there is a visitors' center and museum on the site that, for all intents and purposes, serves as TR's "Presidential Library" (since most people who visit Presidential Libraries see only the museum and, if there is one there, the house, and don't actually go into the library to view documents). 20 Sagamore Hill Road, Oyster Bay. LIRR to Oyster Bay, and then take a taxi. I've walked the 3 miles from the station to the house, and I don't recommend it: The roads are narrow and twisty, and Cove Neck Road and Sagamore Hill Road have nasty hills.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, TR's cousin, and his wife Eleanor (TR's niece) had an apartment at 125 East 36th Street (6 to 33rd Street), and another at 49 East 65th Street off Park (F to Lexington Avenue/63rd Street). But their best-known home was FDR's birthplace in Hyde Park, in Dutchess County, where he put his Presidential Library.
4079 Albany Post Road, and if you're familiar with U.S. Route 9 in Jersey or as upper Broadway in Manhattan and The Bronx, or as the George Washington Bridge between them, you'd never know it was (at least officially) the same road. It's 86 miles from Midtown Manhattan, and is actually closer to Albany. If you can't drive there, you'll have to take Metro-North from Grand Central to Poughkeepsie and then get a taxi for the last 4 miles. (It's not as hard a walk as from Oyster Bay to Sagamore Hill, but it is longer.)
As New York was the nation's first capital after ratification of the Constitution (but only very briefly before it moved back to Philadelphia and then to Washington), some of our early Presidents lived there, but none of their homes, or even the "Capitol," remain. Federal Hall, where George Washington was sworn in as the 1st President on April 30, 1789, was demolished in 1812 and rebuilt as a Customs House in 1842, and is now a National Park site. 26 Wall Street at Broad Street, on the opposite corner from the New York Stock Exchange. (4 or 5 to Wall Street.)
"The first White House," if you want to call it that, where Washington lived while New York was the capital, was at 3 Cherry Street, off Catherine Street, on what's now the Lower East Side, between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges. There's a plaque on the building that's there now. F to East Broadway, then a 7-block walk down Rutgers and Cherry Streets. I don't know where John Adams, James Madison and James Monroe were living at the time, but there's a plaque at the site of Thomas Jefferson's residence, at 57 Maiden Lane, between Nassau and William Streets, across from the Federal Reserve Bank. (Jefferson would have hated that irony.) A to Fulton Street.
Ulysses S. Grant and Grover Cleveland both had post-Presidency homes in Manhattan: Grant at 3 East 66th Street, off 5th Avenue; Cleveland (between his nonconsecutive terms) a short walk away at 816 Madison Avenue, off 69th Street. 6 to 68th Street-Hunter College.
Keep in mind: These addresses, and those of the filming locations for the TV shows I'm about to mention, are private residences. Do not attempt to enter; leave the people living there alone.
No one is "buried in Grant's Tomb": While the vault where the coffins of Ulysses & Julia Grant are held is underground, by definition, no one is buried in a tomb. What is officially called General Grant National Memorial is on Riverside Drive at 122nd Street. (1 to 125th Street.)
Cleveland, like Woodrow Wilson, lived in Princeton, New Jersey -- in Cleveland's case, after his 2nd term. However, Cleveland's house, at 15 Hodge Road off Bayard Lane; Wilson's houses, at 72 and 82 Library Place, off Stockton Street; and Albert Einstein's house, at 112 Mercer Street, off Edgehill Street, are all privately owned and not available for tours. Madison, like Wilson, was a Princeton graduate, but I don't know where he lived in town. NJ Transit Northeast Corridor Line to Princeton Junction, then transfer to a shuttle train to Princeton; or, from Port Authority Bus Terminal, take a Coach USA bus to the end of the line at Princeton's Palmer Square. The house where Cleveland was born, at 207 Bloomfield Avenue in Caldwell, is open for tours. NJ Transit 29 bus from Newark.
For the 3rd Presidential Debate in 1960, on October 13 -- a few hours after the Yankees lost the World Series to the Pittsburgh Pirates on the Bill Mazeroski home run -- a one-time-only split-screen format was used: Richard Nixon was at the ABC studio in Los Angeles, and John F. Kennedy was at the ABC studio in New York. For the 4th and final debate -- the only time there's been 4 debates in the general election campaign -- on October 21, just 18 days before the election, both men were at the ABC studio in New York, the old one at the St. Nicholas Arena.
* TV Shows set in New York. As I'm sure you've noticed, there have been so many. On I Love Lucy, the Ricardos and the Mertzes lived at 623 East 68th Street, but this address does not exist in real life; New York Presbyterian Hospital occupies where the location would be, off York Avenue.
The Odd Couple building, home to Felix Unger and Oscar Madison, is not only a real address, but the building is still recognizable from the opening credits sequence over 40 years later: 1049 Park Avenue at 87th Street (4 train to 86th Street). Not far away, at 185 East 85th Street at 3rd Avenue, is the building that stood in, in the opening credits of The Jeffersons, for George and Weezy's "Dee-luxe apartment in the sky."
As characters introduced in All in the Family, the Jeffersons previously lived in Queens, next-door to the Bunkers, and Mike and Gloria moved into their house when they moved. Archie and Edith lived at 704 Hauser Street, which was supposedly in Flushing, but the house shown in the show's opening is in the Glendale section of the Borough, at 89-70 Cooper Avenue. All Queens addresses have that hyphenated format. If you live in a city with a 100-block system, where there is a "zero point" and the next block over is 100, the next 200, and so on, think of this address as 8970. But without a car, you'll need to take the E train to Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue, or the 7 train to 74th Street-Broadway (same station), and then take the Q53 bus.
Sesame Street is set in New York City, and while no specific location has ever been given, the brownstone's address is 123 Sesame Street. Show creator Joan Ganz Cooney said she originally wanted to call the show 123 Avenue B -- appropriate, since that part of the Lower East Side, because of Avenues A, B, C & D, is nicknamed "Alphabet City." But since the real Alphabet City was already descending into a crime-and-drug-ridden hellhole, from which it began to escape in the 1990s, giving that actual location might lead people to want to actually visit, which was considered a bad idea. Cagney & Lacey's precinct, and NYPD Blue's, were said to be in Alphabet City. (While Manhattan only goes to an Avenue D, Brooklyn does the whole alphabet, Avenue A to Avenue Z.)
This was also a problem on The Honeymooners: Jackie Gleason had grown up at 358 Chauncey Street in Brooklyn, and gave the address for the building that housed the Kramdens and the Nortons as 328 Chauncey, which does exist, off Howard Avenue -- and not far from Ralph Avenue (C train to Ralph Avenue station), from which Gleason probably got Kramden's first name. I visited in 1991, at the depth of New York's crime wave, and the building -- in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, not in nearby Bensonhurst as was frequently claimed on the show -- was the only one on the block that wasn't a pathetic, graffiti-ridden mess. It was probably cleaned up by devoted Honeymoonies. These days, the area is probably safe in daylight, but please don't go there at night.
Welcome Back, Kotter, which aired on ABC in the late 1970s, was set at James Buchanan High School in Brooklyn. Head of the Class, an ABC show of the late 1980s, was also set in Brooklyn, at Millard Fillmore High School. While lots of New York public high schools are named after Presidents, Fillmore and Buchanan are not among them in real life. Gabe Kaplan, who played Gabe Kotter, had patterned his show after his own life: Before going into comedy, he had attended and taught at New Utrecht High School, whose exterior was used as an opening and closing credits stand-in for Buchanan. I can't prove it, but I think the same school stood in for Fillmore. 1601 80th Street in Dyker Heights (D to 79th Street).
On The Cosby Show, the Huxtables were said to live at 10 Stigwood Avenue in Brooklyn Heights, but this address is not real. The actual townhouse used for the exterior shots is in Manhattan's Greenwich Village, at 10 St. Luke's Place, off 7th Avenue South (1, Houston Street).
On Sex & the City, Carrie Bradshaw supposedly lived at 245 East 73rd Street, but the actual building shown is at 66 Perry Street, off West 4th in the Village. (1 to Christopher Street-Sheridan Square).
On Will & Grace, the titular characters and Jack lived at 155 Riverside Drive, off 88th Street. (1 to 86th Street.) McLaren's bar on How I Met Your Mother is based on McGee's, at 240 West 55th Street off Broadway (A to 59th Street-Columbus Circle); during the show's run, McGee's held viewing parties for it.
Don Draper lived down the block from Alex Russo? On Mad Men, Jon Hamm's character tells a cabdriver, "Sixth and Waverly." This could well be The Waverly, at 136 Waverly Place, off 6th Avenue. As far as I know, The Wizards of Waverly Place, on which Selena Gomez played Alex, never gave an exact address. But, like The Waverly, you could probably reach it by taking the A to West 4th Street.
On Seinfeld, Jerry and Kramer lived at 129 West 81st Street, off Columbus Avenue (what 9th Avenue is called north of 59th). Jerry actually did live in that building when he started out in comedy. C train to 81st Street. Paul Buchman of Mad About You said he also lived there before moving in with his eventual wife Jamie Stemple, to 51 5th Avenue off 12th Street. Any train that gets to Union Square (4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R). Tom's Restaurant (or Tom's Diner, as Suzanne Vega would call it) stood in for Jerry & George's hangout Monk's Cafe, at 2880 Broadway at 112th Street, off the Columbia University campus. C to 110th Street.
The NYPD's 9th Precinct is housed at 321 East 5th Street, off 2nd Avenue. The exterior of this building has stood in for both the 15th on NYPD Blue and the 12th on Castle. Neither of these precincts exists in real life.
The 1970s sitcom Barney Miller was also set at the 12th, and I suspect ABC gave Castle's precinct the same number as a tribute to the funniest cops in TV history. Richard Castle's gift to the precinct, an espresso machine, has got to be an inside joke, a reference to the awful coffee made by Detective Nick Yemana on Barney Miller.)
The exterior of Castle's penthouse loft is at 425 Broome Street at Greene Street, in SoHo. E to Spring Street. Castle's New York driver's license says 595 Broome, but this location would be inside the Holland Tunnel. Kate Beckett's apartment (the 2nd one, after the 1st one was blown up in Season 2) is said to be on 3rd Street on the Lower East Side, but the actual building is on the corner of Varick and Grand Streets in Tribeca, a 10-minute walk from the Castle Loft building.
The building shown as the home of the Friends is at 90 Bedford Street at Grove Street. (Monica once gave the address as 425 Grove Street, but that address only exists in Brooklyn.) There's no Central Perk on the ground floor (or a similar coffee bar nearby), but there is a French restaurant called The Little Owl, which stood in for the restaurant that Catherine Zeta-Jones (who I love), Aaron Eckhardt and Abigail Breslin started at the end of the film No Reservations, so Monica would like that. 1 to Christopher Street-Sheridan Square.
Some other shows were set near but outside The City. While the workplace scenes on The Dick Van Dyke Show were set in Manhattan, Rob & Laura Petrie lived in New Rochelle in Westchester County. Also living in Westchester were Maude & Walter Findlay in Tuckahoe, and Mrs. Garrett and the Eastland girls of The Facts of Life in Peekskill. Bewitched, Who's the Boss and Gilmore Girls were set in Connecticut (only Bewitched was specified, in Westport); Growing Pains and Everybody Loves Raymond on Long Island (the former, never specified; the latter, Lynbrook); and a few in New Jersey.
Charles in Charge was set in New Brunswick (with the fictional Copeland College standing in for Rutgers), House in Plainsboro, and The Sopranos in various places in Essex, Hudson and Bergen Counties. Tony and his moody brood lived in North Caldwell, Satriale's Pork Store was in Kearny (the actual building has been demolished), the Bada Bing in Lodi (its real name is Satin Dolls and it's still open), and the diner where the final scene was, uh, shot was at Holsten's, an ice cream parlor in my original home town of Bloomfield. (Oddly, I ate there 3 times before that scene was shot there, but have hardly been back to Bloomfield since.)
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 without getting hurt.
Who knows, you may even win. Maybe.