Tuesday, June 13, 2017

How to Go to a Staten Island Yankees Game -- 2017 Edition

Staten Island's Borough Hall,
with the Richmond County Courthouse to the right

The 2017 season of the New York-Penn League -- formerly the Pennsylvania-Ontario-New York League, or "PONY League" -- gets underway next Monday night.

As they have since 2001, the Staten Island Yankees and the Brooklyn Cyclones, New York City's 2 minor-league baseball teams, open their season against each other, first at one team's park, then the next night at the other's. This time, it's at Staten Island on Monday, and at Brooklyn on Tuesday. Both games start at 7:00 PM.

Before You Go. It's New York City. The weather and the time zone are the same.

Tickets. The SI-Yanks averaged 2,250 fans per game last season. Unless the Cyclones are the opponent, you can show up at 7:00 and get pretty much any seat you want.

A few seats down the baselines are $12. Most seats are $16. So much for a minor-league game being affordable family entertainment. Then again, this is New York City.

Getting There. It's 10 miles by car and ferry from Midtown Manhattan to the ballpark - 20 miles by road alone. From all of the other Boroughs, it's recommended that you get to the Belt Parkway, and then take the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge into Staten Island. Take Exit 15, make a right on Targee Street, turn right on Van Duzer Street, turn right on Hannah Street, turn left on Bay Street, and stay on Bay past Borough Hall and the Ferry Terminal, where it becomes Richmond Terrace. The Ballpark will be on the right.

From New Jersey, take the Turnpike to Exit 13, over the brand-new Goethals Bridge (the new one replaced the old one this past weekend), and take Exit 13, making a left on Targee Street, then follow the previous directions.

Taking public transportation, take any Subway that gets you to the 1 Train to South Ferry or the W Train to Whitehall, then transfer to the State Island Ferry. Ordinarily, the Ferry leaves both Whitehall in Lower Manhattan and St. George in Staten Island every hour and every half-hour. However, on weeknights (most likely, when you would go), they leave Whitehall every 15 minutes. Don't worry about the game running long: The Ferry runs 24 hours a day.

Both terminals have been completely modernized, which was needed rather badly. Famously still 5 cents each way until 1975, in 1997 fares were eliminated entirely, and the Ferry is now free.
The Ferry is also the best way to see the Statue of Liberty, which is priceless as an icon, but terribly overrated and inconvenient as a tourist attraction.

Once In the Borough. The Dutch came first, in 1661, and named the island Staaten Eylandt. The English took over in 1664, and named it Richmond, after the Earl of Richmond, an illegitimate son of King Charles II.

Aside from the North Shore (including St. George, where the ballpark is located), the Borough is mostly suburban. Of the Five Boroughs, it is easily the smallest, the most suburban, the most white, and the most conservative. It may (it's hard to say, as such things aren't exactly recorded by the Census Bureau) also be the most Mob-ridden.

Still, its population of about 475,000 would make it the 2nd-largest in the State of New York, behind the rest of the City of New York; and would, had State lines been drawn a little differently, have made itn the largest city in New Jersey.

ZIP Codes for Staten Island begin with the digits 103. The Area Code used to be 212, but in 1984, Area Code 718 was split off to serve Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. The Bronx joined it in 1992. 718 is now overlaid by 347, 917 and 929.

Staten Island's buses are part of The City's regular MTA fleet. The Staten Island Railway is operated separately from the Subway system, but is, essentially, the same kind of ride, open-air and with modified R44 trains.

Unfortunately, it only runs from St. George to Tottenville along the South Shore, and goes nowhere near the North Shore, the Staten Island Mall or the Staten Island Zoo. But, since it goes to St. George Terminal, it does go to the ballpark. A MetroCard is used on both the buses and the trains, and, as with trains and buses in the rest of The City, the fare is $2.75.
Going In. Richmond County Bank Ballpark at St. George is a long name, but that's the official name that it's had since it opened in 2001. The official address is 75 Richmond Terrace. Parking is $6.00.
Coming out of the Ferry Terminal, you'll be on Richmond Terrace, facing Borough Hall and the Courthouse. Turn right, and the ballpark will be 2 blocks ahead on your right.
There's a sign on the concourse saying that Yankee Stadium is 15 miles away. This is supposed to indicate that the players you see aren't far from achieving the dream. As of the start of the 2017 season, 42 former "Baby Bombers" have reached the big Bronx Bombers, not counting players appearing for injury rehabilitation games.
There are 7,171 seats. The field is natural grass, and points northeast, toward Manhattan. The park is not symmetrical: It's 320 feet to left field, 390 to center, and 318 to right, making it a hitter's park. When it opened on June 24, 2001, the joke was that the Statue of Liberty looked like it was playing a very deep center field. The skyscrapers of Lower Manhattan can easily be seen, although the original World Trade Center was destroyed shortly thereafter, leaving a big hole in that skyline, one that the new WTC, the Freedom Tower, doesn't quite fill, at least not in the public memory.

Food. There are concession stands, but the team website will only say, "2017 concession information coming soon!" Previously, there were, and possibly still will be, craft beer stands, a Kosher stand, deli sandwiches, pizza, and macaroni & cheese.

Team History Displays. The outfield flagpoles show 6 Pennants from the NYPL titles of 2000, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2009 and 20011. The Baby Bombers also won Division titles in 2008 and 2015.

The outfield fence has stanchions for 5 retired numbers, including the universally-retired 42 of Jackie Robinson. The 1st former Staten Island Yankee to reach the major leagues is not one of them: That was Wily Mo Peña, who made it with the Cincinnati Reds on September 10, 2002.

On March 31, 2003, pitcher Jason Anderson became the 1st former Staten Island Yankee to reach the big Bombers, and the SI-Yanks retired Number 19 for him. Oddly, he was traded shortly after that -- to the Mets. He returned to the Yankees in 2005, last played in the majors that season, and is now the head coach at Eastern Illinois University.

The SI-Yanks retired Number 17 for Robinson Cano. At the time, who knew he would walk out on the Yankees later? They retired Number 41 for Chien-Ming Wang. And 1 current Yankee has his number retired by the SI-Yanks: Brett Gardner, Number 6.

Stuff. A Team Store is behind home plate. Don't expect to see any books or videos about the team, though.

During the Game. It's not Yanks-Sox, or even Mets-Phillies. Even for a Baby Bombers-Cyclones game, your safety should not be in danger.

If you're interested in promotions, there will be postgame fireworks on Opening Night, Monday, June 19; Saturday, June 24; Monday, July 3; Tuesday, July 4; Saturday, July 8; Saturday, July 22; Friday, August 4; Saturday, August 19; Friday, August 25; and Saturday, September 2. There will be 5 Kids Eat Free (age 12 & under) days, all Sundays: June 25, July 2, July 23, August 20 and August 27.

Taco Tuesdays, with a free taco for every souvenir size soda or IPA beer, will be held on July 11 and August 8. Thirsty Thursdays, where fans age 21 and over can take advantage of beer specials, will be held on July 6, 13 and 20; and August 3, 17 and 31.

There will be Appreciation Nights for the Fire Department on Saturday, June 24; the Police Department on Sunday, July 23; and Military Appreciation Night on Friday, August 4. July 23 will also be Superhero Day, with capes given to the 1st 1,000 kids age 12 and under. Saturday, July 22 will be Star Wars Night.

Sunday, June 25 will be Classic Car Night. Saturday, July 1 will be Women In Sports Night, with the Baby Bombers wearing jerseys inspired by the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, as depicted in the film A League of Their Own. The 4th of July will have a barbecue apron giveaway.

Throwback Nights will be done for the 1980s on Thursday, July 6; the 1970s, with a disco theme -- "Staten Island Night Fever," oy vey -- on Saturday, July 8; the 1920s (a.k.a. "The Roaring Twenties") on Thursday, July 13; the 1960s on Thursday, August 17; the 1990s on Friday, August 18; and the early 2000s on Thursday, August 31.

Heritage Nights will be held for Italians on Saturday, August 19; Jewish on Sunday, August 20; and Irish on Friday, August 25. While not a "heritage," Pride Night will be held on Friday, August 3, with an appearance by Billy Bean, the now (but not while he was playing) openly gay former outfielder for Detroit, Los Angeles and San Diego from 1987 to 1995, who currently serves as MLB's Ambassador for Inclusion. (He should not be confused with Oakland Athletics general manager and former Met outfielder Billy Beane.)

Tuesday, August 8 will be Mardi Gras Night, something of a problematic promotion for baseball, since Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday) occurs before the baseball season starts. On Friday, August 25, the Yankees will display the 2000 Commissioner's Trophy, for having won the World Series. Against the Mets. Clinching at Shea Stadium. (Thought I'd rub that in.) And Sunday, August 27, will be Dog Days of Summer Day, with dogs allowed into the ballpark.

Bobblehead dolls will be given out to the 1st 1,000 fans before 2 of the last 3 games of the regular season, honoring Scooter the Holy Cow on Friday, September 1; and Gary Sanchez on Wednesday, September 6. In between, on Saturday, September 2, it will be Cap Night.

The SI-Yanks hold auditions for National Anthem singers, instead of having a regular. The mascot is Scooter the Holy Cow, named for the late, great Phil "the Scooter" Rizzuto and his frequent expression. He debuted with the team in 1999. In 2003, the SI-Yanks added his "brothers," cows named Red and Huck. Red may have been named for broadcaster Red Barber. Huck is definitely short of another of Rizzuto's expressions, Huckleberry.
Scooter at the Staten Island Mall

After the Game. Walk out the main entrance, and turn left to get to the Ferry Terminal or the parking lot. There aren't many places to eat around the ballpark, so you might be better off getting a snack on the Ferry. (This is a huge contrast with the Cyclones' ballpark, which is on the Coney Island Boardwalk.) There is, however, a Dunkin Donuts at 97 Stuyvesant Place: Cross Richmond Terrace onto Wall Street, walk 1 block, then turn left on Stuyvesant.

Sidelights. Just to the west of the Ballpark, on what is now parking for the Ferry Terminal, is the most historic site in Staten Island sports. This was the site of the St. George Cricket Grounds. It had a long wooden grandstand, much like horse racing tracks, and was home to the New York Metropolitans of the American Association (a.k.a. "the original New York Mets") in 1886 and 1887.

In 1889, when The City announced construction that would eliminate the original Polo Grounds (where, unlike the later stadium where they would play, polo actually had been played), the New York Giants baseball team moved to the St. George Grounds, and even won the National League Pennant there. They moved into a new Polo Grounds in Upper Manhattan for the 1890 season, and that 1889 Pennant remains Staten Island's only major league championship in any sport.

(In contrast: The Bronx has seen 28 World Championships, 27 by the Yankees, 1 by the football Giants; Manhattan, 14, 5 World Series wins by the baseball Giants, 4 Stanley Cups by the Rangers, 3 NFL Championships by the football Giants and 2 NBA Championship by the Knicks; Brooklyn, 4, a World Series win by the Dodgers and 3 pre-World Series titles; Queens, 3, 2 by the Mets and 1 by the Jets. New Jersey has 7 titles, 4 Super Bowls by the Giants and 3 Stanley Cups by the Devils. Long Island has 6 titles, 4 Stanley Cups by the Islanders and 2 ABA Championships by the Nets.)

For their 1st 2 seasons, 1999 and 2000, the Staten Island Yankees played at the College of Staten Island (CSI), park of the City University of New York (CUNY) system, in the Bulls Head area, adjacent to Willowbrook Park. Bus S62 from St. George.

Richmond County Bank Ballpark is 16 miles from Yankee Stadium (not 15 as the sign says), and also 16 miles from Citi Field. The Yankees are the more popular team on Staten Island, and that would probably be true if they held the farm team there or now. It's 23 miles from MetLife Stadium, and the Giants are more popular in the Borough than the Jets.

It's 9 miles from Madison Square Garden, 8 miles from the Barclays Center, and 18 miles from the Prudential Center. While it might be easier to get to the Prudential by car (especially since cars are no longer allowed on the Ferry), the Rangers are still the most popular hockey team on Staten Island, and the Knicks easily the most popular basketball team.

It's 16 miles from Red Bull Arena, but the fact that the expansion team calls itself "New York City FC" has a strong pull, and they have overtaken the Red Bulls in popularity -- though not in success.

Staten Island has 1 college in NCAA Division I: The Seahawks of Wagner College -- the 1930s Senator and his son the 1950s-60s Mayor had no connection -- play in the Football Championship Subdivision, what used to be known as Division I-AA. Bus S66.

Staten Island's most notable sports connection is that its end of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is the starting point for the New York City Marathon, every 1st Sunday in November.

The Staten Island Museum, part of the St. George Historic District, is at 75 Stuyvesant Place, around the corner from the Ballpark. The tallest building in the Borough is the Church at Mount Loretto, 225 feet high. 6581 Hylan Blvd. Bus S78.

The Staten Island Mall is at 2655 Richmond Avenue, in the Heartland Village area. Bus S44. The Staten Island Zoo, home of New York City's very own February 2 predicting groundhog, Staten Island Chuck, is at 614 Broadway, in the New Brighton section. Bus S48.

The mansion that stood in as the home of the Corleone family in The Godfather is at 110 Longfellow Avenue. SI Railway to Grasmere. Keep in mind that this is a private home, so show the proper respect. However, it's been on the market for years, and, despite its historic nature, no one seems to want to meet the asking price -- an offer they can refuse.

Lots of TV shows have done Staten Island shoots, but very few have regularly done so. The Education of Max Bickford, Richard Dreyfuss' short-lived series, used Wagner College as the stand-in for the college on the show. A few years later, The Book of Daniel (also short-lived), filmed at Christ Church in New Brighton. The "pre-Batman" series Gotham uses the abandoned Bayley Seton Hospital as the stand-in for Arkham Asylum. 75 Vanderbilt Avenue. SI Railway to Clifton.

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A Staten Island Yankees game is not a New York Yankees game. But it is a comparatively inexpensive alternative. And you may see a future -- or a rehabbing once-and-future -- Yankee there.

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