Friday, March 29, 2013

How to Be a Yankee Fan in Detroit -- 2013 Edition

Opening Day, at least for the Yankees, is just 3 days away. And their first roadtrip, to Detroit, starts in just 1 week: Friday at 1:05, Saturday at 4:05, Sunday at 1:05.

So I'm posting this now, far enough away to give any Yankee Fan who wants to go enough time to get the best possible deals, but close enough that a legitimate weather forecast is possible.

Disclaimer: While I have been to Detroit, and I did see a game at Tiger Stadium, it was not against the Yankees, and the Tigers' new home, Comerica Park, was then still under construction. I have no firsthand knowledge of what the ballpark is like. I have, however, been around Tiger fans, both at the old yard and in their visits to the old Yankee Stadium. So I have a pretty good idea of what the game experience will be like.

Before You Go. The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press (or "Freep") websites are suggesting that there will be good weather for next weekend, but also that the high temperature will be around 50 degrees.  Since none of these games will be night games, a winter coat will not be necessary inside the ballpark, only a light jacket, roughly what you would wear for a Yankee home game at this time of year; but bringing a winter coat is still a good idea, since Detroit is in the Midwest snowbelt should not be a problem.

This will be the Yankees' only visit to Detroit this season.  If you've gone before, and can only afford one roadtrip this season, this series should not be a priority.  If you haven't gone before, and can only afford one roadtrip this season, make it one later in the season so you can get a better deal.

Since the July 1967 race riot, Detroit has become known as a city of poverty, crime, decay, and poor city services, the kind of place where even Batman would fear to tread.  The legendary comedian Red Skelton once said, "In Detroit, you can go 10 miles and never leave the scene of the crime." There was a Nike commercial a few years back, in which young basketball players were seated, yoga-style, in front of a TV screen, on which their "master," a fat black man with a turban and sunglasses who looked nothing like an athlete, was dispensing wisdom.  At the end, after the Swoosh logo was shown, the camera went back to one of the students, who asked, "But, Master, what if we behave badly?" And the Master lowered his shades, looked over them, and said, "You go to Detroit." This was in the early 1990s, when the Pistons had begun to fall from their 1989-90 "Bad Boys" championship teams, and going to Detroit was not a good option in any sport -- indeed, the only Detroit team doing well at the time was, strangely, the Lions, who were then a perennial Playoff team thanks largely to Barry Sanders.

I once saw a T-shirt that read, "I'm so bad, I vacation in Detroit." As I mentioned, I have.  (I'm not saying I'm "bad," or a "hard man," just that I went.) Newark had a race riot 2 weeks before Detroit's.  In May 1999, I saw Detroit, and I realized just how far back Newark had come, by seeing how far Detroit had not.

"White flight" after '67 has led to the Detroit metropolitan area having roughly the same number of people it had then, about 4.3 million, but within the city limits the number has dropped from over 2 million to just 700,000.  The suburbs are beautiful, but the city itself is a hole, and good men (and a few bad ones) have busted their humps trying to get it back on its feet.

One of the good men who's tried is Mike Ilitch, probably the most famous American of Macedonian descent, who runs Little Caesar's Pizza, and owns the Tigers and Red Wings.  He rebuilt the city's historic Fox Theater, put Little Caesar's headquarters in the building above it, and had Comerica Park built across the street.  He, and many others, including Detroit's Mayor, Pistons Hall-of-Famer Dave Bing, are trying, they really are.  But Governor Rick Snyder, a Tea Party Republican, has ordered a State takeover of Detroit's finances.  Apparently, he didn't learn the lesson of Hugh Carey, New York's Governor in 1975, who found another way to get New York City's finances back on their feet.  But, in Detroit's case, the despicable measures of austerity may be the only thing that does work.

As for you, the potential visitor, the fear of crime should not keep you away.  As with Yankee Stadium during the depth of New York's crime wave from the late 1970s to the early '90s, the ballpark is probably the safest, best-protected place in town.

Getting There. Detroit is 600 land miles from New York. Specifically, it is 616 miles from Times Square to Cadillac Square. Knowing this, your first reaction is going to be to fly out there.

Except... Wayne County Metropolitan Airport is 22 miles southwest of downtown. A taxi to downtown will set you back a bundle. There is a bus, SMART (Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation) bus Number 125, that goes directly from the airport to downtown, but it will take an hour and 20 minutes.

Also, do you remember the Seinfeld episode where George Costanza had a girlfriend, played by a pre-Will & Grace Megan Mullaly (using her real voice, you'd never recognize her as W&G's Karen), and he had to accompany her to a funeral in her hometown of Detroit? "It's kind of an expensive flight," George said.

This was not just George being his usual cheap self: At the time, over 20 years ago (wow, it's been that long), it was expensive, more expensive from New York to Detroit than it was to the further-away Chicago. It's actually cheaper now, but not by much: A check of airline websites shows that flights are going to be around $700 round-trip -- and you'll have to change planes in Chicago.  That's right, you'll have to overshoot Detroit to go to Detroit.

Too rich for your blood? The news gets worse: There is no good way to get to Detroit, and that's got nothing to do with the city's reputation.  Forget the train.  The only Amtrak route in and out of Detroit is to and from Chicago, which in the opposite direction. The Lake Shore Limited (formerly known as the Twentieth Century Limited when the old New York Central Railroad ran it from Grand Central Terminal to Chicago's LaSalle Street Station) leaves New York's Penn Station at 3:45 every afternoon, and arrives at Union Terminal in Toledo at 5:55 every morning.  From there, you have to wait until 6:30 to get on a bus to Detroit's Amtrak station, arriving at 7:35.  The station is at 11 W. Baltimore Avenue, at Woodward Avenue, 2 1/2 miles north of Comerica, so walking there is not a good option; the number 16 or 53 bus would take you down Woodward.

In reverse, the bus leaves Detroit at 9:00 PM, arrives in Toledo at 10:05, and then you have to hang around there until the Lake Shore Limited comes back at 3:20 AM, arriving back in New York at 6:35 PM. Total cost: $325. Cheaper than flying, but a tremendous inflammation in the posterior.  And, for the weekend in question, Amtrak has already sold out the New York-to-Chicago run on which your trip will begin.

How about Greyhound? Yeah, ride a bus for 14 hours to Detroit, there's a great idea.  (Rolleyes.) Actually, having done it, I can tell you that it's not that bad. Seven Greyhound buses leave Port Authority every day with connections to Detroit. The best one is at 10:15 PM, and you'd change buses in Cleveland, arriving 6:50 AM and leaving 7:50, arriving at 11:25 AM at 1001 Howard Street. Compared to most of Detroit, the bus terminal is relatively new and quite clean. It was just about within walking distance of Tiger Stadium, which really helped me in 1999. It's also not a long walk from Comerica Park, but I wouldn't recommend this. Better to take a cab, especially if you're getting a hotel.

The first bus to leave Detroit after the Sunday afternoon game is at 6:00 PM, and you won't have to change buses, arriving at Port Authority at 7:40 Monday morning. Round-trip fare: $125 if you make an advanced purchase, $190 if you're buying at Port Authority.  So Greyhound is also far cheaper than flying, much cheaper than Amtrak, and less of a pain than Amtrak -- especially on this roadtrip.

If you decide to drive, the directions are rather simple, down to (literally) the last mile. You'll need to get into New Jersey, and take Interstate 80 West. You'll be on I-80 for the vast majority of the trip, through New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio. In Ohio, in the western suburbs of Cleveland, I-80 will merge with Interstate 90. I point this out merely to help you avoid confusion, not because I-90 will become important -- though it will when I do "How to Be a Yankee Fan in Chicago" and some other cities.

In Ohio, you'll take I-80's Exit 64, and get onto Interstate 75 North. This will take you into Michigan. Take Exit 50 for Grand River Avenue. Follow the ramp to Woodward Avenue. Comerica Park's address is at 2100 Woodward Avenue, although it's bordered by Montcalm Street, Witherell Street, Adams Street and Brush Street. Across Brush Street is Ford Field, the home of the NFL's Detroit Lions.

If you do it right, you should spend about an hour and a half in New Jersey, 5 hours and 15 minutes in Pennsylvania, 3 hours in Ohio and an hour in Michigan. That’s 10 hours and 45 minutes. Counting rest stops, preferably halfway through Pennsylvania and in the Cleveland suburbs, and accounting for traffic in both New York and Detroit, it should be about 12 hours.

I strongly recommend finding a hotel with a good, secure parking garage, even if you're only staying for one game.

Tickets. The Tigers have usually been good since their 2006 Pennant season. In spite of this, due to how hard the Bush Recession hit Michigan, attendance has not been all that strong. But it is coming back: The Tigers averaged 37,383 fans per game last season, in a ballpark that officially seats 41,782 (but can be boosted to over 45,000 with standing room).

You would think that, considering these factors, and the "majority-minority" status and poverty even in good times that has stricken Detroit, tickets would generally be affordable. They're not: Nearly every seat in the lower level is at least $38 (foul-pole corners), and most run at either $47 (outfield boxes) or $60 (infield boxes). Upper deck seats are mostly at the $30 level, and outfield bleachers can be had at $20.

Going In. The city, and its river, were founded in 1701 as Fort Ponchartrain du Detroit du Lac Erie (Day-TWAH, strait of Lake Erie), but Antonie de La Mothe Cadillac, for whom the downtown Cadillac Square and the brand of car was named.

Detroit's centerpoint, in culture and in terms of address numbers, is the Woodward Fountain, where Woodward, Michigan and Gratiot Avenues come together, with Cadillac Square just off to the east.  Woodward is the East-West divider.

In 1950, Detroit was the 4th-largest city in America, behind New York, Chicago and Philadelphia, with 1,850,000 people, and a metropolitan area population of about 3.7 million.  But that in-city population began to go down, and accelerated after the 1967 riot.  Today, while the metro area population is a healthy 5.2 million -- 5.7 million if you count Windsor and the surrounding towns across the river in Canada -- the city had just 713,777 people in the 2010 Census.  The suburbs are nearly all-white; the city itself, nearly all-black.  If there is another city on the planet that is so segregated, I'm not aware of it.

Detroit is a weird city in some ways. It often seems like a cross between a past that was once glorious but now impossible to reach, and a future that never quite happened. (That observation was once made about the remaining structures from New York’s 1964-65 World’s Fair and the Astrodome in Houston.) Art Deco structures of the 1920s and ‘30s, such as the Penobscot Building (the tallest building outside New York and Chicago when it opened in 1928, the tallest in Michigan until 1977) stand alongside abandoned, boarded-up or chained-up stores.

But alongside or across from them, there are glassy, modern structures such as the Renaissance Center, shown in the photo above: A 5-tower complex that includes, at its center, the 750-foot tallest building in Michigan (the tallest all-hotel skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere), and, in one of its 4 outer towers, the headquarters of General Motors (although the RenCen was originally financed by Ford).

Downtown also has the Detroit People Mover, a monorail system that is part of the suggestion of Detroit trying to get from 1928 to 2028 while jumping over the difficult years in between. Like the Washington and Montreal Metro (subway) systems, the company running it prides itself on the artwork in its stations. It has a stop called Times Square, but it won’t look anything like the one in New York. It has a stop called Bricktown, but it won’t look anything like Brick Township, the sprawling Jersey Shore suburb off Exits 88 to 91 on the Garden State Parkway. The Grand Circus Park and Broadway Street stations are both 3 blocks from Comerica Park. The DPM also has a stop at Joe Louis Arena, home of the Red Wings. It’s cheap, only 75 cents, and it still uses tokens, although it also accepts cash. Be advised, though, that it stops running at midnight, except on Fridays and Saturdays, when it runs until 2:00 AM.  Bus fare is $1.50.

The area around Comerica Park (named for a Midwest-based bank) and Ford Field (named for the automaker), at the northern edge of downtown Detroit, is called Foxtown, after the Fox Theater, which, as I said, Tigers/Wings/Little Caesars owner Mike Ilitch had restored. The ballpark can be entered at Gate A on Witherell (that’s the 1st base stands), Gate B at Witherell & Adams (right field corner), Gate C at Adams & Brush (left field corner), or Gate D on Montcalm (home plate).

There are a lot of distractions in the park, from the huge Tiger statues to the Comerica Carousel, near the Big Cat Food Court under the 1st base stands, to the Fly Ball Ferris Wheel, with baseball-shaped compartments, under the 3rd base stands. But, not being a kid (except maybe at heart), you’re interested in the baseball, so let’s move on.

The ballpark faces southeast, as did Tiger Stadium.  Unlike Tiger Stadium, Comerica is not fully enclosed, so you can see out, and some of Detroit’s taller buildings can be seen from the seats behind the plate, including the RenCen and the Penobscot. Much of Detroit’s financial district, including the Penobscot, was built in the 1920s and ‘30s and, like many of New York’s buildings of the same period, were heavily influenced by the Art Deco movement. Some of these structures show just how much of a shame it is that Detroit has so badly fallen apart in the last half-century.

Unlike Tiger Stadium, whose overhanging upper deck in right field and close left-center power alley made it a hitter's park, Comerica favors pitchers.  Outfield distances are as follows: Left, 345 feet; left-center, 370; center, 420; right-center, 365; right, 330.  Actually, the dimensions are not all that different from Tiger Stadium, but the lack of an outfield upper deck means not only is there no batter-aiding overhang, but air can circulate better, and when the wind comes in off the Detroit River, it makes it tough to hit one out.  Carlos Pena hit Comerica's longest home run, in 2005, 461 feet.  (It's not clear who hit the longest homer at Tiger Stadium: It's been credited to Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Norm Cash and Cecil Fielder.)

In the early 20th Century, most ballparks would have a strip of dirt between home plate and the pitcher's mound, known as a "keyhole." Comerica Park added this feature, and so did the home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, now known as Chase Field.

In center field, the Tigers have the Chevrolet Fountain, a takeoff on the fountain in Kansas City, and honoring the automobile industry's contributions to the city that got it nickname "The Motor City" and "Motown." In solidarity, the Chrysler and Ford logos now flank the Chevy ad on top.

Food. When I visited Tiger Stadium in its final season, 1999, it had great food, including the very best ballpark hot dog I've ever had. Since they're owned by Little Caesars mogul Ilitch, and before that were owned by Domino's Pizza boss Tom Monaghan, food is taken very seriously by the club. This is, after all, Big Ten Country, where college football tailgate parties are practically a sacrament.

Their big feature is the Big Cat Food Court, under the 1st base stands, featuring Little Caesars, naturally; Sliders, a stand featuring that Midwest staple, the Coney dog (hot dog with chili and onions, though they're not that popular at the actual Coney Island); the Brushfire Grill, with barbecue specialties; a stand selling "Chicago Style Hot Dogs," with the little pickle slice, the tomato slice, and the celery salt (and, no, I don't know why Detroit's ballpark would sell a Chicago-themed item); Asian Tiger, with Chinese food and sushi; a Mexican food stand; and "Lemons & Ears," which sells lemonade and "elephant ears," a Midwestern variation on that Middle Atlantic States standard, funnel cake.

The Tigers also have numerous in-park restaurants, but, like the ones at Yankee Stadium II, you can only get in with certain tickets. But if you go to a Detroit Tigers home game and you don't find something good to eat, you're not trying hard enough.

Team History Displays. The main concourse features a Walk of Fame, showing great moments in Detroit baseball history, from the 1887 National League Champion Detroit Wolverines, through the Ty Cobb Pennants of 1907-08-09, to the Hank Greenberg years of 1934-45, to the amazing 1968 "Year of the Tiger," to the "Bless You Boys" of 1984, and the 2006 Pennant.  Presumably, they have added one for last year's Pennant.

Along the left-center-field wall are statues of the 5 Tiger players who have had their uniform numbers retired: 2, Charlie Gehringer, 2nd base, 1924-42; 5, Greenberg, 1st base, 1933-46; 6, Al Kaline, right field, 1953-74 and broadcaster 1975-2002; 16, Hal Newhouser, pitcher, 1939-53; and 23, Willie Horton, left field, 1963-77 (and grew up in Detroit). There is also a statue of Cobb, center field, 1905-26, who played before uniform numbers were worn (though I once saw film of him at an old-timers' game, wearing a Tiger uniform, Number 25).  Their names and their numbers are on a wall in left field.

Not with those statues, but rather at the first base entrance, is a statue of the late Ernie Harwell, the broadcaster whose very voice meant "the Detroit Tigers" from 1960 to 2002. His name is on a matching wall in right field, along with those of 1979-95 manager Sparky Anderson, Number 11 retired; and the names of Tigers who, while their numbers have not been retired by the team, are, like the preceding (with Horton the lone exception) also in the Baseball Hall of Fame: Sam Crawford, right field, 1903-17; Hugh Jennings, manager, 1907-20; Harry Heilmann, right field, 1914–29 and broadcaster 1934-50; Henry "Heinie" Manush, left field, 1923–27; Gordon "Mickey" Cochrane, catcher 1934-37, manager 1934-38; and George Kell, 3rd base, 1946–52 and broadcaster 1959-96. Jackie Robinson's universally retired Number 42 is also with these names.  These walls, in left-center and right-center, serve as Detroit's answer to Yankee Stadium's Monument Park.

The first great Tiger announcer was Edwin "Ty" Tyson, who announced from 1927 to 1953.  Unlike Harwell, he has not been honored on these walls or received the Hall of Fame's Ford Frick Award for broadcasters.

The Tigers have removed from circulation, but not officially retired, the following uniform numbers: 1, Lou Whitaker, second base, 1977-95; 3, worn by Cochrane, Dick McAuliffe (2nd base, 1960-73), and Alan Trammell (shortstop, 1977-96 and manager 2003-05); and 47, worn by Jack Morris, pitcher, 1977-90. Perhaps they're waiting for Whitaker, Trammell and Morris to be elected to the Hall of Fame, but they probably won't be elected, and they retired Horton's number without him getting in. (23 was also worn by Kirk Gibson, right field, 1979-87 and 1993-95, but there's no mention of him on the wall.  People forget, after that home run in the 1988 World Series, but Gibson, now manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, first became a World Series home run hero with the Tigers in 1984.)

Stuff. The Tigers have 5 team stores located throughout the ballpark. Stuffed tigers are a natural to sell, and jerseys, jackets, T-shirts and caps abound. You can also buy DVDs of the official World Series highlight films of 1945, 1968 and 1984 (they come in 1 disc, with the 1935 edition preceding the start of official films sponsored by MLB which started in 1943) and "The Essential Games of the Detroit Tigers."

Unlike the "Essential Games" series for the old Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium, instead of 6 games, there's only 4, and, due to the limitations on what Major League Baseball Productions has, they only go back to 1968.  Despite it not being "The Essential Games of Tiger Stadium," they still limit it to home games. Thus the 1984 clincher, Game 5 at Tiger Stadium, is included; 1968's Game 5 at Tiger Stadium, the only home game the Tigers won in that Series, is included; but the Game 7s of 1945 (at Wrigley Field) and 1968 (at Busch Stadium) are not. They do, however, include the Tiger Stadium finale in 1999 and Game 4 of the 2006 American League Championship Series, which was won by Magglio Ordonez hitting a walkoff homer to cap a series sweep. The Bonus Features include highlights from the 1971 All-Star Game (future Yankee Reggie Jackson hitting the Tiger Stadium roof off future Yankee Dock Ellis), the 1976 "Mark Fidrych Game" in which "the Bird" beat the Yankees on ABC Monday Night Baseball; the Comerica Park opener in 2000; a tribute to Trammell and Whitaker; a big moment from the career of Curtis Granderson, now a Yankee; and a brief Tiger Stadium retrospective.

During the Game. You do not have to worry about wearing Yankee gear in Comerica Park. Maybe if it was a Pistons game and you were wearing Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers or Boston Celtics stuff. Or if it was a Lions game and you were wearing Chicago Bears or Green Bay Packers stuff. Or if it was a Red Wings game and you were wearing Chicago Blackhawks or (due to their nasty late 1990s, early 2000s matchups) Colorado Avalanche stuff. But for a Tigers game, you can wear just about any opposing team's cap, jersey, jacket, whatever, and no one will give you a hard time based on that.

The Tigers' mascot is Paws the Tiger, and not only is he one of the less ridiculous mascots in the major leagues, but he's a better dancer than the Phillie Phanatic.

The Tigers do not have a regular song to play in the 7th inning stretch after "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." However, when they take the field, "Detroit Rock City" by KISS is played.  And, following a Tiger win, they play "Lifelong Tiger Fan Blues," written by actor Jeff Daniels, who grew up in suburban Chelsea, Michigan, and attended Central Michigan University.  While Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" is played at Red Wings games, it is not played at Tiger games.  (Lead singer Steve Perry wrote the part about the "city boy, born and raised in South Detroit" about a Detroit-born roadie for the band.  As for the messed-up geography, he's said, "I tried 'North Detroit,' I tried 'East' and 'West,' and it didn't sing, but 'South Detroit' sounded so beautiful. I loved the way it sounded, only to find out later it's actually Canada." Specifically, Windsor, Ontario, across the Detroit River, pretty much the only place where Canada is south of America.)

Whenever the Tigers score a run, the sound of a tiger growling is played through the public address system. It's a bit more intimidating than the really loud variation on the "Westminster chimes" that gets played at Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees inadvertently contributed to the Tigers' version of the Angels' "Rally Monkey." In a June 2006 Yanks-Tigers game at Comerica, Tigers pitcher Nate Robertson (not to be confused with former Knick Nate Robinson) was featured on FSN Detroit's "Sounds of the Game," in which the TV station puts a microphone on a coach, or a player not in the game. To get the fans going, Nate began to stuff Big League Chew into his mouth, hoping to spark a late-inning rally. The trend caught on, with Jeremy Bonderman, Zach Miner and Justin Verlander all chewing from time to time. The Tigers came back to tie the game, and the phrase "It's Gum Time" has become a new rallying cry for the team, along with 1935's "Hold That Tiger," 1968's "Sock It to 'em Tigers" and 1984's "Bless You, Boys."

After the Game. With Detroit's rough reputation, I would recommend not hanging around downtown after a night game. If you want a postgame drink or meal, you're better off sticking to your hotel.

You may have heard of Detroit's classic sports bar, the Lindell Athletic Club, better known as the Lindell AC.  USA Today once called it the number one sports bar in America.  Sadly, it's gone.  The late Lions star and actor Alex Karras had a part-ownership, and it got him in trouble with gambling that led to his suspension for the 1963 season.  Shortly thereafter, it moved from its original 1949 location to its more familiar one, at Cass & Michigan Avenues.  The owners gave out free drinks the night the Tigers clinched the 1968 Pennant.  In 1969, former Yankee player and future Yankee manager Billy Martin, then managing the Minnesota Twins, saw his pitcher Dave Boswell sucker-punch 3rd baseman Bob Allison there, and Martin knocked Boswell out, leading to his own firing.  Ironically, Martin's next managing job was with the Tigers.  It was Lindell owner James "Jimmy B" Butsicaris who recommended to Billy that he sign speedy center fielder Ron LeFlore, then doing time for armed robbery at Michigan's infamous Jackson State Penitentiary.  (LeVar Burton starred in the film One in a Million: The Ron LeFlore Story, and Billy played himself.) But the move of the Tigers out of Tiger Stadium hurt the bar, and it closed in 2002.  The Stanley Cup, which the Wings had won a few months earlier, was a guest of honor.

The only bar I was able to find catering to Yankee Fans that is within 25 miles of downtown Detroit, and that one just barely, was a Ruby Tuesday restaurant in suburban Roseville. It's also been known to serve as the local headquarters for expatriate Giants and Jets fans.  However, I have another source that says that locals who root for the Giants gather at the Town Pump Tavern, 100 W. Montcalm Street at Park Avenue, 2 blocks from Comerica Park.  So that might be a good place for Yankee Fans.

Sidelights. For all its problems, Detroit is a great city, not just a great baseball city or even a great sports city. Check out the following – but do it in daylight:

* Site of Tiger Stadium. The first ballpark on the site was called Bennett Park, after Charlie Bennett, a catcher for the NL’s Detroit Wolverines, who didn’t play there. Bennett Park opened in 1896, for the Detroit team in the Western League, which became the American League in 1901. However, the team we know as the Tigers (so named because the orange stripes on their socks evoked not just tigers but the teams at New Jersey’s Princeton University, also called the Tigers) are officially dated from 1901.

After the 1911 season, the wooden Bennett Park was demolished and replaced with a concrete and steel structure, opening on April 20, 1912 (the same day as Fenway Park in Boston) and named Navin Field, after Tiger owner Frank Navin. He died in 1935, and his co-owner, Walter Briggs, expanded the place to its more familiar configuration in 1938, renaming it Briggs Stadium. In 1961, new owner John Fetzer renamed it Tiger Stadium.

The Tigers played there from 1912 to 1999, and the NFL’s Lions did so from 1938 to 1974. The Tigers won the World Series while playing there in 1935, 1945, 1968 and 1984; the Lions won the NFL Championship while playing there in 1952, 1953 and 1957. (The ’52 Championship Game was played in Cleveland against the Browns, the ’53 and ’57 editions also against the Browns at Tiger Stadum.) Northwest corner of Michigan Avenue and Trumbull Street, 1 mile west of Cadillac Square down Michigan Avenue (U.S. Route 12). Number 29 bus from downtown.

* Ford Field.  Home to the NFL's Detroit Lions since 2002, it has mainly seen horrible football, although the Lions did make the Playoffs in 2011, just 2 years after going 2-14 and 3 after the only 0-16 season in NFL history.  It hosted Super Bowl XL in 2006, with Detroit native Jerome Bettis leading the Pittsburgh Steelers over the Seattle Seahawks and then retiring on top.  It's also hosted the only Final Four ever held in the State of Michigan, in 2009.  2000 Brush Street, cross Brush from Comerica Park, also bounded by Beacon, St. Antoine and Montcalm Streets.

* Joe Louis Arena and Cobo Center. Opening in 1979, while Louis, the Alabama-born, Detroit-raised-and-trained heavyweight champion of the world from 1937 to 1948 was still alive, this 20,000-seat building was considered very modern at the time. There has been talk of a replacement for “The Joe,” but it doesn’t look likely that an agreement for one will be reached anytime soon.

The Red Wings have come a long way from the building’s early days, when they were nicknamed the Dead Things, winning 4 Stanley Cups in 6 trips to the Finals between 1995 and 2009. It’s considered one of the loudest arenas in the NHL: In 1992, a writer for Hockey Digest compared it to Chicago Stadium, the now-demolished home of their arch-rivals, the Chicago Blackhawks, and said that, if the visiting team scores 2 early goals, the Chicago fans quiet down, but Detroit fans stay loud throughout the game.

The Joe hosts college hockey,  including the Great Lakes Invitational, in the week between Christmas and New Year's.  Michigan Tech is the host, with Michigan and Michigan State usually participating, and a 4th team in rotation -- this year, it's Western Michigan.  It also hosted the 1980 Republican Convention -- right, the GOP meeting, and nominating union-buster Ronald Reagan no less, in a majority-black, heavily union city, in an arena named for a boxer who struck a blow for racial equality.  (Then again, last year, the Democrats met in Charlotte.)

The Joe was built next-door to Cobo Center, which was named for Albert E. Cobo, Mayor from 1950 to 1957.  Its centerpiece, a building originally known as Cobo Hall, has been Detroit’s major convention center since its opening in 1960, and, following the rejection of a plan to demolish it and put a new Pistons-Red Wings arena on the site, it just undergone a renovation and expansion.

It includes a 12,000-seat arena that was home to the NBA’s Pistons from 1961 to 1978, and a convention complex that includes the city’s famed annual auto show. It is known for some legendary rock concerts, including the KISS album Alive! and area native Bob Seger’s Live Bullet. Unfortunately, it may be best known for the January 6, 1994 attack on Nancy Kerrigan during a practice session for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.  600 Civic Center Drive at Jefferson Avenue. Each arena has its own station on the Detroit People Mover.

* Site of Olympia Stadium. From the outside, it looked more like a big brick movie theater, complete with the Art Deco marquee out front. But “The Old Red Barn” was home to the Red Wings from 1927 to 1979, during which time they won the Stanley Cup in 1936, ’37, ’43, ’50, ’52, ’54 and ’55. In 1950, they hosted Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, and Pete Babando’s overtime winner defeated the Rangers. In ’54, they had another overtime Game 7 winner, as “Tough Tony” Leswick hit a shot that deflected off Doug Harvey, the great defenseman of the Montreal Canadiens. (In hockey, the shooter is still credited; in soccer, this would have been an “own goal” on Harvey.)

The Olympia was also home to the Pistons from 1957 to 1961, and the site of some great prizefights, including Jake LaMotta’s 1942 win over Sugar Ray Robinson – the only fight Robinson would lose in his career until 1952, and the only one of the 6 fights he had with LaMotta that LaMotta won. It was the neighborhood, not the building, that was falling apart: Lincoln Cavalieri, its general manager in its last years, once said, "If an atom bomb landed, I'd want to be in Olympia."

It was demolished in 1987, and the Olympia Armory, home of the Michigan National Guard, is now on the site. 5920 Grand River Avenue, corner of McGraw Street, on the Northwest Side. Number 21 bus. If you’re a hockey fan, by all means, visit – but do it in daylight.

* Silverdome. Originally Pontiac Metropolitan Stadium, this stadium was home to the Lions from 1975 to 2001 (after which they moved back downtown to Ford Field), and very nearly became home to the Tigers as well, before owner John Fetzer decided to commit himself to Tiger Stadium. Heisman-winning running backs Billy Sims and Barry Sanders ran wild for the Lions here, but the closest they got to a Super Bowl was reaching the NFC Championship Game in January 1992 – unless you count hosting Super Bowl XVI, 10 years earlier, the beginning of the San Francisco 49er dynasty led by Bill Walsh and Joe Montana. The Pistons, playing here from 1978 to 1988, had a little more luck, reaching the NBA Finals in their last year there. It seated 80,000 for football, set an NBA attendance record (since broken) of 61,983 between the Pistons and Boston Celtics in 1988, and 93,682 for a Papal Mass in 1987.

Without the Lions and Pistons, its future is unclear. It hosted a Don King-promoted boxing card in January 2011, and in August 2010 hosted a friendly between Italian soccer giant A.C. Milan and leading Greek club Panathinaikos – appropriate, considering the area’s ethnic makeup.  Earlier this year, the roof was deflated as an energy-saving measure; if a new tenant is found, a new roof will be put in as part of renovations.  A current rumor is that a group trying to get an MLS expansion franchise for Detroit will use it, or demolish it and build a new facility on the site.

1200 Featherstone Road, Pontiac. Getting there by public transportation is a pain: The Number 465 bus takes an hour and 25 minutes, and then you gotta walk a mile down Featherstone from Oakland Community College.

* The Palace. Home to the Pistons since 1988, they won the 1989, 1990 and 2004 NBA Championships here, and almost won another in 2005. The Detroit Shock have won 3 WNBA Championships here, and, as a result, every time a title is won by either the Pistons or the Shock, the address changes: Currently, it’s “Six Championship Drive, Auburn Hills, MI 48326.”

Unfortunately, the 22,000-seat building’s best-known event isn’t a Pistons title or a rock concert, but the November 19, 2004 fight between the Pistons and the Indiana Pacers that spilled into the stands, becoming known as "the Malice at the Palace." Even the WNBA had a rare brawl there, between the Shock and the Los Angeles Sparks in 2008. Lapeer Road and Harmon Road, Auburn Hills, off I-75. Don’t even think about trying to reach it by public transportation: You’d need 2 buses and a half-hour walk.

* Motown Historical Museum. As always, I’m going to include some non-sports items. Detroit is generally known for 3 good things: Sports, music and cars. The Motown Historical Museum is the former Motown Records studio, which company founder Berry Gordy Jr. labeled “Hitsville, U.S.A.” His sister, Esther Gordy Edwards, now runs it, and it features records and costumes of performers such as the Supremes, the Temptations and the Four Tops. 2648 W. Grand Blvd., on the North Side. Number 16 bus.

* Henry Ford Museum. The centerpiece of the nation’s foremost automotive-themed museum is a replica of Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Henry Ford himself established the museum: “I am collecting the history of our people as written into things their hands made and used.... When we are through, we shall have reproduced American life as lived, and that, I think, is the best way of preserving at least a part of our history and tradition.”

It contains the fascinating, including early cars and bicycles, Henry Ford’s first car (his 1896 "Quadricycle"), Igor Sikorsky’s prototype for the helicopter, the bus Rosa Parks was riding in when she refused to give up her seat to start the 1955-56 Montgomery Bus Boycott, and a Buckminster Fuller “Dymaxion house.” It also contains the macabre, with the chair Abraham Lincoln was supposedly sitting in when he was assassinated at Ford’s Theater in Washington (the theater owner was no relation to Henry) and the chair, and the rest of the car as well, that John F. Kennedy was definitely sitting in when he was assassinated, the back seat of in the 1961 Lincoln Continental convertible limousine he was riding in through downtown Dallas.

Next door to the museum is Greenfield Village, which Henry Ford imagined as a kind of historical park, a more modern version of Colonial Williamsburg – that is, celebrating what was, in 1929 when it opened, considered modern American life, including a reconstruction of the Menlo Park, New Jersey laboratory of his good friend Thomas Edison. Ford and Edison were both friends of rubber magnate Henry Firestone (whose tires certainly made Ford’s cars easier to make), and Firestone’s family farm is reconstructed on the site.

Please note that I am not excusing Henry Ford’s despicable anti-Semitism – and, to be fair, he did give his black auto workers the same pay and benefits as his white ones – but I am recommending the museum. It's a tribute to the role of technology, including the automobile, in American life, not to the man himself. Oakwood Blvd. and Village Road. Number 200 bus to Michigan Avenue and Oakwood Blvd., then a short walk down Oakwood.

* Greektown Historic District. Although Detroit is famed for its Irish (Corktown, including the site of Tiger Stadium) and Italian communities, and has the largest Arab-American community of any major city, its best-known ethnic neighborhoods are Greektown and the Polish community of Hamtramck. New York’s Astoria, Queens has nothing on Detroit’s Greektown, which not only has some of the country’s finest Greek restaurants, but also the Greektown Casino. 555 E. Lafayette Street, at Beaubien Street. Greektown Station on the People Mover.

* Hamtramck. Pronounced “Ham-TRAM-ick,” this city is actually completely surrounded by Detroit. When the Dodge Brothers (who later sold the car company bearing their name to Chrysler) opened an auto plant there in 1914, it became a hub for Polish immigration. However, the Polish population of the city has dropped from 90 percent in 1970 to 22 percent today. And Arabs and South Asians have moved in, making it Michigan’s most internationally diverse city. Nevertheless, if you want the best kielbasa, kapusta, golumpkis and paczkis this side of the Oder, this is the place to go. Hamtramck Town Shopping Center, Joseph Campau Street and Hewitt Street. Number 10 or 34 bus.

* Mariners’ Church. On my 1999 visit to Detroit, I discovered this church by accident, walking past it without realizing it was there until I saw the historical marker. Every March, it holds a Blessing of the Fleet for every person and ship going to sea.  Every November, they hold a Great Lakes Memorial Service for those who have lost their lives at sea within the past year. This included the 29 men lost on the iron ore freighter SS Edmund Fitzgerald in Lake Superior, on November 10, 1975. Build and homeported in Detroit, the Big Fitz was commemorated in song by Gordon Lightfoot, whose song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” mistakenly, but poetically, called the church “The Maritime Sailors’ Cathedral.”

170 E. Jefferson Avenue, at Randolph Street. It’s right downtown, near the RenCen and Detroit’s City Hall, which includes the Spirit of Detroit statue and the giant arm and fist that represent Joe Louis. But be careful, because Randolph Street empties into the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, to Windsor, Ontario, Canada. I’m not recommending that you bring your passport, unless you want to go across the river to the casinos of Windsor; but I am recommending that you be wary of tunnel traffic.

* Colleges.  The University of Michigan is 44 miles west of downtown Detroit, in Ann Arbor.  It is possible to reach it from Detroit by bus, but it will take 2 hours: You can take the 851 bus to the airport, and transfer there to the 787.

Gerald Ford was President from August 9, 1974 to January 20, 1977, and was a graduate of (and an All-American football player at) Michigan in the 1930s.  His Presidential Library, and a School of Public Policy named for him, are on the Ann Arbor campus, at 1000 Beal Avenue.  However, he is the only President whose Library and Museum are separated, and his Presidential Museum is in his hometown of Grand Rapids, at 303 Pearl Street NW, 158 miles northwest of Detroit.  You'll need Greyhound if you want to visit.

Michigan State University, 88 miles northwest, in East Lansing, adjacent to Lansing, the State capital.  Greyhound runs 3 buses a day from Detroit to East Lansing, at 8:00 AM, 12:10 PM, and 7:40 PM, and it takes about 2 hours.  Two buses go back to Detroit, at 3:25 and 5:55 PM.  $51 round-trip.

* Home Improvement.  The 1991-99 ABC sitcom is easily the best-known TV show to have been set in Detroit, with Tool Time's studio being in the city and the Taylors' house in the suburbs, possibly Bloomfield Hills.  But, as far as I know, there were no location shots, not even in the episode in which the Taylors got to see the Lions' Thanksgiving game from a Silverdome skybox.  So if you're looking for the Taylors' house, you're not going to find it -- if there was ever a house, not just a studio set, it was likely in or around Los Angeles.

* Windsor.  Across the Detroit River is Windsor, Ontario.  Most Americans know it for Caesar's Windsor, one of 4 casinos in the area.  Like its namesakes in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, it has a Roman theme.  It may be only 2 miles from downtown Detroit, but because it's in Canada, you'll need a passport.  377 Riverside Drive East.  There is bus service available -- less for Michiganders wanting to gamble, more for Windsorites wanting to go to Red Wings games and concerts -- and you can contact Transit Windsor at

The Wings' first home was actually in Windsor: They played their first season, 1926-27, at the Border Cities Arena, which still stands, and is now named Windsor Arena.  Like a lot of old arenas (this one was built in 1924), it looks like a barn, and so is nicknamed The Barn.  It seats only 4,400 people in its current configuration, but it still hosts the University of Windsor hockey team.  Its longest-term tenant, the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League, now play elsewhere.  334 Wyandotte Street East, at McDougall Street.


A visit to Detroit does not have to be a scary experience. These people love baseball. They don’t like the Yankees, but they love baseball, and their city should be able to show you a good time.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Virgil Trucks, 1917-2013

R.I.P. Virgil Trucks, 1917-2013. At 95, he was the oldest living ex-Yankee.

Virgil Oliver Trucks was born April 26, 1917, in Birmingham, Alabama. He made his big-league debut as a late-season callup with the Detroit Tigers on September 27, 1941, and remained with them, except for the 1944 and '45 regular seasons, until 1952. He was briefly a St. Louis Brown in 1953, was with the Chicago White Sox from 1953 to '55, spent '56 back with the Tigers, '57 and '58 with the Kansas City Athletics, and was on the Bronx-Kansas City shuttle of the late 1950s, pitching 25 games with the Yankees in 1958, going 2-1 with a 4.54 ERA at age 41.

A righthanded starter, who naturally got the nickname "Fire" Trucks, he wore Number 22 in his best years, and 21 in his season with the Yankees. He won 177 games in his career, more than Dave Stieb, Frank Viola, Camilo Pascual, Fernando Valenzuela, Rick Sutcliffe, Monument Park honoree Ron Guidry, and Hall-of-Famers Sandy Koufax and Dizzy Dean. For the moment, he has also won more than Derek Lowe, Mark Buehrle, Roy Oswalt and Barry Zito. In fact, as of Opening Day 2013, the only active pitchers to have won more games than Trucks are Andy Pettitte (245), Roy Halladay (199) and CC Sabathia (191).

Those 177 wins came against 135 losses, for a winning percentage of .567. His career ERA was 3.39, which amounts to an ERA+ of 117 -- meaning that, from 1941 to 1958, he was 17 percent better at preventing earned runs than the average pitcher.

He served in the U.S. Navy in World War II, and was discharged after V-J Day, in time to pitch in the Tigers' last regular-season game of the 1945 season, pitching into the 6th inning without getting the decision, as the Tigers went on to beat the Browns, 6-3. This was a critical performance, as the Tigers beat the Washington Senators for the Pennant by only a game and a half.

Because of the unusual circumstances behind his return to the team, Commissioner Happy Chandler waived the rule requiring players to have been on the team's roster by September 1 to qualify for post-season play. He went the distance in Game 2 of the World Series against the Chicago Cubs at Tiger Stadium (then known as Briggs Stadium), winning 4-1. This made Trucks the 1st pitcher ever to win a postseason game without winning one in the regular season, and it wouldn't happen again until Chris Carpenter did it last year with the Cardinals.

In 1952, went 5-19, but 2 of the 5 wins were no-hitters. He blanked the Washington Senators on May 15 and the Yankees on August 25. Both were 1-0 wins, and one was against the defending and soon to be again World Champions, so he really had to buckle down to get them.

He won 19 games in 1949, also leading the American League in strikeouts (153) and shutouts (6) that year. He got to 20 wins in 1953, the year he divided between the Browns and the White Sox. He won 19 more for the ChiSox in 1954, again leading the AL in shutouts with 5. He was 37 years old at the time.  He was an All-Star in '49 and '54. He probably wouldn't have won the Cy Young Award had it been established before 1956: It likely would have gone to Mel Parnell of the Boston Red Sox in 1949, Eddie Lopat of the Yankees or Billy Pierce of the White Sox in 1953, or one of the Cleveland Indians' Big Three of Early Wynn, Bob Lemon or Mike Garcia in 1954.

On April 15, 1954, Trucks was the starting pitcher for the visiting White Sox in the 1st major league game at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, the first-ever home game for the Orioles. Bob Turley, who would be traded to the Yankees the next year along with Don Larsen, started for the O's, who won, 3-1. When the O's had their final Opening Day at Memorial in 1991, Turley and Trucks were invited back, and threw out ceremonial first balls while wearing replicas of their teams' 1954 jerseys. (Turley, who would win the Cy Young Award in '58, with Trucks playing out the string as his teammate, is still alive.)

UPDATE: Turley died on March 30, 2013, just 3 days after I first posted this.

Upon his retirement, he became the pitching coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and received a 2nd World Series ring in 1960, when they beat the Yankees. One of the pitchers he coached, Vern Law, won the Cy Young Award -- which, until 1966, was for the most valuable pitcher in both leagues.

He later coached with the Braves, where one of his students was future Hall-of-Famer Phil Niekro and another was future pitching coach Tony Cloninger, and returned to the Tigers, where he helped turn Denny McLain and Mickey Lolich into Cy Young winners. He retired from active service in baseball in 1974.
Trucks' family is more musical than athletic. His nephew is Butch Trucks, a founding member of the Allman Brothers Band. Butch's son Derek is also in the band, and has also formed a band with his wife, Susan Tedeschi. There are other musicians in the family.

Trucks' death leaves Ed Mierkowicz, a local boy from Wyandotte who became their left fielder, as the last survivor from the Tigers' 1945 World Champions, and the earliest living World Series winner. Mierkowicz just turned 89. There are 2 survivors from the '46 Cardinals, Joe Garagiola and Bill Endicott; 2 from the '47 Yankees, Yogi Berra and Bobby Brown; and 2 from the '48 Indians, Al Rosen and Eddie Robinson.

Virgil Trucks is a member of the Sports Halls of Fame for his native Alabama, and the Tigers' Michigan. Does he belong in the Baseball Hall of Fame?

Unfortunately for him, the Hall's voting system doesn't allow playing and managing/coaching achievements to be combined. Nor does it allow coaches, no matter what the men they coached achieved, who never managed in the major leagues to be elected. In other words, don't expect to see such pitching coaches as Johnny Sain, Mel Stottlemyre, and the aforementioned Cloninger in Cooperstown anytime soon.

Baseball Reference, a website which is your friend whether you know it or not, has a "Hall of Fame Monitor," for which a "Likely HOFer" has a rating of 100; Trucks is at 45. They also have "Hall of Fame Standards," for which the "Average HOFer" has a rating of 50; Trucks is at 28. So he's well short.

They also have similarity scores, and list the 10 most similar players, weighting it by position, so that middle infielders don't get their offensive stats compared with those of outfielders. The 10 most similar pitchers to Trucks, statistically speaking, are Stieb, Bob Buhl, Dave Stewart, Bob Shawkey, Dizzy Trout, Tommy Bridges, Sutcliffe, Ken Holtzman, Bill Donovan and Allie Reynolds. Cases for the Hall could be made for Stewart, Shawkey and Reynolds, and possibly for Stieb. But they're not in, and neither are any of the others. So it seems like Trucks is, as some fans say, "in the Hall of Very Good."

But he was a really good pitcher for a long time, and a hero of World War II, and he should be remembered fondly.

UPDATE: Trucks was buried in Alabama National Cemetery, in the Birmingham suburb of Montevallo.


With Trucks' death, the oldest living Yankee is now Rinaldo Joseph Ardizoia, one of just 6 major league players to date born in Italy.
Born November 20, 1919 in Oleggio, in the Province of Novara in the Piedmont region, near Turin, "Rugger" Ardizoia was one of many Italians who immigrated to San Francisco, included Giuseppe DiMaggio, father of Joe and his brothers.

Ardizoia went to Commerce High School in San Francisco, and made just one major league appearances, on April 30, 1947, in a game the Yankees lost to the host St. Louis Browns, 15-5 at Sportsman's Park. Oddly, a former Brown star, 1st baseman George McQuinn, homered and doubled for the Yankees in the game, and Phil Rizzuto had a triple to drive in 2 runs.  DiMaggio had the other RBI with a single. Allie Reynolds made one of his first starts for the Yankees, but got rocked. So did Joe Page, who in the late 1940s closed so many games for the Yankees that when people were asked, "Who's pitching today?" the answer would often be "Reynolds and Page."

Wearing Number 14, Ardizoia closed the game, pitching the 7th and 8th innings, facing 10 batters, allowing 2 runs (both earned) on 4 hits, walking 1 and not striking out a batter. Denny Galehouse, who'd helped the Browns win the Pennant in 1944 but would help the Red Sox blow it the next year, was the winning pitcher. It was a Wednesday afternoon, and the Browns stunk back then, so attendance was just 4,141.

Ardizoia might have reached the majors sooner if he hadn't served in World War II. Ironically, since Italy was part of the Axis, he was still an Italian citizen when he enlisted in what was then known as the U.S. Army Air Force. He even pitched a game for a service team on Iwo Jima, after the Marines took the island from Japan.

After his 2-inning appearance, he was soon sent back down, and remained in the minor leagues until 1951. He became a salesman for a linen service company. His cup of coffee could be viewed as, essentially, that classically Italian drink espresso: Small and bitter. But, still alive at age 93, he appears to have no bitterness. Here's a recent photo of him, wearing a replica of a cap of the Mission Reds, a San Francisco-based team in the Pacific Coast League, for whom he is apparently the last surviving player.
There are currently 2 ex-big leaguers who are at least 100 years old: Connie Marrero, a Cuban pitcher for the Washington Senators from 1950 to 1954; and Clarence "Ace" Parker, who played  few games for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1937 and '38 but is better known as a great early quarterback, and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  Bobby Doerr, the great Red Sox 2nd baseman of the 1940s, is the oldest living Baseball Hall-of-Famer, and will (God willing) reach his 95th birthday in 2 weeks.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Cashman Trying to Win a Pennant -- Just Not This Year's

Take a look at these statistics. Batting average, OPS+, home runs, RBIs:

Player A: .317, 132, 33, 117 -- plus 49 doubles
Player B: .372, 130, 8, 60 -- plus 36 stolen bases and a Gold Glove
Player C: .301, 122, 16, 87 -- plus 53 doubles
Player D: .308, 181, 42, 117
Player E: .312, 144, 29, 115 -- plus 43 doubles

Player A is Vernon Wells in 2003.  Indeed, the man shown in the picture above (photoshopped, so he'd look like he'd already been a Yankee) would have been a good player to have in any season from 2002 to 2006, plus 2008 and 2010.

Player B is Ichiro Suzuki in 2004, the year he set a new major league record for hits in a season, with 262, breaking George Sisler's record of 257 set in 1920. (By the way, Sisler died 40 years ago today, March 26, 1973. He was 80.)

Player C is Lyle Overbay in 2004.  Indeed, he woul dhave been a good player to have in any season from 2004 to 2010, before he started getting huryt.

Player D is Travis Hafner in 2006. Indeed, he would have been a good player to have in any season from 2004 to 2007, before he started getting hurt.

Player E is Kevin Youkilis in 2008. Indeed, he would have been a good player to have in any season from 2006 to 2011, before he got hurt.


Brian Cashman, building on the successes of Gene Michael and Bob Watson, built the Yankee World Champions of 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2009; the Pennant winners of 2001 and 2003; the Division Champions of 2002, '04, '05, '06, '11 and '12; and the Wild Card teams of 2007 and '10.

But lately, it seems like he's trying to win Pennants for seasons that have already come and gone.

I've joked that he's still trying to win the World Series he couldn't win in 2004. Looking at those 5 players, that's not quite true, but it's all too close. He got Ichiro last year. He's already gotten Youk and Pronk (Hafner). He's about to get Wells. And now, there's a rumor going around that Overbay is coming.

When Overbay was with the Pesky Blue Jays of Toronto, he always hit well against the Yankees. It was like the Yankees made the difference between his being a good player and his being an All-Star. But that's no reason to trade for a guy -- and if you doubt this, look up how the Yankees got Sparky Lyle.

Wells? According to David Schoenfield of ESPN:
Even if Wells can hit left-handers, why pay $13 million for that skill? The easiest thing to find in baseball is a right-handed corner outfielder who can hit lefties. There are guys in Triple-A who can do that for the league minimum. So the Yankees just acquired a hitter who was bad in 2007, bad in 2009, historically awful in 2011 (.248 OBP, lowest OBP by a full-time outfielder since 1904) and bad again in 2012.
I know Cashman has to make some deals, because the Yankees have more injuries than usual -- once again, the team seems to be turning into Arsenal.

But the deals he's been making? They don't look very promising.

This is going to be a long season.

I know, it's always a long season: "It's a marathon, not a sprint." Even when you win, it's a long season.

I'll tell you this: If we do what we did last year, get to the ALCS, and then fail to win the Pennant, after all this, the season is going to feel like a very long waste.

In the meantime, enjoy this little bit of Yankee glory: Epic Rap Battles of History's battle between Babe Ruth (Lloyd Ahlquist, a.k.a. Epic Lloyd) and Lance Armstrong (Peter Shukoff, a.k.a. Nice Peter).

Monday, March 25, 2013

Martin Brodeur Is a Beast: 666

Martin Brodeur is a Beast.  And now, he's got the number to prove it: 666.

In the Bible's last book, The Revelation of St. John the Divine -- sometimes shortened to "The Revelation of John," or just "The Revelation," but not "The Book of Revelations," as some dimwits call it -- Chapter 13, Verse 1 (13:1) has John of Patmos (a.k.a. St. John the Divine or St. John the Evangelist) give this account of a prophecy he had:

And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.

Verse 18:

Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is six hundred threescore and six.

Those of you familiar with Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address know that, in this case, "score" refers to 20. So, 666.

Historians have speculated that the number 666 actually did refer to a specific man, not the Devil himself, or his son, a.k.a. the Antichrist. The most common one is Nero, Emperor of Rome from AD 54 to 69, which would have been in the lifetime of John the Evangelist.

Most people don't study Roman history, and know only one thing about Nero. And it isn't true: Records that have survived the 1st Century AD show that he wasn't even in Rome when a nasty fire broke out on July 19, AD 64. They also show that fires like that frequently happened in Rome, and that there wasn't anything particularly notable about it. They were rebuilding after fires all the time. Also, while he could have played the lyre, and is cited as playing the lyre during the fire, there were no violins, so "Nero fiddles while Rome burns" is a metaphor, and not a reflection of a true story.)

Whatever John the Evangelist actually meant by 666, the number does not actually refer to the Devil. However demonic it was meant to be, "The Beast" was a separate creature.

As for the New Jersey Devils hockey team, the name refers to the Jersey Devil, a mythical creature that came out of the Pine Barrens region of South Jersey -- which is generally considered to be the fandom territory of Philadelphia.

Now, I realize that former Flyer captain Eric Lindros may well think of former Devils captain Scott Stevens as a demon, but if the Jersey Devil were real, and cared about hockey, he would most likely be a Flyer fan.

So calling the hockey team "The New Jersey Devils," when the Meadowlands Arena (the club's 1st home) was 100 miles from the home of the mythical Jersey Devil, would be like calling a team in Scranton the Lehigh Valley Skyscrapers, or a team in Connecticut's capital the Hartford Pilgrims.


On Saturday night, the Devils beat the Florida Panthers, 2-1. It was the 666th career regular-season win as a goaltender for Martin Brodeur.

Keep in mind, the previous record was 551 by Patrick Roy. Before that, 447 by Terry Sawchuk. Ed Belfour (484) and Curtis Joseph (454) have also surpassed Sawchuk, but are now retired. Second on the active list, behind Brodeur, is Roberto Luongo, with 346. In other words, if Luongo, the former Islander now with the Vancouver Canucks, who is about to turn 34, wins another three hundred games, he'll still be twenty (or "onescore") behind Brodeur.

Here's Brodeur's totals:

Regular season wins: 666
Playoff wins: 113
International wins: 17

So, he's been in goal for 779 wins for his club, and 17 more for his country. Martin Brodeur has 796 wins.

Think about that: Within 2 weeks, he is likely to win his 800th game.

How many of us, in our lifetimes, will even see 800 games, in all major league sports combined?

To put this in perspective: From 1996 through 2012, the Yankees won 1,652 regular-season games, and another 97 in the postseason. So, in the Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera era, the Yankees have won 1,749 games. The Devils, playing half as many regular-season games, have won 779 just with Marty in goal, not counting games won by his backups. So if you double Marty's wins -- not that I would expect someone to play in goal for a hockey team nearly every day for 6 months -- it's Jeter 1,779, Brodeur 1,558.

I know, it doesn't work that way, but it gives you an idea. We think of Jeter as the ultimate winner in baseball, but here we have a player who has set shocking records in his sport, probably unbreakable unless there's a significant rule change.

And Brodeur's being doing it for longer. Jeter will be 39 in June. Brodeur will be 41 in May. Jeter is about to start his 19th major league season -- albeit on the Disabled List, most likely -- while Brodeur is in the home stretch of his 20th. Jeter has been in the postseason in 18 of his 19 seasons, Brodeur in 18 of his 20. Jeter has played more games in a Yankee uniform than anyone, 2,585, a record previously held by Mickey Mantle at 2,401; and he and Rivera are about to break Mantle's record for most seasons in a Yankee uniform; Brodeur has played more games in goal than anyone. Rivera has more saves than anyone, and it isn't even close; Brodeur has more shutouts than any hockey goalie, 120, far ahead of Sawchuk's old "record that can never be broken," 103.

No, Martin Brodeur is not the Devil. But he is a Beast. And now he has the number to prove it.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

How to Go to a Yankee Game -- 2013 Edition

Hard to believe, but Opening Day of the 2013 baseball season is less than 2 weeks away.

Every year, I do a series: "How to Be a Yankee Fan in (city name goes here)." For National League cities that the Mets go to, but not the Yankees, it becomes "How to Be a Met Fan in... " For NL cities in which the Yankees play Interleague games, meaning both teams will go there in the season, it becomes "How to Be a New York Fan in... "

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 29 of the 30 teams.  The one for which I failed to do this was Pittsburgh: Because interleague play futzes up the schedule, both New York teams play fewer games against Central Division teams, and the Mets' sole trip to Pittsburgh was early in the season and I missed it, and the Yankees were not supposed to play the Pirates last season.

This time, I'm starting with the most familiar. Although the opening series will be against the arch-rival Boston Red Sox, 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 fact that Yankee management is now suing StubHub should not be able to deter them, or you.

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.

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

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. Take that to Interstate 87 North, the Major Deegan Expressway.  (Henry Bruckner was a Bronx Borough President.) 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.

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 just went up from $2.25 to $2.50 for a one-way ride, but do yourself a favor and get a multiple-ride card. If you’re there only for the day, inserting $10 into the machine will get you $10.50 worth of rides.  A 7-Day Unlimited Pass is $30.  Whichever kind you get, they can be used on both Subway trains and buses.

The A Train goes to both Penn Station and Port Authority, so take it to 59th Street-Columbus Circle. Change there, a free transfer, for the D Train. Or, from both Penn Station and Port Authority, you can walk over to 6th Avenue (a.k.a. Avenue of the Americas 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, also named for James, and "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 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, Ealr 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." No, I dont know how the The became attached.  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 8.3 million people living in the Five Boroughs.  About 19 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, it's 5th Avenue.

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.

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 43,733 fans per game last season, more than any except the Philadelphia Phillies (and they only beat 'em by about 300 per game).  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 Eighties, I bought a ticket “right over the dugout.” Yeah, way over the dugout in the upper deck. The next night, I bought one “right on the left-field foul line.” Yeah, right behind the left-field foul pole. To make matters worse, the Yanks lost both games!

If you order from the club through Ticketmaster, you may be able to snag tickets in the first level of the outfield, which could run you $117.  You might get Main Level (second deck) seats for $97.  Terrace seats (third deck, equivalent to the upper deck box seats at the old Stadium) go for $54. Grandstand (upper deck) seats could be had for a much cheaper $38 or $28. And, of course, Ticketmaster adds a surcharge. But then, if you root for the Red Sox, Phillies, Cubs or Giants, 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, Sox fans: After the rise of your team during the Nomar-Pedro era, into the Papi-Schilling-Youkilis-Papelbon years, these people now hate you almost as much as you hate them. And they like to drink. They really, really like to drink. Do not say I did not warn you.

If you root for the Mets and 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 don't go in the Bleachers.

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

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

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.

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." 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.

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 and longer than most movies. Both the show on the field and the show in the stands.

Team History Displays. No team in all of sports does this better than the Yankees - as they've told us time and time again. 161st Street outside the Stadium is known as Babe Ruth Plaza, and there are notations on light poles telling the Babe’s story.  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 Lou Gehrig’s in 1941 and Babe 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 Mickey Mantle couldn’t catch it, and 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; first baseman Don Mattingly; second baseman and manager Billy Martin; shortstop and broadcaster Phil Rizzuto; right fielders Roger Maris and Reggie Jackson; pitchers Lefty Gomez, Red Ruffing, Allie Reynolds, Whitey Ford and Ron Guidry; managers Joe McCarthy and Casey Stengel; broadcaster Mel Allen, and public-address announcer Bob Sheppard.  And there are Plaques honoring the Masses delivered by Popes Paul VI in 1965, John Paul II in 1979, and Benedict XVI in 2008.  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.

The Plaques for the Popes 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 (probably after he's elected to the Hall of Fame), that’ll be 3 ex-St. Louis Cardinals as well.  (But this morning, I heard on WCBS radio 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, 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), and center fielder Bernie Williams (51). These three, along with the still-active Derek Jeter (2), Mariano Rivera (42) and Andy Pettitte (46), will almost certainly receive Plaques and get their numbers retired. There may be some calls for the aforementioned Tino Martinez to receive the honor, but as Number 24 is currently worn by Robinson Cano, who is probably the Yankees’ best all-around player at the moment, it’s more likely that, when he retires, that number will be retired for him.  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 is still very much up in the air.  But it's a safe bet that former Roger Clemens (22) will never be so honored.

Although he does not have a Plaque, a notation is made for the Number 42 retired for all of baseball for Jackie Robinson, even as Rivera is the last of the players wearing it at its retirement in 1997 and thus allowed to continue wearing it.  As Mo is retiring at the end of this season, that will be the end of Number 42 in baseball, aside from old-timers' games.

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); second basemen Tony Lazzeri and Joe Gordon (both 6); 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); first 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 second 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.

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), 745 7th Avenue (at 50th Street, just north of Times Square), 393 5th Avenue (at 37th Street, between the main Public Library and the Empire State Building), 110 E. 59th Street (east of Central Park and down the block from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant), and 8 Fulton Street (at the South Street Seaport).

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’ll be that you will avoid violence. The security force, including actual NYPD officers, will eject anyone who fights. If they catch them in the act, that is. The fans know this, and most will not be so drunk that they won't care about getting tossed, 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.)

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: “Cur-tis! Cur-tis! Cur-tis!" (Though, at the moment, Curtis Granderson is injured, and will miss at least all of April.) 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.
In the bottom of the 1st, presuming he’s not hurt (he’s the kind of guy you need a crowbar to get out of the lineup otherwise), Yankee shortstop and Captain Derek Jeter will come to the plate. Unlike the other players, who are introduced by new public address announcer Paul Olden (a former broadcaster for the Yanks and Cleveland Indians), Jeter asked Bob Sheppard, the Voice of Yankee Stadium for 57 years (1951-2007), to record an introduction for him. Sheppard, who died in 2010 age 99, was nicknamed The Voice of God by Reggie Jackson, and it was easy to see why. (When he got his Plaque in 2000, to celebrate 50 years with the team, obviously he couldn’t announce his own ceremony. So the announcer was one of the most trusted voices in America, retired CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite.)

Jeter also has this nasty habit, one which would drive me up the wall if I were not a Yankee Fan: He holds his right hand up, to let the umpire know that he's not quite ready to receive the pitch, as if to say, "Excuse me, you inconsequential man in blue, but I'm Derek Jeter, Captain of the New York Yankees, a 5-time World Champion, 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. This is in stark contrast to Alex Rodriguez: A-Rod is considerably more modest at the plate than off the field, although, like Reggie, he does tend to admire his handiwork when he cranks one.

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

On clips of old Yankee games (such as on YES’ Yankees Classics), you might 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.)
After the 5th inning, the grounds crew will drag the infield. The song “YMCA” by the Village People will come in over the loudspeakers. And thousands of people, including kids, will sing along, most of them not realizing that the song is narrated by a gay man cruising for easy bait. The grounds crew will drop their rakes and drag-cages to spell out Y-M-C-A with the fans.
It’s stupid -- as Chicago White Sox fans taught us, disco sucks -- and it’s not even a particularly old “Yankee Tradition,” having been started in 1996. But the Yanks won the Series that year, for the first time in 18 years (I know, doesn’t seem like a long time to most of you), since the song was new (1978), and, well, you know how superstitious baseball people can get.

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 this treatment. (Most of the Bleacher Creatures are Irish, Italian and Hispanic, and thus Catholic, and have had it drilled into their minds from the time of puberty that being gay is a mortal sin.)

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” was fired for showing up drunk, so they got “Joey” to replace him.)
Why this stupid song is played in New York City, of all places, I don’t know. Suddenly, “Sweet Caroline” doesn’t sound so cheesy, does it?

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.

If the Yankees are winning in the 9th inning, and it's a save situation, Mariano Rivera (at least, for one more season) comes out of the bullpen, and the loudspeakers blast "Enter Sandman" by Metallica.  In other words, "Game over."

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.
At least, if you don’t bring a radio, you won’t have to hear his home run call: “It is high! It is far! It is... GONE!” Which, all too often, ends up as, “It is... a foul ball!” Or “It is... caught at the wall!” I hate it when he does that. Like Mel Allen in the Yankees’ most glorious era, Sterling tends to watch the ball. Red Barber, who broadcast for the Brooklyn Dodgers at that time, and later switched to the Yankees, taught people to watch the outfielder, to see if he thinks he can catch it, so you’ll have a better idea if he can catch it. Sterling doesn’t do this.

Between Sterling, Waldman (“Oh my good, goodness gracious!” for Roger 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.
Oddly, the Mets sometimes play Liza's version at Citi Field, especially since she sang it live at Shea Stadium in 2001, when the Mets played the first sporting event in the City after the 9/11 attacks. But their game-closing song is “New York State of Mind” by Billy Joel, who played the last concert at Shea, even though he’s a Yankee Fan who was the first soloist to play the old Stadium other than as a postgame show. (The Isley Brothers and the Newport Jazz Festival preceded him, and the Beach Boys had played a couple of postgame concerts.).

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 last year 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). 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 and a member of the baseball Giants’ board of directors, 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 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.  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 last year 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. 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. A renovation, most of which will take place in the NBA and NHL’s off-seasons, has led the Libs to take up residence at the Prudential Center in Newark, which they will share with the NHL’s New Jersey Devils for one more season, resuming play at the Garden in June 2014. Unfortunately, this renovation (at least the 3rd it's had since 1992) means that the Garden Tour is currently unavailable.

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 last December 12.  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.

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 last September as the home of the NBA's recently-moved-and-renamed Brooklyn Nets.  In 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 in 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 can 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.

* 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.  Temporarily, they are "groundsharing" at Webster Hall, at 125 East 11th off 3rd.  Their new home, at 100 3rd Avenue between 12th and 13th, will open in time for the 2013-14 European season to begin in August.  However, most local soccer fanatics have already made the switch to Legends, unless the clubs they support have their own setups elsewhere.

While Manchester United and Chelsea, the 2 most popular English clubs in New York, and AC Milan and Juventus, the 2 most popular Italian clubs, are based at Legends, and 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 West Ham, Spanish giants Barcelona, and German titans Bayern Munich at Smithfield at 215 West 28th off 7th (1 to 28th Street).

* 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. Both NFL teams just moved into MetLife Stadium. The Nets played at the Meadowlands arena, which has had a bunch of names and is currently known as the Izod Center, from 1981 to 2010, and the Devils played there from 1982 to 2007.

The Devils, 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.

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 ballpark 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 plays in the Can-Am League, 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.  They've won 5 Atlantic League Pennants, with former Yankee reliever Sparky Lyle as the only manager the club have ever had.  East Main Street & Cole Drive.  Bridgewater station on NJT's Raritan Valley Line, although you'll need to change trains at Newark Penn Station.

The Bears' new rivals are 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 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 have not been all that successful.  They blew sure Pennants in the 1996 and '99 Eastern League Playoffs, finally winning Pennants in 2007 and '08.  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. If you want to see all the local major sports sites, including these, take New Jersey Transit’s Northeast Corridor Line to New Brunswick, and take a Rutgers “Campus Bus,” the A to the Busch Campus to the stadium, the L to the Livingston Campus to the RAC, or the B between them.

* 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 it's probably the one least suitable for 21st Century crowds.  A bond issue to build a new arena recently 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 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 Stengel.  While its football program has been dropped, their 15,000-seat James M. Shuart Stadium still hosts decent soccer and lacrosse programs, and was the home field of the NASL's Cosmos from 1972 to 1974, and will host the reborn Cosmos until a new stadium can be built in, or at least closer to, New York City.

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 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 defending champions of the New York-Penn League is the Hudson Valley Renegades, a Tampa Bay Rays farm team.  The 2012 Pennant follows the one they won in 1999.  They play at Dutchess Stadium in Wappingers Falls in Dutchess County.  Although 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 Connecticut Whale, 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.)

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 approaches 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.

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.

Non-Sports Sidelights.  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, and Elvis appeared there on September 9 and October 28, 1956, and, from the waist up only, on January 6, 1957; and 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), and the South Street Seaport (Fulton & Front Streets, A Train to Broadway-Nassau) are well worth a visit.

The site of the World Trade Center (Church & Vesey Streets, E Train to World Trade Center) is across Manhattan Island from the Seaport, but at that point the island is so narrow that the walk takes just 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 Roads 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, you'd never know it was (at least officially) the same road.  It's 86 miles from Midtown Manhattan, 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 first 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.  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.  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.

* 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, however, is not only a real address, but the building is still recognizable 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 Jeffersons' "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 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.

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 Bensonhurst as was frequently claimed on the show -- was the only one on the block that wasn't a pathetic, graffiti-ed up mess.  It was probably cleaned up by devoted Honeymoonies.  The area is probably safe in daylight, but please don't go there at night.

Welcome Back, Kotter was set at James Buchanan High School in Brooklyn.  Head of the Class 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 a 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 at 10 Stigwood Avenue in Brooklyn Heights, but this address is not real; the actual townhouse used for the exterior shots is 10 St. Luke's Place, off 7th Avenue South in the West Village (1, Houston Street).

On Sex & the City, Carrie Bradshaw supposedly lived at 245 East 73rd Street, but the actual building is at 66 Perry Street, off West 4th. (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).

Don Draper and Selena Gomez both lived on Waverly Place? On Mad Men, Jon Hamm's character tells a cabdriver, "Sixth and Waverly." This could well be The Waverly, at 136 Waverly Place.  As far as I know, The Wizards of Waverly Place 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 5th 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.

The building shown as the home of the Friends is at 90 Bedford Street at Grove Street.  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 -- Monica once gave the address as 425 Grove, but that address only exists in Brooklyn.

The exterior of Richard Castle's penthouse loft on Castle is at 475 Broome Street at Green Street, in SoHo.  E to Spring Street.  Castle's ID says 595 Broome, but this would be inside the Holland Tunnel.

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 Tuckaoe, 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 Copeland College standing in for Rutgers), House in Plainsboro, and The Sopranos in various places.  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.