Over the course of the last few weeks, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on the ghosts of Yankee Stadium. In recent history, it was always a given that the spirits of Yankees past lurked about “The House that Ruth Built.” From the Great Bambino himself to baseball legends such as Lou Gehrig and Thurman Munson, it is a logical conclusion that a lifetime of baseball moments made in “The Great Cathedral” would, at the very least, continue to reverberate through time and that, in the afterlife, a great communion of souls would team up together to haunt opponent after opponent when called upon.
Anyone who has been there will tell you the place had its own sort of energy unlike any other stadium, a sort of aura about it that left most first-time visitors awestruck. From Monument Park to the concession stands and back to the Bleachers, it took on a character all its own. Many modern-day players have made reference to “The Ghosts,” coming out during a game, including current Yankee Team Captain Derek Jeter.
In a previous blog entry, I asked Yankees fans to summon the ghosts of Yankee Stadium to help our boys to victory during the playoffs. I expected a flurry of unexplained Yankee miracles of the kind we fans have grown accustomed to…no, we expect…but that didn’t happen. No miracles, no amazing moments. Just mediocre plays that made for a disappointing end to what was a stellar season, otherwise. It was an anticlimactic unfurling of injuries and missed opportunities. A major let down that left Yankees fans disgusted and in utter disbelief to find that their focus had somehow shifted to raking leaves and Halloween costumes.
So, I found myself asking the following irreverent question:
What if there just aren’t any ghosts at the new Yankee Stadium?
If one follows the theory that spirits who still walk the earth are stuck in some kind of time warp or a timeless eternity set in the past – their past – and that they may not even be aware that they have passed on, one would have to address the obvious possibility that they might not even realize there is a new stadium or even that the old one is defunct.
What if returning to the old Yankee Stadium was their Heaven and, with all good intentions, we have now taken that away? Is it possible that the spirits are so upset and offended that the Babe’s home – their home- has become another victim of the wrecking ball that they flat out refuse to move to the new stadium, choosing instead to relive their choices of baseball moments on the hallowed ground where they forged so much history?
Ask many old-time Yankee fans and they will voice their discontent over the closing of the old stadium – the first three-tiered sports arena ever built – and, in essence, the end of an era. To many, all the modern ammenities in the world cannot make up for a historic structure opened in 1923 that we once knew and loved, and the opportunity to see a ball game for only a few bucks on a hot summer night!
So, what if the ghosts decided to stay put on the old stomping grounds?
What if they, too, chose not to move on?
Embedded in those old concrete walls were:
• the voice of 1927 Manager Miller Huggins addressing his World Championship lineup before the games
• Lou Gehrig’s infamous retirement speech that made the world aware of a disease call ALS
• the crack of the bat by Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio
• the sound of Catfish Hunter’s pitches smacking the catcher’s mitt during Game 6 of the 1978 World Series
• the furious stomps of fans in the upper deck when Reggie Jackson became “Mr. October”
• multiple generations of passionate “boo”s mixed with cheers of “Let’s go Yankees!”
• the wolf-like howls of the crowd when the calendar page flipped from October 31st to November 1st to crown Derek Jeter as “Mr. November”
• cheers of “Hip! Hip! Jorge!” in the stairwells as fans exited after games
• “The Voice of God” a.k.a. Bob Sheppard announcing the players while organists Toby Wright and Eddie Layton filled the air with music from a 50,000-watt Hammond organ.
“Baseball has been erased, rebuilt and erased again.” – Field of Dreams
Perhaps, as Doc saved the little girl in that classic baseball movie, the old spirits of River Drive will come to the rescue when we convey our sincere thanks and appreciation for the memories. When we tell them we’ve built this new field for them, too.
“Build it and they will come.”
“The House that George Built” may not be quite the same as the old Yankee Stadium, but in time, it, too will be filled with its own history, it own timeless memories. It is still young. It’s time for a new generation of devoted fans to make their imprint on the walls, to fill it with a new brand of passion, derived from tradition, that can come only from a pure love of baseball.
Together, we can create that perfect moment in time. Together, we can feel the magic of baseball. Then, when someone asks, “Is this Heaven?” you can answer, “Yes, it’s Yankee Stadium!”
d8)%–< l >€27@p
Don’t change that dial! More coming in the next installment of NYY Logo Girl!
A photo appeared in Sunday’s “Philthy Inquirer” that basically sums up why I could never be a Phillies Phan, or any other Philly sports fan. It gave me a phlashback to all the times I’ve had beer thrown at me while attending sporting events and concerts in “The City of Brotherly Love.”
You’ve gotta LOVE the place. Brimming with history, it was our nation’s first capitol. Like any big city, it has it’s downside, but overall, it’s a great place to lose oneself. It’s easy to find your way around the city, and if lost, it’s easy to find someone to point you in the right direction. The people are friendly, the music is world-class and the food is…well, cheesesteaks and hoagies…which brings me to my point.
A few years back, when the Phillies won the World Series, I posted a congratulatory message on the website of the creator of my favorite little widget of all time, appropriately titled “The Cheesesteak of Suffering.” <http://www.jerseydatabase.com/beta/blog.php?p=8> It was a sad little sandwich assigned the daunting task by some poor, disgusted Phillies fan, to count the number of days since Philadelphia had won it’s last championship. Even worse, one could choose from various options of loser’s delight by size and whether condiments were preferred.
In the year of Our Lord 2008 A.D., The Cheesesteak of Suffering exploded, theoretically speaking, when the Phillies finally won the World Series. As a Yankees fan, I could never root for Philadelphia, but I found myself both excited for their fans and relieved that the whining had finally stopped. Philadelphia had earned it’s place inside the Winners’ Circle and peace ruled the Delaware Valley.
I had hoped that would not only squelch the incessant complaining about their team, but remove the giant, collective chip on the shoulders of every Philadelphian. Phinally, the citizens of this phounding colony could shed the weight and that darned inferiority complex, earned by being sandwiched between and consistently overshadowed by (at least in their minds) it’s sibling cities, namely New York and Baltimore.
You see, human nature dictates that when we are insecure in our own skin, we tend to point out our own deepest flaws in others. When we are happy and confident being ourselves, we are happier and more content with others. When that raw nerve is no longer exposed, our need to scream out vanishes. This transfers to sports and everything we do.
So, when the Phillies became World Champions I was truly happy and elated for their fans, many who are my good friends and neighbors. I was thrilled that they finally had the chance to experience the exhilaration, bliss, sheer joy and confidence that comes with being on top. Finally, we had something in common to share and I was glad to ride that wave of cheese wiz with them all the way up Broad St. to the Liberty Bell.
Perhaps, that is why I was so troubled and sad (like that old Cheesesteak widget had been) when I opened the paper and saw this photograph of Phillies Phans mocking one of the best pitchers in baseball today.
A scene out of “Dumb and Dumber”
As I stared at it with my jaw agape, I had to resist the urge to go look in the mirror to check my own teeth, or to wonder if my hair needed a trim or if the big wart on my giant nose needed to go. I thought about Tim Lincecum’s parents and wondered how they must feel seeing their pride and joy in the highlight of his career being bullied by a crowd of cruel, (assumed to be) drunken idiots holding up nasty signs dating back to elementary school recess. Is this any way to treat a guest? Is this how Philadelphians want to be remembered? Seriously?
So, my dear Yankees fans, kindly learn from another’s mistakes or you may find yourselves pictured as below in my next blog!
Who’s the Freak, now? That stupid hat fits in, afterall!
(Disclaimer: My sincere apology goes out to anyone whom I may have offended and to those innocent parties who have been dragged into this debacle against their will. Perhaps, you will reconsider your seating arrangements the next time some rudenick repeatedly shoves a sign into your line of sight.)
Now, go have fun, root for our team and play nice! WE are the champions that everyone looks up to (despite what they may say out of envy). Show everyone how REAL CHAMPIONS treat their guests and each other. Set the bar high and you will be rewarded.
Remember, the eyes of the world are watching you!
d8)%–< I >€27@P
P.S. – HAPPY 28TH BIRTHDAY, ROBINSON CANO!
One needs to listen to only a few hours of sports radio or peruse through several cyber-stacks of Twitter feeds to realize how much anger, frustration and hate is spewed out into society. Squashed between clever quips are hateful comments laced with ego, avarice and spite. No one knows this better than a Yankees fan.
Despite the geographical divide, the ‘International Spit Fest” makes it’s way onto my feet via the Internet. Simply because I choose to root for my home team, I am accosted in public places by total strangers for wearing my Yankees Championship shirt.
Things would be different if I had my jacket zipped closed and was accompanied by a cute, furry dog. People would fight for a lick on the face and a free handful of ALPO-laced drool. Instead, men who would normally hit on me prefer to hit me. I remind them nicely that my team has won 27 World Series Championships, but that only causes them to seize up with anger.
All the facts and statistics in the world cannot do anything to stem the tide of bashes. Like a seasoned prize fighter, I block their jabs, but refrain from finishing them off with my left hook. Like Muhammad Ali vs. George Foreman, I prefer to play a little “rope-a-dope” and leave my opponent responsible for his own undoing. With confidence, I turn away and put my faith in “My Boys in Blue,” who rarely let me down, only to see a rash of pompous below-the-belt punches thrown by my fellow NY fans in defense. I wonder, “Where does it end?”
Ignorance breeds contempt. Jealousy merely breeds more jealously. With the understanding that baseball is an extremely competitive sport that examines every player, every play and every decision under a microscope for a new stat, it’s no wonder so much venom flies.
I can’t help to be reminded of post-9/11, when kinder words graced New York’s doorstep. When strangers from across the country and around the world sent caring words of encouragement to these parts. It was a simpler time when IDs were not requested to move about society, people still wore their shoes to board an airplane, Lady Gaga was an innocent, drooling baby in diapers, and “bird-flipping” was not considered a sport.
It is apparent the support net has dropped out. I pause and wonder what happened. Perhaps, I should look at it in a positive lite – as a sign of the times and a testament to the fact that life does go on and, eventually, returns to a semi-normal state, for what it’s worth.
The Yankees didn’t win the World Series in 2001. In a scenario similar to this season, Andy Pettitte was suffering from an elbow injury and there were questions regarding the roster. Regardless, they had some of the most amazing moments in baseball history, despite uncertain times. My favorite was Jeter’s tumbling catch into the third base seats (which I was lucky to witness in person), followed by the birth of “Mr. November.”
Also, that was the year I was blessed to be in the presence of Yankees legend Yogi Berra one dismal, rainy September night while working at a fundraiser in northern New Jersey. Sadly, I had been called to fill a gap – more like a gaping wound – as a last-minute replacement for staff members who had just lost their lives on 9/11 while working at Windows on the World. I felt very uncomfortable playing second string and hoped the night would go by quickly.
Time dragged on. I found myself pretending to be happy to be there. I couldn’t let anyone in on my true state of mind. My job was to cheer up the guests, to allow them to live in a fantasy world for several hours before having to return to a grim reality.
Finally, the event came to a close. I was about to pack it in for the night when I looked across the room and noticed a celebrity impersonator, a common sight at special events. With bleary eyes, I gazed through the thinning crowd at this short, old guy in sheer amazement as to how good he was. He had to be a seasoned pro because he really had his character nailed. I found myself staring at him. Suddenly, he turned around to face me. He was no actor. For Pete’s sake, it was the legend himself, the King of Quips, the Master of all Yogi-isms, Mr. Yogi Berra!
Rubbing my eyes, I approached him in utter disbelief. I spoke to him and he actually spoke back. I sat down at his table as one of my co-workers jammed a cell phone in his face for a
quick “Hello” to his son. Then, he signed a baseball for me. We talked for what seemed like an eternity, in slo-mo fantasy dream time. He was so cool.
Had I died and gone to Heaven?? With just a few words and the stroke of a pen, all the world’s problems magically vanished, even if only for a few minutes. It made my night, my week, month, year, and now, my blog. A simple act of selflessness humanity was all it took. I can only imagine how many other people who met the legendary Yankees catcher felt the same after that night.
So, here’s your first assignment…
The Beatles were dead-on when they performed “All You Need is Love” at that other NY team’s Shea Stadium. Those simple four letters L-O-V-E are very powerful when put together. They have the ability to overcome all negativity.
So, Yankees fans, with that in mind, I dare you to be different. Let’s all try a little experiment to keep our beloved Yankees on track. Be Seinfield’s George Costanza and do the opposite! That’s right. Instead of focusing on the negative, like how disgusted you are with Joe Gerardi’s end-of-season roster decisions, or a certain pitcher’s rotten ERA, let it go. Get a fresh start and a new perspective of the game, and of life, and focus on the positive.
Instead of engaging in endless banter about how much better the Yanks are than everyone else (we already know that’s a fact), from now on, try to concentrate on the positive by sending out good vibes, not only to Gerardi, who obviously isn’t trying to lose (Geeze, he’s been wearing #28 all season!), but to all of our cherished and maybe not so cherished members of the pinstriped NY clan who have hit the emerald green nearly every day since early Spring to bring us, their LOYAL fans, another Championship.
Think about your favorite Yankees player and send positive energy his way. Meditate over your least favorite player who may have screwed up royally and try to feel his pain. He is the one who needs our support the most. Imagine him pitching that perfect game of every pitcher’s dreams, making the perfect catch or clobbering the ball over the stadium facade. (Think Aaron Boone moment.) Try it just once. Take a deep breath, close your eyes and envision that perfect moment in time – your ultimate fantasy baseball. Take it in, Play it over and over again in your head like you would your favorite baseball movie. Savor it like the perfect dessert. Hear “Theeee Yankees Win!” Don’t you feel better now?
Remember that vision and hold it close to your heart. Feel your heart beat as it pumps your Yankee Blue blood through every fiber of your being. That is where you’ll hold the World Series Trophy. Use your Jedi mind powers to send that beautiful, shiny trophy to your team, OUR team, both present and past. Deliver it to the ghosts of Yankee Stadium as their wake-up call. Tell them, “It’s time!” Time for #28. Be your own magician. You are a powerful being. Experience the MAGIC of baseball!
d8)%–< l >€27@p
The sound of rushing water is drowned out by the loud chugging of my lawn mower as I make my way back and forth across the yard. Torrents of cold, muddy Delaware River water rushing past my back door is not going to stop me from taking care of important business. “Besides,” I tell myself, “there’s good mud in the making.”
You know, that mysterious, magical baseball mud? The best stuff in the world? Harvested annually by a secret agent at a heavily guarded top secret location along the now saturated banks of this mighty river, and used by baseball teams around the world, it flows past my house and past the NYY AA affiliate’s home at Waterfront Park on it’s journey to becoming one of the most sought after commodities in baseball. As the mower blades clip across my semi-soggy lawn, I am honored to bear witness to the sacred process.
Lost in my Zen state, I run over something with a loud clank. Once again, I am reminded that there used to be a glorious Yankees logo in that very spot…before the floods came. I pick shredded pieces of metal out from beneath the blades and return the dirty white gravel back to its proper place. I am reminded of the reason I am out there. Our Boys in Blue need my help! Going up against those smelly Red Sox, they need all the power they can muster right now to secure their playoff spot. Hoping to give them a shot in the a…arm, I pluck the weeds from the gravel.
The Birth of a Superhero
You see, way back in the late ’90s, when both the NY Yankees and the NY Mets were contenders hoping to clinch their respective division titles, I joked with my other half (referred to from now on as MOH) that if the Yankees won the World Series I would put an “NY” logo in the front yard. I probably joked around about a lot of other stuff, too.
I’m always clowning around. My favorite prank is the rubber imitation chocolate doughnut, followed by the fake fly in the ice cube, then the ol’ sugar spoon with a hole in it trick. Of course, he never takes much of it seriously, and why should he?
Well, that year, “Those Amazing Mets” lost, but the Yankees won their division and the World Series. We celebrated like it was 1999, I made further threats, and winter arrived and we were buried in snow.
Fast forward to 2000…
It’s early summer. The Yanks are doing their thing. I’m doing mine…in the yard…towel in hand. MOH comes home, asks me what I’m doing. I answer, “Making the logo!”
MOH scratches head, shrugs shoulders and walks away. And that’s how it all started.
By the end of the next day, there was a giant, bright white NY Yankees logo in the front yard for all the world to see. Carefully edged with green turf and composed of white gravel (for permanence), it was a work of art. Not only was it beautiful, but it was conveniently situated within our line of sight from the living room windows so we could see it as we watched baseball games on TV. It was a NYY oasis in what is considered Phillies territory. It was apparent that the fine citizens of the Delaware Valley were were a bit confused. Somebody needed to set them straight. I took that upon myself and NYY Logo Girl was born.
After a while, it became apparent that The NY Logo possessed powers way beyond our wildest imagination. We started to notice that whenever we cut the grass, the Yanks would win. If the grass got too tall, they would start to tank. In Fall, our duties doubled. When we realized our team’s efforts were being thwarted, we frantically tried to sweep up every colorful leaf that might attempt to smother them. This strange coincidence occurred over and over again. Realizing we must have created some kind of powerful vortex, we made certain to take good care of it on a timely basis.
So, back to the mud. In September 2004, April 2005 and June 2006, the beautiful river that creates the infamous baseball glop decided to stop by and stay a bit longer than usual. Water levels rose to historic heights. Everything that could float did. The rest was history.
However, The NY Logo managed to survive. Ironically, it was protected under a layer of…you got it…”Magic Mud.” The same mud that is carefully rubbed on every baseball during every Major League game to scuff up the otherwise slick balls in order to protect the batters from getting hit by them. First harvested and put to the test in 1938 by Manager Lena Blackburne of the Philadelphia Athletics, it was used in 2009 to help lead the Yankees to victory over…you got it…the Phillies.
So, the next time you watch a baseball game, think of poor Cleveland Indians shortstop Ray Chapman who suffered a fatal blow from a pitch 80 years ago, coincidentally, thrown by NY Yankees pitcher Carl Mays. His tragedy is the reason why every baseball player across America is protected at the plate today. It gives new meaning to the phrase “playing dirty ball.”
For more background information on “Magic Mud” check out this cool video at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/29/baseballs-magic-mud-an-ml_n_338392.html
and the Lena Blackburne Baseball Mud website:
d8)%–< l >€27@p
Next episode of NYY Logo Girl…Mysterious powers at work.