A few weeks back, my dad took me a Yankees game. Yankees vs. Mets, to be exact. I hadn’t been to a Yankees vs. Mets game since, I believe, 1988, although it could have been 1986–I remember either a Wrestlemania or Clash of the Champions was somehow conflicting with the game, and my emotions were torn. We went to the game, and I’m pretty sure the Yankees won, because in those days, even though the Yankees were god-awful, I hardly ever (if ever) saw them lose in person. There was that one game where they were down to Ken Griffey, Jr’s Seattle Mariners, but the rains came and the game was called and it didn’t count as a loss.
My family used to go to Shea as much if not more than Yankee Stadium, even though we were all Yankee fans (I was a serious fan, my parents followed, but weren’t obsessed)–The Bronx was a mess in those days, and more often than not you’d come out of the stadium to find a dude in a crack-induced haze leaning on your car. Shea was the safe, relatively clean ballpark of suburban choice, and when you’re a kid, you don’t even know that the place was a boring, soulless, concrete bowl. As I got older, the stadium–THE stadium–became the place to go. Shea was a second-rate substitute.
None of this is the point.
When I was in college, I got four tickets to Don Mattingly Day at The Stadium. I’m usually not one for attending the big milestone games–give me a slow Wednesday night in a relatively empty park–but this was Donnie Baseball, my all-time favorite player (right alongside the aforementioned Griffey, Jr, who I should post about sometime), and his number was being retired. You don’t get a lot of chances to properly thank someone as a sports fan. This was one of those rare chances. Two of the tickets went to my roommate Bobby and his little brother (who had earlier in the year left us a voice mail saying, in the tiniest voice imaginable: There was a sign at the Yankee game that said “Bernie, hit a'” and then it had a picture of Homer. This is Ariel. The other two tickets went to me and my dad. We sat in the very last row of the upper deck in right field: Row XX, I believe. My dad was thrilled by this, and we moved all the way into the corner so he could sit in the very last seat in the ballpark. I still think of that as my dad’s seat.
So we go to the Yankees/Mets (he had gotten tickets from a colleague or a golfing buddy), and the Yanks get just obliterated (12-2, I think), but we have a great time. We sat in the upper deck (not Row XX though), drank beers, and talked, about baseball, about The Bronx, about the mess that The Stadium is, about how gorgeous the new baseball cathedral next door is going to be. We didn’t talk about the father/son/baseball cliche, or about how he coached me in Little League and stayed active in the organization long after I had given it up. We didn’t talk about what we were talking about, which was, of course, that this was maybe the last time either of us would be in that stadium, and almost definitely the last time we’d both be in that stadium together, and the last times were very slowly going to start accumulating. Knock wood, we’re talking about a good twenty years of last times, but when even Yankee Stadium is announcing its mortality, it’s hard not to appreciate what’s coming.
The New Yankee Stadium is smaller than The Stadium.
Seats about 6,000 less fans. More luxury boxes, less fans.
There’s not going to be a Row XX.