Thursday, May 21, 2009

The House That George Built

Of course you know, the title is not in reference to George Herman Ruth.

New Yankee Stadium
On Sunday, I made my first visit to the new Yankee Stadium. In fact, the tickets—and an overnight trip to midtown Manhattan—were birthday gifts from the undisputed Queen of gift giving. Neil Young tickets, home brew labels, and now Yankees tickets—that's pretty close to impossible to top.

Not surprisingly, I was pretty impressed with the new digs, but as I once said, the Yankees definitely have the means to build the ultimate state of the art ballpark. Is this stadium the ultimate? At this point, I've seen so many excellent new baseball venues that I'm really not sure that it stands out as being the best place to watch a game, but it certainly measures up. One thing's for sure, though, it's absolutely majestic, possibly to the point of being extravagant, and the New York fans are paying for it—and I don't just mean those who are shelling out for the now infamous $2500 seats.

Great HallWe entered directly into what they're apparently calling the Great Hall, a 31,000 square foot corridor inside the stadium that "... serves as a boulevard to retail stores and food and beverage amenities," according to the Yankees' web site. It's also lined with large double-sided banners displaying Yankee legends of old—in black and white—on one side, and more recent stars—in color—on the other.

One of the first vendors we saw in the Great Hall was a "Retro Beer" stand, which featured $9 16-ounce cans of Schaefer, Ballantine, Pabst Blue Ribbon and Schlitz, sold by workers in old New York Highlanders uniforms. The uniforms were a nice touch—the Yanks were known as the Highlanders from 1903 to 1912—but with New York City's rich history in brewing, they could have chosen better than the Milwaukee-based Schlitz and Pabst. Also, I'm not sure if this qualifies as a relative "bargain," but, in my opinion, those beers are tough enough to swallow at a reasonable price. The best selection I could find to satisfy my beer snobbery was an $8.50 bottle of Brooklyn Lager—poured into a plastic cup, of course.

The game was exciting, but the crowd wasn't. I was wondering if it was just this particular game that the fans were much more tame—although there were a couple of obnoxious dudes sitting near us—than usual, or if it's a product of the higher ticket prices. My opinion of the crowd was seconded by my good friend Lee, so I suspect the latter is the case.

In the fans' defense, I suppose, is the fact that this was possibly the first pitchers duel in the short history of the new stadium. Both Yankees' starter A.J. Burnett and Twins' starter Kevin Slowey held their opponents scoreless through six innings. Both teams got on the board with two runs in the 7th of a game that eventually went to extra frames, with Johnny Damon's walk-off solo home run winning it in the 10th for the Yanks.

The game's most exciting play, though, came in the bottom of the 9th with the score knotted at two. Yankees speedster Brett Gardner, who came on as a pinch-runner for Nick Swisher, was on second with one out. Francisco Cervelli hit what initially looked to be a certain game-winning hit back up the middle, but Twins' left-hander Jose Mijares reached behind his back and got what appeared to be his wrist on the ball, which caromed back towards home plate.

Catcher Joe Mauer came up with the ball and started to throw to first base, in an attempt to retire Cervelli, but stopped. Gardner had apparently already decided that he had no intention of stopping at third. As he rounded the bag full steam and raced towards home, Mauer reacted quickly, and used every inch of his athletic 6'5" frame to dive in the direction of the plate and tag out Gardner just in the nick of time.

I briefly questioned Gardner's decision at the time, but quickly reconsidered and decided that his aggressiveness was worth the risk. In fact, after seeing the replay later, I'm convinced that Mauer—tall, young and athletic—is the only catcher in all of baseball who would have made this play.

Lastly, the food was very good, and there were numerous options for more than just your standard ballpark food. The popcorn smelled terrific, in fact, and the line for that was quite long, but the rest of the lines at concessions were bearable. The food, actually, was better than at the restaurant we visited the night before, but I'll get to that in a later post. All in all, it was a great first visit to the new Yankee Stadium.


  1. Glad you liked the new Stadium. It'll be a while before I get there, but I'm looking forward to it.

  2. Glad you gave the thumbs up after all. The lousy crowds are a product of too many distractions! Everyone's either walking around looking at stuff, hanging out in these stupid private clubs they have, or just plain lost. There wasn't anything to do at the old stadium but sit in your seats and drink beer, so everyone hooted and hollered and really watched the games.