In honor of the season being over for the Yanks, I publish this piece of nostalgia today.
When it was a game…as in…when it was a game somebody could afford to go to. Recently a friend asked me if I’d seen the Met game that day. Met game? I haven’t watched 10 minutes of baseball the entire season. Zero interest…at least until October when I might watch a game if either the Mets or Yankees are involved. But it wasn’t always that way for me.
As a child, I went to all the ball parks in the Metropolitan area. Yup! I saw the Bums lose a twin bill at Ebbets Field. I watched Jimmie Pearsall run the bases backwards when he hit his 100th career home run at the Polo Grounds. I was at the park when Roger Maris hit his 61st home run. And best of all, I saw Mickey Mantle pinch hit a home run at the original Yankee Stadium when he was drunk!
But baseball was different back then. Players worked off season jobs because they weren’t paid enough to make ends meet. The boys mostly stayed put with the teams that signed them because for better or worse, they were more or less indentured servants thanks to the owners’ reserve clause. And attendance (skyrocketing prices notwithstanding) was nothing like it is today. Yankee Stadium was huge. And even in their glory years, The Bombers only drew 20 or 30 thousand fans for a Sunday doubleheader. And that’s another thing! What happened to all the doubleheaders? And the answer to that is “gone!” When scrubs earn 2 million bucks a year those twofers are a thing of the past…unless it’s a day/night affair with two separate admissions.
At the tender age of 13, the parents in our Long Island neighborhood deemed it safe enough to let boys go to ball games unattended. And so…here was the program: We’d catch the Grant Park bus at 9:30 AM headed to Jamaica where we picked up the E train and then rode 30 stops to Columbus Circle to switch to the D which took us to the stadium in time for batting practice. Once inside the park with our $1.30 grandstand tickets, we’d head for right field to try and snag a batting practice homer from the box seats where kids were allowed to hang until the beginning of the game.
Once the game started, we generally went behind the plate to the very top of the third deck for the duration. It may sound like a crappy seat but in actuality, you could see the game perfectly – except for the posts that ran through left and right field in the old stadium. And those were the seats from which I watched the Mick hit his drunken pinch hit homer.
With no bored parents to make us leave, we’d stay until the bitter end, departing between 8 and 9 o’clock and finally arriving home by 10 or 11! For a grand total of $2.10 (including the cost of the bus and subway) plus maybe a buck for two hot dogs, a coke and a bag of peanuts…it was an awesome deal for kids and parents alike. They got rid of us for 14 hours…and we had the time of our lives hanging out in the rafters.
I just checked out the Yankee website to see how much ticket prices have risen. Unbelievable! Those dollar thirty seats are now fifty bucks! The bleachers have gone from 75 cents to $20! What the fuck?
Everything has changed nowadays. Thirteen year old kids can’t ride the subway alone anymore. And that $2.10 price tag has risen to near $100! I know all about inflation but come on! For a fucking baseball game?
The beautiful thing now is that the color TV my mother bought in 1963 for $400 currently costs $200. And it’s three times as big and in HD with a crystal clear cable TV picture!
Thus, you won’t find me at the ball game anytime soon. I don’t need to pay exorbitant prices to watch spoiled millionaires play a boy’s game – especially when I can see it so much better on TV! But it would be nice just once to be able to go to the Stadium…sit in the rafters with nobody within 100 seats of any of us…and watch Mickey Mantle hit a homer…and then say something like “ya know…he sells suits at Robert Hall’s in the off season.”
File that one under “long time gone.” I feel sorry for the kids who never saw baseball back when it was really a game…when you rooted for a real guy instead of the uniform he wears for just one season. It might sound corny but trust me…if you’ve ever seen Mickey Mantle hit a 400 foot line-drive homer that never rose more than 15 feet off the ground…from a buck thirty seat 200 feet above the playing field behind home plate…you know what I’m talkin’ about!
P.S. You might note that this photo, taken from just about where I was sitting on the third base line, was shot moments after ROGER MARIS hit his record-breaking 61st home run. Mom worked at an ad agency which had season tickets. Because the last game of the year (when Maris hit his homer) was meaningless and nobody else wanted to go, the boss gifted her with 4 tickets. And that’s how I ended up attending the game. You can see that it’s 2:51 in the afternoon – and the Yankees are in the field for the top of the 5th.