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Yankee Stadium
Bronx, NY
Houston Astros at New York Yankees
June 10, 2003

By Ken Schlapp

The big trip has started (kind of).  As my first story indicated, I was supposed to go see the Yankees play the Cardinals on Saturday afternoon June 14, 2003, but my nephew Nick was graduating from high school that day (and I wasn't going to miss that), so I had to push the date up 1 day to June 12th. Since the Yankees play in my Hometown I had some flexibility.  However, I came across another glitch, I managed to contact at least one person from every Major League team to let them know about my trip, and all but two teams came through with complimentary tickets.  To no surprise, one of those teams was the mighty (greedy) Yankees, while the other was the Braves.  This makes me wonder if there was a conspiracy going on, since the Mets two biggest rivals were the only teams not willing to let me in free, I am assuming that someone must have tipped them off to my allegiance to the Mets.  Anyway, I was still determined to get into Yankees Stadium for free, so I managed to get free tickets through my friend Frank's company for the Tuesday June 10th game versus the Astros.  Therefore, even though the date I actually leave New York does not change, my 49-day cross-country trip actually turns into a 53-day journey.

The parking lots for Yankee Stadium are all different shapes and size around the stadium and all of them a pain to get in or out of.  Unfortunately, the area around the stadium is pretty congested and has been since before most people were driving to the games.  Therefore, I took the 6 train to the 4 train to 161st Street to get to the stadium after work and the 4 to the L train to get home.  This is just the best way to get there, plus when you go by train you can also feel the excitement of the other fans taking the train with you.  In addition, you can get a good view of the stadium from the subway platform at 161st street (which is elevated in this part of the Bronx). When you come out of the subway station you can feel the buzz all around you from the street vendors; the various baseball related stores, bars, fast food joints, and the fans waiting to get inside.

So far, it may appear that I have been a little biased against the Yankees (probably true), but as far as the stadium and the atmosphere are concerned, Yankees Stadium is a great place to see a baseball game. The "House that Ruth Built" is the third oldest stadium after Fenway and Wrigley having been completed in 1923 when the Yankees moved out of the Polo Grounds, whom they had shared with their National League rival New York Giants.  Although the Yankees moved away they didn't go too far, because the two stadiums were within 10 blocks of each other, with the Harlem River in between as well. Prior to the Polo Grounds, the Yankees played at Hilltop Park, which was on Broadway between 165th and 168th Streets in Manhattan.  There is still a plaque indicating the former site of the baseball stadium on the wall of the hospital that is now there. {Note that I will be going to see this landmark at the end of my trip.} Yankee Stadium was also remodeled between 1974 and 1975 (so much so that I'm not sure if it should still be considered the third oldest anymore) when the Yankees were forced to play in our (oops I mean Shea) Stadium.

Although I grew up in New York and have been to Yankee Stadium many times, I had never been to Monument Park before, so I made sure I got there early to do so for this game. Monument Park is open 2 hours before game time, but closes 45 minutes before the game starts.  There is always a big crowd waiting to get in before the game, so you have to make sure you're early. Also, note that it is really difficult to get into the stadium with any kind of a bag.  I bought a clear backpack specifically for this trip to be able to easily carry in my camera, notebook and souvenirs out of the stadium, but had to go through several people before they would finally let me in. Once inside, it's pretty special.  It is clear that the Yankees embrace their storied history from the Bambino to Jeter.  Monument Park is located behind the left centerfield wall, with plaques lining down in a garden like style of their hall of fame members.  Behind that is the famous monuments of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Miller Huggins, and Joe DiMaggio, which until they modernized the stadium in the 1970s, were actually in the field of play (about 460 feet away). Of coarse I asked someone to take a picture of me by the monuments, and when I told them (4 guys from Tennessee) what I was doing they asked me to take a picture of them with my camera as well.

After Monument Park, I walked all around the stadium to see all that is to offer inside instead of just going to my seat and watching the game (a tradition that I will follow in all other stadiums). You can get all kinds of food at the stadium in the food court on the first level as well as all the normal baseball food (hot dog, beer, pretzel, soda) anywhere in the stadium.  There are plenty of souvenir stands throughout the stadium to get whatever Yankee stuff you can think of. The one downside to my walk around the stadium is that the walkways are so narrow that it is difficult to navigate your way through as the fans are piling in. Once settled in, my friends Joel, Frank (the Frank that supplied the tickets), and Frank's brother all met me at the game.  Frank and his Brother are Yankee fans, but Joel is a Red Sox fan, so we were split down the middle 2-2 on who was rooting for which team.

Now finally to the game!

My timing was really off for the Yankee game.  The Yankees won this game 5-3, but if only I could have started my trip one day later!  The Yankees got no-hit by 6 Astro pitchers the next day (first time the Yanks were no-hit in over 50 years and the first time 6 pitchers combined to throw a no-no). And to boot the day I was originally supposed to go to on June 13th turned out to be the day Roger Clemens won his 300th game.  Although I would have been rooting against him, it still would have been cool to be there for an historic game.

The Yanks got on the scoreboard for the first time in the 5th inning when Soriano started off the rally with an infield hit with 1 out.  Kent then botched a double-play ball to second from Jeter only getting one out at first. Giambi followed with an RBI single and Posada hit a 2-run Homer to make the score 3-0.  All runs were earned because of an official ruling that you can't "assume" a double play, when in fact if it weren't for Kent blowing the double play the inning would have been over without any damage. Biggio hit a 2-run homer in the 6th to get the Astros back in the game, but the Yanks scored again in the bottom of the sixth on a controversial play. Matsui was on 3rd with one out when Mondesi hit a grounder to third, in which Ensberg swiped at Matsui and then threw to 1st to get Mondesi, but the ump did not call Matsui out so the Yankees got another run to make it 4-2 (replays on news after the game showed that no tag was made).  Ensberg homered in the 8th and Matsui singled in a run in the 8th to lead to the 5-3 final score. Mussina got the win, Miller got the loss, and Rivera entered the game in the 9th (to the tune of Metallica's "Enter Sandman") to get the save.  Posada and Matsui were the stars of this game, with Kent serving as the "Goat".

Another in-game Yankee tradition is that when the grounds crew come out to clean up the field in the 6th they stop at 2nd base to dance and make the symbols of "YMCA" while the Village People's song is playing.  I have to say that this might have been amusing the first time, but it's really corny and awful, and should just go away!  Like all teams, there is always some kind of electronic scoreboard race during the game, but the one at Yankee Stadium is pretty cool, because it's a race between the 4, D, and B Trains (which do actually go to the stadium) to see which one gets there first.  Then during the 7th inning stretch they play Kate Smith's version of "God Bless America", "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" (no changing of "Home Team" to "Yankees"), and "Cotton Eye Joe". 

Whether you love them or hate them, going to see a game at Yankees stadium is exciting.  The fans can be usually rowdy and obnoxious at times, and always vocal, but mostly in fun (unless it's a Red Sox jersey you are wearing).  If you are going to show up at the stadium with another team's logo on, you better be prepared to get razzed by the Yankee fans. In fact, when a few people, including me, did not get up for the wave (which should be banned from baseball in my opinion, considering that it means you're not paying attention to the game!), a few Yankee fans were yelling at us to "go back to Queens!"  Note that I'm not saying that you have to worry for your safety, just that the fans are loud and will goof on you at time, and on occasion the remarks can even be quite witty.

Overall, I still enjoyed my trip to the Bronx even though the Yankees won.

Basic trip facts:
* Miles traveled today - 20 via Subway (Totals: Driving - 0, Subway -
20, Air - 3,196, Total - 3,216)
* States, provinces and/or commonwealths passed through today - New
York (Totals: States - 1, Provinces - 0, Commonwealths - 1)
* Seats - Loge Section 26, Row B, Seat 1 - second level near the left field foul pole.
* Prices: Beer - $5.75 to $7.25, Hot Dog - $4.25 (Jumbo), Program (including pencil) - $5.00, Souvenir Soda Cup - $4.00
* Credit Card giveaway - Yankee stuffed bear or Yankee towel (note that I took the bear, because that will be easier to hide
* First Pitch -  7:10 PM
* Attendance - 37,602
* Results - Yankees 5, Astros 3,  W: Mussina, L: Miller, S: Rivera
* Home team record to date - 4 wins, 0 losses
* Record of "team I was routing for" to date - 0 wins, 4 losses
* Lodging - Home

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