by David O’Boyle Copyright 2021 Transient Visitors: Month 1 of 12, a Collection of Very Tiny Tales.
“Who needs tickets? Who wants tickets?”
During the reign of the old Yankee Stadium, that type of sales pitch screamed scam to native New Yorkers. However, to out-of-towners, it was chum in the water. They took the bait like sharks in a frenzy. Then scalpers hooked their money.
When the new stadium replaced the old one, such grifting went the way of the dinosaurs. Scalping became lawful commerce carried out by former hustlers turned quasi-customer service agents. Last season, they’d take your money and run. This year, they’d basically put on a bearskin hat and escort you to the turnstile for your tickets in clear, queen’s royal guard style.
“This place has lost its grit,” my dad grumbled.
It wouldn’t be a day out unless he complained about the younger generation of snowflakes snipping away at the fabric of American society. Making matters worse, we were standing in line waiting to scan our phone tickets. So, not only was he contending with snowflakes, he was up against technology, his ultimate foe.
I did my best to ignore him and not let his words take away from the spectacle before us. The golden granite and limestone hall of the New Yankee Stadium is a sport’s Sistine chapel. Yet while it is majestic; while it is a shrine to the American pastime; and while it is an architectural achievement; it’s not the House that Ruth built. And it never would be. The House that Ruth Built was created by divine baseball bat. The new place was created by men with trowels and tractors.
“I liked the old one better,” my dad said, annoyingly echoing my own thoughts. While I appreciated his honesty, I wished he kept those thoughts to himself. That is, unless he wanted to pay for his own last-minute ticket to a Yankees/Red Sox game.
But he had a point. I would have liked my kids to experience the Bronx in the glory days rather than now, especially with the rivals in town; I would have liked them to walk in from exit 4 or 5 on the Major Deegan and see the old jailhouse, a multi-floored building boxed in by barbed wire and barred windows; I would have liked them to hear the borough’s best jazz— the percussive pandemonium the inmates played from inside their cages after a Yankee win. I was their age [MM1] the first time I heard it. Coming full circle, it also was a Yankee/Red Sox game. From that day forward, I’d known the transcendent power of this organization. Even when justice wouldn’t serve man, there were the Yankees.
Yet now the jail was gone. A soulless Target stood in its place. In the land of the incarcerated, I couldn’t imagine a worse feeling than leaving a jailhouse overlooking Yankee stadium for a river view at Rikers.
A stroll through monument park when we got inside the stadium revived my positive energy. In fact, by the time we reached our left field seats, I didn’t even care to complain about the price of beer; or foam fingers; or jerseys; or more curly fries for the kids. Whatever anyone wanted, they got, within reason.
The baseball gods seemed to be rewarding my generosity. By the seventh inning stretch, the game was still close. As much as I like to drub the sox, I make an exception to that rule while in physical attendance. Nobody wants a blowout at the ballpark. When that happens, you feel gipped. Instead, you want what we had, a game where a knot forms in your stomach when a runner gets on first and the best hitter on the field is clicking his cleats in the batter’s box.
The pitcher snapped a curve over for strike one.
The batter belted strike two into the left field grandstand. A struggle in the row behind me ensued, which climaxed when the ball rolled down, right underneath my feet, right where both of my boys could pounce.
I don’t know how, but while they were down there, both boys had an equal hold on the ball. Before long, the scene became a spectacle—first in the section; then on the jumbotron; then on the YES network; and then on SportsCenter and YouTube and CNN.
What did that mean? It meant that in one way or another, the world bore witness to my next parenting move. Worse than the world, my wife, the biggest Yankee fan in the family, was too. Damn work from home. She never missed a game since going remote. You try to do something nice, you know? And what happens? You end up stuck in a predicament worthy of Solomon without any of his wisdom.
Thankfully my dad had some.
He yanked the ball from both of his grandson’s hands and chucked it back onto the field.
“Sorry, boys. Red Sox home run. Had to toss it back,” he said.
The crowd, including my two boys, cheered wildly in support of dad/grandpa’s dedicated fandom.
I did the same, for that reason and more.