Memories from The Stadium

While working on a project, I started writing about some of my many trips to Yankee Stadium. I ended up writing a lot and it’s attached to this post. You may want to skip it, especially if you’re not a Yankees fan.

I became a Yankee fan through my father and grandfather. Both were fans, and it was easy to become a fan in New York with games always on television or on the radio and Yankees stories in the paper.

My parents divorced when I was young, and while I lived year-round with my mother in Staten Island, I spent a lot of time (weekends, holidays, summers) with my father in New Jersey.

I was lucky growing up that during summers, even though he lived in Jersey, my father would take me to a few games each year. We eventually purchased the ‘Sunday plan’ for 1997 and 1998. When I was old enough, I’d go to the stadium with friends, or even by myself for a time or two. I don’t remember every single time I’ve been to the stadium, but here are some of the most memorable and entertaining (at least to me). I should thank Retrosheet for filling in the dates for some of these.

My first time at the Stadium was July 22 1984 (I was six years old), for a day game against the Twins. Our seats were on the first level, behind home, but up. Dave Winfield hit a home run in the first, and the Yankees won in the bottom of the ninth as Willie Randolph singled in Bobby Meacham. I remember Sgt. Slaughter was in the owner’s box and they showed him on the big screen during one of the breaks in between the innings. I was just getting into wrestling at the time, so it was neat to see the two worlds collide.

In addition to my father taking me to games, every summer, when my mother enrolled me in the YMCA day camp (at Camp Pouch on Staten Island), I’d go to games organized by the camp. The seats were always horrible (in right field fair territory, all the way up on the third level). We’d do a lot of chanting- specifically for Dave Winfield. Every now and then, we’d get a wave (too bad we didn’t do it for the whole team, then we’d have created the roll call ten years early). One game I remember was August 24, 1988 (I think it was my second-to-last year in camp). The Yankees were down 4-1 going into the eighth. Don Slaught hit a sacrifice tie to bring in one run, but that was it for the eighth inning. It was at that point our counselors decided to bring us back to the buses. As we filed out of the stadium, Scott Neilsen gave up two more runs and more fans started leaving. We made it out of the stadium and back to the bus as the bottom of the ninth was starting. But some of the groups from our camp hadn’t made it back, so we stood outside the bus as the game continued inside the stadium. One of my friends bought those in-ear radios they used to (probably still do) sell at the stadium gift shop and was listening to the bottom of the ninth on it, letting us know what was going on. The fans inside were cheering–a Ken Phelps home run tied up the game and a Rickey Henderson single won it for the Yankees, as we waited outside the stadium. And we missed it all. It was a good thing there was only one day of camp left that year, because the counselors were not popular people.

After I graduated eighth grade, my father was able to get some tickets for a day game. The tickets were about five rows behind the Yankee dugout. The game was in July of 91 vs. Seattle. The Yankees lost, but before the game I got Mike Ferraro’s autograph. I remember before the game watching the players on each team talk with each other (BP was cancelled that day on account of clouds) –the one thing that still stands out to today is watching our rookie Bernie Williams laugh and joke around with Ken Griffey Jr. It’s weird looking back and thinking about this today, because in my mind, I can still see those “kids” joking around and having a good time.

In my freshman year of college, my father got the same exact seats for the second home game of the ’96 season. The Yankees beat the Royals thanks to Jimmy Key (he didn’t do that great that day, but he and Cone were my favorite pitchers and it was good to see Key back on the mound after missing most of ’95 due to injury) and a Ruben Sierra home run. Before the game, Wade Boggs was signing autographs for a group of kids. I went down with my yearbook, and Boggs said he’d sign for me after he signed for the kids. I was kind of talking to him as he was signing, but after a few minutes Willie Randolph called him over. But then Derek Jeter came over to sign for the kids. As I fumbled my yearbook trying to find his page, he said he’d sign for me after he signed for the kids. I talked with him too for a few minutes (all the time calling him Mr. Jeter), but then, he too got called away. As a side note, I’d have happily traded my Mike Ferraro autograph for either of these two.

The next day, I went with a group of friends from my dorm floor. One of them had wanted to see Doc Gooden pitch his first home start. He got his wish and Doc was atrocious. But it was fun going to the Stadium on a Friday night with a bunch of college buddies.

Went to a few other games in ’96. The only other memorable one was on August 21, a day game vs. the Angels (not sure what municipality they were affiliated with at the time). My father, brother and I went- and our tickets were in left field, in fair territory. The Yankees lost (7-1), with their only run coming off a Derek Jeter homerun in the first Yankees AB of the game. But it was a home run by the Angels that made the game memorable. Like I said, we were sitting in the outfield main level seats. My father was on the aisle, I was a few seats in and my brother was between us. Chili Davis hit the first of his two home runs in the first inning. The ball was coming right for us…everyone in our area went grabbing for the ball. But no one got it on the fly. The ball bounced off the concrete and hit my father in the arm. My father, who was just sitting there, looked shocked and said “what was that?” Evidently lost in the excitement, he didn’t even realize he had been hit by a home run.

With the Yankees winning the World Series in ’96, and my brother and I getting even more into the game my father thought it would be a great time to get tickets on a regular basis. He went for the ‘Sunday Plan’ and for two seasons we were regulars in Section 22 in the second level on Sunday afternoons.

Even though we lived in Jersey and Sunday games started at 1:05, every day we had tickets for, we would leave early enough to get there by 11:30 (noon at the latest). We even developed routines–if the line for Monument Park wasn’t that long, we’d stop by and visit. We’d go to one of the gift shops, where I’d get a program, and my father would buy a handful of Yankees pens (he still buys pens on a regular basis) Then we’d work our way to the sausage stand behind the press box for some sausage. Then we’d stop at our seats, watch BP and eat. And just as the three of us had a game routine, I had an eating routine. Back then, I was in college and had a bottomless stomach. I also was able to quickly make it from our seats to one of my favorite food locations without missing much of the action. And if something big was happening, I knew where to stop to look- either at the handicap accessible location behind home plate or at a TV somewhere. But my food routine usually involved a visit to the Stadium Food Court in the third or so inning for a Roast Beef and Cheese sandwich (and I was very unhappy when they discontinued the roast beef and cheese in September of 98 for a variety of wraps) and then a visit to the outside cafe after Cotton Eyed Joe for a barbecued chicken sandwich. And I also had my share of hot dogs. I lived the George Costanza philosophy of ballpark food not being real food.

The sausage stand near the press box (I believe it was called Sausages, Etc. back in the day) was always a great place to meet “famous” people. I’ve seen Joe Morgan, John Sterling, Michael Kay and other local sports reporters waiting in line. Everyone was approachable–but I guess you can’t not talk to people while standing in line, waiting for sausage.

We had a lot of fun in those seats for the Sunday games. For one game in late April ’97, my father couldn’t make it, so he gave the tickets to me and I brought along a good friend from college (Jon). Jon was from Wisconsin and wasn’t a baseball or Yankees fan…that is, until the game was over. It was fun being along for his first time at the Stadium. There was another time that my father didn’t use the tickets that I’m kind of bitter about. In May of ’98, my father gave the tickets to his secretary so she could take her granddaughter to Beanie Baby Day. Of course, he let her…and we missed David Wells’ perfect game.

Even with the Sunday tickets, I found other ways to go to the stadium. Every now and then, Seton Hall would sponsor trips to the stadium. And the tickets were just like the ones we’d get at the YMCA camp- all the way in the upper deck. The only real memorable time with school was on September 4, ’97. The Yankees lost the game to the Orioles. But my friends and I were on the Jumbotron during Cotton-Eyed Joe. And people at school had seen us, because Channel 11 used a shot of us dancing like maniacs while coming back from a commercial–so we were like minor celebrities for a day or two.

Sometime in ’97 (actually, May 21), a friend and I decided at about 5 in the afternoon to go to that night’s game at the stadium. We were ready to buy upper deck tickets, but while standing in line at one of the ticket booths, we were waved over by this older guy in another booth. He said he just got two tickets, field level, behind home plate and we could have them for $35. We went for it, and our tickets were two rows behind home plate. It was pretty incredible because Roger Clemens was pitching, and even though he was playing for the Blue Jays, it felt like he was pitching right at us. He struck out a lot of Yankees that day (12, according to retrosheet), and the Yankees lost (but with Kenny Rogers on the mound, they really had no chance of winning).

My first post season game at the stadium was also in ’97. But instead of being two rows behind home plate, we were two rows from the back wall of the upper deck. But we were straight away behind home. That was the game where Raines, Jeter and O’Neill hit back-to-back-to-back home runs, and the stadium was electric that night.

We also had the Sunday tickets for ’98, and got to go to Opening Day that year. That was a long game, with the two teams scoring 30 runs in nine innings. I think we might have left that one early. A few weeks after Opening Day, the stadium was closed because of a steel beam that fell out of the upper deck. I later found out it fell on and crushed the seat that was right in front of mine (and when it was empty, I’d put my feet on it). Even after the stadium was reopened and the seat replaced, it was still pretty freaky thinking that a steel beam crushed the seat right in front of mine. Of course, knowing that George sat in that seat the day the stadium was reopened, I began to re-think placing my feet on the seat. But after a few games, I was back to doing it again.

I went to a game in each round of the post season that year–Game 3 of the ALDS, Game 6 of the ACLS (with my Met-loving roomate), and Game 1 of the WS. ’98 was a really special year, and I remember in June or so of that year, everyone just having the feeling that the Yankees were doing something special. And each time I was there that year, the Stadium had that feeling.

Most of the few games I went to in ’99 were unmemorable ones–I think psychologically, I still hadn’t let go of ’98. The only memorable one was game 4 of the World Series. I was planning on watching it on TV, but my father called me at 3 or so in the afternoon saying he got two tickets–but he couldn’t go. So I called up my friend Jon (who was still in school, but by this time had converted to being a Yankee fan), drove up to Seton Hall, picked him up and drove to the Stadium. That was an incredible experience–and in a way, it exorcised the ghosts of ’98. There were rumors that Paul O’Neill’s dad was real sick and some other Yankees were going through personal issues, but to see them playing knowing all that was going on, and to actually be there on the day the Yankees won a World Series was the perfect experience as a fan.

On a side note, I still have a hand-copied “Ban Jim Grey” sign that someone was handing out outside the stadium.

Since Game 4 in ’99, I’ve only been to the Stadium once.

I moved to Ohio in January 2000. In the summer of 2002, Jon (who had moved back home to Wisconsin) and I planned a trip to go out to NY and go to a game. We got tickets for August 9- the Yankees were hosting the A’s. It was a Friday night and our seats were in the upper deck. The game went 16 innings, and Jon and I stayed for the whole thing. The Yankees lost, but at least we got our moneys worth.

It’s hard to believe it’s been five years since I’ve been to the Stadium. I’m sad to see it go, but I know that it’s time for a new one. I’d like to go back one more time next year. But if I don’t, at least I have memories of my father getting hit by a Chili Davis home run, being on the big screen, and game 4.

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