Tag Archives: Yankee Stadium

A DISAPPOINTING “NEW” YANKEE STADIUM

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

            

I was hoping for the best but wasn’t overly confident. I was one of those life-long Yankee fans who had hoped that the Yankees would stay in The House That Ruth Built. I didn’t think they could bring the ghosts across the street but I was hopeful. I’ve now been to the new Stadium three times, sitting in three different areas and, frankly, it just ain’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

       

DOES IT REMIND YOU OF THE OLD (EARLY 1970S AND BEFORE) STADIUM?

      

Not to me it doesn’t. If it did, you’d have the old bullpens (in left-center and right-center) on either side of the bleachers where, back in the good old days, if you could only afford the bleachers, you could lean over and talk to Steve Hamilton or whichever guys were out there. If it did, you’d have only a four-foot or so fence in rightfield and leftfield where players would sometimes literally go into the stands to get a ball. If it did, you’d have that beautiful Yankee logo on the scoreboard in dead center that would always be there.

        

Sure the façade is back (and that’s great), but the curtains or blinds or whatever it is all around the stadium (that may or may not be contributing to balls flying out of there) actually blend in with the façade at times to make it look very strange. Sure the scoreboards in the right-centerfield and left-centerfield walls are back (and that’s great), but they seem smaller than the old versions and they’re harder to see (no electricity and smaller size numbers on the boards). The crowds aren’t quite there (or maybe they are but everybody’s just walking around?), but it’s hard to believe that, when it’s rocking, it’s going to be like it was across the street in October/November (the May/June cheering sounds muffled for some reason).

            

WHERE HAVE YOU GONE, MONUMENT PARK?

         

Well, it’s there, but you really have to go looking for it. It’s buried behind the big blue wall in dead center, but it seems much smaller. You can never get on line to get in there 45 minutes before game time (you’d better get on line more like 90) because you can’t (it’s “closed”) and, when you do go in, you get a claustrophobic feeling. It’s way too small, it’s out of view and, if you sit at field level from first base all the way around to third base, you literally can’t see Monument Park. It’s more like Monument Alcove. What happened?

              

The Yankees can’t fix that but they can do this: in a stadium where clearly you’re encouraged to walk around or sit in a restaurant or watch half the game on TV, why not open Monument Park DURING THE GAME? I personally just like to go to the Stadium to watch the game. I care very little about the “extras.” But, apparently, many others do. So if you want them to mill around and spend money and eat in five-star (or whatever) restaurants, why not open Monument Park so anybody who wants to see it can see it.

         

WHAT ABOUT ALL THOSE EMPTY SEATS?

               

Well, there were thousands of them at the three games I’ve been to in person. It’s not just the seats behind home – you know, the ones for the rich and famous. Up the third-base line, in two sections of what I’m told are $600 seats (but only $225 on the ticket – what’s up with that?), those sections are virtually always empty (although the Yankees are, apparently, giving away some of those seats to disgruntled season-ticket holders). And, if you’d like, you can go to Yankees.com right now and buy three season tickets in that area (between sections 115 and 125) and “get the fourth one FREE.” Yippee! How many of THOSE plans are they going to sell?

             

WHAT ABOUT ALL THOSE SEATS WHERE YOU CAN’T SEE THE WHOLE FIELD?

            

The seats against the Mohegan Sun restaurant on either side in the bleachers are laugh-out-loud funny. They’ve literally mounted three big-screen TVs on each wall of the outside of the restaurant cause you can’t possibly see the other side of the field from where you are sitting. In other words, if you’re against the wall in the bleachers in left-center, you have no chance to see right field or maybe even parts of the infield.

            

But, hey, don’t worry, the Yankees solved that. You can watch it on TV and the seats are only $5. Isn’t that great? Go to the game to sit next to a wall and watch half the game on TV. Mistakes were made. What can the Yankees do? Unbelievable.

            

WHAT ABOUT THAT GREAT JUMBOTRON (OR WHATEVER IT’S CALLED)?

                 

Well, what about it. It’s big, it’s beautiful and it never shows you a negative Yankee replay. A guy on the other team hits a home run or makes a great play on the field. You won’t see it again on the big screen. A Yankee makes a mistake – sorry. A bang-bang play that doesn’t go the Yankees’ way. Don’t hold your breath waiting for the replay.

                

And, even though this may be the greatest big-screen TV in history, it only has room for what each batter did in three at-bats; if a player has been up four times, the biggest screen in the world can’t tell you what he did in all four previous at-bats. For example, Mark Teixeira homered in his fourth at-bat against Tampa Bay on Saturday, June 6th. When he came up to bat in the bottom of the ninth, the big board showed that he had popped up in the first, grounded out to short in the third and grounded out to short in the sixth. There was no room to tell you about that mammoth (Ruthian?) homer he had just hit in the eighth.

            

Now that’s something they have to be able to fix, no? You can’t make this stuff up.

         

HOW’S THE FOOD?

             

The food is great at those fancy restaurants. I was fortunate to go once to those close to the dugout expensive seats and eat in the fancy restaurant (as well as the Ketel Bar) at the game. While many people may want to do that (and that’s their right at $600 a pop), it seemed to me (as I was trying the lamb, I think) that this was over-the-top, opulent, something that the wealthy Romans would have had at the Coliseum if they had luxury suites way back when. When they start bringing you “free” food that you didn’t even order, it got to be a little weird. But, you know, it’s all part of the “experience,” it’s not just baseball, it’s “entertainment.”

              

Good grief!

               

When I got back to reality at the other two games, I had to take note of the $5 peanuts and the $5.75 Cracker Jack and the $4 cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee (small, by the way). I went down to Johnny Rockets to look at the $17 burger and fries but passed on it in favor of the $5 water (a large). Yikes!

        

A buddy of mine had a great experience at the 11-inning loss to the Phillies on May 24th. He had heard that the hot fudge sundaes at the Delta Air Lines Suite were fabulous. He couldn’t wait to try one and so, when I saw that the line was long in the sixth inning, I told him to go on up. He came back 45 minutes later with a hot fudge sundae without the hot fudge (they had run out by the seventh inning). He also had to eat it with a fork (they had run out of spoons). But, hey, it was only eight bucks.

             

WHAT ABOUT THOSE FABULOUS OLD-TIME PICTURES OF THE YANKEE GREATS FROM YESTERYEAR?

           

They are truly fantastic. I encourage all of you to go see them. They give you a real sense of Yankee history. Except for one thing — THEY DON’T TELL YOU THE NAMES OF THESE GUYS. Seriously. The Yankees should immediately label every picture in the place (OK, maybe you can wait on pictures of the Babe. Gehrig, Dimaggio and Mantle). But 21st Century fans, for the most part, have no idea who Red Ruffing or Charlie Keller or Joe Gordon or (fill in 200 names here) are – they just don’t know. So, please, tell us.

          

IT’S A NICE PLACE TO VISIT …

           

It’s going to be a while before this remotely resembles the past – at least a championship or two. Until then, the least the Yankees can do is identify their greats of the past.

          

Oh, and one more thing, when I ask one of those guys with the “May I Help You” signs (there are dozens, maybe hundreds, walking around) if they can lower ticket prices, maybe they can now answer “Yes, come with me.” Just kidding. I think.

                  

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

Advertisements

YANKEE STADIUM A BANDBOX? THAT’S WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE.

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

         

Hard to believe, but the new Yankee Stadium, obstructed-view seats and all, is playing like a bandbox.  Homer after homer after homer, the balls are flying out of the new Stadium, even making the deflated “Death  Valley” (that’s the post-1975 Stadium) not so hard to reach anymore.

    

As the ahead-of-the-pack Lou Piniella predicted when his Cubs were in for two exhibition games right before the season started, there’s some kind of jet stream in right centerfield that will increase greatly the number of home runs that will be hit.  Coupled with the always-there (since 1923) short right-field porch, homers are leaving Yankee Stadium like there’s no tomorrow.  With TWENTY (yes, 20) homers in just four games, Yankee Stadium is already being compared to the Rangers ballpark in Arlington which, if nothing else, should make former Ranger A-Rod salivate as he does his rehab.

        

SO, WHAT’S A BASEBALL TEAM TO DO WITH A BILLION DOLLAR BANDBOX?

     

Well, that’s a great question.  The theory (blind hope?) is that, when the old Stadium is knocked down across the street, the winds and the jet stream will somehow change so that players can’t lunge and/or be fooled and/or hit the ball off the end of the bat and still hit the ball out of the park.  You can bet that, whatever the original date for knocking down the old Stadium was, it’s going to be moved up.  If that is really going to help, the Yankees want to tear down the old Stadium yesterday (even if fans like this writer think it should stand forever).

    

What about those open screens in right field behind the stands?  Well, presumably the Yankees are already experimenting with opening or closing them (part way or all the way) to see what effect, if any, they have on the jet stream.  Imagine a situation where the Yankees might try to keep them open when the Yankees are up and close them when the visitors come to the plate.  If it comes to that (and if there actually is some kind of effect on the jet stream), the league will have to step in and make sure it’s equal for both sides.

       

BUT IT MAY NOT BE JUST RIGHT FIELD

     

While you can point to a number of home runs as great evidence that balls that were not hit very well went out for homers, I think the best proof of the easiness of this ballpark was a double.  Did you see the Yankees 7-3 win over the Indians on Sunday, Apriln19th?  Cody Ransom came to bat in the bottom of the eighth with the bases loaded and proceeded to break his bat in half and hit a high pop up (fly ball?) down the left-field line.  While everybody made a point of the fact that the ball was misplayed by Indians left-fielder Shin-Soo Choo, the real story was that Ransom, who certainly has some power, broke his bat in half and still hit the ball 310 feet down the left-field line.  Imagine if he had hit it solidly and didn’t break his bat in half.  That ball says more about the new Yankee Stadium than any home run that’s been hit to date.

       

So the Yankees have their work cut out for them on a number of levels.  What to do with Chien-Ming Wang?  Joba Chamberlain – starter or reliever?  Do they need another outfielder yesterday? 

       

But, most of all, they need to do something about the field that’s playing like a softball field.  We’ll see what they come up with in the not-too-distant future.

       

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

THE NEW YANKEE STADIUM – NO TRADITION AND NO BAT DAY

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

    

So they opened the new Yankee Stadium yesterday.  It’s big, it’s beautiful – but it’s not quite there.  Can you walk across the street and bring the history of the old Yankee Stadium?  Of course not.  Can you walk across the street and bring the ghosts of yesteryear (or even 10 years ago)?  Probably not.

    

But hey, they’ve got more urinals, a bigger Jumbotron and you can buy sushi!!!  If you can afford it.  Like Madison Square Garden before it, the Yankee crowd has become more of a corporate crowd.  It’s not as bad as the Garden has become, but only because you can fit three times as many people at the Stadium as at the Garden.  So, although they’ve priced out many people (and that’s before the absurd parking, program and food prices), it will give the façade (no pun intended) of being in the pre-1974 Stadium.  But no matter what they do, they can’t bring back the glory of the old Stadium (unless and until they win a few (not just one) World Series).

       

WHERE THE GREATS ONCE PLAYED

     

And don’t ever forget that, until now, you could take your kid, as your father took you, as his father took him, to the real Yankee Stadium and say the following: “Son, see out there in rightfield, that’s where Babe Ruth once played.”  Or, “Son, see out there in centerfield, that’s where Joe Dimaggio and Mickey Mantle once roamed.”  Or, “Son, see over there at first base, that’s where Lou Gehrig used to stand.”

    

So, you have a young kid now or you’ll have one born in the next few years and in two or five or ten or fifteen years from now you will take your child to the new Yankee Stadium and you will say, “Son [or Daughter], you know about the history of the Yankees, about Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig and Joe Dimaggio and Mickey Mantle, you know all about them, right?  Well, they once played, they once played, they once played … across the street.”  Good grief.

      

WHERE HAVE YOU GONE, BAT DAY?

         

As if to make matters worse, much has been made of the fact that there are many less “promotion” days this year, presumably because of the recession (depression?).  Well, with the list out now and still with a few promotion days where the promotion is “TBD” (to be determined), there’s no Bat Day.  No Bat Day?  This is Yankee Stadium?

    

But even Bat Day ain’t what it used to be.  Once upon a time, when, you know, kids actually USED wood bats, everybody would beg, borrow or steal to get into the old Yankee Stadium to get a bat.  Then they would go home, get the bat laminated and place it on their mantel over the fireplace to hang forever.  Right?  WRONG.  Back in the 1960s into the 70s, kids actually got a bat at Bat Day and took it home and played baseball with it.  You know, on the street, in the park, in the Little League.  I grew up in the Inwood section of upper Manhattan and went to Bat Day every year and don’t know anybody who “saved’ their bat.  Of course, none of us could really afford new bats.  That’s why we went to Bat Day.

    

Nowadays, of course, and, frankly, for the last 25 years or so, with the advent of aluminum bats (pathetic), hardly anybody uses their wood bats.  With the re-emergence of wood in some leagues, maybe kids (of Little League age) would actually take the bats and use them.  But, of course, there isn’t even a Bat Day to date this year.  Maybe somebody with a brain at Yankee Stadium can fix that.

         

DOES THE NEW YANKEE STADIUM REMIND OLD-TIMERS OF THE 1923-1973 YANKEE STADIUM?

         

You bet it does.  But, what does that really mean?  It’s kind of a phony feeling, frankly.  What are you going to tell your kids?  “Yeah, this is what it was like.”  What does that mean?  I don’t think the ghosts of Ruth, Gehrig, Dimaggio and Mantle are coming across the street.  I’m not even sure that the ghosts of Martinez, O’Neill, Williams and Brosius are coming across the street.

    

And, as a life-long Yankee fan, I hope I’m wrong.

       

HOW ABOUT THOSE OBSTRUCTED SEATS?

        

Can you believe that, in the 21st Century, they can actually build a Stadium with obstructed seats?  Well, believe it, cause that’s what happened.  With the greatest architects and the greatest planners and the greatest contractors, they actually have hundreds (thousands?) of seats where you can’t see a lot of the field.  But, hey, they’re cheap, so maybe poor people can come to the Stadium.  Yeah, maybe they can actually watch the game – from somewhere else.  Unbelievable.

        

WHAT GOOD IS A BIGGER, BETTER JUMBOTRON IF THEY DON’T SHOW ALL THE REPLAYS? 

       

For years, big-time Yankee fans have complained that the Yankees would never show replays of plays that were bad for the Yankees — the great catch by an opponent, the pitch right down the middle that’s called against the Yankees, the bang-bang play that hurts the Yankees, the long home run by an opponent.  It’s one of the least enjoyable (and most aggravating) things about actually going to a game at Yankee Stadium.  So maybe, this year, the Yankees will decide to show replays for both sides so, you know, baseball fans can see the baseball play again.  It’s beautiful that you can see a bigger, clearer picture – but how valuable is it if the Yankees continue to censor what’s actually being shown to a captive audience?  We’ll see. 

         

WHO’S THROWING OUT THE FIRST BALL? 

              

It would be great if the Yankees could trot out, one final time, Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra for the first ball on the real Opening Day.  Maybe Whitey can’t throw it and maybe Yogi can’t catch it anymore, but, hopefully, they can both be on the field if healthy enough.  Also, it would be great if Bob Sheppard (is he “retired” or not?) could at least announce, even from a distance, the starting line-ups, if nothing else.

    

Those two things would remind people of the glory days as much as (or more than) anything else.

 

SO, WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE US?

       

Well, it leaves us with an over-priced (tickets, parking, programs, food) stadium that purports to be just like the old Yankee Stadium.  Can the new one ever take the place of the old one?  Of course not.  Will it have a heart, a pulse, an excitement that equals that of the old Yankee Stadium?  Well, yeah, it will – when the Yankees unfurl another World Series banner or two.  And not before.

    

We’ll see how it goes.

            

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

THE GOOD — AND THE BAD — AT THE END OF YANKEE STADIUM

      

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

I was fortunate to be in the building last night for the final game at Yankee Stadium.  The game was expected to be anticlimactic – and that turned out to be true.  But getting in was a disaster and the future, in a new, expensive building across the street, is anything but bright.

But first, one had to actually get into the building yesterday.  You may have heard the plan.  The Stadium would be open from 1-4 in the afternoon so fans could go through Monument Park and literally walk on the field (at least around it on the warning track), a once common-place occurrence that hasn’t been allowed for decades.  Lining up at 1:45 at Gate 2 to do that (when I was a little kid a hundred years ago, I routinely walked out of the bleachers with my father after 30 or 35 games a year to walk on the field and touch the (three, at the time) monuments in dead-center on my way to the D train), I saw lots of people in their 60s, 70s and even their 80s there to do something they had done in the 1930s, 40s and/or 50s and 60s.    

    

But a funny thing happened on the way to these people reliving their respective childhoods (or time spent with long-gone parents).  At 2:25 came the barely audible announcement that the Yankees had closed both entrance to Monument Park and access to the field.  Was there booing and cursing?  You betcha.  The many elderly in the group then had a tough decision to make (as they were told by the announcer):  If you go into the Stadium (keep in mind we were all still on line outside of Gate 2), at 2:30 or 3 or whenever, you couldn’t come back out and re-enter.  For those of you keeping score at home, that’s SIX hours (maybe) before game-time.  Or you could walk around outside and be bothered by the incessant ticket scalpers (who needs two?, who’s selling today?), something we were told that modern ticketing would eliminate (or at least, in reality, would be taken over by American Express or the team).

    

(When the new stadium closes in what, 20 years or so, maybe they’ll be smart enough to open the field at 9 in the morning, not one in the afternoon.  Of course, the new stadium will never duplicate what the old Stadium had inside its walls.)

    

Given this Hobson’s choice, the resignation on the faces of many seniors was obvious.  Some left and some went in – to do nothing for five hours until the glorious ceremony started on the field.  Yeah, there are a lot of Yankee bashers, but nobody can trot out the people that the Yankees can trot out at an old-timers day or a Stadium-closing day.  Last night was no exception.

    

To bring out guys in old Yankee uniforms to “represent” Ruth, Gehrig, etc. was a little much.  But to trot out excellent (Skowron, Nettles, Randolph, etc.) to great (Yogi, Whitey, etc.) Yankee players at their respective positions was awesome – and to have Mickey Mantle’s son and the wives of Thurman Munson and Elston Howard, etc. come out to the field was spectacular.  Bringing out Gene Michael (who certainly deserves as much or more credit than anyone for the Yankees late ‘90s revival) and embattled manager Joe Girardi onto the field with these greats was a bit much – as players they don’t rank anywhere near the Yankees who were on the field.

    

And to have the Babe’s daughter throw out the first pitch of the last game was fabulous, especially since, as many of you know, her father had hit the first-ever home run at Yankee Stadium in 1923.

    

Then the game started – and the crowd went quiet.  While it was nice for the Yankees to get a win, it really was a meaningless game.  It took home runs from Johnny Damon and Jose Molina to wake the crowd up – but all went according to plan as the Yankees would beat the Orioles 7-3 with Joba throwing part of the seventh and all of the eighth and the great Mariano finishing things off in the ninth.  Andy Pettitte fittingly started and got the final win (but only making him a .500 pitcher for the year – just one of many Yankee disappointments this season).

    

To great applause, the great Derek Jeter was taken out of the game with two outs in the ninth inning.  While we often see this at the end of NBA playoff games, it’s rare for this to happen in a baseball game.  Jeter got the requisite standing ovation and gave rise to this following great trivia question:  Who was the last shortstop to grace the field at Yankee Stadium?  Yeah, that’s right, Wilson Betamit.

    

Jeter gave a stirring speech after the game but, say what he will, it won’t be the same across the street.  You see, many old-timers think the Stadium lost its luster when the Yankees moved to Shea for the great refurbishing of 1974 and 1975.  While there is certainly some truth to that, it’s always been about the location of the Stadium for me.  And here’s the best example I can give of the biggest problem with moving across the street that somehow, those in favor of “progress” (profit?) can’t grasp:

    

When I was a kid, my father took me to the Stadium and pointed to right-field and said: “Son, that’s where Babe Ruth played.  Nobody remembers that he was a pretty good defensive player with a gun for an arm and could even run in his younger days.”  Then he’d point to center-field and say: “Son, that’s where Joe Dimaggio played.  He was the smoothest player I ever saw and there’s no telling how many home runs he would have hit if he batted lefty or played in a normal ball park” (don’t forget the massive dimensions at the pre-1976 Stadium – the real Death Valley, not today’s A-Rod porch by comparison).

    

So I got the message loud and clear and when my son was five and he would go to the Stadium I would point to center-field and say:  “Son, that’s where Mickey Mantle played.  He could run like a deer before he got hurt and he had massive power from both sides of the plate.  Like Dimaggio, he would have hit a heck of a lot more homers batting righty in a normal ballpark but he, at least, was a switch-hitter so he got his share to right-field.”

    

Now, here’s the REAL problem with moving across the street (obscene ticket prices and other things are for another time):  When my son takes his child to the new stadium, he’s going to say:  “Son, Babe Ruth and Joe Dimaggio and Mickey Mantle – they all played across the street.”  Maybe you have to be a Yankee fan to understand that difference but it’s VERY significant and, frankly, irreplaceable.

    

So was the pre-game ceremony great?  Absolutely.  Was the game great, in so far as a meaningless late-season game against the Orioles could be?  You betcha.  It would have been nice to have Babe Ruth’s daughter and Mickey Mantle’s son pull the lever down for the final countdown of games left at Yankee Stadium (although that was changed from 0 to “forever,” maybe that sign will stay there when they actually tear the structure down, another disgrace if this landmark is destroyed).  Whitey and Yogi with one hand each on the lever would have been a nice touch as well.

    

Was Derek Jeter’s post-game speech fabulous?  Of course it was, Jeter always says the right thing.  But the Yankees, playing at the new stadium, have many issues to deal with.

    

It really was a great night at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, September 21, 2008.  But I (and many others I’m sure) couldn’t help but notice the asymmetry of the following:  the New Yankee Stadium opened on April 18, 1923, with Babe Ruth hitting the first home run as the Yankees were on their way to winning the pennant and the first of 26 World Series.  The Stadium closed on Sunday, September 21, 2008 with Jose Molina hitting the last home run for a Yankee team that not only won’t win the pennant but didn’t even make the playoffs.  For the 1923 Yankees it was the beginning of an unprecedented run, both through the next 15 years and, frankly, the next 80 years.  For the 2008 Yankees, unanswered questions remain and the future, with no Ruth, Gehrig, Dimaggio or Mantle on the horizon, isn’t nearly as bright as it was 85 years ago.  A new stadium won’t solve those problems.

         

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.