Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The House that Ruth Built

It has taken me a while to blog about the main reason we went to New York, because it is one of those experiences that most people wont really appreciate or understand how great an opportunity it was. I don't want to come off as bragging or anything like that, so don't take it that way. To better understand how lucky we were, read this Sports Illustrated article from a few weeks ago. I am not even a Yankees fan and I think it was one of the best article ever written by SI.

On Saturday, September 20, we boarded the D train uptown to the Bronx. We had been out late the night before, but the anticipation of the days events fought off the heavy eyelids. It was a quick 20 minute ride to 161st street. We got off the train and headed for the stairs back to the street. My first look at her was not what I imagined. Here stood a big concrete bowl, showing every one of her 85 years. I expected the corner made famous on Seinfeld! Across the street was the new, chique replacement. With "Yankee Stadium" scripted in gold and a roman architecture facade, the new girl was much better looking, but we weren't here for her. Under the tracks of the 4 train, which runs almost right through center field, stood all the vendors. White and blue pinstripes could be seen in dozens of storefronts. Even though the first pitch was 3+ hours away, people were already lined up outside of her. We didn't wake up early to stand in line, that's not how we roll. At dinner the night before Jeremy Guthrie offered to introduce us to Yankee Stadium. We met up with him and headed around the concrete bowl, headed for the players tunnel. I was nervous, like what you feel before a first date. There was one huge difference; she is a celebrity, not Jessica Simpson, but Anne Hathaway, a girl with looks and substance.

We arrived at the entrance, it felt like an out-of-body experience. My first time with her, her last time hosting someone under the afternoon sun. With all that has happened inside her walls, she will never remember me, but I will remember that first glimpse of the blue seats and green grass for a long time. There I was, among 20 or so people, about to experience something 10 million New Yorkers would give up their first born to experience. We stopped and took a picture from behind home plate, the perfectly manicured grass sparkling in the background. I would have been happy to leave then, but our date was just getting started...

She led me down the aisles, where I noticed there was a metal bar going through the middle of each section which was odd, through the box seats and onto the field. She was letting me on the field on our first date! I did not know how to react...should I walk over to the dugout, reach down and touch the grass, or just continue to stand there with my chin hanging down? I walked down into the visitors dugout, think of all the legends that have sat there! I didn't care about her past relationships, she was mine for now.

Again, we took pictures in the dugout and standing right outside of it. Then, another surprise. Jeremy had brought a few plastic bags for us to get some infield dirt. I walked across the grass to third base. Rather timidly, I reached down and let the soil run through my fingers. How could she have such a unique gift for me? More pictures were taken around third base, then we headed to left field, where I would really get to know her past flings.

In Monument Park, I found out this girl has a bit of stalker in her. Out here between the left field fence and the visitors bullpen is where she keeps Shrines to her exes that meant a lot to her. Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle; legends who bowed down to my date. She commemorates big events that she has hosted, like Papal Visits and other people who have been influential in who she has become. Not being a Yankee fan, this was the part of our date that meant the least to her, but I was excited that she was willing to open up to me about these things so close to her. It was also in left field where we were able to walk up to the visitors bullpen and look down into the home bullpen.

Again, it struck me how many greats had spent time with her here on these mounds. Before ending the first part of our day together, she let us walk out into left field. My dad tried to impress her by saying he could make a home run robbing catch over the wall, but she saw right through him. After 85 years, she has a pretty good eye for what she wants.

That was it for our private time. We walked back out through the players tunnel, and who happened to be walking in at that same time but Derek Jeter. He is one of the guys she keeps going back to; unable to let go, even when he batting average dips under .250. He will probably end up in Monument Park one day...jerk.

A few hours later, we returned, this time to take in the final game Yankee Stadium will host on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. It was a perfect day, I didn't expect anything less. We made our way back inside, this time with the street folk :), and found our seats. We were at the top of the lowest deck, right behind home plate. Best of all, we were in the shade.

It was different being with her when there were another 55,000 people there. It actually added to the magic. We witnessed a great game, the last walk-off victory at Yankee Stadium. During the 7th inning stretch, she asked us to sing "God Bless America" with her before "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." This tradition started after 9/11, I hope it lives on in the new place. Once the final run crossed the plate, Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" played over the loudspeakers at least ten times. Once everyone cleared out, I had a little bit more personal time with her. She had me come back down the front row box seats, where I witnessed something I never expected. The Yankees manager, Joe Girardi, and their center fielder, Johnny Damon, brought their kids out to hit and pitch. 5 or 6 kids were running the bases and fielding grounders on this piece of history. That is something I will never forget. After a few minutes, she told me that our date needed to end.

She apologized for how much her age was showing, but it was hardly noticeable through all the history oozing out of each crack. We said our goodbyes, and made our way back out to 161st.

They say she has ghosts living inside of her. I don't know if that is true, but if they aren't living there, she at least lets them rent on occasion. I would have been happy to fly out Saturday morning for this date, then fly right back home afterwards. Lucky for me, I was able to experience more of New York, but this date with Yankee Stadium was far and away the highlight of my trip.


Alec and Tiffany said...

Submit that post to SI. Or use it in a future English class. What an awesome experience.


Chase & Destiny Pittsenbarger said...

that is a very cool experience once in a life time thing!! we are jealous! :)

Wade Leavitt said...

I thought you were talking about me the whole time!!!! Love you..MOM

Keith A. Runyon said...

Great GREAT Story Telling! I love the way you weaved the "she" into your narrative. OUTSTANDING! And what a neat experience. But tell us....did you get to first base with her?