Back at the Big Ballpark in the Bronx

A first post-pandemic visit to Yankee Stadium

| 16 Jul 2022 | 11:23

On July 12, I went to Yankee Stadium for the first time in three years – since before the global pandemic upended all of our lives.

The Yankees were playing the Cincinnati Reds at the start of a three-game set. The Reds are one of Major League Baseball’s worst, dullest and most anonymous teams. I looked at their roster and didn’t exactly see the descendants of the fearsome 1970s Big Red Machine of Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez and Ken Griffey.

I didn’t care about the Reds or their woes. Just being back at the Big Ballpark in the Bronx made me happy.

I have to admit that I dreaded the scene on the 4 train uptown, the time-consuming security procedures at the stadium and then going back home at night on the subway with the hooligans and scary dudes.

But it was a breeze. A lot of people declined to wear masks on the jam-packed IRT to the Bronx. This did not thrill me. But once I got there, it was terrific. And it was Cap Day! So I got a free Yankees cap to boot.

Yankee Stadium is a model of professionalism to its visitors. The check-in process was painless. The stadium staff could not have been more courteous and solicitous.

With all of the upheaval in our lives since the spring of 2020, it is comforting to have baseball back in the city. No doubt, Mets fans in Queens share my relief that our first-place baseball teams (as of this writing, Mets Nation) can give us more than nine innings of well played ball.

More than any other sport, baseball provides a link to the past. Some people ask me why I am a Yankees fan – though I do claim dual citizenship and root for the Mets to win. Same reason as so many of you. My father took me to my first baseball game, at Yankee Stadium, when I was something like eight or nine – and, as they say in “Goodfellas,” Dat’s Dat.

Looking So Sharp

It’s cool that our teams are looking so sharp as they march to the playoffs in October. But I honestly wouldn’t have cared much if they flipped the script and I was watching a woeful Yankees team take on a new version of the Big Red Machine.

The game itself was disjointed. Fearing a rain delay would stifle Yankees starting pitcher Gerrit Cole, they started the game an hour late, at 8:05 p.m. So much for my plans to get home in time to watch Seinfeld reruns at 11:00.

The Yankees scored three runs early and held off the Reds. Cole looked intense on the mound, and he pitched seven shut-out innings. Michael King stopped the Reds in the eighth inning and the good guys were three outs from another ho-hum victory.

Then the unthinkable happened. The young star closer, Clay Holmes, faced five batters and didn’t retire any of them. The Reds somehow scored four runs in the top of the ninth and then held the Yankees scoreless in the bottom of the ninth.

Eh, no matter, actually. In the ninth inning, my section was invaded by Ohio-bred high school kids who wore replica Reds uniforms and sneaked (“snuck” in baseball-fan parlance) down from the cheap seats and were rooting animatedly for their Reds. They were quite endearing. You know, they really wanted their Reds to win.

The ride home was happily uneventful.

Yes, the Yankees lost – but I had a blast. It was good to be back at the ballpark.