Archive for the ‘New Yankee Stadium’ Category

Misty Water-Colored “Lasting Yankee Stadium Memories”

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

They say you shouldn’t dwell on the past, but with the Yankees on a spiraling losing streak (which I wrote about for the Banter last night), and the Mets organization re-enacting some kind of bizarre adult pro-sports version of Lord of the Flies, this seems like a good time to do just that. My friend Alex Belth, Bronx Banter founder, Yankee Blogfather, and walking talking social network, put together a pretty remarkable collection of essays about the old Stadium, and now they’re being published in pretty, shiny hardcover form: “Lasting Yankee Stadium Memories – Unforgettable Tales From the House That Ruth Built.” The project is dedicated to the memory of our Banter colleague Todd Drew, a great writer who passed away unexpectedly and much too soon in January of 2009; on the right, under Yankee Blogs, you can find a link to his old site Yankees for Justice.

Between remembering Todd, and the bittersweetness of dwelling on a beloved building that no longer exists, there’s some real sadness behind the project, but the book itself turns out to be more raucous wake than mournful memorial service. There’s all kinds of essays in here, by many very different personalities, but it has the air of a community coming together to  swap stories and celebrate the good times (even the healthy number of contributors who, like most patriotic god-fearing Americans, hate the Yankees).

I have an essay in there, about Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS, and I’m happy with the way it came out. But more than that, it’s very cool to share a book with writers I’ve long admired like Richard Ben Cramer, Pete Hamill, Joe Posnanski, Jane Leavy, Tony Kornheiser, Rob Neyer, and Jeff Pearlman — and also with friends (who are also writers I admire) like Alex, Jay Jaffe, Cliff Corcoran, Diane Firstman, Jonah Keri and more. Furthermore Yogi Berra is credited with the introduction, making this sort of my third close brush with Yogi… although the first of those to involve the phrase “ball-licking asshole.” (My essay is a tad bit blue. But then, so was Yankee Stadium.)

I won’t do a proper review here I’m obviously biased, but I love having this book on my shelf.

Now THIS is the Kind of Thing You Should Try to Announce at 3:15 AM

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

Kill me now.

You know, there are so many possibilities with a new Stadium — it’s a fresh slate, and a huge opportunity. So why would you squander that on a boring, overpriced, characterless and omnipresent chain like the Hard Rock Cafe?

“Adding popular and premier dining options such as the Hard Rock Cafe and NYY Steak was done with our fans in mind,” said Yankees Chief Operating Officer Lonn Trost.

I’m so sure. Do you ever get the feeling that when Lonn Trost pictures “fans” in his mind, it’s as thousands of little walking dollar bills with arms and legs? (Wearing officially licensed Yankees gear, natch).

You know, the more I find out about the new Stadium, the grouchier I get…

Curses, Foiled Again

Monday, April 14th, 2008

I have a lot of friends who insist that baseball is boring, and naturally, I’ll argue this point vehemently and tirelessly. But I really hope none of those friends were watching last night’s Yankees-Red Sox game. These match-ups do manage to live up to the hype a remarkable percentage of the time — remarkable given the truly staggering nature of that hype — but not yesterday; that was long, slow, limp, and dispiriting. The fact that Jon Miller and Joe Morgan were our narrators certainly didn’t help any. Sometime around the 7th, feeling an increasingly violent urge to start chewing through my own ankle, I muted the game, put on some music, and looked over periodically to make sure the Yankees weren’t mounting a dramatic comeback.

They weren’t.

Meanwhile, I certainly hope the organization isn’t going to press charges against the construction worker who buried a Red Sox shirt in concrete under the new Stadium, hoping to cause a new “curse.” The Post broke this vitally important news story a few days ago, and at first the Yankees dismissed it, but when photographic evidence turned up, they spent a few hours jackhammering and dug it up. Seems silly to waste manpower on that, though when you’re hundreds of thousands of dollars over budget, I suppose it’s just a drop in the bucket.

Yankees president Randy Levine called this a “bad, dastardly act,” and I would assume that was tongue-in-cheek… because no sane human could seriously look at the world and then call this little joke “dastardly,” right? In fact, no one who isn’t a character in a 1930s B-movie would use the word “dastardly,” period. But then I saw that COO Lonn Trost claimed “the Yankees were speaking with the Bronx district attorney’s office about whether there was any criminality involved in the act, and that the team was considering filing charges against the construction worker, identified by The Associated Press as Gino Castignoli, a Bronx resident.”

Give me a break. It’s all in good fun, isn’t it? Besides, Mr. Castignoli was misguided, because that’s not how curses work. (Not that they actually work at all, or indeed exist, but you know what I mean). There’s always an element of perceived offense or justice in a good, long-lasting curse — the team has to DO something, to somehow tempt karma or fate. The Red Sox traded away Babe Ruth, the best player in history, for cash; the White Sox, until a few years ago, hadn’t won since they threw the World Series. Even the Cubs, who have by far the least dignified of these “curses,” supposedly brought it on themselves by kicking a fan and his goat out of Wrigley Field. (And why wouldn’t they? I like goats fine, but who wants them at a ballpark? As an organization, you can’t let people threaten you with curses every time they feel like bringing farm animals to the game. This story is just plain stupid, even by curse standards).

Point is, you can’t just go around burying innocuous items and expect to start a curse. As pure fan mischief, though, this was pretty classic; and if the Yankees were to actually pursue charges against this doofus — who would have absolutely gotten away with his prank, had he just kept quiet — well, then you might have curse material.

The Best of "Oedipus Bronx"

Friday, February 29th, 2008

The New York Times’ Play Magazine has a highly entertaining article on what I like to think of as Steinbrenners: The New Class. It’s by Jonathan Mahler, who wrote the excellent Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx Is Burning (don’t let the clunky ESPN miniseries put you off). If you’re at all interested in the topic it’s well worth reading the entire thing, but here are a few quotes that caught my eye:

*On Jessica Steinbrenner’s ex:

“Before Lopez, Jessica, who is in her mid-40s, was married to Joseph Molloy, who served briefly as the team’s general partner when Steinbrenner was banned from baseball in the early 1990s. (Molloy is now a physical-education teacher at a middle school in Tampa; Jessica keeps an office at Legends Field but devotes most of her time to the family’s horses.)”

From general partner of the Yankees to middle school gym teacher. That guy’s head must still be spinning.

*Jennifer Swindal Steinbrenner on the openings left by the DUI arrest and subsequent divorce of her ex-husband Steve Swindal:

“… Jennifer avoided discussing the change in management caused by her ex-husband’s departure. Instead, she dismissed her tabloid divorce, and the resulting upheaval within the Yankees, with peppy spin. “It couldn’t have been scripted any better,” she told me.”

Really? Not any better?

*On the new Stadium’s field:

“…the rain tarp will be moved from the first-base side of the field to the third-base side so that Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, the Yankees’ two most valuable assets, will have something soft to land on when they dive after foul balls…”

This is great. Sorry, Shelley Duncan! Pay real close attention to those fielding lessons with Tino, and try not to break anything when you and your very affordable contract crash into cold , hard metal!

*The money quote, Hank on the Red Sox:

“Red Sox Nation?” Hank says. “What a bunch of [expletive] that is. That was a creation of the Red Sox and ESPN, which is filled with Red Sox fans. Go anywhere in America and you won’t see Red Sox hats and jackets, you’ll see Yankee hats and jackets. This is a Yankee country. We’re going to put the Yankees back on top and restore the universe to order.”

I’m still trying to figure out whether to cringe or laugh over this one; I suppose since everyone already thinks of the Yankees as arrogant, you may as well embrace that identity and make it your own. And really — if he’d said something diplomatic about what a great organization Boston has, you’d have been bored to tears, right? Just give in.

Release your anger… with our combined strength, we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy…

*A surprisingly honest assessment of the team from everyone’s favorite alleged Joe Torre backstabber Randy Levine:

“The Yankees today are an entertainment company with a baseball team at its core,” Randy Levine, the team’s president, told me recently, ticking off some of the club’s less visible businesses, including its memorabilia company, Yankees-Steiner Collectibles, which sells players’ game-used uniforms and gear, and its partnership with the Japanese media company Yomiuri Shimbun, the owner of the Yomiuri Giants.

Personally I think sports are entertainment in and of themselves, but that’s not the point here; Levine is acknowledging that the actual Yankees are now almost incidental to the massive corporation they’re part of. The team is always central to the fans, of course, but not so much to the owners:

Last summer, when Goldman Sachs was shopping around its approximately 40 percent stake in YES, the network was valued at around $3 billion. According to Forbes magazine, the team itself isn’t worth half that.

That’s the reality of modern big market sports. But it makes me nervous, because it’s shades of Cablevision — which is such a vast empire that no matter what a disgrace the Knicks mutate into, their owners, the Dolans, feel virtually no ill effects financially. Obviously the Yankees, as big as they are, aren’t a monster like Cablevision, but I’m traumatized from years of Isiah Thomas basketball and I do worry. The timeline at the end of the Play story reminded me, much to my horror, that Cablevision actually tried to buy a big share of the Yankees back in 1998, and came extremely close to an agreement; the deal collapsed because Steinbrenner wouldn’t give up control.

Whatever George Steinbrenner’s faults — and they were many — let us never forget that his stubbornness spared New York baseball from the staggering horrorshow that is Jim Dolan. In my book, that that makes up for quite a few illegal Nixon campaign contributions.