Showing posts with label Yankees. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Yankees. Show all posts

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Opening Day

Well, not actually, the Class A Advanced Florida baseball games were already underway.  But last night was the first night for the "Silver Slugger" series of games  -- each Wednesday night a hot dog, soda, and general admission for us 55 and older crowd who subscribe.  Twenty-five bucks for the entire season!  You can't beat that, and our Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, FL is pristine, a true field of dreams and we've watched many minor leaguers come and go there over the years, some making it to "the show" such as Giancarlo Stanton and most recently Christian Yelich both now starting for the parent team, the Miami Marlins.  St. Louis also fields a Class A+ ball club at the stadium.

Strange to be a "silver slugger" as my own dreams of baseball seem less than a distant memory. By the time I was in college, my playing days were over as a pitcher. But, then I had other priorities -- like getting an education.

The first night welcome-back for us "silver slugger" crowd usually includes a promotional item as well.  This year an umbrella, but my favorites were the hats and the tee shirts of years gone by.  The tee shirt amuses me as a Urologist placed an advertisement on the back.  Talk about knowing your market. You're out!

Last night's game was played after a mild cold front had gone through so it was a breezy, cool night (low 70's at game time I figure), but as usual, I had to hold my breath as we walked to our seats to see the beautiful field in full once again.

The game though was uneventful, a 5-2 loss by the Marlin's Hammerheads, but I enjoy watching the pitchers, in this case Trevor Williams who pitched well enough, hitting 93 mph on the gun, looking very professional in his delivery.  The Marlins have a lot of pitching talent in their pipeline.  Last year I wrote about Andrew Heaney and Justin Nicolino who have gone up the ladder in the minors.  Expect to see one of them with the parent club soon.

But Williams gave up three runs in the third inning, in spite of ostensibly having some good stuff. The Marlins selected him in the second round (44th overall) of the 2013 Draft, so they must see potential there.

Ironically, while we were watching that game our son, Jonathan, was at the Yankee game seeing Masahiro Tanaka's debut in the Bronx, a 5-4 loss for my Yanks.  Tanaka pitched well (in fact, very well after giving up a 3 run home-run) and I thought Williams did too, if you discount the third inning. Frankly, I now enjoy watching Class A+ ball more than going to Yankee Stadium.  It's as professional as the Majors -- this is no bush league other than the contests they invite fans to participate in between innings.  Furthermore, you are right on the field, up close and can watch the game as it was intended, not from nosebleed territory.  And, finally, the last Yankee game we went to cost us almost $100 per seat, and that was from StubHub at a discount (and that's relatively cheap -- try to get seats on the field, near the dugouts).  It's just gotten out of hand, at least in the NY market.

So the Silver Slugger games are now underway.  How did I become one so quickly?  Time to see the Urologist! 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Boys of Spring

The boys of spring turn into the boys of summer. If there was ever an argument for the existence of a God, it has to be baseball. Imagine, just the dimensions of the infield, not to mention the nuances of the game, would seem to argue divine intervention. Could man alone have set the distance from the pitching rubber to home plate at exactly 60' 6" and not just 60'? OK, bases are 90 feet apart. That sounds like man-made, but much of the game seems to have been handed down from the Gods.

I played some organized baseball as a kid, pitching because I couldn't hit worth a damn. As a lefty I had movement on the fast ball, tailing away from a right handed batter, like a mini screwball. I was a "crafty left-hander," with slow stuff to make the fast ball seem faster.

Although occasionally I'll still "throw" a ball with my neighbor (who batted against Herb Score in high school), I just follow the game when I can, especially the Yankees simply because they were "my team" as a kid. While the game itself hasn't changed much, the players and the business of baseball has. It's big business but obviously the public is willing to pay up, monstrous salaries and baseball franchises being supported by obscene ticket prices and concessions and huge cable TV revenues.

Does that mean the boys of summer play the game only for money? Of course not, but change has its consequences. Like earlier this month when my friend Art and I, with great anticipation, planned to go to the Yankees' penultimate spring training game in Port St. Lucie to play the NY Mets. What could be better, a preview of a NY rivalry? The tickets had been bought months in advance by friends of ours who found they couldn't use them, so we bought them at face value ($70 total). They were selling on the web for more than twice that amount as the game neared, the stadium seating only about 7,000 and the demand for those tickets far in excess of that.

So the day of the game we drove up to the park early to watch batting practice, get our obligatory hot dogs, and just soak up the ambiance. Walking up a ramp to our seats we saw a bus, the driver standing nearby, and Art cried out, "is that the bus for the Yankees?" (thinking they probably flew and this question was rhetorical). "Yup," he said.

We didn't think Jeter, A-Rod, Teixeira et al would be busing it from Miami after the night game in Miami's new stadium the day before so we began to wonder who exactly would be playing. But they do bus the "B" team, and that is what the Yankees mostly fielded. Not known to the fans, most of the Yankee "A" team flew to Tampa for their last spring training game, also against the Mets.

Some "A" players were there, notably Ivan Nova who pitched, the jovial Nick Swisher, and swift Brett Gardner, but that was about it. I knew the "A" team would not have played many innings, but wanted to get some good photos while they did. No such luck. So instead we watched the "other" Yankees, Almonte, Hall, Castro, Bernier, Wilson, not exactly murderer's row. Sad, Cervelli was the catcher, joking with his teammates, not knowing he would be consigned to AAA ball just a couple days later.

While it was nice being at the ball game, any ball game, I could have passed on it given the crowds and the expense, but I was able to get some pictures of Nova (who pitched poorly) and of the Met's lefty, Niese, who didn't fare any better than Nova, both giving up 5 earned runs in the Yankees 7-6 loss. Swisher hit a home run and I was able to capture the swing and the ball with a timely photograph. But, we left well before the end of the game.

Happily, though, last night was our first minor league (Class A) ballgame at Jupiter's Roger Dean Stadium where Ann and I have "Silver Slugger" season's tickets. What a deal, 19 games, a hot dog and a soda all for $25 each (not per game but total!). How can you go wrong? Farm clubs of the Cardinals (Palm Beach Cardinals) and the Marlins (the Jupiter Hammerheads) play there during the summer. And Class A ball is played every bit as professionally as their Major League counterparts. And the joy is there, the hope of one day making it to the "show." A couple of years ago we watched Giancarlo Stanton (then known as "Mike") in action, recognizing he was destined for the majors.

Last night the Cardinals played the Pirate's affiliate, the Bradenton Marauders. And in an ironic twist, having seen mostly minor leaguers at the spring training game, the Bradenton starting pitcher for this minor league game was none other than major leaguer A.J. Burnett, who was making a rehab start after having been injured in spring training. I've always thought Burnett was long on talent but a head case, and pitching like golf gets in one's mind. You need both the physical ability and the mental attitude to succeed.

As a Yankee fan, I had "suffered" with Burnett but I had hoped that a new venue would bring him out of his stupor. While he seemed to have his velocity last night, his pitches were not well placed, unlike those of the Cardinals' starter, Seth Maness who pitched seven shutout innings, most of his pitches in the low 90's and at knee high. Burnett looked dazed most of the time, ignominious as a starter in Class A, and left forlorn after giving up seven runs in less than 2 innings. It was sad and hopefully he has better success in the future. Palm Beach went on to win 10-4 but just being out at the beautiful Roger Dean field and soaking up the crack of the bat and the pop of the catcher's mitt made it a grand slam evening.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Cruising and Reading

Put me on a boat (a ship in this case) and give me a book and I am a happy man. And that about describes last week's cruise to places we've been before, San Juan, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten, the ship, Celebrity's Solstice, being a destination onto itself. We planned this trip with our good friends, Art and Sydelle, a couple we met on our very first cruise out of Ft. Lauderdale in 2000 on the Century. They are retired NYC teachers. If it were not for meeting them, becoming good friends, it is unlikely we would have taken last week's trip.

Travelling with them is an endless feast of chance meetings of acquaintances from their childhood, or from their days as teachers. They both grew up in Brooklyn, became engaged while at Brooklyn College, and Brooklyn folks from those days are like a tribe. Many have now migrated to South Florida, the starting point of the cruise. It's like radar; they can look at another couple and identify them almost instantly and, then, chances are they either know them or someone in common. ("Hey, I went to New Utrecht HS in Bensonhurst. We beat your school, DeWitt Clinton for the 1953 Championship at Madison Square Garden in overtime!")

Contrast that with us. I like to say I'm from NYC, but I grew up in Queens which any true New Yorker will tell you was a place where people lived who aspired to move to Long Island. Ann grew up in Atlanta although she moved to Manhattan sooner than I did. We rarely encounter people from our past.

And, if it were not for the fact that we celebrated out 40th wedding anniversary on board the Solstice two years ago, which, for us, lived like a small ship as we were in their "Aqua Class" category and loved the experience, we also would not have gone on this cruise: the ship and category being the main reason.

I like to joke that the main benefit of "Aqua Class" is being able to swim alongside the ship (rimshot, please, ba-dum-TSH), but we normally like to travel on smaller ships, and although the Solstice is 122,000 tons, accommodating 2,850 passengers and a crew of 1,500, it "lives" like a smaller ship. One of the reasons is their "Blu" dining room, available only to Aqua Class (about 150 staterooms so designated). Therefore, Blu is less frenetic than the Main Dining Room which serves the remaining passengers - with the exception of several specialty restaurants which all have an extra charge. The food in Blu was uniformly excellent, geared to a more healthy life style, smaller portions but beautifully presented. The dining room itself becalms the occupants, large windows, with the sea rolling by, uniquely shaped plates, and the signature white rose sculpture on the wall. Breakfast is served there too with the same relaxing ambiance.

Another desirable feature of the ship is the solarium, with pan flute music in the background, spa like cuisine offered for breakfast and lunch, dancing waters display, it's own pool and Jacuzzi, with very comfortable lounge chairs for relaxing or reading, and although this section is available to all, no children allowed! We're always amazed that more people do not seek out this section of the ship, but I suppose most booking a Caribbean cruise are seeking the sun and the tumult of the main outside pool. We're glad they do.

Another nice feature of Aqua Class is the availability of the heated tile beds, a perfect place to lie down and absorb the heat on tired muscles and listen to the soft, unobtrusive music. An easy place to fall asleep, as Ann did on several occasions. My own routine was to start the day at the gym as the sun rose, trying to get in at least a half hour on the treadmill at jogging speed, something to challenge my new unobstructed arteries and to neutralize the diet which, although "healthy" is far richer than I'm accustomed to.

So much of the days at sea, and even some of those in port, were spent in the solarium where I could dig into a good book. Reading preparation is a fun part of the trip for me as I can get a lot read on board, more so than I can at home. I was eagerly looking forward to making my main read Sondheim's second installment of his composing life, Look, I Made a Hat. I had read his Finishing the Hat, remarking that it was "one of the most remarkable documents of the theater that I've ever read."

However, when I picked up Look, I Made a Hat, its sheer heft of almost three pounds acted as a deterrent, not wanting to lug it around on such a trip. Also, it is a beautiful book and the thought of reading it in a wet bathing suit was abhorrent. If I haven't succumbed to a Kindle, I'm not going to desecrate an exquisite book as well.

If the Sondheim book was not to be my main read, I needed another from the stack of books I sequester for future reading. Or, to use a baseball analogy, I went to the bench and called up another heavy hitter, Jane Leavy's The Last Boy; Mickey Mantle and the End of America's Childhood. I had been introduced to Leavy's other biographical work on Sandy Koufax by our traveling companion, Artie. Leavy's biography of Koufax was excellent; The Last Boy is a work of great passion and meticulous scholarship.

How do you write an objective biography of a legend, one who you've worshiped as a kid? That was Leavy's challenge. But by telling the truth, Mantle with all his foibles, and there were many, she actually enhanced the legend.

Mantle's career in some ways is a real life version of Bernard Malamud's The Natural, published in 1952 only a year after Mantle's rookie season. Roy Hobbs is shot by a strange woman, while Mantle has his knee blown out by a drainage ditch in Yankee Stadium chasing a fly ball and trying to avoid running into the Yankee patrician, Joe DiMaggio, playing out his last year. Mantle and DiMaggio were never friends. Unlike Hobbs, Mantle did not have a "Wonderboy" bat, but his "Wonderboy" was a surfeit of guts. He played hurt when today's ballplayers would be seeking R&R. He played with a family history of illness and early death, and battled osteomyelitis throughout his career.

The book is as much a love affair as it is a scholarly biography, successful on both counts. And for me, it conjured up my own childhood, my own worship of Mantle, and my own indebtedness to baseball. As I was always one of the smaller kids in my neighborhood, I could not hit for power so I became a pitcher, and a crafty lefty has some advantages. At first I copied Eddie Lopat, one of the "Big Three" of the Yankees' pitching staff, which included Allie Reynolds and Vic Raschi in the early 50's. Lopat was known as "the Junkman." He was small for a pitcher and did not have much of a fastball, so specialized on the slow curve, thrown at different arm angles, and the screwball, and so did I. Another lefty, Bobby Shantz, became my hero in high school, after he was traded to the NY Yankees from KC. and like Lopat he used crafty off speed pitches to his advantage. In fact Shantz was one of the Yankees interviewed for Leavy's biography, one of about one hundred. Those names brought back memories of those glory days when the Yankees, the Giants, and the Dodgers all played in NY and we argued about who was the greatest centerfielder, Mantle, Mays, or Snider. I think Leavy answers that question (read the book to find out!).

Leavy's work is more biography than a recounting of the great baseball moments of the Mick's life, although it is that too. Mantle came from a dysfunctional family, the father controlling his life (before and after his father's early death). What "Mutt," the Mick's father thought or would think became pivotal to Mantle and one of the factors of Mantle's alcoholism. And Mick was a real "good ole' boy" a carouser who felt most comfortable with the guys in the locker room and not with his family. Even after hanging them up, he spent more time on the road, frequently with other women leaving his wife at home. He paid. His family paid. But one thing about Mantle in addition to his baseball ability, he was loyal to his friends, fiercely loyal, and generous as well. Overall, you have to admire him, and hats off to Jane Leavy for a brilliant biography, walking the line between adulation and scholarly criticism. And Leavy went one step farther in analyzing her subject, by bringing in experts on the mechanics and the physics of the sport.

As a poor hitter in my brief baseball career, I always wondered how in the world anyone could hit a fast ball being thrown only sixty feet away, and downhill from a mound as well. And how could anyone hit it like Mantle. To answer that question, Leavy interviews experts, concluding that Mantle hit "with felonious intent:"

In an effort to pin down how Mantle generated such power, I asked Preston Peavy, a techno-savvy hitting coach, to analyze Mantle's form, using the visual motion-analysis system he created for his students at Peavy Baseball in Atlanta. He converted film and video clips of Mantle into a set of kinematics, moving digital stick figures that show the path of each part of the body as it moves through space...(To view the kinematics, go to or

A 90-mile-per-hour fastball doesn't leave much time for thought. Traveling at a rate of 132 feet per second, it makes the sixty-foot, six-inch journey from pitcher to batter in four-tenths of a second. The ball is a quarter of the way to home plate by the time a hitter becomes fully aware of it. Because there is a 100-millisecond delay between the time the image of the ball hits the batter's retina and when he becomes conscious of it, it is physiologically impossible to track the ball from the pitcher's hand to the catcher's glove. David Whitney, the director of the Vision and Action Lab at the University of California, Davis, explains: "A 100-millisecond delay doesn't seem very significant. But if a baseball is traveling at 90 mph, that translates to around fifteen feet. If we perceive the ball fifteen feet behind where it's actually located, the batter has to start his swing very early on in the baseball's trajectory."

Neurologically speaking, every batter is a guess-hitter. That's where implicit memory comes in. The ability to infer the type of pitch and where it's headed with accuracy and speed is inextricably linked with stored experience-the hitter has seen that pitch before, even if he can't see it all the way. Add the reflexes to respond to that memory and a visual motor system that allows the batter to react on the fly to a change in the trajectory of a flying object, the right DNA, and Mutt and Grandpa Charlie out by the shed throwing tennis balls, and you have Mickey Mantle.

Every at-bat is a dance of double pendulums. The pitcher leads, using his body as a kinetic chain to deliver energy from his legs through his trunk into his shoulder, arm, and, finally, the ball. The batter follows, reacting in kind. The converging and opposing forces may or may not be equal, but the goal is the same-to turn potential energy into kinetic energy as efficiently as human physiology allows.

The pitcher has the inherent advantage of foreknowledge-he knows •what he's going to throw-and he has the downward slope of the mound to generate momentum. With only flat ground and muscle power at his disposal, the hitter creates force by twisting his upper and lower body in opposite directions like a rubber band. When that human rubber band is stretched taut and is ready to snap, it uncoils, propelling the bat through the strike zone.

This deceptively simple act is an intricate biomechanical task requiring the coordinated mobilization of virtually every muscle in the body in than a second. "Everything but the chewing muscles," said Dr. Benjamin Shaffer, a specialist in orthopedic sports medicine and head physician for the Washington Capitals. "Unless you grit your teeth."

Nobody gritted more than Mantle. Lefty or righty, he swung with felonious intent.

I just could not get enough of The Last Boy, and even read the Acknowledgements, Appendices, and Bibliography in detail. I did not want it to end, but it did, as did the last boy's life, riddled by cancer, and not long after he had successfully ridded himself of alcoholism. Moose Skowron, Hank Bauer, Whitey Ford, Johnny Blanchard, and Bobby Richardson (who was then a minister) were with him near the end, but he was with his son, David, and his wife Merlyn at the very end, dying on Aug. 13, 1995.

Such a downer, so I turned to a novel, How To Be Good by Nick Hornby, an English writer. I had picked this up because Jonathan Tropper is touted as "the American Hornby" and as I admire Tropper, I had to see/read for myself.

And I can see why there is the comparison: like some of Tropper's work it almost reads like a screenplay with a similar sardonic sense of humor. And like Tropper it is a fast read, a story of midlife crisis and its effect on the nuclear family. As the main character says: "We are the ideal nuclear family. We eat together, we play improving board games instead of watching television, we smile a lot. I fear that at any moment I may kill somebody." Interestingly, it is written in the first person by the female protagonist. How Hornby can do that so effectively is a mark of a good writer, although at times I had the problem of thinking to myself, is this really how a man might think about how a woman thinks?

But it is the humor, or the truth in humor that is Hornby's strong point, such as his riff on organized religion, as expressed by our heroine, Katie, who in the midst of her crisis decides to go to a church, any church, with her daughter, Molly, although she has rarely gone to church and needs to pick one randomly. She describes her experience after arriving at a nearly empty service at a local Church of England ("C of A"):

I start to drift off. I have never been to an ordinary church service before. I have been to weddings, funerals, christenings, carol services, and even harvest festivals, but I have never been to a bog-standard, nobody-there Sunday service.

It all feels a long way from God-no nearer than the bring-and-buy sale would be, and much farther away than I imagine Molly's friend Pauline is at this precise moment. It feels sad, exhausted, defeated; this may have been God's house once, you want to tell the handful of people here, but He's clearly moved, shut up shop, gone to a place where there's more of a demand for that sort of thing. And then you look around and wonder whether the sadness isn't part of the point: those who are able to drag themselves here once a week are clearly not social churchgoers, because there is nothing social happening here. This isn't a place to see and be seen, unless opera glasses are placed on the backs of the pews. You'd have to walk twenty yards to shake somebody's hand. No, these people are the hard-core, the last WASPs in Holloway, the beaten and the lonely and the bereaved, and if there is a place for them in the Kingdom of Heaven, they deserve it. I just hope that it's warmer there than here, and there is more hope, and youth, and there is no need for bring-and-buy sales, and the choir of angels isn't singing elsewhere that day, but you rather fear it might be; C of E heaven is in all probability a quarter-full of unhappy old ladies selling misshapen rock cakes and scratched Mantovani records. Every day of the week, for all eternity. And what about the nice lady reading the notices to us? Is she ever dispirited by her hobbling, careworn flock? I thought that I could detect a touch of weariness, maybe even despair, during the appeal for flower arrangers, but maybe this is because flower arranging is not her thing.

Despair in humor. You get the point. As to the rest of the novel, a worthwhile read, no sense going into more detail here as reviews are readily available on line. I'll read another Hornby book again.

I finished my trifecta of books during our seven day cruise by going from the satiric to downright despair, the path of Philip Roth's most recent, novella length works, and in this instance his The Humbling. In a sense it completes the circle, the sunshine of youth as Mantle emerges from the playing fields of Oklahoma into the big leagues, the midlife struggles of the modern family in London, to the "loss of magic," decline at the end of life of Simon Axler, a famous stage actor who suddenly loses his acting abilities, a metaphor for life, and tries to resurrect a life with a woman twenty five years his junior, the daughter of one-time friends. As Axler's agent reasons with him, trying to convince him to see an acting coach:

Look...everyone knows the feeling 'I can't do it,' everyone knows the feeling that they will be revealed to be false -- it's every actor's terror. 'They've found me out. I've been found out.' Let's face it, there's a panic that comes with age. I'm that much older than you, and I've been dealing with it for years. One, you get slower. In everything. Even in reading you get slower. If I go fast in reading now, too much goes away. My speech is slower, my memory is slower. All these things start to happen. In the process, you start to distrust yourself. You're not as quick as you used to be. And especially if you are an actor. You were a young actor and you memorized scripts one after the other after the other, and you never even thought about it. It was just easy to do. And then all of a sudden it's not as easy, and things don't happen so fast anymore....So you start to feel afraid, to feel soft, to feel that you don't have that raw live power anymore. It scares you. With the result...that you're not free anymore. There's nothing happening -- and that's terrifying.

So it is with aging and obviously a mordant fixation of Roth in his later works, something I understand. And I guess that is why I still appreciate Roth. I've "grown up" with him as I did with Updike. Roth fights desperately against the gravity of it all, Axler seeking respite in the arms of a younger woman, Pegeen, but as Roth beautifully and concisely writes: "A man's way is laid with a multitude of traps, and Pegeen had been the last. He'd stepped hungrily into it and then the bait like the most craven captive on earth." Roth remains one of the great living American writers.

I've said little about the ports we visited, as we've been to all before, but I will say that St. Thomas conjured up feelings of our visit there almost 23 years earlier to the day, when we did a bare boat charter with our friends, Ray and Sue, visiting many of the American and British Virgin Islands. So here we were again, that many years later on a cruise ship, on the one island that is better known as a shopping port. But our bare boat adventure is imprinted in my mind and remains one of my favorite trips, leaving me to wonder why we haven't done it again.

Life on a big cruise ship is highly regimented. There are lectures, discussions, games, shows, cooking demonstrations (even hot glass blowing demonstrations sponsored by Corning on this ship), etc. and that is probably why I prefer to hide out and read most of the time. One of the exceptions was the talk by the Captain, the most personable one we've met on any of our cruises, Captain Gerry Larsson-Fedde who, unlike most of Celebrity's skippers, is Norwegian, not Greek. He gave a PowerPoint presentation with a question and answer on navigation. The gorilla in the room of course was the Costa Concordia disaster,and the question was finally asked but, as expected, Capt. Larsson-Fedde deferred. The facts are still speculative.

I think after his talk, though, it is more understandable. Capt. Larsson-Fedde described the heavy reliance by large ships on Differential Global Positioning Systems which can triangulate a position within about 4 inches. Electronic charts are constantly being updated, but only for major shipping lanes. The more a ship strays from those lanes, the more likely it will have to depend on paper charts that might have been last sounded decades ago. I recall that the Captain of the Concordia said the rocks were not on his chart. That might be, but the ship had no business being where it was.

The first mate of the Solstice followed that with a talk about the construction of the ship, an outstanding engineering accomplishment. He was there during the entire construction in Germany at the Meyer Werft yards, one of the prime companies for building cruise vessels, some 22 miles from the sea up a relatively shallow river. But this was the largest vessel they've ever built. Amazingly, bridges had to be dismantled to deliver the huge vessel to the open water. There it tested its four Wartsila diesel engines that generate 92,000 horsepower, channeled into two 20.5 MW Azipods that swivel 360 degrees to act both for propulsion, rudders, and stern thrusters.

But the most surprising part of Capt. Larsson-Fedde's "work" on the ship is that he is an accomplished entertainer and hopefully this brief clip captures that aspect of his role:


Friday, July 29, 2011

Play Ball!

Build it and they will come. But how? It took my first visit to the new Yankee Stadium in the Bronx to clearly see the growing disparity between the haves and the have-nots. We can build a stadium while our infrastructure is allowed to crumble.

My son, Jon, and I had been talking about going to the new stadium for some time, my having taken him to his first Yankee game at the old stadium. And when I used to go there decades before as a boy, I sat in the bleachers – 50 cents a seat. In those days my Yankee heroes, Mantle, Rizzuto, Berra, Ford, etc. made salaries that hardly approached six figures.

When we went to games with our sons in the 1980’s, occasionally we would go to the Stadium Club before the game and one time Bill White and Phil Rizzuto (after they became announcers for the Yankees) were having dinner at the next table. Phil was joking with Bill, calling him a huckleberry, when he asked the fellow diners whether anyone had some aspirin. My wife produced her handy pill box and offered Phil a couple so we talked for a while with him – my father graduated from the same high school as Phil and in about the same year. I wonder whether today’s players would be as friendly now that they are paid the same as elite entertainers.

The trip to the stadium on the New Haven railroad, changing at 125th street for a short express to Yankee Stadium at 153rd street, underscored the new two-world order, the trains the same ones I rode on to Grand Central some 30 years ago, on tracks that were built long before that, the air conditioning barely working, the transportation infrastructure hanging threadbare. The return trip was even worse, typical delays, waiting at 125th Street station, and making a connection that was so packed the standing room only did not even provide a space for putting down one’s bag. Amazingly, everyone just seemed resigned to this reality, along with the extreme shuddering of the train because of the poorly maintained track bed, conditions that would not be tolerated in most other advanced countries. Perhaps not coincidentally, the day we went to the stadium there was a major water main break in the Bronx, 100 year old pipes bursting and creating a river in the streets. Maybe we can get another 50 years out of them?

While the funds or motivation for rebuilding our infrastructure seem to be lacking, that does not apply to tearing down the old Yankee Stadium to rebuild one with Disney-like features. Good seats are now all corporate owned at astronomical prices and as an individual you can bid on those that are posted on such sites as StubHub, but with after tax dollars while corporate holders buy them as a deductible corporate expense. Why bother closing such tax loopholes that subsidizes professional sports?

The prices for food and drink are commensurately expensive, a cup of $12 beer or an $8 hot dog. A Yankee cap is a mere $27. Perhaps that is what is meant by trickle-down economics –corporations buy tax-deductible seats at preposterous prices, that revenue (with those from broadcasting) shifting to MLB owners and players, and then trickling down to those people employed at the ball park to move hugely inflated priced merchandise and food to the masses. Everyone wins!

But if one can look past those economic realities, there is the intrinsic beauty of the ball field, a near facsimile of the old stadium and its rich history, and that certain feeling when, after the national anthem, “play ball!” settles in one’s mind, harking back to a time of innocence. It is nice to remember, and to share the day with my son, but sad as a society we have become so divided, with no clear vision of economic priorities.