Sunday, September 28, 2008

Remembering two great stadiums

You know I don't care much about politics. I don't care much about sports either. But when it's an end of an era for two New York baseball teams, I feel obligated to blog about it.

The New York Yankees and the New York Mets have both played their final games at Yankee and Shea stadiums, respectively. Two magnificent new buildings are already under way - a new Yankee Stadium to replace the 1923 building in the Bronx, and Citi Field to replace the 1964 Shea Stadium in Queens.

Neither team finished the season as they would have hoped - no playoffs to speak of - and it was just as sad to watch the Yankees beat the Orioles for the last time last week in the "house that (Babe) Ruth built" as it was to see the Mets lose to the Marlins tonight in the former home of the New York Jets.

I've been to plenty of games at Yankee Stadium. When I worked as an au-pair, it was common practice to visit the ballpark several times a month - especially in the early fall before the playoffs - with Mike and his friends. We would show up (at least) an hour before the game to watch the batting practice - the kids always hoping to catch a ball or get an autograph. A few times we would also stay after the game to line up for autographs near the home team's exit.

I was so mad at the players one year because about 20 kids were waiting in line for autographs, and not one single Yankee even acknowledged them. Noses in the air, they all walked straight to a waiting bus and got on. The visiting team members, however, did their best to sign some shirts, cards or arms before they were rushed away by their manager.

That's when I stopped being a Yankee fan. And since I met Albie, it's all about the Mets. For his birthday in 2005, I took him to a game as a surprise. The Mets beat St. Louis in the quickest game we've ever seen - about 2 hours. The following year, we went again. We were treated to a four-hour game, and then I think we got lost on our way home. We enjoyed overpriced hot dogs and beer just as much as being in the Pentax box seats (don't ask).

I finally got an autograph from a New York Yankee for my boy Mike. This story has nothing to do with either stadium, but I figured I can brag about my encounter here anyway. On a college trip to Washington, D.C., with our student newspaper group, we stopped our van to fill up gas in White Plains. Right next to us, Bernie Williams pulled up in a black sports car and started pumping his own gas (most rich people use full-service stations so they don't have to leave their cars).

Of course, I would have never recognized him unless our adviser, Don, said "isn't that Bernie Williams?" I rushed out of the car, notepad in hand, and asked him to sign his name. He gladly obliged, then he smiled and waved at the other students in the van - all too amazed to say a word.

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