Experience Of A Lifetime
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following story appeared in The Post-Journal in May 1999, a week after a father and son made a trip to the old Yankee Stadium. With the 2020 Major League Baseball season scheduled to start in a couple weeks, it was deemed appropriate to revisit their day in the Bronx as part of the newspaper’s “Remember When?” series.
I didn’t think my youngest son, Jeremy, knew much about keeping score at a baseball game.
Sure, he plays in the Jamestown Bambino League, and over the last three years has learned a lot about America’s pastime from some very fine coaches.
But for him to actually sit down and track every pitch, every hit and every out for an entire game?
Put it this way: You’d get better odds that he’d voluntarily clean his room.
Or so I thought.
Until last Saturday, until he experienced, as an 11-year-old, what I’d been waiting most of my 38 years to experience — a game at Yankee Stadium.
The fact that we rode all night on a chartered bus as part of a whirlwind trip to New York made little difference to Jeremy. Even at his tender age, he realized he was about to see something special on a picture-perfect day in the Bronx.
So, as the lineups were announced by Bob Shepard in his deep baritone voice, Jeremy carefully recorded the name and number of each player on his scorecard that was included in his just-purchased program. And from the first pitch to the last, Jeremy didn’t move from his seat, located 18 rows from the field, and halfway between home plate and the Chicago White Sox dugout.
He didn’t quit in frustration when Yankees starter Ramiro Mendoza gave up a run in the first inning and six more in the second.
He didn’t toss his pencil away in the bottom of the second when the Yankees left the bases loaded, and he didn’t lose interest in the bottom of the ninth when the outcome had long since been decided.
He was the picture of concentration.
It was a sight to behold.
Do you know why?
Because it showed that in this age of home computers and video games — which Jeremy readily enjoys — youngsters can still appreciate something as basic as an afternoon at the ballpark. In our particular case, an afternoon at Yankee Stadium.
If you’re a follower of the boys in pinstripes, you’ll know what I mean. There’s something special, almost mystical, about the cavernous stadium on the corner of 161st Street and River Avenue in the Bronx. It was there that legends like Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle played. It was there that Reggie hit three home runs in one game during the ’77 World Series. It was there that Don Larsen and David Wells tossed perfect games.
But even though the game Jeremy and I saw will not be remembered for outstanding individual or team achievements — the Yankees lost, 12-4 — it has already left an indelible impression on me. Not only did it fulfill a lifetime dream of mine, but it also made me relive my youth and my love for the Yanks.
When the game was over, Jeremy scanned the rows of empty seats around us and found several souvenir Yankees caps — given away in a promotion by Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream — that had been left behind. He scooped them up, handed them to me and I put them in his — surprise, surprise — Yankees duffel bag, joining the program, a Yankees yearbook and two other souvenir caps.
We left the stadium, found our traveling party and spent the rest of the evening — except for a dinner stop in Little Italy — getting a tour of the city from our bus driver, Eddie, who regularly ended his sentences with the phrase, “Fahgitaboutit?”
In Eddie-ese that’s the way a native New Yorker says, “Forget about it.”
But who was I to correct him?
Anyone who can safely steer a fully loaded bus through the horrific traffic in midtown Manhattan while simultaneously pointing out the likes of Macey’s, Rockefeller Center and Donald Trump’s latest monument to himself, can butcher the English language any time he wants.
When it was time to leave the Big Apple at about 11:30 p.m., Eddie had given way to a new driver and Jeremy had given way to fatigue. In fact, I think he was asleep before the lights went out in the bus.
He slept all the way home, his brand-new Yankees jersey serving as the best night shirt he’d ever worn.
Sorry, Eddie, we can’t.
And we won’t.