The PopCulteer
September 7, 2018

A week ago today, I went to Yankee Stadium to watch a baseball game.

That may not seem like a big deal to you. Millions of people do it every year. In my case, it was something that, for a long time, I never dreamed would happen.

I’ve been a fan of the New York Yankees my entire life. I inherited my favorite team from my father. I’m not obsessive about baseball, but I do enjoy watching the occasional game, and when my team is in the post season, I make it a point to cheer them on.

Before this, I had never set foot in a major league ballpark. Most of the reason for that was simply location. Charleston isn’t conveniently located less than a few hours drive from any MLB city, and although I’ve been going to Pittsburgh on a regular basis for over thirty years, I never really considered going to a Pirates game.

Apologies to fans of the Pirates, but I didn’t really want my first major league game to be in Pittsburgh. I love the Steelers, but I’ve never really been caught up in the Pirate’s mystique.

I really wanted to hold out for Yankee Stadium. My dad never got to visit Yankee Stadium. He traveled to closer cities to see his favorite team, and even got to see Joe DiMaggio in Washington, the day after the streak was broken. And he saw Mickey Mantle play in Watt Powell Park while rehabbing an injury. But Pop never made it to New York City.

I’ve mentioned before that I spent a long time as a caregiver. My father had a blood disorder that eventually developed into leukemia, and my mother suffered a major stroke in 1997 that left her bedridden. I took care of them at home from the early 1990s to 2006. During this time I couldn’t imagine being away from them long enough to go on any trips.

Within months after my mother passed away (Pop had died three years earlier), my aunt asked me to help take care of my uncle, and I was basically drafted into caregiver mode for another seven years.

When my uncle died in 2013 I was finally free to travel. I had actually started visiting other cities before he died, making my first trip to JoeLanta and a couple of trips to Washington D.C, but during those trips, even though we had plenty of other caregivers to watch over my uncle, members of his family made it a point to call every few minutes to ask me questions.

When the deck was cleared and I was no longer responsible for other people’s lives, I was finally free to live my own. Melanie and I got married in Chicago in 2014, and we make it a point to take several trips a year, just because we couldn’t for the longest time.

In fact, the reason that I finally took the plunge and went to Yankee Stadium was because Melanie is now a devoted fan…of the Chicago Cubs. She wants to go to a game at Wrigley Field (sooner than later, to be precise), and I could not have my first visit to a Major League ballpark be anywhere but Yankee Stadium.

If this sounds selfish…I’ll admit to that. The thing is, I’ve been a Yankees fan since birth, and Mel has been a Cubs fan for a bit over two years. I had to call senority on this one. Now that I’ve seen a game at Yankee Stadium, we can go where ever she wants.

The whole experience was a wide-eyed joy. In our previous trips to New York City, neither me nor Mel had ever ridden the subway. We took our first subway trip to Yankee Stadium one week ago. It smelled exactly like everybody said it would…like if giant robots had sweaty private parts. But it was still an adventure. I got to stand, pinned up against the wall (photo at right), for the entire 30-minute trip. But I was cool with that.

The train spilled its passengers at Yankee Stadium, and we walked around to get our bearings. We had to go buy tickets first. The light rain that plagued us all day threatened the game, but as long as I got in and was able to take my seat, I was going to be happy. I really never thought that I’d get the chance to go to Yankee Stadium.  This was hallowed ground, more important to me than the Vatican to the Pope.

It was Brett Gardner Bobblehead Day, and we didn’t really expect to get one. We got there hours early, but there were already massive lines. After we got our ticket, I had a hunch that we’d be closer to our seats if we walked around the stadium and entered through Gate 8.

It turned out that hardly anybody was using Gate 8. We got in without standing in line, and were both handed a Bobblehead of one of my favorite current players (seen left). We arrived so early that we had to wait to get to the section with our seats, but that gave us time to grab a bite to eat and enjoy the park.

We did not visit the museum or the stores or anything. This trip was about seeing a game, and we figured we’ll eventually go back and see all that stuff later. Plans are already afoot for 2019.

Come 5:30 we were able to get to our seats in section 211, and relax and watch stuff on the big screen, while not mentioning the rain that was still coming down at a mild pace. We sort of had the section to ourselves for a while because we’d gotten there so early, as you can see in the image at the right.

I should probably mention that most of the photos you see with this post were taken before the game. Once the game started, I put away the camera and phone and enjoyed it without infringing on any material owned by Major League Baseball, since I did not have expressed written consent or anything.

Then, right before the game started, the rain stopped. It became a cool and breezy 70 degrees. The weather was perfect, and the ground crew removed the tarp from the infield.

This being our first trip to a MLB ballpark, I wasn’t sure if it was standard practice to keep the infield cover before gametime, but it was rainly lightly, but steadily, so it was a bit nerve-wracking to see the field covered when we got there.

The Yankees were playing the Detroit Tigers. We’d picked this time to go because the tickets were less expensive, and (sorry Tigers fans) there was a better chance that the Yankees would win.

Before the game, while posting on Facebook, Jack Hall, a friend and fellow GI Joe collector, and a loyal Tigers fan, said he was rooting against the Yankees (whom he also likes). I made a reverse-bet with him. If the Yankees beat his team, I’d send him a box of Quisp cereal.

Jack should get his Quisp today or tomorrow. The Tigers took an early lead. Then, in the sixth inning, Brett Gardner, on the day of his holy Bobble-headening, hit a two-run homer to put the Yankees on the scoreboard for the first time. One Strikeout later, Aaron Hicks and Gleybor Torres hit back-to-back homers to give the Yankees the lead. Later Detroit re-took the lead, but in the 8th inning, Gardner scored the tying run, and the Yanks added two more for the win.

I was pretty lucky. At my first game in a major league ballpark, I got to see my team win, and hit three home runs in one inning, and the rain held off and it was a fantastic experience all around.

The really cool thing was that the crowd was united. There were no divisions over skin color, politics, religion or anything else. For a few hours we didn’t think about how awful the president is, or how things are probably going to get worse soon. We were spared the real world issues of the day, and over 41,000 of us got to sit back and enjoy an exciting ballgame. This was America at its finest…unless you were a Tigers fan.

I would like to mention that I have been to games at Power Park here in town, and I have an observation: When we went to local games, I noticed that they pumped in really, really loud music, non-stop, before the game and between every inning. It was so loud that you couldn’t possibly carry on a conversation. If they weren’t playing music they were making some really loud announcement or having a contest or something.  I figured that at Yankee Stadium it would be much worse. I was wrong. While they do play music and have news and introductions and announcments, the audio level was never at the pain-inducing roar that our local minor-league team uses (or used–to be fair, I haven’t been to a Power Game in about seven years, largely due to the noise. They may have fixed it by now). Mel and I were able to talk to each other without yelling, and we got to meet some of our fellow fans. It was so much nicer than the audio onslaught that I’ve experienced here in town.

After the game, Mel and I were able to navigate the subway back to our hotel (which was just a block away from the station) and prepare for our last night’s slumber in the city that never sleeps. We even passed the stage door to SpongeBob Squarepants on the way. The next morning we were back on the train to Pittsburgh, and the day after that we meandered our way down I 79.

We’d made our anniversary trip to New York City. Mel got to see SpongeBob Squarepants: The Broadway Musical. We got to eat Junior’s Cheesecake. I got to see the Yankees play at Yankee Stadium.

Mission accomplished.

Now we need to get ready for part two of the anniversary trip. Here’s a video with some random inages from our trip…

That’s the PopCulteer for this week. Check back for our regular features, and get ready for more book and toy reviews next week.