4/15/10 at Yankee Stadium

Several months ago, I heard that the old Yankee Stadium was finally being demolished. People sent me videos and photos and articles, but I never looked at any of it. Even though I often complained about that stadium, it really was a special place for me, and I wasn’t ready to see proof that it was gone. Yesterday, however, I had no choice. It was my first time at the new stadium since September 28th, and this was one of the first things I saw after getting off the No. 4 train:

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<deep breath>

I’d actually left my apartment extra early so that I’d have time to wander and take pics. I figured that if I had to see it, I might as well see ALL of it. Here’s another look at what remains of the old Yankee Stadium:

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I wonder how Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Joe DiMaggio would feel if they could see this.

The bleacher concourse, way out in what used to be deep left field, was partially intact:

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So was the escalator structure at the old home plate entrance:

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I headed down to street level and began walking clockwise around the old stadium. The outer shell was still intact in some places. Here’s a look at it from underneath the elevated train tracks on River Avenue:

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I peeked through a construction gate behind the old right field corner…

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…and imagined that it was just a bad dream. Then I headed up to the roof of the nearby parking garage, and when I looked back down, I was surprised to see how much clutter there was:

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I guess the Yankees are planning to build more scaffolding and dismantle it slowly? I have no idea, and I don’t even care. I’m just glad/sad to have seen it firsthand.

Here’s a shot that shows the new stadium off in the distance:

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Here’s another shot of the new stadium, taken from a bit lower down:

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The garage was practically empty. It smelled like concrete dust and urine. Just about everything was abandoned or in ruins. It felt apocalyptic, like a deleted scene from “Terminator.”

Here’s a photo (taken from the Metro-North station) that shows the shadow of the big bat on the rubble….
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…and this is what it looked like as I made my way around the stadium:

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There was one more place to take photos: from the walkway that runs along the edge of the new Joe Yancey Track and Field. Check it out:

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Here’s one final photo of the old stadium:

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I’m still in shock.

Anyway, enough of that. I should probably mention that Jona was with me. Here we are in front of the new stadium…

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…and here’s the crowd (at just one of the four gates) that was waiting to get in:

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Last year, Yankee Stadium opened three hours before game time. This year? Two hours. Lame, lame, lame. That’s still better than some teams, but the Yankees aren’t just any team. I think they owe it to their fans to open at least two and a half hours early so that people can watch Jeter & Company take batting practice for more than 20 minutes. (Every stadium should open two and a half hours early; if I were the commissioner, I’d make it a league-wide rule.)

Jona offered to take photos of me during BP, so I handed her my camera and raced inside. In the following photo, the red arrow is pointing to me way off in the distance:

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If you click the photo above to make it bigger, you’ll see a fan wearing a red shirt four rows in front of me. That was a 14-year-old ballhawk named Connor, whom you might remember from 4/18/09 at Yankee Stadium. Yesterday, he and I often found ourselves in the same section, but we did a good job of staying out of each other’s way.

Halfway through the Yankees’ portion of BP, a left-handed batter (no idea who) hit a deep fly ball in my direction. The following four-part photo shows how it all played out:
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In case you can’t tell, the ball flew over my head and landed in the tunnel.

What happened next?

This:

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I’m always concerned that I’m gonna get shut out at Yankee Stadium, so it felt good to get that first ball out of the way. As it turned out, that was the only ball I snagged until the Angels took the field. Not good. But it wasn’t like I was dropping balls or misplaying them. There just weren’t many opportunities.

Now, let me just state for the record that I really do like the Angels. I worked as an unpaid intern for one of their minor league affiliates in 1995 — the Boise Hawks – and it was the best summer of my life. Among the many awesome things that happened, the Hawks ended up winning the Northwest League championship, and I was unexpectedly given a championship ring. It’s one of my most prized possessions, baseball or otherwise, so I’ve always rooted for the Angels as a result. That said, I’ve taken some heat from Yankee fans for wearing visiting teams’ gear in the Bronx, so I want to make it very clear that on this particular occasion, I did it for a personal reason. No disrespect intended.

Here I am with my second ball of the day:

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It was thrown by Angels catcher Bobby Wilson after he finished warming up along the left field foul line.

Ready for some more action shots?

When Jered Weaver finished warming up, I shouted his name and got him to throw me a ball from about 150 feet away. In the following photo, you can see me holding up my glove as he was just about to unleash it:

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Here’s a shot of the ball in midair (it’s just a teeny little speck)…
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…and here I am making a leaping catch:

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The foul line turned out to be a good spot while various players were finishing their warm-ups. Brian Stokes (who remembered me from his days with the Mets) tossed me another ball. The following photo shows me leaning out over the “moat” and making a two-handed catch
:
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I moved from the foul line to the seats in straight-away left field and snagged a home run hit by Brandon Wood. It landed several rows behind me and to the right, and I raced a couple other grown men for it. Then one of the Angels batters hit a deep line drive that short-hopped the outfield wall and bounced to Reggie Willits. I called out to him, and he tossed it my way. Here I am preparing for another two-handed catch. (Better safe than sorry.) The arrow is pointing to the ball, and you can see Connor in the background:

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Don’t feel bad for Connor. He ended up snagging a few baseballs of his own, and I’ll let him tell you about it himself in the comments.

The ball from Willits had a big dirt/scuff mark near the Rawlings logo, and the next ball I got — a home run that landed in the last row of seats — had a big grass stain in the same spot:

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BP ended shortly after that, so I raced through the seats and made it to 3rd base dugout just as the Angels were coming off the field. (I couldn’t get all the way down to the dugout. I had to stay half a dozen rows back.) First base coach Alfredo Griffin tossed a bunch of balls into the crowd. I got one of them. It was my eighth ball of the day, tying my personal new Yankee Stadium record.

Jona and I sat in straight-away left field during the game. This was the view:

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Nothing special, right? Well, for the first few innings, this is what it looked like to my left:

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There was SO much room to run, and on top of that, the left-handed Scott Kazmir was pitching for the Angels, so the Yankees’ lineup was stacked with righties. The good news is that there were four home runs (two by Robinson Cano, one by Hideki Matsui, and another by Derek Jeter). The bad news is that they all went to right field.

Between innings, I hung out near the Angels bullpen…

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…but didn’t get anything else. I did however, give away one of my baseballs to a little kid sitting directly behind me. He was so happy that he couldn’t stop playing with it. At one point, when the ball slipped out of his glove and nearly rolled under my seat, I joked, “Hey, look what I found!” and his parents laughed.

Time out for a moment. Do you notice the uniform number of the pitcher in the photo above? Did you notice the uniform number of the left fielder two photos before that? Yep, it was Jackie Robinson Day, so everyone was wearing No. 42 in his honor. My rosters were basically useless as a result, but I’m not complaining. Believe me. I’m just pointing out one silly/related detail. Okay, time in.

The game itself was interminable. Kazmir threw 87 pitches in four-plus innings, while Yankees starter Phil Hughes threw 108 in five-plus. Then the bullpens continued the trend of inefficiency. I wouldn’t have minded except it got really cold, and Jona’s allergies were killing her — but we stayed and watched Mariano Rivera bail out Joba Chamberlain with a one-out save. Final score: Yankees 6, Angels 2.


SNAGGING STATS:

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• 8 balls at this game (7 pictured on the right because I gave one away)

• 23 balls in 2 games this season = 11.5 balls per game.

• 631 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 489 consecutive games in New York with at
least one ball

• 137 consecutive Yankee games with at least one ball

• 4,381 total balls

CHARITY STATS:

• 17 donors (click here to learn more and support the cause)

• $1.61 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $12.88 raised at this game

• $37.03 raised this season for Pitch In For Baseball

17 Comments

Well, I guess you needed to have some sort of closure with the old stadium. At least you got it out of the way early in the season. Nice game too, 8 balls is good considering the circumstances. Just wait until you go back to Camden, then you can really pad your stats!
Brian

sad to see old yankee stadium go. I’d been there plenty of times but never really acknowledged it’s greatness. Man, tearing it down makes me hate the yankees only more.

Hey Zack, went to the Wednesday afternoon game with my brother Joe (posts on here as Milton157) and we both actually matched your Yanks BP total: a big, fat 1 ball each (he got a toss from Hughes and then I snagged a Tex HR that landed and got wedged in a folded up seat cushion). Agree on the lameness of the 2 hour gate opening – Weds was the same as what you got on Thurs – 20 min of Yankees BP, with literally only 3 balls making it to the seats (the “Bronx Bunters”!) and probably 4 tosses (so considering that we got 2 of those 7 balls, I guess that’s pretty good). This was my first game back at the new YS since last June (vs. the Mets, the Castillo “drop” game) and absolutely, to see the old cathedral looking like it does, I shed a tear. Was hoping to see some commemorative balls (like you were seeing over at Citi last week) but they’re probably all on sale at steinersports.com for 3 easy installments of $79. On another note, just finished reading Golenbock’s Steinbrenner bio “George”. In there he says that the Yanks take home $200 mil a year just from the YES Network ALONE!!! At that rate, their payroll should be closer to $300 mil. Carl Crawford, here we come!

Great pics of Yankee Stadium. I am glad unlike Europe, we in America destroy old buildings and history. Watch a historic stadium go down in Texas!!!!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KdvFloVNAjg&feature=fvsr

-Frank
http://texas4baseball.mlblogs.com/

Great job Zack. It’s a horrible sight to see the old ballpark torn down. When my father and I attended opening day and saw it for the first time it made us both sick to our stomachs. It’s a shame to see history torn down just so they can have a wider concession stand and a moat to keep the real fans out. Anyway, another job well done and hopefully i’ll see ya soon. Catch ya lata
- tony

I’m glad you still like the Angels! I too worked in the Angels minor league system, but I can’t exactly tell you what I did since it’s super secret. Let’s just say I dressed up as a giant red owl and proceeded to be harassed by children for 9 innings a game. Yes, I was the mascot for the Angels rookie league team the Orem Owlz. Sure was a blast….until the parents got settled in and let their evil children roam around, following me and making my life a living hell. Unfortunately for me, the Owlz won the title the year before I was the mascot and the year after, so no ring for me. Anyways, GO ANGELS!

Great first game at Yankee Stadium zack. Its a shame to see the old one go down. I was at the game the day after you went so seeing the old Stadium the way it looked was just undescribeable. I too hate the fact that the stadium opens only 2 hours early. I’ve heard that Citi field opens an extra half hour early on saturday and sunday if you have season tix so if you buy tix from a season ticket holder you can get in earlier. I snagged one ball during BP against the Rangers. Between the packed seats and minimal opportunities, it just maks BP at yankee stadium difficult.

Wow. I only attended one game at the old stadium, but that makes me sick to see that. Well great snagging considering the circumstances!!

-Nathan

does anyone want 2 tickets to mondays mets game, i got a track meet and i need to get rid of them

Good day Zack! Did Rivera get the save because the tying run was on deck? I read Watching Baseball Smarter.

Cheers,

Dennis

BRIAN-
Well, the way things are going right now with the book, there’s no telling when I’ll make it to Camden. Anyway, thanks.

BIG APPLE BLOGGER-
The old stadium had lots of flaws, but you know what? That gave it character — and that’s something that the new stadium will never have.

DANR-
There’s one difference between the Mets and Yankees. The Mets put their extra commemorative balls into the BP bucket for the fans to enjoy. The Yankees? Yeah. Anyway, congrats on the balls you guys snagged.

FRANK-
Awesome interview. That kid is slick!

TONY-
Well said. You nailed it. Hope to see you soon, although I probably won’t be back at Yankee Stadium for a while.

CHASICLE-
Funny. Did you get to know Tom Kotchman? Was he managing the team when you were there? He was managing in Boise when I was there, and his 12-year-old son, Casey, would sometimes take BP after the games. The kid had NO power — I could seriously hit the ball three times as far when I was 12 — but he had a sweet swing.

WLARUSSO-
Thanks, and yes, it’s all rather unfortunate.

NATHAN-
Well, if it makes YOU sick, you can imagine how it makes me feel.

YANKEES42294-
Thanks, but I can’t use them.

DENNIS-
Yup, that’s exactly it. Good call. Glad to know that the book came in handy.

Several comments here:
(1) Nice leaning apart pict.
(2) I always enjoy the entries when you represent with the sweet piece of Rawlings leather. Good job.
(3) Nice job on the two handed catches. Take note of that, kids. Fundamentals.
(4) Nice dirt/grass smudge pictures. I’m pretty sure you have the best baseball photography skills on MLBlogs. You always get crystal clear close-ups, which is hard.

Hey Zack…

So, on Opening Day I heard/knew that the QB of the San Diego Chargers, Phillip Rivers, was going to throw out the first pitch. My plan was to get down right on the tunnel where Phillip would be exiting the field after the first pitch on Opening Day……with the Opening Day ball. I was wearing my Phillip Rivers #17 Chargers jersey and thought he would think I was a superfan of his and give me the ball when I asked for it. Everything went as planned, but he said…..”I’m going to keep it, sorry.” Rats. So close. Anyway, I tried. Talk to you later.

Leigh

It was real sad seeing it today, the first ever stadium I went to, with so many memories like many others. Pretty decent snagging day, with only 1/2 a bp. Joe

Hey Zack……

How sad is this? Because I work the midnight shift I don’t go to day games. I’m sleeping then. At today’s game, my seatmate Kathleen caught BOTH home runs hit today. TWO in one game. Ugggh. The worst part was when she said, “You would have totally had both of them.” Ouch. Anyway, good for her. I need to get on the board…….and start going to some day games. Take it easy.

Leigh

I see the Old stadium every single day on my way home from work. It breaks my heart.

TODD-
1) Thanks.
2) I brought it because the glove trick is basically unusable in the Bronx.
3) Even Ryan Howard does it on routine throws across the diamond.
4) Thanks for noticing.

LEIGH-
Pretty sweet plan with the Opening Day ball. Sorry it didn’t work out. As for your other comment, I cringed (on your behalf), but what are you saying…that a *woman* snagged two game home runs in one game? Not being sexist — there just aren’t many female ballhawks.

JOE-
I feel your pain.

MAVERICK316-
Ouch.

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