On Friday, I had the incredibly good fortune to join my aunt and uncle at Yankee Stadium for Game 2 of the American League Division Series play-offs. Thanks to a generous friend of theirs, we got to sit in the swanky Delta SkyBox section, which was complete with in-seat waitress service ($12 hot dogs!), private restrooms, and a fully stocked bar and lounge.
Due to the bizarre nature of the television rights for the play-offs (Ted Turner is an evil, prescient genius), the game was starting at roughly 6:00, which meant I was would have to leave work early if I wanted to have any chance of being in my seat before the first pitch. It was the cause of a minor internal conflict. Yes, it was a busy Friday before a three-day weekend; but frankly, I decided, some things are bigger than the daily grind. So, I bolted the moment my desk was clear and hustled to the B/D train.
Now, since my aunt and uncle were driving down from Massachusetts, and I was Great Escape-ing it from midtown, we weren’t sure how we were going to manage to meet up in the throng of a play-off crowd. At any other sporting arena, they could have left my ticket at a will call window and gone about their business. However, a phone call to Yankee Stadium yielded a negative answer to that proposal. Similarly, they were afraid of going to their seats and then waiting for me outside, since there was quite a scandal earlier in the season regarding the Stadium’s draconian re-entry policy. So, my uncle’s Black Ops solution was to leave the ticket hidden under the driver’s side floor mat of his not inconsiderably priced automobile, which he would leave unlocked for me to retrieve inside a parking garage on 164th Street in the Bronx.
I wish I could recount some hilarious tale of comic misunderstandings between myself, an overzealous parking attendant, and humorless members of the NYPD, but the truth is my uncle’s plan worked. I walked right into the garage, past three attendants who never raised a single eyebrow between them, up the stairs to his car and retrieved the ticket, then carried on my way. It just goes to show you what you can get away with if you simply look like you’re supposed to be doing what you’re doing.
The seats were outstanding: behind home plate, staring down the first base line. There were some interesting characters in our vicinity: the little girl who asked what each and every thing in the stadium was, and her exasperated father who always answered her even if he just wanted to watch the game in contemplative silence; the high school kid in front of his who was taking the SATs (again) the next morning; and the utterly massive man a few seats down the row from us who could have balanced a three course meal atop his swollen gut (actually, he did).
As I’m sure you know by now, it was a game for the ages. Down 3 – 1 in the ninth inning, Mark Teixeira got himself on base and Alex Rodriguez followed with a crushing homer to tie the game. Two tense extra innings later, Teixeira returned to the plate and blasted what would be the winning walk-off homer, a hit whose clearance above the wall was so minimal that I couldn’t judge whether it was fair or foul from my virtually unobstructed vantage point. The crowd erupted, and most people didn’t begin to leave until Tex had wrapped up his post-game interview.
Below you’ll find the video I took of Alex’s tying home run. It’s been a difficult year for the two of us, but it’s moments like this that remind me why I love him.
Totally euphoric, I decided that I would wait near the player’s garage to see if I could glimpse any of the Yanks as they drove home. The only person I saw before giving up and heading for the subway was Kurt Russell. Desperately trying to be noticed, his garish SUV came out with all the windows down, slowly rolling into traffic. We made eye contact, and I kind of just nodded, like he was some neighbor I see in the supermarket every week but never advance conversation with beyond the current weather or the price of tomatoes. Besides, I wasn’t waiting at the gates to see Kurt Russell. No one was waiting for Kurt Russell! And given the circumstances under which he was attending, what was I supposed to say to him anyway? “Nice son-in-law you almost have!” “Your daughter’s in for some marathon lovin’ tonight!” “How’s Goldie’s collagen regiment going?”
I had plenty to say during the game, though. Below is a sampling of some of the text messages I was furiously firing off to those watching from home.
“I’m so close to Alex I might get arrested.”
“I need a bag to breathe into.”
“Sweet suffering Jesus…”
“OMGWTFBBQ!” (Following A-Rod’s homer)
The Bronx Bombers take the field in Minneapolis roughly an hour from press time. If they win there, they advance to the ALCS, where the Angels now await them, having completed their sweep of the Red Sox this afternoon at Fenway, taking the masculinity of Jonathan Papelbon and Dustin Pedroia as their trophies of victory.
I shudder to think of what life without baseball will be like in November.