Adventures in Baseball: New York and Philadelphia

by Gregory Pratt,
September 22, 2008

I made up my mind last fall that I would catch a game at Yankee Stadium before it was demolished. I had originally aimed for Opening Day, but that did not work out because of the prohibitive cost of Opening Day tickets. I next aimed for All-Star Game, tickets but didn't even pull the trigger because it became clear to me that they would be prohibitively expensive. So, I put the game off and decided that I would go out there in September sometime, preferably with a friend of mine who is a professor and/or my girlfriend. The cost wound up being prohibitive for my girlfriend and the professor wasn't able to make it, either, as the cost was prohibitive for him, too. I thought I'd be going to The Stadium alone, which I would have been fine with, but I decided to try out one more option. I'd kicked around the idea of inviting Asher Chancey to join me for a game there and finally decided to pull the trigger on asking him. To my delight, he accepted, but that only lasted for a few hours until he went home to think about it and declined. The cost was once again prohibitive.  

I wound up buying a $12 bleacher seat on the internet for $103, and airfare cost me $250 roundtrip, which isn't bad, but is a significant part of my finances, i.e. almost all of it. Then my mom insisted that I bring an "adult" with me, so I invited my best friend to come along and paid for his airfare. Fortunately for us, Asher graciously allowed us to stay at his house and drive us to the 30th Street Station in Philly, which would take us to Trenton, which would take us to New York City, where we could take the subway and walk into The Stadium.

Several times in the planning process of this trip, I laughed at myself and wondered why I was going through all this trouble. I told my mother that I couldn't live with myself if I had had the opportunity to go to The Stadium and didn't take it. I told my best friends that the impulsive side of me was pushing me toward New York. And I told strangers that I was doing it because I think the prospect of bankrupting myself for a baseball game makes for an entertaining anecdote.   

Truthfully, I wanted to attend a game at Yankee Stadium because I believe that The Stadium is the most significant non-skyscraper institution built in America this past century. I believe that The Stadium is the most significant cultural and political institution in America. It is, after all, where the most successful sports franchise in history ever  has been housed. It was the most significant venue of its age and the first ballpark to have the term "Stadium" in its name. It has seen 26 World Championships. Yankee Stadium hosts America's greatest team in America's most significant city in its national pastime, a pastime that blends high and low culture and appeals to more Americans than anything else. Baseball is American culture brought to life and The Stadium is that culture's greatest home. But beyond baseball, The Stadium has hosted Popes, Nelson Mandela, and Pink Floyd, among other significant icons, and it is as important as I make it out to be, just take my word for it!   

Upon arriving, I noticed that The Stadium looks 85 years old, but it was nevertheless my pleasure to catch a game there on September 13th. I got to see a patented Derek Jeter jump-throw and a Tampa Bay Rays victory, but I will always remember The Stadium over the ballgame on that specific day. The smell of the hotdogs as soon as I walked into the building overwhelmed me in ways that I have never been overwhelmed by food before, and though the customer service was the worst and slowest I've ever had in my life, the hotdogs were well worth the 30 minute wait. Whether or not that is a sentimentalist judgment is irrelevant: I have never had more fun sitting in a ballpark eating a hotdog before, and I am not sure that I will ever have that feeling again.

As I alluded to, The Stadium is not a modern beauty or anything resembling it, but it is still a great place to catch a ballgame, because you can feel the history around you. If you can't, then you at least get to experience some of the greatest fans on Earth. I don't want to criticize anyone else's fans, but I have never felt more energy from the crowd during a game than I felt from the Yankee fans that day. "Roll Call" at The Stadium is as electric as it gets, and I'm just sorry that James Shields shut them down, because I'd have loved to hear the fans give it to the game full-throttle all game long. As it was, even with a lopsided loss, the fans were great to talk to and sit around.   

After the game, I went out with my best friend, who hung around the city while I caught the game, and explored NYC in depth. That is beyond the scope of this article. In the middle of the night Sunday, when Asher was driving my best friend and I from Trenton to Philadelphia, I got the idea to invite Asher to join me for a game at Citizen's Bank Ballpark as the Phillies were in town. He was unable to accept the invitation because he had work to get done, but he was kind enough to drive me to the 1:35 start, and he picked me up right after the game, too.

I bought a Brad Lidge shirt, a crab cake, and an Italian sausage, and sat right behind home plate in the eleventh row of the upper deck, which is an awful seat at US Cellular Field and a decent one at Wrigley, but is just marvelous in Philadelphia. That ballpark is cozy and beautiful. The fans are hilarious and almost as energetic as Yankees fans. The Boobirds were out early, as Joe Blanton gave up two runs in the first.  They were there to support their team as they rallied throughout the game, however. I have a little less to say about that game than the Yankees game, because I do not have the vocabulary or the shamelessness to write about deep and personal quasi-religious experiences without feeling a self-consciousness that I don't generally feel, but let me just say that I am rarely more comfortable than I am at ballparks and the experiences I had in Philadelphia and New York City were perfect. Baseball is a lifestyle.

Gregory Pratt is a political science and history double-major at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His political commentary can be found at the Office of the Independent Blogger, and he can be reached at