One out of left field
Over the five or so years I’ve written Deep In the Red, I’ve been given the privilege of writing about baseball — most especially the Yankees, of course — from a unique if not wholly singular perspective.
YESNetwork.com has given a virtual free hand that enables me to switch from wearing my well-worn Yankee cap to my press box sport jacket, if not at will, then mostly so, and often at short notice. As a fan I’ve tried to bare my honest thoughts and emotions to the bone in hopes of capturing the passion shared by countless other fans. In the role of journalist and analyst, I’ve tried to write with an unsensationalistic objectivity, respect for players, and balance I often find lacking in the work of far too many sportswriters who view the game with jaundiced eyes — and, in some cases nowadays, keep those eyes firmly on their Twitter pages rather than the games they’re supposed to be watching and reporting on.
This forum is something for which I am beyond grateful. I consider it a blessing.
When I’m functioning as a member of the working press, I’m given the professional courtesies all media people are afforded. And when I’m in my seat at the games wearing my Yankee cap there are no special benefits. I’m just one of 50,000 or so other paying customers there for a night out at the ballpark.
Saturday night at Yankee Stadium, at a game my wife and I had highly anticipated, the obduracy and thoughtlessness of one security staffer took some of the luster off the thrill we should have taken from an epic postseason win.
I should mention that my wife’s a stickler for preparation. The preparation part is useful when you’re going to a game during which you’ll be sitting out in the left field bleachers on a night when temperatures are in the 40’s, a nor’easter is supposed to be blasting in and rain delays are expected throughout the game.
I can’t tell you how much insulation Suzanne wore under her long winter coat, scarf and hat. All I know is that it was a lot. And that as we prepared to leave our apartment for the game, she wondered if people would think she was a little crazy in all those clothes. Walking to the subway station, we laughed because she could hardly bend her knees. It was the double tights, Under Armour and what-not she’d layered on. She was also carrying a rolled up blanket in some kind of tote. Oh, and an umbrella. She’s on the slight side and needs to bundle up in bad weather.
We were fortunate in that the rain held up till late in the game — I think it was around eleven o’clock. It was chilly for most of the night, though. And when it got wet and windy it felt downright cold out in the bleachers.
When I looked over at Suzanne at some point around the ninth or 10th inning, I noticed she was shivering under her umbrella. And that the umbrella wasn’t doing much good in the slanting rain anyway.
I asked if she was okay, and she said she was. But when you see your wife trembling, and her knees knocking, and her lips getting white, even if you haven’t been married forever like I have, you know she’s only saying that because she doesn’t want to ruin your time and make you feel as if you’d better leave early.
I told her that maybe we ought to go home. But she’s as averse to leaving a Yankees game in progress as I’ve always been, especially a playoff game, and insisted she just needed to get out of the cold and rain for a little while, and would find someplace to stand in the concourse, maybe have a coffee to warm her up.
“You stay here,” she said. “I’ll call you on the cell and let you know where I am.”
I told her not to be ridiculous and went with her.
At this point — I’m guessing it was the eleventh inning — the crowd had thinned significantly out around the left field bleachers. Some were people with kids, others were people with long drives home, and I guess still others were just tired and cold and soaked. Whatever their reasons, they were heading for the aisles in bunches.
There was a section back there that had been designated as Standing Room Only for the playoffs. It has a kind of overhang that blocks the rain, and a wall behind it that cuts down the wind stream. The last two holdouts in that section were a guy with no shirt on and a beer sloshing in his hand, and another guy who was kind of prowling around looking shady. Everybody else had departed.
Suzanne had warmed a bit in the concourse. She had gotten some color back in her face and her teeth weren’t chattering. She wanted to try and hang in and root the team on for the rest of the game, just not in the bleachers where the wind was still ripping over and through her coat. So we figured we’d give the SRO section a shot.
Now, I understand about moving into different seats than the ones you’ve bought. It’s one thing moving down to better, more expensive ones nowadays, even if they’re empty. Back in the old days that was okay, but now it isn’t, and I accept it. But you wouldn’t figure somebody would mind your moving to a worse, cheaper section with no place to sit down, let alone one that was now completely deserted except for the two stragglers I mentioned.
We went into the SRO section and had been there about three minutes when the security guard came over and asked if we had tickets.
“We’ve got bleacher seats,” I said, showing my ticket to him. “But my wife’s soaked, and couldn’t take the cold anymore. It okay if we stay here?”
“Unless you have tickets for this area, you have to leave,” he said. “You have bleacher seats. This is Standing Room Only.”
“But there’s nobody left standing here,” I said.
The security guy just shook his head. Meanwhile, the bare-chested guy came running over. He’s completely toasted but, I realize, trying to help.
“This is the shirtless section now,” he tells the security guard. “And me being the only guy here, I say they can stay, man. They can even keep their shirts on!”
The security guard ignored him.
“You have to leave,” he told me again.
“Look,” I said. “My wife and I aren’t causing problems. We’re into extra innings on a miserable night, and she’s freezing, and it’s a playoff game. We just want to see the end.”
Robotman couldn’t have cared less: “You have to leave. I’m just doing my job.”
“But if I went to a customer service desk, and told them my wife was uncomfortable , they’d probably put us somewhere else right now anyway. Since there are all kinds of seats available.”
I don’t know whether or not the part about the moving’s true. I think it might be. But when you’re in extra innings, and it’s one o’clock in the morning, five hours into a game that can end in a heartbeat with an error or a home run, the last thing you want to do is have to seek out customer service at an enormous Stadium and miss that last play.
Meanwhile, for maybe the fifth time, the security guard is repeating his mantra. “You have to leave, I’m just doing my job.”
Behind him, the shirtless guy’s signaling for us to walk away and circle back from the other direction. And behind me, the guy who’s been roaming aro
und looking shifty tries to grab my wife’s tote bag, which she’s set down against the wall. She yanks it out of his hand at the last minute and he takes off running. I don’t find out about this till later. My back is to him, and the security guard, who is facing in his direction, is too busy telling me he’s doing his job to notice.
“Jerome, let’s just go,” my wife says. “It’s not worth it.”
I’m looking at the guard. I’m pretending not to think he’s the world’s biggest jerk as I oh-so-politely ask one final time to give us a break and am again told to move on. I’m also pretending not to think that maybe he ought to stop repeating that he’s just doing his job and instead try using his head.
And I’m thinking one other thing under that cap of mine that I’ll get around to in a second.
First, though, to make a long story short, we moved. We found a bench in the last row bleachers that was entirely vacated, and had a little coverage, and my wife wrapped herself in her blanket, and we watched the end of the game. The security guards there weren’t hassling anyone. Give them credit.
Finally we cheered and clapped when Hairston ran home on that error, and waited for the pie, and then headed out of the Stadium with the crowd.
We were both a little subdued as we left, though. I wasn’t grinning from ear to ear the way I ordinarily would have. I wasn’t high-fiving anyone, or thinking about what a classic game I’d seen. I was glad the Yanks won and glad, too, that I was going home. It had been a great night for the Yanks but not such a great night for me or my wife.
And as for the final thing I thought under my Yanks cap about the uniform in the SRO section:
What I was thinking was that I would write about him today in this column. Write how he showed no discretionary judgment, no human kindness, no wisdom, no common consideration or decency. Write that I hope he reads this, and I hope even more that somebody takes him to task for it. He stunk at his job and frankly doesn’t deserve to have it.
This morning, I mentioned a little of what happened last night to a pal and fellow journalist — one of the guys who actually watches the games he writes about in the newspaper. He replied that he hoped my wife and I enjoyed the end of the game anyway. I told him we did, but that our enjoyment was a little diminished by our experience.
My memory of Game 2 of the 2009 ALCS will never be an entirely happy one.
Kind of stinks.