Friday, May 27, 2005

The Bronx Zoo

Here's a crazy story about my visit to Yankee Stadium back in '86, where I was by myself in the bleachers for a night game in the Bronx with my luggage. While traveling to Montreal to visit a friend at a business conference (the Expos were home, of course. That's the whole point!), I had a choice of a layover in Dallas, where the A's were playing the Rangers, or New York where the Yankees were home vs. the Blue Jays. Direct flights to Canadian cities were just about non-existent from San Fran. What a choice....well, duh! I picked the 16 hour NY layover, landing in NY late in the afternoon and to catch the early morning flight to Montreal.

The next day's flight was so early that I decided to skip lodging and catch a few winks in the lounge at LaGuardia. So I went to place my bags in those airport lockers and catch a cab to the big stadium. Not so fast... There was that international terrorist bomb scare in '86, and LaGuardia decided to shut down their lockers until things cooled down. This meant having to take my luggage to Yankee Stadium. Arrrrgh! Okay, so I get in a cab and go to the yard. Upon arriving, I asked the cabbie where they picked up after the game. "Uhhhhm, we don't." "What!?" "Oh, Yellows don't run the Bronx after dark. You'll have to take the subway." Yeah, right!

Now, I was wearing an A's hat and shirt (I wore A's stuff to visit AL parks and Giants stuff in NL parks back then), carrying my own luggage, completely alone, never visited NY before, and I was pretty scared. The cabbie told me I could catch a gypsy cab, which didn't run on meters, so I had better negotiate before I got in, otherwise he'd tell the judge that he drove me all over Jersey and would win the case.

So I got to the park and was immediately hit with a tidal wave of scalpers, full of bull. I told them I was going to sit in the bleachers. Sold out, they said. Bull, I knew. I got in and took the sights in. I was in the house that Ruth built! I took my seat and had a beer. After a while I had to go to the restroom. So I took my luggage, and once in the door, there were about six mean looking characters standing right in the middle of the room smoking dope. If there ever was a time to choose a stall over a urinal, this was it. Once inside the stall with my luggage, these guys started yakking about Canseco sucks this, Oakland sucks that.... If there ever was a time to choose not to wash one's hands after going, this was it. Terrified, I decided to run by them. But they had me blocked in pretty good. They cornered me and started asking questions.

"Are you from Oakland?" "Well, uhm, yes." "Do you go to a lot of games?" "Well, uhm, yes." "Where do you sit?" "I sit in the bleachers." Six hands were immediately stretched out to shake mine. It was unwashed, but I didn't care. Bleacher bums have a large family, and these guys were no longer going to bury me next to Jimmy Hoffa. I love New York.

I also got to talk to Rickey Henderson between innings out in centerfield. Rickey will talk to anybody that will give him attention. I knew an A's fan from the bleachers in Oakland who knew Rickey personally, so I relayed greetings. And since I was in A's garb from head to toe, he ate it up. Also, I got to hear Bob Sheppard "Number thirty-one-one-one, Dave-ave-ave Winfield-field-field. Number thirty-one-one-one." Wow. In person. And a fight. Some 75 year old guy stole a boom box, so its owner beat up the 75 year old guy, cops everywhere. A guy with a Walkman full blast stared into space for 9 innings, drooling and occasionally laughing out loud for 10 seconds. The guy who promised to help me find a cab after the game split in the 8th inning. And a close call at first that went against the Yanks resulted in an instant, collective leap of every fan on the whole 1st base side of the stadium about 5 feet in the air with fists frantically flying in all directions. I mean in a fraction of a second.

Once outside, nobody, even the police, would help me find a gypsy cab. But I finally found one and $20 to the Nigerian soccer player driver got me a lift to LaGuardia. A few hours sleep in a lounge chair with my limbs locked through my baggage straps and I was good to go to see baseball in Montreal. My regret was not getting to see the great monuments in centerfield.
(Box Score)

1 comment:

  1. Great story. I'm amazed that you and your bags made it through the ordeal in one piece. It reminds me of the time when I was in Boston for a fencing tounement (I was about 14) and I decided to do a little site seeing before I had to head to the airport. Only I couldn't find anywhere to leave my big equipment bag, so I lugged it around downtown Boston on a frigid January morning. Good times.