I have a Yankee Ticket plan. And today was my first game of the season. The Yankees lost to Toronto 6-1. But the outcome didn’t make that much of a difference to me. It was the excitement that baseball season is here. And for some reason it conjures up a special feeling for me. Maybe it means Spring is finally here. Maybe it’s the hope of a winning season. Or maybe it just transports me back in time to relive the most special of memories.
I’ve been going to Yankee Stadium for over 50 years. I was born in the Bronx and grew up just 20 blocks north of Yankee Stadium. In the late 1950’s early 1960’s I thought all the other teams in the league played each other all year just to see who would play against the Yankees in the World Series.
My first Yankee game was on a brisk May Sunday afternoon with my Cub Scout troop. We all brought our gloves hoping to catch a foul ball. But since we sat in the “Grand Stand” at $1.25 a ticket, a ball never came close. But we had our gloves on and ready with every pitch just the same. Mickey Mantle played center, Bobby Richardson on second, Elston Howard was catching, Yogi was in right, and Whitey Ford was on the mound. My friend Paul and I split the cost of a scorecard (10¢). We kept score for the entire game, keeping a record of each play and making up our own scorekeeping system such as GO for ground out, FO for flied out, and FLO for fouled out. It made perfect sense to us.
Before the end of the game the scoutmaster took the troop down to the field level. In those days they let you exit by walking out on the warning track and exiting to the street through the bullpens in right and left field. Even then we know we were walking on hallowed ground. I’ll never forget how no one ran onto the grass or across the field. There were no police standing between the fans and the grass field to stop you. You just didn’t do that.
So fifty years later as the No. 4 train emerged out of the tunnel from Manhattan and rose above the street I got my first glimpse of Yankee Stadium for the season. Maybe it triggered a subconscious memory of that first game, or one of the world series games I got to see, or Ron Guidry’s 18 strikeouts that started the tradition of clapping at two strikes, or one of the other games I attended over the past five decades; but I jumped with excitement and well, I felt like a kid again.