My son Peter and I were fortunate enough to take in two Boston Red Sox games in the same week. The first was a home game at Fenway Park versus the White Sox. For the second game, we ventured into enemy territory to see Red Sox take on the Yankees at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.
I’ve been to Fenway Park dozens of times in the 15 years I’ve lived in Boston and my son and I have been using 4-game Sox packs the past two seasons. I don’t have much to add to what I’ve written before other than to say that Fenway Park is a great place to see a ballgame, the improvements in fan amenities the past decade have really improved the experience, and I love going to games with my son.
This was our first visit to the third iteration of Yankee Stadium. Growing up in Connecticut, I attended several Yankees games in the 1976-2008 version of Yankee Stadium as a child as well as one college football game between Boston University and Grambling State. I made my last visit to Yankee Stadium II in 2006. Despite the history that came with the building due to the Yankees many successes, I never thought it lived up to its reputation as a great ballpark. It was kind of gloomy and felt like a 60’s/70’s concrete doughnut squashed in an urban shell.
I’m happy to report that Yankee Stadium III is an improvement on its predecessor. We took the D train to 161 St, and exited right outside Gate 6. There were several lines open so we swiftly made our way inside. We entered a long concourse with a high ceiling that felt like an airport terminal or railway station. While the Stadium has escaped corporate naming, the corporate presence was strong here (and throughout the ballpark) with large neon signs for the Hard Rock Cafe and other amenities. There was also a large screen and news ticker showing Yankees highlights on repeat and reminiscent of Times Square. The whole feeling was definitely to remind you that you were in the land of the Yankees now and playing with the big boys.
To access our seats on the Grandstand Level, we had to walk up a long, looping concrete ramp. This was one of the least appealing parts of the stadium. At least the ramps at Shea Stadium were exposed to fresh air and sunshine with views of the Manhattan skyline. The Yankees museum could be entered from this ramp but the line was quite long so we didn’t take it in. The concourse on the Grandstand/Terrace level was much nicer with lots of sunlight and views of the field and lined with the usual concessions and souvenir shops. The only one we availed ourselves to was Carvel for an ice cream cone (Peter passed on getting the ice cream in the helmet).
Our seats offered a commanding view of the field with only the left field corner obscured by the seat deck in front of us. (This would become relevant in the game when Ichiro made a catch against the wall of a drive by David Ortiz). The centerfield scoreboard is big and informative. There is a secondary scoreboard behind homeplate but I was surprised that there was only advertising along the baseline. The out-of-town scoreboard was not visible from our location. The corporate feel was strong during the game with lots of advertisements on all the scoreboards. Strikeouts by Yankees pitchers were sponsored by an appliance store and walks by Yankees batters were brought to you by a brand of whisky.
Our seating area was well-populated with Red Sox fans giving us a feeling of safety in numbers. The rivalry among fans was good-natured on this day. Several times Red Sox fans started chanting “Lets Go Red Sox!” only to get booed by Yankees fans. Then one guy would chant “Lets Go Yankees!” and no one else would join in. The top of the stadium is encircled by pennant flags for every team in Major League Baseball arranged by division in the order of the standings. Appropriately, we sat directly beneath the flag that read “BOSTON”.
The game was enjoyable, with the teams duking out to a 13-9 finale in favor of the Red Sox. Boston took a big lead early and then New York chipped away at that lead to make the game more competitive. Definitely not a pitcher’s duel, or a short game, but a fun one. We left after the game and it was actually pretty easy to get to the subway, and then board a “baseball special” train which has a poetic ring to it, like something out of a W.P. Kinsella story.
Yankee Stadium proved to be an adequate place to see a game. Like Citi Field, it is somewhat corporatized and soulless, and a city like New York should do much better for its ballparks. They don’t compare well with ballparks in San Francisco, Baltimore, or San Diego that incorporate aspects of their cities and surroundings into the stadium. It seems like they got the idea to copy the retro-ballpark style without doing anything to make it uniquely New York. Perhaps they just need to be lived-in a bit longer and will accrue some charm with age?