Results tagged ‘ Yankee Stadium ’

The Creepiest Stat I’ve Ever Researched

Even as the Minnesota Twins continued to succumb to their weird allergy here at Yankee Stadium (they’ve now lost 31 of their last 37 here, counting playoffs), Derek Jeter went 0-for-4 and the creepiest stat of all time just got a little worse.

I will state at the outset that those who interpret what’s being done as tribute have my full respect when they so claim. But, personally, I flinch every time I hear the voice of the late Bob Sheppard introduce Jeter, and my reaction is not unlike that of the late comedian Bill Hicks when he first saw a posthumous public service announcement featuring actor Yul Brynner: “What the heck is this guy selling?”

I thought the world of Mr. Sheppard, who extended kindness and support to me from the day I finally screwed up the courage to introduce myself to him. He did not undervalue his place in sports, but he had fun with it. When in 2004 I was researching the then-unknown identity of his predecessor (it was Yankees’ public relations director Arthur “Red” Patterson) I asked him if he had any earthy clue who it might have been, he said without batting an eyelash, “Methuselah!” Merely because I asked him, Bob spent fifteen minutes before the first game of the 1998 World Series with Tony Gwynn. Tony had said that one of the highlights of being in the Series again was the chance to hear Bob introduce him. I got Bob to record that introduction on a disk for me to present to Tony as a gift. Nobody who asked Bob for a favor – or the inevitable voicemail/answering machine message – was denied. I know one of Bob’s sons and have found him to be just as much a gentleman as his father, and I was privileged to get frequent updates on Bob’s health from Chris. I hosted the 2000 Subway World Series on Fox, and the thing became real to me when I wrapped up the pre-game show that it was my greatest honor to introduce him on the PA. When I would get to work the PA at Old Timers’ Day each July I was fully aware at every moment that I was on Bob’s PA.

I get it. I revered Bob Sheppard and I revere his memory daily. But the post-mortem introductions of Jeter have, I think, become disturbing.

And now there’s this to consider: Since Bob Sheppard died last July 11 and the tribute to the absent and beloved Public Address Voice of Yankee Stadium became instead a memorial, Derek Jeter is hitting just .263 here with one homer, 10 RBI, a .338 On Base Percentage and a .349 Slugging Percentage in 43 games. There are various dates and causes to assign to Jeter’s midseason eclipse last year but Mr. Sheppard’s passing is not exactly a random one – which makes the stat all the creepier. As of that sad day, Jeter had had 161 home at bats. Thereafter he had…exactly the same number: 161 home at bats. But in the first half of his home 2010 season Jeter was batting .316, with six homers, an On Base of .380 and a Slugging of .472.

Would it all turn around if Jeter had Sheppard’s successor Paul Olden announce his name, too? No, of course not. It would just be a little less…creepy.

Such A Strange Day At Yankee Stadium

Alex Rodriguez: DNP – Broadcast-related injury.

There are two versions of how A-Rod came to miss this afternoon’s second game of the Yankees-Red Sox series. In the first version, with Rodriguez standing near third base while teammate Lance Berkman took his batting practice cuts, my former Fox Baseball colleague Joe Buck shouted out to him. Rodriguez, in his 17th professional season, inexplicably turned to answer him, and while not keeping his eye on what was happening at the plate, got nailed in the shin by a Berkman liner.
In the second version, Buck was minding his own business in foul territory behind third base, when Rodriguez, in his 17th professional season, inexplicably turned to yell “Hi, Joe!,” and while not keeping his eye on what was happening at the plate, got nailed in the shin by a Berkman liner.
Both versions then converge with Rodriguez then doing the Elizabeth-Elizabeth-This-Is-The-Big-One-I’m-Comin-To-See-You-Elizabeth bit, trying to shake off the pain, finally collapsing to the turf behind a protective screen in centerfield, not far behind second base (“I just remember getting hit and started jumping around like a rabbit,” he told The New York Times, “It looked like a scene from ‘Platoon.’”). Several of his teammates, who have long found Mr. Rodriguez to be a kind of dramatic figure, laughed uproariously as they surrounded him, assuming he was overdoing it. The Times includes Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira in this list. 
After being attended to by Yankee trainer Gene Monahan and a couple of Yankee Stadium paramedics Rodriguez limped off. We are told he personally told utilityman Ramiro Pena something like “You’ll have to play kid, I’m not going to make it.” It is believed the Yankee team laughter ended before the pronouncement but this has not been verified.
X-Rays of Rodriguez’s leg showed no damage and, to date, no nomination for a Tony, Emmy, or Oscar.
MEANWHILE, IN A HOLE IN THE GROUND:
Since the new Stadium opened a year ago, media have noticed this odd scene — just to the visitors’ side of the area behind home plate —  in the giant aqueduct-sized main tunnel that connects the clubhouses and runs from one end of the park to the other (forgive the eerie green colors, that’s pretty much what it looks like back there):
My assumption all this time – and my fairly good sense of direction/location from my tours of the park while still under construction in 2008 – was that this was the exact spot from which the contractors pulled the David Ortiz shirt which had been buried by a mischievous Red Sox fan (I was told the guy also buried a scorecard from the 2004 ALCS in which Boston rallied from down oh-three, but the Yanks have always denied this). But why the railing?
The answer is below:
The hole was never filled back in!
The seemingly solid surface shown in the first photo is in fact a large piece of plexiglas, clouded with dust, which can be lifted up by an alert uniformed attendant, for the benefit of fans in the Suites Club. They can then stand around and take pictures of an attempted Reverse Curse (or, for the less dramatically-inclined, a hole in the ground).

AND FINALLY:
The front edge of a new age. Heard, for the first time, before the Yanks and Sox met, from a fan, to one of the swarming Stadium employees, outside the home plate entrance: “And where did you say the old stadium was?”

Ankee Dium?

IMG_2068.jpg

Taken from The Major Deegan Expressway (New York Thruway) this afternoon – the third base side of the upper deck is long gone and about the rest of it, the first impression is apparently universal: it looks like they’ve stolen part of the old Yankee Stadium. The big blue letters are long gone, and the shadows left spell out “A N K E E      D I U M.” 
I don’t know if, even with the misspelling, that translates to anything in Latin, but here’s a second view – where the highway sign, in the right of the first picture, is out of view, and we’re obscured only by a light pole:
IMG_2069.jpg
This second shot gives you a clearer view of that missing chunk behind home plate. It’s inevitable, and it’s stark, and it’s progress (I continue to like the new place better) – but it’s still shocking. And where did all the stuff go? A partial answer below.
The slightly blurry pictures were snapped in route to my father’s memorial service, and this gives me an opportunity to thank you for the overwhelming support that poured from the comments after Saturday’s post about his passing. They were of incredible importance to me, and the members of my family, and to my father’s friends, who read them. I wish that I could somehow do them justice, but words, as they did this afternoon, fail me.
FROM A RESEARCHER’S NOTEBOOK:
Not much real sweaty research here (on my part anyway), but courtesy BaseballReference.Com we get to celebrate those three men who are just seventeen days or so away from hitting the old “I played in four decades” milestone: Ken Griffey, Jamie Moyer, and Omar Vizquel. They would swell the ranks of four-decaders (or in the cases of Minnie Minoso and Nick Altrock, five) to a total of 29. There are as noted several others, like Gary Sheffield, without clubs but with possibilities.
It is fascinating that there hasn’t been an “artificial” addition to this list since 1990, given that ten of the first seventeen players to achieve the distinction only did so by coming out of retirement, or at least inactivity. Jack O’Connor was a manager when he did it, Dan Brouthers a scout, Jim O’Rourke a minor league executive, Eddie Collins a never-used player-coach, Tim McCarver a broadcaster, and Altrock, Kid Gleason, Jimmy McGuire, Minoso, and Jack Ryan, all full-time coaches.
Lastly, as promised – where’d all that original Yankee Stadium stuff go?
Well, you have to admit, it gives a home a different feel.
IMG_2022.jpg
This was Damaso Marte’s locker in 2008, and Mariano Rivera’s earlier.

Recommended Reading: Nellie King

People will little note nor long remember what Steven Jackson did pitching in relief last season for the Pittsburgh Pirates. For that matter, not until now, were they likely to remember what Nellie King did pitching in relief for the Bucs in 1956.
Without both of these men, and all others like them, baseball would cease to exist.
2009 was an encouraging year for Jackson. Up from Indianapolis, he pitched 40 times for a total of 43 innings, 21 strikeouts, 22 walks, two wins, three losses, and a 3.14 ERA. This was the culmination of nearly six years along a heavily-guided, clearly-lit, little-left-to-chance route that began when Howard McCullough of the Diamondbacks started scouting him at Clemson in 2003. The next year, Arizona drafted him in the tenth round, and, despite the fact he was already 22, they started him in the instruction-focused Pioneer and Northwest Leagues. The Yankees were following him, too, and when they worked out a deal to return Randy Johnson to Arizona, Jackson was one of the pitchers they demanded. New York began to work Jackson in relief in ’07 and their instructors helped him find a new arm slot that turned a mediocre sinker into an out pitch. He was the third arm the Yankees called up from the minors last April, but they wasted his last option by letting him sit in the bullpen for a week without an appearance. When they tried to sneak him off the major league roster, the Pirates pounced and picked him up on waivers. Within weeks, he was a regular in the Pittsburgh bullpen.
This tortuous recital of the provenance of Steven Jackson – scouted, trained, guided, instructed, groomed (and paid around $275,000 in his first big league season) is provided to underscore a point about ex-Pirate reliever Nellie King’s wonderful new book Happiness Is Like A Cur Dog. In King’s first full season in the bigs, in 1956, he appeared 38 times in Pittsburgh, pitched 60 innings, won four and lost one, and finished with a 3.15 ERA (and earned about $6,000 – still just $47,000 in 2009 dollars). This was the culmination of eleven years of fighting to get anybody to notice him long enough to invite him to a mass tryout camp, then possibly to spring training, then possibly onto the roster of a minor league team like the New Iberia Cardinals of the Class-D Evangeline League.
Class D.
As he vividly recounts in this warm, understated memoir, Nellie King’s career began in a time when a ballplayer had at least three jobs: what he did during the actual season, what he did delivering packages or bailing hay during the off-season, and what he had to do 24 hours a day to make sure he didn’t get released with no more than ten days’ notice and not even a bus ticket home. It is almost unfathomable to consider the pioneer-like hacking through the woods of hidden opportunity that King so fondly recalls. A part-time Cardinals’ scout liked what he saw of him in a glorified summer high school league and invited him to a tryout. He got a uniform with a three digit number on it. Hooking on with a team in Louisiana he arrived there by bus in the middle of the night, clueless of who to contact or where to go. He was released twice before his 19th birthday, and made it back into organized ball only because that first scout had gone to work filling out the rosters of some independent clubs. And that only got him into the Pittsburgh system because the owner sold those obscure franchises to the Pirates. 
And that’s when he got to begin his climb up the ladder in a Pirates’ farm system that was a little smaller than most – it only had about a dozen clubs. Having won 15 or more three separate times for Pirates’ farms (a feat which today would put him on the cover of The Baseball America Prospect Handbook) and having survived, unfazed, two years at Fort Dix during the Korean War, Nelson Joseph King finally got to the big leagues in 1954.

“It had taken me eight years, including two outright releases in 1946, plus two years in the Army, to get to this moment at Ebbets Field. I thought of all those innings and games I spent pitching in small, minor league towns such as Geneva, Ozark, Brewton, Troy, Dorhan, Greenville, Andalusia, and Enterprise, in the Class “D” Alabama State League during my first season in professional baseball. The contrast between Ebbets Field and those minor league towns and fields magnified the contrasts and the satisfaction I was feeling. Having viewed Ebbets Field only in black and white photos and on television in World Series games, I was now seeing it up close, in full color and from the center of the picture. In my eighth decade of life, the memory of that moment is so vivid I can still visualize Ebbets Field…”

Injuries would end King’s pitching career in 1957, and he went into radio – following the same steep staircase that described his playing days – through local markets in Western Pennsylvania. Finally, a decade after he stopped pitching for them, he rejoined the Pirates a decade later as an announcer, and the primary partner of the legendary Bob “The Gunner” Prince. Once again the reality of the business of today and that of an earlier time is underscored. As the third announcer of a major league team just 42 years ago, Nellie King was paid $13,000 – and even that only translates to $83,000 in today’s money.
The remarkable part of King’s story is that the struggle and the finances seem to have made every step, and every misstep, all the more satisfying. Nellie King’s story is a triumph of perseverance and contentment. Even the title comes from one of the odder of the aphorisms of the legendary Branch Rickey, for whom King worked in the Pittsburgh organization. Figures like Rickey, and Bill Mazeroski, and Roberto Clemente, and Willie Stargell, populate its pages, but Happiness Is Like A Cur Dog should not be mistaken for the kind of dramatic but sometimes self-important recent biographies of, say, Satchel Paige or George Steinbrenner. And though King goes into depth about the two epic Pirates’ World Championship years he covered, he does not seek to elevate either to world-changing status, such as a recent book on the 1912 Series does.
Nellie King has simply written a book about the backbone of baseball, a tale like that of 75 percent of the players in the game’s history. And in its own matter-of-fact style, it’s terrific. It’s available from the usual suspects like Amazon, but more directly (and economically) from the publisher, and Nellie and his family have also launched a blog for Cur.

CORRECTIONS AND NOTES:
In advocating for Danny Murtaugh’s Hall of Fame qualifications I gave him credit for one more NL East title than he deserved. I’d forgotten Murtaugh retired four times as Pittsburgh skipper, not three, and the 1972 crown belonged to Bill Virdon… And having composed this as MLB Network rolled out its World Series highlight films, these trivial observations about Yankee Stadium. The boxes remained in the “opera style” – no permanent seats, just as many hard wooden chairs as you needed or could fit in – through at least 1943. And the dirt stripe from the mound to the plate, most recently resurrected in Detroit and Phoenix, was in place in the Bronx through at least 1947 – but gone by 1949.

Stop Whistling

It has been there all season but its inappropriateness can only truly be appreciated now, perhaps, when Mariano Rivera strikes out Torii Hunter to end the top of the ninth of a dramatic ALCS game in the Bronx.

The whistle sound from a local appliance dealer.
The Yanks made some kind of deal to sponsor a sound effect! For each strikeout by a New York pitcher this year, they play this obnoxious shrill five-note noise over the P.A. system. It’s cheesy. It’s annoying. It’s – and I know how much ground I’m covering when I say this – beneath the dignity even of the Yankees.

The Wall of License Plates

Anybody old enough to remember this? When every state made new license plates every year? When you kept the old ones, and Dad nailed them up to the wall in the garage? 

For months I’ve been looking at this, under the rightfield advertising in the new Yankee Stadium:
IMG_0799.jpg
Finally over the weekend the imagery came to me. This commemoration of the Yanks’ 26 Championships looks like license plates nailed to the garage wall.
Now there was a problem evident from the beginning. What do the Yanks do if and when they win another championship? As shown above, the last six title years – from 1977 on – are already partially obscured when fans in the back row of the bleachers stand. There’s room for eight more “license plates” below what is now the lowest level, but obviously these will be completely obscured by fans, even while seated.
Kind of a bad omen, a poor sense of confidence that there will be more World Championships to nail to the wall.
But now there’s a new problem. Take a closer look…
IMG_0803.jpg
1952 is missing!
From the detritus on the wall it surely doesn’t look like they were very well secured:
IMG_0802.jpg
Glue, erratically applied? Double-sided tape? No screws? Not even nailed up like Dad did with the license plates?
So what happened to 1952? Obviously it just fell of its own accord, because nobody would, you know, steal it.

Refund! Refund? Refund!

It is a
compelling story of the rich getting, if not richer, then at least getting
richer discounts
.
This week, the Yankees have been pounded everywhere from the New York papers to
the business publication Forbes for offering freebies, two-fers, and especially
refunds
, to only
those customers who had paid the stadium’s absolute top season ticket price of
$2,500 a seat.

There is
only one complication. The Yankees aren’t actually going to wind up giving
out
any refunds.
This is for the remarkably simple reason that the tickets for which they announced
refunds or credits,
are the ones they weren’t able to sell.

Though the
Yankees are in the most curious of business predicaments – they
set the bar too high, the bottom fell
out of the economy, they made a gesture to give back some of their loot (and,
in the process, fill the embarrassingly empty seats), and yet they’re still getting
yelled at
– the
Steinbrenners have nobody to blame but themselves. More specifically, they can
chalk it up to an incredible, almost labyrinthine
press releaseissued by an
outside publicity firm, that offered no less than fifteen different responses
and plans to the various ticket prices and locales. The document is slightly
less intelligible than a book of IRS forms, nearly as long, and obviously just
as confusing.

The
standard reporting on this has fallen in line with
Forbes’ account:”The bum
economy managed to turn the famous Legends Suite seats in the first few rows,
priced as high as $2,650 apiece, into infamous symbols of overreaching during a
time when businesses are gun-shy about lavishing money on sports and other
forms of client entertainment. So top seats will now go for $1,250 a pop, with
those who already laid out the bigger money getting a credit or refund…” There
was a snotty burst to the Associated Press from some television guy who’d
bought three of the $850 suite seats behind the plate. “”If they’re
offering only selective refunds, depend upon it: There are going to be
lawsuits. Great, more tickets nobody wants. The silver lining here is that even
more charities are going to be getting even more tickets from me.” The
shoot-from-the-hip complainant was named Olberding or Overmann or something. The
average egalitarian complaint echoed that of my friend Rich Sandomir of
The Times: “The Yankees
did not consider giving refunds or credits to fans in nonpremium seats because
Hal Steinbrenner felt only a small number of top-tier tickets were overpriced.”

As it is,
the Yankees are actually not giving refunds or credits to almost any of their
fans. A Yankee source did say that as many as four ticket-buyers – literally, four
customers,
in the
suites hanging from the upper deck in left and right fields – would wind up
with some extra perks. But the source added they weren’t certain: it might only
be three

customers.

The
understandable confusion seems to owe to the first subheading (item “A” on a
list of ticket price adjustments that goes all the way to item “I,” then pauses
for a few sentences and then re-starts with another
item “A”, and then a “B” that is
followed by sub-
subheadings
1, 2, 3, and 4). It reads “the full season Legends Suite and Ticket Licenses in
the first row in Sections 15A, 15B, 24B and 25 will be reduced from $2,500 to
$1,250 per regular season game. All fans who have purchased such full season
Suite and Ticket Licenses will receive, at their choice, a refund or a credit.”

The thing
is, sections 15A and 15B are at the far end of the Yankee dugout – most are
behind the camera well beyond
the
dugout – and sections 24B and 25 are their opposites behind the visiting
dugout. The front-row seats in those sections are the equivalent of fourth row
seats in the rest of the park. I’m reliably informed that the Yankees didn’t
manage to sell any
of
those seats, so there’s no refund to be had. Reality here reads like something
out of “Catch-22″: you can get a refund on those tickets, but only if you
haven’t bought them. And you can now buy many of those high-end tickets at half the original price, except you can’t, because the Yankees gave them away as make-goods.

So, amid
all the dollar figures, topic lettering, references to sections “15A and 15B,”
the press release had all the clarity of assembly instructions pulled out of a
swing set on Christmas Eve. The team certainly is giving its high-end customers
extra tickets – the ones it couldn’t sell – particularly those wide swaths of
exposed blue leather down the third base line. But that real story of what the
Yankees were doing was buried down in items C, D, E. Those who actually bought
those $2,500 front-row seats would be getting not refunds but a free set of
front-row seats further away from home plate. Buyers of $1,250 seats would get
24 games’ worth of freebies. Buyers of $850 seats would get 8 free games, and 4
more games’ worth in the $500 section, etc.

Speaking as
one of those $850 buyers, I want to make it clear that nobody, but nobody
, should feel sorry for us. Once you
are actually paying three or four figures for one
ticket to a sporting event, you are
on your own. The first year my father bought season tickets at Yankee Stadium
(1972), four seats to each game cost a total of $1,000, and we only managed it
by canceling all further vacations. Last year, the same four seats cost a total
of $1,000 per game.
The
advent of the Amazing Colossal Yankee Ticket Price didn’t exactly sneak up on
any of us, and we could have gotten out at any time – as hundreds, maybe
thousands, did.

But there
was a certain apparent inequity to the way the Yankee ticket adjustment was
framed – an inequity caused mostly by that blasted press release – that the
franchise didn’t deserve. It was not offering a fifty percent rebate to the
highest of the high rollers, and a token handful of tickets to the next group
down. It was giving the people who did buy tickets, all the rest of the tickets
that nobody had bought.

What
remains unaddressed, of course, is the 2010 season. Not mentioned in any of the
coverage of the cutbacks in the Bronx – at least that which I’ve seen – is that
beginning this season, the Yankees instituted multi-year ticket licenses. The
minimum commitment demanded of season seat-buyers at virtually all price ranges
was three years. An inverted sliding scale of maximum annual price increases
accompanied each
deal (the longer you signed for, the less they could raise the price of your
seats each winter), and the paperwork was as thick as a good-sized magazine. No
matter what the economy does, it will be fascinating to see whether the Yankees
try to enforce those price jumps next year, or hope they can just get people to
pay what they agreed to in more halcyon days. Or 75% of that. Or 50%.

Because if they can’t, the most dreaded thing imaginable might happen. The Yankees might send out another one of these press releases.

Answers

Firstly, I believe they may be, in no particular order, Russ Ohlendorf, Justin Maxwell, Micah Hoffpauir, and Jonathon Niese.

Ohlendorf, as alluded to previously, is your early frontrunner for the emergent starter of 2009 after his efficient work against the Padres (and apparently not mixing in his curve until his last inning; sliders and fastballs exclusively, previously). Maxwell, as alluded to previously, will probably have to get an audition in the Nats’ outfield after beating up the Mets today with a couple of singles, a couple of steals, and a couple of RBI. Hoffpauir, as alluded to previously, would get any time Derrick Lee misses after neck spasms forced him out this afternoon. And Niese would probably get the first shot at what may soon be an opening in the Mets’ rotation after the latest Oliver Perez “Human Torch” act.
The rest of the answers are from your posts. As mentioned earlier, political ones will be ignored (this is a politics-free zone) and abusive or irrelevant ones ignored. And we’re still looking for somebody to identify the snippet of classical music used by the Yankees during the otherwise intolerable “Great Subway Race” on their scoreboard in the brand new Empty Stadium.

Bygreenm1@nevada.eduonApril 26, 2009 4:32 PM

If I am correct, Bill Sharman was sitting on the Dodger bench during a big argument and the plate umpire–if memory serves it was Frank Dascoli–cleared the bench, meaning Sharman never played in a major league game but got thrown out of one..


You are correct sir, September 27th, 1951, and the very irascible umpire was Frank Dascoli. So Sharman saw a lot of action during his month in the majors, between that and the Dodgers-Giants playoffs. He just didn’t get to appear in any action.

The new stadium is across the street (admittedly a very wide street) from the old stadium. Things can be weird in this city, but major atmospheric changes crossing 161st Street isn’t one of them.I’d say lousy pitching is the more likely answer.

Byjbraskin@hotmail.comonApril 21, 2009 11:43 PM


This one is about the outbreak of homers at Empty Stadium. The geographical point is correct; several hundred yards north and about a hundred west of the old location should not create a wind tunnel. But this isn’t about geography, it’s about architecture. The wind tunnel is not natural, it’s man made, most likely by the open-air ring in the upper deck (replacing what had been solid wall in the old place) and the giant open-air entrances down the first and third base lines. The new Yankee Stadium is at the mercy of air flow that was walled off across the street. Whatever it is, it seems to remain in effect.


One quick question- is our intrepid blogger wearing his Superbowl XLIII press credentials? And if so…uh…why? Besides the inherent awesomeness, that is?Byjeremy.m.chao@gmail.comonApril 18, 2009 11:31 AM


This refers to a photograph from opening day. That is not in fact a Super Bowl media credential around my neck. It is a Super Bowl laniard. Apart from the phenomenal price changes, the biggest switch in the new park is the number of times one is forced to present one’s ticket. So I needed something to carry it in, and that’s what I happened to have lying around.


Keith what’s with the suit? Only baseball suits wear suits to the ball game. Leno or Jason wasn’t wearing a suit.And I bet Yankee Stadium was real quiet after that 14 spot Saturday…Nick C.,Countdown (and SF Giants) fanBynixie224@earthlink.netonApril 18, 2009 8:46 PM


Same photograph producing yet another style complaint. Frankly, the only times I’ve ever gone to a game in a suit, I was either doing a broadcast or a report from it, or, as it happened on opening day, I was heading straight down town to do my news show.


Besides which, the suit is ok at the yard once in awhile. Look at the difference it can make if you get to pose for a photo with a few viewers:


0.jpg



The Home Run Menace

Don’t be fooled by that alarming statistic out of the new
Yankee Stadium, namely that the Indians and Yankees shattered the record for
the most homers hit in the first four games of a new big league park: 20,
compared to the 16 hit in the bandbox in Las Vegas back when the A’s had to
open up there.

Don’t be fooled. The problem is much worse.

That raw number excludes the two exhibition games the
Yankees played against the Cubs at the start of the month. That raw number
doesn’t address the bazooka-like quality at the new park, of any left-handed
hitter holding a bat. That raw number doesn’t address the variety of weather
conditions in which the homers have been hit.

Through circumstances unlikely to be repeated, I have thus far
attended all the events at the new facility, and thus I can not only
report on the 28 blasts that rocketed out of the place in the first six games,
I can testify to them. Let’s start by noting that 21 of them have exploded into
rightfield (and only a few have “just made it,” pretty much invalidating the
three- or four-foot shortening of the fence at some points, as compared to the
old Stadium). A 22nd was absolutely blasted by Jorge Posada to
dead-center (and it may be awhile before we see anybody do that again).

Two more were fluke jobs against the Cubs by Cody Ransom to
the corner in left. One actually struck the pole. Judging by body language
alone, Ransom’s freak bases-clearing double in the 8th Inning Sunday
against Cleveland certainly appeared to Ransom, and probably to leftfielder
Shin-Soo Choo, as a ball that was curving into the stands, foul, by twenty feet
or more. Choo only sauntered toward the corner. Ransom didn’t even follow the
ball and was staring at the broken bat handle in his hands. From my seat I get
a full view of the third base foul line, from the plate to the wall. I know
that I looked down, convinced the ball was foul, in the seats, and by a lot.

Only four traditional in-the-seats homers were hit to left in the first two exhibitions and four regular season games.

For all the air-gun blasts of Mark Teixeira, Ransom’s
hitting patterns may be the best clue so far as to what’s going on here. There
seems to be a jet stream, left to right, at all times. I speculated here
earlier that it is probably a fabrication of the open-to-the-air ring in the
Upper Deck combined with the open-to-the-air entrances at street level in the
corners, from which the playing field is visible. I think it was bad enough
Sunday that it blew Ransom’s ball, left to right, and fair. I think it’s been bad
enough this month to blow several balls already heading to right, far deeper
than physics should’ve allowed.

This does not discount another juiced ball theory (although
this theory must be incredibly flexible, to explain why juiced balls being hit
to LF aren’t pushing through the wind) and presumably the Posada homer Sunday
would’ve been a clear case of interference, or maybe just a ball caught at the
fence, if the new Stadium measurement was precisely the same as the old one).
It should also be noted, as it was noted here, that as early as the middle of
the Yankees’ first workout in the place on April 2, righty batters like Xavier
Nady were pointing to the seeming jet stream, and trying to go the opposite way
in batting practice. Thus it would seem that the wind currents are either the
only explanation, or, far and away, the most important one.

The question becomes, as Lou Piniella posited it after his
first experience with a wind that scared him as much as the gusts of Wrigley:
“Will it change when the weather does?” Obviously the vagaries of the climate
in April are not equivalent to the contrast between any April day and August.
But of the first six dates here, none have been identical. Review them with me
game-by-game.

1. Cubs-Yankees, Friday April 3: Left-handed hitters Cano
and Matsui take left-hander Ted Lilly deep in consecutive innings. Ransom hits
the LF foul pole off Lilly in the 4th. It’s a night game, the air
heavy and dank, 56 degrees and falling, and it rains starting in the 3rd
inning.

2. Cubs-Yankees, Saturday April 4: It’s now a 1 PM start,
colder, drier, much windier. Alfonso Soriano hits the hardest ball yet to LF
off Andy Pettitte. Then Jeter goes the opposite way off Rich Harden in the 3rd,
and Teixeira touches him in consecutive innings for homers to RF that looked
like the Mets’ Party Patrol shooting t-shirts into the stands. Ransom hits the
fifth homer of the blustery afternoon into the LF corner off Chad Gaudin.

3. Indians-Yankees, Thursday April 16. It’s a beautiful,
sunny day with no excessive wind. 56 degrees – at least ten degrees warmer than
the second Cubs game - and it
feels warmer still. This time Posada (batting righty) takes Cliff Lee over the
wall in center. Damaso Marte gives up blasts to Sizemore (RF) and Martinez (LF).

4. Indians-Yankees, Friday April 17. Now it’s warmer still,
63 at game time. In a 6-5 game, six homers are hit, all into various distant
locales in right, including two by righthanded batters (DeRosa and Jeter).

5. Indians-Yankees, Saturday April 18. Again the temperature
jumps around ten degrees and it’s a preview of summer. We start later in the
afternoon (3:43 EDT) and there are no fewer than eight homers, six to dead
Right and another by DeRosa to Right/Right-Center. Counting the exhibitions, we
are already up to 25 homers in five games here.

6. Indians-Yankees, Sunday April 19. Now the weather
plummets. It’s 17 degrees cooler at game time and a breezy wind makes it feel
colder. And we still get three more homers, two to rightfield.

So basically at this point we have five different kinds of
weather conditions (six if you think Thursday and Friday are radically
different) and the only pattern, based on very skimpy evidence, is that we
might be seeing homers rise as temperatures do.

Uh-oh.

Steinbrenner Stadium Illustrated:

I earlier noted the one major architectural anomaly in the new
place and finally got a decent shot at it. All the other deck facings at each
tier are absolutely symmetrical except this one:

IMG_0709.JPG

Yep. The official Steinbrenner Box – although he has not yet
been seen in the perch that guarantees occupants are actually about ten feet
“closer” than anybody else. This is to say nothing of the direct view provided
into the Yankee dugout, which can be used to stare daggers at Joe Girardi.

Baseball Photo Of The Week:

Courtesy my friend T.S. O’Connell at Sports Collectors Digest:Nothing less than a photo of the front display at a
Woolworth’s store, apparently in the New York metropolitan area, in the spring
of 1952. He has figured out what would today be the estimated value of what
seems to be 231 unopened, pristine boxes of 1952 Topps Baseball Cards. He has
apparently not even included the value of two partial uncut sheets hanging in
the window, one of which shows a Warren Spahn card, and the other both an Enos
Slaughter and a Duke Snider.

Gaps In My Education:

This is driving me more nuts than usual. I abhor things like
“The Great Yankee Subway Race” – not on any kind of “purity” level, but simply
because people sit there and think there is some legitimacy to the competition
when it’s only an animation. Stories abound of a foolish Yankee employee of the
past who actually thought the outcome was performance-based, or somehow
randomly-generated, and who actually wagered on the outcome, not knowing that
his opponent could simply call up his friend in Scoreboard Operations and say
“Make sure the B-Train wins tonight.” Also, the “B” is the local version of the
“D” train – how could it ever win? And at many times of day the “D” terminates
two stops before The Stadium. Maddening, I tells ya.

But what I want to know is: what is the name of the piece of
classical music which serves as the soundtrack for the “race.” I may have known
it once, but that brain cell is long since hors-de-combat. Anybody know?

New York, New York

Two new major league ballparks, opening in the same city, in the same week. Hard to believe, never to be duplicated.

Not counting the other time it happened.
In New York, no less. With one of them being built for the Mets.
We have to be a bit generous in our geographical definitions (“New York” consisted only of Manhattan until 1898 when Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and Richmond were merged in as part of “Greater New York”). And we have to be a bit generous in our stadium definitions (a 19th Century “major league ballpark” could be constructed in a manner of days).
Nevertheless, on Thursday, April 22, 1886, Erasmus Whitman, owner of the original New York Mets, opened his magnificent new stadium for the American Association club at the former St. George Cricket Grounds on Staten Island (a stone’s throw from the current ballpark of the Yankees’ A-ball affiliate). Whitman owned the Staten Island Ferry and the ballclub was just another draw to get people to ride it.
On Sunday, April 25, 1886, the Mets’ American Association rivals in Brooklyn opened brand new Ridgeway Park, a facility they would use only on Sundays. Two parks in four days, just like the Yankees and Mets are doing this week.
For the record, a quick thumb through Philip J. Lowry’s bible of baseball stadia, Green Cathedrals, the “two new parks, one city” trick also happened on at least two other occasions. In 1884, Boston’s Union Association team unveiled two different new fields, Dartmouth Street Grounds (April 30), and Congress Street Grounds (date unknown). And in 1889, the Giants opened the first of the three versions of the Polo Grounds at 155th Street and Eighth Avenue in New York. Weeks later, Brooklyn’s Washington Park burned to the ground and was rebuilt very promptly as an enlarged and significantly changed facility, also called Washington Park. Again, two new parks in the same city in the same year.
I hope to bring you extensive, irrelevant, snapshot filled coverage of the startups at Citifield and Yankee Stadium Junior in this space.
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,560 other followers