My first business trip to New York was in the Fall of 1995. For some random reason, I was sent ahead, on a Sunday, to prepare for a big client event. I do recall researching if the Yankees were at home, but on that Sunday they were away. It never dawned on me to check the schedule for the rest of the week. So, on Monday night, after my client dinner was canceled, I opted to walk down Lexington Avenue in search of some quintessential New York dining experience.
I got to a corner and heard a man talking to his son, who couldn’t have been older than 6. He said, “You’re going to have to be a trooper Ben, because these games can go long.” The boy was visibly excited so I asked him, “Where is your Daddy taking you?”
“To my first Yankee game.”
I looked at his dad and said, without any hesitation, “Can I come with you?”
Clearly, he was taken aback. I then explained that I didn’t want to sit with them, I merely wanted to follow them to Yankee Stadium, deep into the heart of the Bronx, a place that I had no idea you could reach mid-week, via train, in less than 30 minutes.(NOTE: I was a CA girl, and Californians didn’t/don’t “do” public transportation).
He agreed. And, began to talk to me, like he had been talking to Ben. “We are going to buy two tokens for the Four Train,” he explained. “That way, you have it for your return.”
We got to the Park and he recommended I scalp a ticket from someone he thought looked safe. We got to the entrance of the park and he said, “At the end of the game, follow the people to the train and go back the way we came.” And then, he was gone.
I purchased a ticket and went inside. I called my brother-in-law and declared, “I’m at the house that Ruth Built.”
I remember feeling so small, not by the size but what it represented. I’ve always professed a love for the Yankees, but for those I would see on that HBO series, “Legends in Sports.” Gherig, Mantle, DiMaggio, The Babe! Current-day players did have a small level of recognition with me, but not like the aforementioned. They were baseball to me – they were handsome, they played for pennies on the dollar, they played hard and partied even harder (though I can’t say that I admire that fact very much).
Sadly, I can’t remember who they played that night, or who won, but, I did stay to the end, and then followed Ben’s Dad’s advice to the letter, and followed the crowd out to the train station and back into Manhattan. I had found the cheapest dinner in town (of which I expensed*) and I had spent the night at Yankee Stadium.
When I got back to my room, way past midnight, my co-worker was up waiting for me, wondering what had become of me. I told her where I had been and she seemed shocked and embarrassed. “You went where? Why?”
I felt if I had to explain myself that the chances were high she wouldn’t get “it.” So I didn’t bother.
I had had the perfect New York moment that even contradicted all those New Yorkes-are-rude stereotypes. That night Ben and I both experienced our first Yankee game and it was amazing!
* As an aside, I will say that when I returned back to work, I did get a “scolding” from my boss at the time, who thought my actions were “less than acceptable.” She said, and I quote, “I send you to New York to find and see culture, not to go to a baseball game.” I told her, “It’s America’s pastime. That’s culture.”
Clearly, she didn’t get “it” either – and she never will.