Last month, I took out a bank loan to buy a burrito at Yankee Stadium. It was not just any burrito, of course, it was a “Yankee burrito.” In other words, even the beans were arrogant.
I am a serious binge eater at ballparks, whether it’s a Lake Monsters game in Burlington or a Yankee game in the Bronx. Suddenly, I have the fiscal responsibility of a toddler in a toy store. At that Yankee game, I consumed Carvel soft-serve ice cream with rainbow jimmies in a plastic bowl that resembled a batting helmet; a poodle-sized bag of Cracker Jacks; the aforementioned “Yankee burrito;” Twizzlers; a soda cup filled with french fries; and a $5 bottle of Pepsi (diet, because I had just consumed 840 calories of Cracker Jacks). The game, I should note, did not extend into extra innings. I strapped on the feedbag and accomplished this gastronomic orgy in a mere nine innings and batting practice.
Now, why was a serious Mets fan eating like a Roman emperor at Yankee Stadium? My good friend, Adam Turteltaub, was celebrating his birthday and he and his wife, Rhea, invited my wife and me to join their family at the ballpark. It was an irresistible invitation and we savored every moment. I’m not sure I have ever gone to a baseball game and not had a wonderful time and — in some cases — witnessed something just a little magic.
Exhibit A is the 1971 Topps baseball card for Yankee first baseman and outfielder, Curt Blefary. I’m on it. Not kidding. So are my older brother and my father. We were sitting beside the third base dugout at a Yankee game in 1970 and are in the background of the photo of Blefary as he’s leaving the batter’s box in the following year’s card.
Exhibit B is a Yankees game I went to in 1982 with my girlfriend (now wife) and my father. To make the game interesting — since she had absolutely no idea what was going on — she decided she’d follow every move of the Twins’ catcher, Ray Smith. She noticed him in batting practice and thought he was cute. Sure enough, in the fifth inning, he sent her a foul ball: Bounced it right off the armrest of her seat. Another fan recovered it, but she is confident it was Ray’s way of letting her know that he appreciated her interest.
And Exhibit C occurred at the end of August, while I was eating my french fries in the Bronx. My buddy Adam’s two boys, Max and Ross, had brought their gloves to the game. Ten-year-old Ross had come close to getting a batting practice baseball that A’s outfielder Coco Crisp tossed into the stands an hour before the game started, but a grown man had elbowed Ross out of the way and snagged it. Both boys were disappointed, but gamely waited for the next opportunity.
It came in the bottom of the eighth. Yankee outfielder Nick Swisher poked a three-run homer into the Yankee bullpen. Perennial all-star reliever Mariano Rivera tossed the ball into the stands — and directly to Adam’s 13-year-old son, Max.
I’ve been to a lot of games in my life, but never have I come closer than an 18-wheeler to a home run. And so it was perfect to see Mariano toss Max that baseball.
Even now, despite the stratospheric cost of everything from seats to sodas, there is something a little moving about the ballpark experience. “For baseball is continuous,” wrote poet and essayist Donald Hall, “like nothing else among American things, an endless game of repeated summers, joining the long generations of all the fathers and all the sons.”
I may root for the Mets (the best minor league club playing this year in a major league park), but it was still poignant and powerful for my wife and me to watch the Yankees — and the Turteltaubs. It was, in fact, worth every calorie in those Twizzlers and french fries and Cracker Jacks. Thanks, Adam!