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September 22, 2008

Prospectus Hit and Run

The Decline and Fall of Yankee Stadium

by Jay Jaffe

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Back on September 13, a week ago last Saturday, I attended my final game at Yankee Stadium, the last of over 130 contests I've witnessed there over the course of 13 seasons. Like the Yankees' doomed run of consecutive postseason berths, like the team's residence in the House That Ruth Built, like so much else this season, my stay at the ballpark ended not with a bang but a whimper, as a listless lineup appeared barely able to summon the energy to go through the motions of losing to the Tampa Bay Rays, 7-1. The Yanks didn't score until the ninth inning, or even draw a walk on the afternoon. Who were those pinstriped zombies?

With little to engage me regarding the desultory affair beyond the sharp performance of Rays hurler James Shields, the return to the field of Rookie of the Year candidate Evan Longoria, and the friendly banter of my companion for the game, I made a futile effort to soak up my final hours in the ballpark. From my perch in Section 626, a Tier Box on the upper deck near third base, I attempted to drink in the familiar sights and hear the familiar sounds, but every time I tried to summon the requisite emotion regarding my last lap, I came up empty. It was an emptiness that had nothing to do with ballclub's current standing, either. Like many a Yankees fan, I accepted their October-less fate a while back; the moment when I reached for my emotional parachute arrive when the team's trainers ushered Joba Chamberlain off the mound on a steamy August night in Texas, the victim of a shoulder strain. Rather, the empty feeling came from the recognition that for as much as I once loved the venerable venue, my relationship with the place-and by extension, the organization-has been in an accelerated decline over the past several years, one that sadly robbed me of a bit of my passion for attending games in the Bronx.

As such, I had a hard time investing in the nostalgia surrounding Sunday's long-anticipated swan song at Yankee Stadium. All season long, with increasing frequency as the date approached, tributes to the most storied venue in sports history this side of the Colosseum in Rome could be found in every medium, as everyone from legendary writers to grizzled former players to fresh-faced bloggers offered their perspectives regarding what made the stadium special to them. I wrote one myself (it's pending at Bronx Banter), but only after spending months procrastinating the task. Deep down I knew I couldn't share my selected slice of history without serving a few stinging reminders regarding the ugly truth about the Yankee Stadium I've experienced over the last eight seasons. The encomiums may continue beyond the grand farewell, but I'm left with a bad aftertaste, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.

One of the ironies of my life was being the holder of a ticket to the Yankees-Red Sox game scheduled for Monday, September 10, 2001. A hard rain fell that evening, but with information regarding the game's status impossible to come by, my friend Nick and I had gone to the stadium, hoping the bad weather would subside. We snarfed down soggy hot dogs from under a rickety umbrella as the rain fell, and as we ate we watched a young woman in a Nomar Garciaparra jersey dance in the six inches of water which had accumulated in the front row of Yankee Stadium's upper deck. Full of nitrates, we went home, little knowing that the cataclysmic events of the following day would change our ballpark experience along with the rest of our world.

The Yankee Stadium which emerged in the immediate wake of September 11 was a defiant symbol of national unity in a time of crisis, and I had the honor of attending a few of the games there, including Game Three of the World Series, when President Bush threw out the first pitch of what Sports Illustrated writer Tom Verducci called "the ceremonial first pitch to America's recovery" (alas, stadium security was so heavy that night that I couldn't gain entry until the second inning, after Bush had departed). The problems began when the Yankee organization, from owner George Steinbrenner on down, couldn't let go of that symbolism. "God Bless America" became a permanent staple of the seventh-inning stretch, devolving from the spectacular pomp of Irish tenor Ronan Tynan's delivery during home playoff games to the banality of the canned recording of Kate Smith and the US Army Band's version. More on that in a moment.

Accompanying the regular renditions of "God Bless America" were heightened security procedures that subjected patrons to no small litany of hassles while doing little to make them more secure. Given the cursory frisking procedures and lack of metal detection capabilities, it would have been possible to gain entry with a 9mm handgun jammed down the back of one's pants and a Bowie knife sheathed in one's sock, but without those, the organization simply inflicted its increasing paranoia and greed upon paying customers. Backpacks and briefcases were immediately banned from the ballpark after September 11, as though any potential ticketholder might be a terrorist smuggling in a tactical nuclear weapon swiped from the imagination of some z-grade thriller. Not even Shea Stadium-located only two miles from LaGuardia Airport-stooped to such extremes. Anyone coming to the park while porting one of the banned bag types-say, from work-was forced to check it for a fee at one of the bars or restaurants across River Avenue. Anyone wishing to schlep a bagful of items into the stadium-say, a scorebook, a jacket, and reading material for the long subway ride home-was forced to place those items in a flimsy, clear plastic grocery-type bag available outside the turnstiles. No other types of bags, such as ones with reinforced handles, were allowed, first for vague "security purposes," and then, once fans began pressing Yankee security to explain these increasingly irrational and seemingly arbitrary requests, "because you're not allowed to bring bags with logos inside." As you may have divined, I had many a terse confrontation over this policy.

Umbrellas were banned as well, subjecting patrons to a true soaking at the stadium's souvenir stands, where they could shell out $5 for a flimsy poncho. Confiscated umbrellas were consigned to giant heaps near the turnstiles, where aggrieved fans departing a game were granted the opportunity to choose a replacement vastly inferior to the one they'd brought. But perhaps the reductio ad absurdum was the stadium's ban on sunscreen-yes, really-thus creating another opportunity for profiteering inside the ballpark.

All of those were petty annoyances of a type not unfamiliar to any New Yorker; one basically signs up for a host of such inconveniences upon taking residence here with the hope that they'll be outweighed by the advantages of city dwelling. Far more ominous were the crowd-related issues that exacerbated over the past few years. To appreciate them, one need understand the trend of rapid attendance growth that occurred during the Joe Torre era:


Year    W-L    Attendance  Per Gm   Growth   Won
1995   79-65   1,705,263   23,521    ---     Wild Card (under manager Buck Showalter)
1996   92-70   2,250,877   27,789   18.1%    Division, World Series
1997   96-66   2,580,325   31,856   14.6%    Wild Card
1998  114-48   2,955,193   36,484   14.5%    Division, World Series
1999   98-64   3,292,736   40,651   11.4%    Division, World Series
2000   87-74   3,055,435   37,956   -6.6%    Division, World Series
2001   95-65   3,264,907   40,558    6.9%    Division, Pennant
2002  103-58   3,465,807   43,054    6.2%    Division
2003  101-61   3,465,600   42,523   -1.2%    Division, Pennant
2004  101-61   3,775,292   46,609    9.6%    Division
2005   95-67   4,090,696   50,502    8.4%    Division
2006   97-65   4,248,067   52,445    3.8%    Division
2007   94-68   4,271,083   52,729    0.5%    Wild Card
2008   85-71*  4,298,655   53,070    0.6%    Nothing

Winning four world championships in the five years from 1996 through 2000 helped to drive per-game attendance in the Bronx up 61.4 percent, even given a millennial slump. Attendance leveled off from 2000 through 2003, but the combination of the team's dramatic return to the World Series via Aaron Boone's home run and the arrival of Alex Rodriguez the following spring helped push the Yankees towards and then over the four million mark, just the third team ever to do so. Growth slowed as Yankee Stadium approached its theoretical maximum, its narrow concourses and spartan amenities overwhelmed by the teeming masses; at that point, the ballpark became a hazard.

For me, the final straw came on April 30, 2007, after attending a tense Saturday game against the Red Sox in which the Yankees prevailed. A very bipartisan, alcohol-fueled crowd had been at each other's throats all game; the cheap seats in Tier Reserved had featured numerous fights and ejections. An irrational security force nonetheless sealed off several of the stadium's ramps, slowing the exits of legions of emotionally overheated fans. It took 40 minutes to crawl from the upper deck to the subway platform, and while I'm no claustrophobe, all I could think about on my painfully protracted way out was the deadly human crush of English soccer riots. The limiting of the exits apparently became standard operating procedure, and if the consequences didn't turn tragic the way I kept envisioning, they nonetheless added an unnecessary, dangerous level of discomfort to the experience of attending a game in the Bronx.

Then there was the "God Bless America" flap. Shortly after my uncomfortable exit experience, an odious policy regarding the playing of the song came to light in the local media. Stadium security forces had apparently been ordered to restrict fans from moving during the song as "an expression of patriotism." According to Howard Rubenstein, the spokesman for the Boss, "Mr. Steinbrenner wanted to do all games to remind the fans about how important it is to honor our nation, our service members, those that died on September 11 and those fighting for our nation." That's a noble gesture, but unfortunately, using security forces to coerce a crowd to participate is completely un-American, almost certainly illegal, and unconstitutional. That's not patriotism, that's fascism.

The policy returned to the public eye last month, when a fan alleged that he had been harassed and assaulted by New York City police before being ejected from the park for his failure to comply. The NYPD has refuted the man's story, but at least one witness account backs up his version of events.

The incident, which may result in a lawsuit, kicked off a wave of negative publicity surrounding the stadium's final days. The public was reminded of the fuzzy math of park's $1.9 billion replacement on the other side of 161st Street, long a matter of some dispute at this site. Fans were forced to reckon with the the ugly reality that the new park is built not for them but for the corporate class. Inevitably, an increasing number of fans will be priced out of the ritual of regular attendance.

Even as the Yankees have made a show of maintaining stability in their low-end ticket prices as they move across the street, the truth is that fans are being forced to less desirable locations, with fewer choices. As the longtime member of a ticket plan, I can attest to this firsthand. Eleven seasons ago, my friends and I banded together to buy two seats for a flex plan allowing us to pick 15 games from the schedule, plus another pair for a guaranteed game in each round of the postseason. We chose the Tier Boxes, the lower portion of the upper deck, a terrific vantage point because of the seats' close proximity to the action. Our timing was ideal; we joined the party just in time to watch an ample portion of the 1998 Yankees' roll, right up through Game Two of their World Series sweep. The plan eventually increased to 26 games (one for each Yankee world championship) over the course of our tenure, and we maintained rights to post-season tickets even as those of later flex plan members were downgraded to "if necessary" games. As our seniority increased, a higher percentage of our seats wound up in the wedge between the imaginary extensions of the first- and third-base lines behind home plate, increasingly desirable seats that took some of the sting out of rise of our ticket prices from $20 per game back in 1998 to $60 per game this year, and the way the industry-wide trend towards a tiered pricing structure involving "premium games" (primarily those against the Red Sox and interleague opponents) took hold, limiting some of our choices.

Unfortunately, the team's relocation program is every bit as foreboding as it sounds. In the new park, our 26-game flex plan becomes a 20-game "unflexibility plan," with the choice of dates restricted to an every-fourth-home-game cycle beginning with either the second or fourth home game of the year. Instead of those tickets being located in the wedge behind home plate, we are limited to an option of paying either $75 per game for seats between home and first or third bases, or $65 from beyond the bases to the foul poles. Our shot at post-season tickets is reduced to the opportunity to partake in a Ticketmaster pre-sale Charlie Foxtrot. Futhermore, those Tier Box (now Terrace) seats are recessed 30 feet further from the field of play. I believe each ticket plan comes with a coupon entitling the bearer to be beaten with a truncheon across a kidney of stadium security's choosing, but that may just be a rumor.

So you can forgive me for being a little peeved about the run-up to Sunday night's finale. I couldn't avoid watching the game, but neither could I summon the will or the cash to attempt securing a ticket; instead, I viewed the festivities from the comforts of my couch. Despite the Yankees being more or less eliminated from post-season play, the event was a festive occasion, full of moments of genuine emotion amid contrivances which turned the game into something akin to the All-Star pageant which took place there back in July, such as the mid-inning removals of Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter to elicit ovations from the capacity crowd, and the plan for Mariano Rivera to pitch the ninth inning no matter the score. I'll leave a description of the festivities to those lucky enough to attend, and simply concede that it took a heart much harder than mine to prevent being moved by the night's events.

Nonetheless, the spectacle wasn't enough to wash away the bad aftertaste over the way things have ended at the House That Ruth Built, and I strongly suspect that I won't be the only fan voicing that sentiment in the years to come. As Yankee captain Derek Jeter told the assembled crowd last night, it was Yankee fans' legendary fervor that made the ballpark such a special place. It remains to be seen how much a more upscale crowd will have to cheer about in the team's new home.

Jay Jaffe is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jay's other articles. You can contact Jay by clicking here

29 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Jordan Feigenbaum

Jay,

Being a denizen of Shea, I recall the Mets having instituted a full "No Bag" policy directly after 9/11 also, but they did at least offer the option to check your bag at a little shelter/trailer they put up in the parking lot. I can't recall if they charged for it or not, but they did ban all bags... I still agree that the Yankees have botched much of what could have been a universal outpouring of nostalgia though.

- Jordan

Sep 22, 2008 11:18 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Thanks for the input, Jordan. In the wake of September 11, such a draconian Shea Stadium bag policy may well have been the case, but I seem to recall that policy having been eased. There's no mention of any such prohibition on the Mets' official website (http://newyork.mets.mlb.com/nym/ballpark/guide.jsp) the way there is for the Yankees (http://newyork.yankees.mlb.com/nyy/ballpark/guide.jsp#p), and the last couple of times I've been there, I've seen backpacks and briefcases subjected to a standard search. A similar procedure would have gone a long way towards making life at Yankee Stadium so much more bearable over the past several years.

Sep 22, 2008 11:43 AM
 
Jordan Feigenbaum

No disagreement there whatsoever, sir... Somehow, for possibly the first time ever in this city, the Mets have the better experience and are more enlightened.

Now let's see what happens if I try to go take a whizz during God Bless America at Wednesday night's Cubs game.

Sep 22, 2008 12:50 PM
rating: 0
 
gmulligan1

True ... as a Met plan holder (Sunday games) I can affirm that they now just check bags at Shea, but once cleared, you can bring them in.

Sep 22, 2008 14:50 PM
rating: 0
 
Mountainhawk

I'm of the belief that centuries from now, history will record 9/11/2001 as the day America died. I've seen countless number of ridiculous security measures and 'enforced patriotism' since, including seeing someone thrown out of an independent league baseball game for not removing their hat for God Bless America. He stood there quietly and listened, just didn't remove his hat.

Sep 22, 2008 11:33 AM
rating: 0
 
JoshuaL

Hi Jay - I too was at the 9/10/2001 game with my brother. We sat in the right field bleachers for what seemed like forever in the pouring (and I mean POURING) rain. I had no umbrella and every part of clothing I had on was soaked to the maximum. My sneakers actually sloshed water as a walked. Finally, it stopped and the umpires and grounds crew inspected the field. Everyone was hopeful the game would start, but after another delay Bob Shephard came on and announced the postponement. Needless to say, the interminable wait in the rain did not seem worth it. It seemed surreal that I had been in NYC less than 9 hours before the attacks (I lived near Newburgh at the time).

In any event, I agree about the degradation in the fan experience at the Stadium since then. While I have not been to nearly as many games in recent years as I used to, the games I have been to have not been as enjoyable as the pre-2000 ones.

Sep 22, 2008 11:47 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Colleague Joe Sheehan gently pointed out to me that the 9/10 game that was rained out was actually scheduled against the White Sox. A quick look at their schedule via Baseball-Reference.com (http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/NYY/2001_sched.shtml) confirms this is the case. The week of postponed games was moved to after the regular season schedule would otherwise have ended, and for the Yankees it began with the White Sox in town for a series running from Monday 10/1 through Wednesday 10/3.

Damn it. What the hell was the girl in the Nomar jersey doing there?

Sep 22, 2008 14:10 PM
 
Justice

I don't know who the Yankees were playinh on 9/10/01 but I do know that the White Sox played the Indians in Cleveland that night. I can still recall making a long drive home listening to that game. According to Baseball-reference.com, the Sox won 7-1 and Sox right hander Danny Wright defeated Bartolo Colon.

The White Sox were scheduled to play the Yankees on 9/11/01 at Yankee Stadium with Roger Clemens on the mound for the pinstripers. The Sox were staying in midtown Manhattan and, if my memory is correct, after the roads out of Manhattan were reopned on 9/12/08, the Sox rented a bus and drove the team all the way to Chicago.

Sep 23, 2008 09:51 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Upon further review, Justice, it appears you're right (and so was I initially) and Joe was wrong. The Red Sox were scheduled to play the Yankees on Monday 9/10/01 as the finale of a wraparound series (http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/conversation?gameId=210910110). Meanwhile in Cleveland, the White Sox were busy beating up on the Indians (http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/CLE/CLE200109100.shtml).

Thus, the Nomar jersey. I feel much better.


Sep 23, 2008 12:03 PM
 
JoshuaL

Just wanted to confirm that I did indeed see the Red Sox team in the visiting dugout that night. :)

Sep 23, 2008 12:20 PM
rating: 0
 
dbiester

The "security measures" are stupid, they seemed designed primarily to make it difficult to bring in outside food and beverages, and there is no such thing as enforced patriotism, that is in fact some other kind of -ism. The "relocation plan" is awful, and runs the risk of alienating the core customer -- my Sunday plan seats in the Tier Box "MVP" section are going to be LUXURY BOXES next year; they were $16 a pop when I started getting them in 1995. On the plus side, the new stadium (call it Steinbrenner Field) will make it a lot easier to get in and out and have all those modern things that make going to a game in Pittsburgh so pleasant. But, like the Yanks failing to make the playoffs, the transition to luxury boxes was inevitable.
Feh.

Sep 22, 2008 12:37 PM
rating: 0
 
glennrwordman

I attended the next-to-last game (the 1-0 win on Saturday) with my sister, a good friend and my twelve year-old nephew.

Right before the bottom of the 7th, my nephew, perhaps because of the coffee he needed to have mid-game because he had a "late night" (for a 12-year-old), asked to go to the restroom. We rose as the O's made the last out, and were let out of our Section (Box 59). But the corridor was totally chained off.

I said to the first usher "excuse me, please." He immediately moved the chain. Came to the second usher. He paused, then moved the chain.

I said "excuse me, please" to the third usher, and she said "You're not allowed to leave." I told her that I was taking my nephew to the restroom, and asked her to please move the chain. She grudgingly moved it, then stood in the way. I squeezed by, and as I did, she yelled "don't push." I looked back to make sure my nephew got through as well, and said nothing, with the recent shenanigans well in mind, and the knowledge that whatever came out of my mouth in that moment might only exacerbate the situation.

It's just wrong.

~gr

Sep 22, 2008 13:34 PM
rating: 1
 
adam12

At Dolphin Staduim they make you remove your hat when you enter the park for "security reasons". They actually state that you may have a bomb. They do not check your pockets, pants or waist. Which leads to the philisophical question, if one were to attempt to blow themselves up at a Marlins game how do you know it happened if there is no one there but empty orange seats to see it?
I stongly suspect that there was a hightend sense of security and that people in charge were scrambiling to check everything in lite of how dumb the airport security system was on the morning of 9-11. Now I think that half of these security measures at the stadiums are one part a way to keep their jobs and two a way for teams like the Yankees to squeeze you for more money. You cannot bring in water because you may throw the bottle at the players but you can buy beer sold in plastic bottles that you can throw at the players. As if my arm was ever that good anyway.
Adam

Sep 22, 2008 13:57 PM
rating: 0
 
psugator01

I had a similar experience back in the early 1990s while attending my first game at Yankee Stadium. Back then I was into autographs and was standing behind the Orioles dugout watching batting practice and waiting for some stars to come by. I was behind one side of the dugout when Andy Van Slyke walked toward the other side of the dugout. In my quest to reach Van Slyke, I stepped over a railing, only to have an usher begin running after me.

He escorted me out of the stadium (I guess stepping over a railing is a big deal to the Yankees). Not only that, but he took my ticket and told me that if he saw that I had re-entered he would have me arrested.

Why such heavy-handedness?

I wasn't going to miss the game so I simply bought another ticket -- albeit in a section on the other side of the stadium -- and enjoyed the game.

Sep 22, 2008 13:57 PM
rating: 0
 
Evan
(47)

I want to thank you for writing this, Jay. This homogenous Yankee Stadium hagiography was starting to feel forced, as if stadium security weren't permitting a dissenting opinion. I have never been to Yankee Stadium, and frankly have no idea what it was like to see a game there, but given the security at the expense of liberty adopted since 9/11, I have long suspected this was the case.

It's a wonder stadium security never ejected Carlos Delagado when Toronto was in town.

Sep 22, 2008 14:06 PM
rating: 0
 
psugator01

I've been to a zillion games at Dolphins Stadium, too. I don't have a problem with taking my hat off to show the usher that I don't have a bomb on my head. I also don't have a problem throwing away my opened water bottle (unopened water bottles are allowed).

Sep 22, 2008 14:06 PM
rating: -1
 
chaglang

Sorry, but isn't chaining off exits against fire code? Has anyone asked the NYC Fire Marshall his opinion of the Yankees egress restrictions?

Sep 22, 2008 14:15 PM
rating: 1
 
ScottyB

Yankee Stadium was a great place because of all the great events and accomplishments that happened there.

Yankee Stadium (at least in my lifetime) was a mediocre stadium by every other angle. The good seats were expensive; the cheap seats were very far away from the action; the food was bad, expensive and hard to get to; the crush to and from (and in) the subways was better suited for lemmings than people; and all these problems got worse the more crowded the place got. This is all true.

However, baseball was played there. Even better, mostly great baseball was played there.

Sep 22, 2008 14:23 PM
rating: 1
 
pingbodie

Thanks for the realistic - if saddening - take on the unpleasant state of stadium culture in the Bronx.

I did attend the game last night, and am happy I did so. But against my better judgment I fell for the line "show up at 1:00 and get to walk the warning track". The sad ineptitude of stadium security and PR was in full force, naturally, and those who arrived after 12:30 never set foot on the field (but were treated to hours of confusion, misinformation, authoritarian morons, and stifling heat in overpacked corridors).

The pre-game festivities were great, occasionally even very moving. (Though there was a tendency toward feeding the impulses that, say, cast Brosius as a better 3b than A-Rod.) The game itself was a delight. Ronan Tynan seems to have learned to speed up his tempo a bit, making the forced patriotism at least bearable.

And then a field full of riot police, complete with a 20-officer pile-on of the one soul bold enough to dare them (or was that just theater?). And the police mares which pawed gouges in the outfield grass (good thing the fans weren't allowed to mess up the field).

So yes, a very bittersweet night, confirming all of Mr. Jaffe's mixed sentiments.

I did leave the stadium wondering if I hadn't witnessed the longest, loudest, most sustained ovation for an 0 for 5 performance in the history of the game, but perhaps that's a question for Steven Goldman?

Sep 22, 2008 15:45 PM
rating: 0
 
sas129

I'll bite and try to defend the Stadium a little bit.

First, while you may want to question the effectiveness of some of the Yankees' security policies, and criticize them for profiteering off the security measures, to call the team paranoid for tightening security after 9/11 is unfair. The Stadium is a high-profile landmark where large crowds gather, and as such is a natural target. The team would be remiss to not do something.

Secondly, BP seems to encourage an unsentimental, market-based approach to roster construction and player-team interactions. Given that position, it's tough to hear complaints about rising ticket prices coming from a BP writer. I suppose the team should consider the "intangibles" and "chemistry" that will be lost by pricing out the "true" Yankee fans.

And while the security has perhaps gotten a little overzealous in recent years, and it's important to report abuses, all one has to do is watch footage from the 1976 Chris Chambliss home run or the final out of the 1977 World Series to understand why riot police were out in full force on that field last night.

Part of the reason the stadium is filled to capacity every day is the effort to make the stadium a safer, more family-friendly place to see a game. Unfortunately, a bi-product of this is that security is sometimes a little too heavy-handed. You can't jump the occasional railing, you can't bring a backpack into the stadium, you can't pee during God Bless America. The Yankees can certainly do better, but I think we're a ways away from some of the comparisons to fascism.

Sep 22, 2008 16:57 PM
rating: 0
 
pdxpadre

I agree the ticket prices should not be blamed on the Yankees. I hold the fans responsible for allowing themselves to be robbed. It's wishful thinking, but I hope attendance and ticket prices start dropping now that people aren't using their houses as ATMs quite as much.

Sep 23, 2008 02:32 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Derek Jacques
BP staff

I agree on your first point, although genuine security interests and shameless profiteering aren't mutually exclusive. At one point while I was waiting to get in the Stadium yesterday the police came by with what looked like a giant geiger counter to sweep over the crowd--that's not the kind of thing you do as a cynical ploy, and the effort is appreciated.

On the second point, there's no conflict between saying that teams should focus on putting the best team possible on the field, and saying that maximum pricing is not necessarily in the best interests of fans, teams, or the sport in general. Yankee Stadium is in no danger of failing to sell out next year--the Stadium's novelty will see to that, if nothing else--but if the team's fortunes continue to decline, it's not hard to envision them missing some of the hardcore fans that they're currently pricing out.

Sep 23, 2008 12:15 PM
 
sas129

Exactly my point about the security. You have to allow that the Yankees need good security for their games. By implying that the Yankees were paranoid for having security in the first place, he weakened his legitimate arguments about the security's ineffectiveness and cynical profiteering.

On the second point, I think the notion of who's a "hardcore" fan and who isn't is pretty tricky. If a "hardcore" fan is a fan whose allegiance never wavers, then the team's fortunes shouldn't affect his or her ticket-buying decisions all that much. Theoretically, the team can raise prices as high as they can during the good times, selling to both "hardcore" and "bandwagon" fans, maybe pricing some hardcore fans out of the best seats, and pricing some out altogether. When the team starts losing, the prices lower, the "bandwagon" fans go away, and the "hardcore" fans move back up a slot. It sucks for the hardcore fan, but isn't this within reason for the Yankees to do to maximize profits?

Sep 24, 2008 11:55 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

sas129, wow, you've brought the straw man out of the bullpen on me. I noted the heavy-handedness and arbitrary and often irrational nature of the security provided, but nowhere did I say or even attempt to imply that the Yankees *didn't* need some kind of security - just a kind that recognized legitimate threats like weapons instead of pretending that someone's Barnes and Noble shopping bag or umbrella represented a danger. TSA-style metal detectors or Shea-style bag inspections would have made far more sense (if been more expensive and time-consuming) than what went on outside the turnstiles of Yankee Stadium.

Sep 24, 2008 12:10 PM
 
sas129

Jay, I enjoyed the irreverent nature of your article in a sea of fond Stadium recollections. And, as you can see, I'm enjoying the new comments feature. So thanks.

And while I generally agree with your points on Stadium security, I was responding mostly to the tone of this sentence:

"the organization simply inflicted its increasing paranoia and greed upon paying customers. Backpacks and briefcases were immediately banned from the ballpark after September 11, as though any potential ticketholder might be a terrorist smuggling in a tactical nuclear weapon swiped from the imagination of some z-grade thriller."

Specifically, using the words "increasing paranoia" to describe the organization's desire to restrict bags and briefcases in the aftermath of September 11th, which to me seemed perfectly reasonable. I think the argument is, more fairly, that the Yankees took a perfectly reasonable concern for the safety of their customers and personnel, and responded both ineffectively (by not using sophisticated enough techniques), and avariciously (by seeing the increased need for security as a way to profit). So ineffective, greedy, cynical? Yes. Paranoid? No.

Sep 25, 2008 11:02 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Neil deMause
BP staff

If the "security measures" had anything to do with actual security, and not forcing people to buy $5 ponchos and the like, I think we'd all complain less about them.

My favorite story about this is from Game 4 of the 2001 World Series, which I was fortunate enough to get tickets for from a friend who used to work for the Tigers. (Apparently one reason WS tickets are so impossible to come by is that MLB hands some out to every team, many of which have no idea what to do with them.) I knew that post-9/11, security was going to be nuts, with no bags of any kind allowed, so I dutifully loaded up the pockets of my winter coat (which I wore even though it was about 60 degrees) with snacks, binoculars, etc.

I walked in the gate, stopped at security, and readied myself to empty my pockets to show I didn't have any contraband. Instead, the guard said, "Open your jacket." Then he patted me down *inside my coat*.

Then he said "Take off your hat." I took off my fitted Yankee cap, showing him I didn't have a millimeter-thick bottle of vodka under it. Then he waved me through, never once even looking at my visibly bulging coat pockets.

As I walked to the escalators, still dumbfounded, a fan near me who'd just gotten the same treatment turned to his friend and said in a loud voice: "This security sucks! I just walked in with a whole pound of crack!"

Sep 23, 2008 06:22 AM
 
repeater

Yanks are a tough team to love, I'll give you that. Having invested so much time and emotion into them, though, I couldn't turn away now, even if I wanted to. Still, articles like this do sting. A lot.

Sep 23, 2008 20:12 PM
rating: 0
 
saigonsam

Jay, thanks for pointing out some of the flaws of the beloved Stadium. I am sure most visitors to Yankee Stadium that supported the other team can attest that it was not the paradise New Yorkers remember. The mob mentality (chanting), the treatment of those who want to voice their own opinion (Carlos Delgago), and the forced extreme Nationalism makes the place the most Fascist spot in America.

Sep 23, 2008 22:55 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jay Jaffe
BP staff

Re Delgado, I was at the ballpark during a 2004 game where a nearby irate (and cluelessly xenophobic, and inebriated) fan made a stink over his "God Bless America" stance. What was reassuring was the fact that said fan was shouted down by those around us until his companion escorted him out of the game. A nice moment.

http://futilityinfielder.com/blog/2004/07/so-much-to-say-so-little-time.shtml

Sep 24, 2008 05:07 AM
 
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