Thursday, April 19, 2012


Many baseball fans I know would rather watch games on TV, especially now that DVR makes it possible to pre-record the contest and fast-forward through commercials, pitching changes, conferences on the mound, mid-game interviews, minor celebrity sightings and the like.

And I confess that this is my usual modus operandi, especially in April, when I often have to get through televised Knicks games as well. I can, if I set my mind to it, knock off both a baseball and a basketball game in under three hours, if I hew ruthlessly to the principle that everything extraneous to the play itself -- not only Cialis ads but also everything that smacks of human interest and sports rumination -- must be ruthlessly expunged.

But the other night, Nancy and I were at Yankee Stadium to see the Bombers come from behind and thwack the Twins 8-3. And yes, there were things we sacrificed for the en plein air experience: the dubious benefit of announcer commentary and explanation, for one.

But here’s what we gained:

First, a perfect night. When I was teaching at Brooklyn College, a freshman handed in a paper that began, “It was a day such as poets write of: not too hot, not too cold.” It’s become a family joke: “It was a burger such as poets write of: not too rare, not too well-done.” But in the case of last Tuesday evening, Alexander Pope or some other champion of the moderate and picuresque might have been inspired to comment in verse on the clemency of the climate.

Second, a streaker – a nice retro touch, and one that TV viewers always miss because of YES Network's policy not to encourage such behavior. Granted that the guy was wearing trousers, which means he had no balls (that we could see), but he put on a nice, if brief, display of broken-field running before being brought down at second base by a fat old cop with surprising speed.

Third, for me, a nice sausage on a bun with peppers (admittedly, it was preceded by two $8 hot dogs, purchased at different stands, of such inferior quality that I discarded each after one bite) and, for Nancy, her favorite slum-food: a corn dog.

Fourth, the fans, including the two cuties pictured above who repeatedly photographed themselves against the backdrop of the field, but also, and more so, the lovely group of smart, knowlegeable, nerdy Jewish high-school kids we found ourselves sitting amidst. The boy on my right respectfully quizzed me on my vast experience as a sports fan: had I ever seen Mantle and how good would he have been if he’d stayed healthy? (The best ever.) Who was my favorite all-time Yankee pitcher? (Whitey Ford.) Did I prefer the new Stadium to the Old? (In some ways.) And he produced a fascinating hypothesis: during the sixth inning, the Yankees had the bases loaded: Gardiner on first, Granderson on second, Nunez on third. Wasn’t it possible, my young friend asked, that never in the annals of the game had three runners of equal or superior speed been on base at the same time? What team, in my long memory, might have produced their equal? And I couldn’t think of one; perhaps we were watching an arcane quantum of baseball history, live and in person. (To provide a nice sense of closure, Swisher drove them all in with a ringing double to right.) When we left, the kid respectfully shook my hand and told me what a pleasure it had been to talk with me. Such a nice bright boy, such a high probability that someday he’ll be the next Grantland Rice or serve as Commissioner of Baseball.