While watching the New York Yankees the other night—I’ve been a diehard fan since I was 9 years old—I couldn’t help but think of the last visit to the old stadium in 2008 before the gates were shut forever. It was late August and my son and grandson were up from Florida; Matt had purchased seats for a Friday night game.
“They’re not spectacular seats, only ones I could get,” Matt said. “I just want Mattman to experience the wonder and magic of walking into Yankee Stadium before it’s gone.”
We entered at field level. Mattman stopped and was immediately struck by the sight of this mighty, legendary stadium. Under the lights, everything was clean and crisp: the grass was bright green, the uniforms were so white and clean one could actually see the pinstripes and the stadium was like a huge white palace overflowing with colorful fans!
Our seats were on the upper level and we took the escalators as far as we could. As we climbed the remaining stairs to our seats, we realized this part of the stadium hadn’t been renovated in 1974-1975; the steps were the original, so old and narrow it was difficult for me to get my foot comfortably on the step. When I turned my head to look back, I realized how far up we were and how little the people were below, like ants at a picnic; my stomach began to do some major calisthenics and I felt lightheaded. I don’t do well with heights (or closed-in spaces, if you remember). Seriously. My crew—Matt, Mattman, son George and niece Jennifer and neighboring fans—were rooting me on as I held on to the short railings with a death grip and climbed.
“C’mon, Momma, you can do it. Hold on and don’t look down. Just a few more steps and you’re ‘home.’”
I finally reached my seat and sat down to a round of applause. My legs were shaking, my heart was racing and it was so hot and humid that I was overheated. It is no exaggeration when I tell you that we were seated in the last row of Yankee Stadium. If we put our heads back, we touched the wall of the stadium. What did you expect for $20 a seat?! Oh boy, it was time for a nice, cold beer. By the way, I bought hot dogs for everyone—you just gotta have a Stadium hot dog—to the tune of a $30 dent in my food budget!
I don’t remember who the Yankees played or who won. Jen took a picture of us and I’m surprised that I smiled and looked normal. My mind, however, was working overtime: “How are you going to go down those stairs without falling over into the next level of seats, hmmm?” I was terrified.
On the way out, I clung to the railings and took one step at a time, very careful not to look down onto the field; I couldn’t wait to get on the escalators.
It turns out the stars were not in my favor: all the escalators were shut down. After gingerly stepping down the stairs of three escalators, along with the rest of humanity, and finally reaching the landing, my legs were like rubber and I could barely walk.
We still had to go down a couple of ramps before we hit the outside and ultimately the garage. My crew’s emergency response network kicked in and came to Mom’s rescue. Mattman and Jen flanked my sides and each took an elbow. George, leading the brigade, plowed ahead and Matt brought up the rear. I was protected and we moved through the crowd and bolted for the garage. The Secret Service couldn’t have done a better job.
Hot and thirsty, Jen and I waited at the bottom of the stairs in the garage while the boys went to get the car. Between the heat, humidity and smell of car exhausts, I had a vicious headache. After an unusually long wait, they finally arrived.
“Sorry we took so long, Mom. We forgot you rented a minivan and were looking for your SUV. It was hotter than hell up there. Finally found the van; here’s a bottle of water for you.”
Bless Jen for bringing a cooler loaded with drinks. That cold, cold water was the nectar of the gods to our parched throats. Once we were seat-belted in, Matt got us out of the garage and we were on our way home.
Or I thought we were: “Matt, I think you’re headed into Manhattan.”
“Oh? No problemo.” A quick U-turn (in the Bronx?) and we were headed north and the comforts of home.
When my crew reads this column, they’ll remember our special excursion; poor Mom holding on to the railings for dear life and their timely rescue as she started to fade into the sunset. They’ll also remember having a good laugh, that Mom was a good sport and bought them a $6 hot dog to celebrate our unforgettable trip to Yankee Stadium. A tried and true recipe for making memories!