Ebbets Field, the Polo Grounds, the original Yankee Stadium, the renovated Yankee Stadium, and Shea Stadium – as I said last month, I’d been to them all.
And now that I’ve seen games at the new Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, I can say I’ve experienced all of the storied ballparks of New York.
I went to the Mets’ new home for a midweek day game against the Atlanta Braves along with 40,554 other paid fans, so most of the 41,900 seats in Citi Field were filled. I arrived two hours early and had plenty of time to do a hakofa around the exterior and one around each concourse level before the game.
I paid $20 for a seat in the top row of the top deck between home plate and first base. It was a great view but I stayed in the seat for only three innings as the wind blasted between the opening behind me and the roof. I put my suit jacket over my cap to cut down some of the wind hitting behind me but still found it uncomfortable.
I spent the rest of the game wandering the different concourse levels which afforded fine views of the game behind the seating areas. (Because of the various architectural openings in Citi Field, the wind is also felt by fans in top-row seats on the lower levels.)
I roamed through the huge Jackie Robinson rotunda, which is reminiscent of Ebbets Field, as is much of the exterior design and color. I liked the roominess of the new ballpark and loved the overhang in right field (the Pepsi Porch). Mets owner Fred Wilpon wanted a reminder of both Ebbets Field and visits to Tiger Stadium and his grandparents in Detroit.
While Shea Stadium had more seats (57,000) and two different shades of red and blue in its seating, Citi Field uses the same color throughout. To me, and depending on when the sun hit it, the seats looked like a combination of dark gray, light black and dark green, which gave it an old-time ballpark look.
Similar to Shea are the distances down the lines – 335 feet to left and right and 408 to center. The height of the outfield walls change and offers many quirks. A bit garish and sort of Times Squareish are the high-rise signage boards above the outfield stands. They do serve the purpose of blocking the view of the collection of shabby-looking auto repair joints across the street.
The only thing I really didn’t like about the new ballpark was the white covering over each bullpen. I know it keeps pitchers from being exposed to the sun or rain, but it doesn’t blend in. Also, I would like to see large murals of the Polo Grounds somewhere. After all, it’s where the Mets began their history (1962).
I easily found the four glatt kosher concession stands, so you don’t have to bring food, just money. Families will have a fun experience at Citi Field, tickets are far less expensive than at Yankee Stadium, and fans generally use cleaner language.
Yankee Stadium incorporates its elegant, original exterior look of 1923. Inside is a modernized version of the way it appeared in the 1940s and ’50s (except that the light green original color is blue and white as it has been since the mid-60s). Because of wider seats and aisles, the seating capacity in the new park is down to 52,325.
Also shaved was 20 feet in the distance behind home plate to the backstop. The current 52 feet, 4 inches shortens foul territory and brings the wealthy folks who can afford those seats much closer.
I took a one-hour tour of Yankee Stadium on a Tuesday and didn’t see as much as I wanted as the dugout was off limits that day, but Tony the tour guide was excellent. While there, I bought a ticket for the game the following Sunday. I ended up in the third level in left field for $48 (nearly four times more than a closer seat would cost in Detroit).
Now, $48 may not sound like much, but I went alone. When you take some family members and buy some eats (I found two glatt kosher stands in Yankee Stadium), add gas, parking or subway fares, it really hits you in the wallet. What is really high, though, is the scoreboard at 59 feet. The high-definition board is more than twice as big as what the Yanks had last year.
The tall board gives a super sharp image and helps to block out the view of tenements behind the bleachers. Even though the new Yankee Stadium is just across the street from the old one, older buildings hover closer and can make one more apprehensive of the neighborhood.
Yankee Stadium doesn’t offer fans the opportunity to view the game while circling the concourse in the outfield that Citi Field does, and I found the employees at Citi Field a bit friendlier.
One thing missing in both new megaparks is the feeling that the visitor is in New York, New York. The imposing skyline is miles and miles away. Ballparks in Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, San Diego, St. Louis and the new one going up in Minneapolis offer great views of their downtowns. The new ones in New York, however, offer handsome stadiums in not so handsome settings.
Seeing two good games in two new megaparks was great. But the highlight of my trip to New York was getting together with Jewish Press superstars Eli Chomsky and Jason Maoz. As on a previous visit, we met and supped at one of the fine establishments listed in the Jewish Press Dining Guide.
Irwin Cohen, the author of seven books, headed a national baseball publication for five years before earning a World Series ring working as a department head in a major league front office. His Baseball Insider column appears the second week of each month in The Jewish Press. Cohen, who is president of the Detroit area’s Agudah shul, may be reached in his dugout at firstname.lastname@example.org.