Just over two weeks ago I got married and for our honeymoon we journeyed to New York City. Despite my love for American sports, TV, movies, food and so much more, I had never been to the country before. So this was very much a once-in-a-lifetime trip for us, and naturally I had to fit in a ballgame. I gave my wife the options: Yankees or Mets (I wanted both but marriage is all about compromise). She's not much of a baseball fan so, understandably, she didn't really know who the Mets were, so she opted for the Yankees, "The Evil Empire." In my mind it was the preferred choice, so I was more than happy to book tickets to visit the Bronx.
I know what you're saying but hear me out first; as an Indians fan I'm supposed to hate the Yankees, but as a UK fan who never grew up around their apparently insufferable fanbase, I just don't have that hate for them like I'm supposed to. I'm also a big history nut, and the Yanks have perhaps the most storied history in all of sports, so I knew I was going to enjoy that aspect of our visit.
As we were going to be in the city for the first week of August, the only games the Yankees were playing at home were against the Tigers. We flew into JFK on 31 July, the first game of the series against Detroit, so I booked tickets for the Tuesday night game on 1 August. I had been tempted to get tickets for Wednesday's game, a 1pm contest, but I was very aware that, as pale English honeymooners unaccustomed to the New York City heat in August, we would be better off enjoying the cooler temperatures at night.
On the morning of the game we left our hotel and ventured into town for breakfast and to get familiar with our new surroundings. First pitch wasn't until 7pm but I wanted to get to the stadium early, as I often like to do when I see live sporting events. I like to soak in all the atmosphere, especially if it's my first time visiting a new stadium.
We caught the subway heading north and arrived in the Bronx on the D train around 4pm, and the gates didn't open for another hour. It was absolutely roasting in the sunshine so we hid in the shade, admiring the impressive exterior of Yankee Stadium.
We did a quick lap of the stadium and I paused for a photo outside of Gate 4. Before long we saw the lines start forming to get in at 5pm, so we got in the queue. The unrelenting sun cooked the crowd for close to 45 minutes, so once we got into the stadium the first thing we did was seek out water! We then took a few minutes to cool down before exploring. We also picked up free t-shirts upon entry, XXL white Yankees t-shirts with a giant green Vantelin sponsor on the back. They are so big I could pin them to a mast and sail back to America.
This was the view we were greeted to when we entered through Gate 6. Within minutes of the stadium being open, the right field porch was full of fans hoping to grab a toss-up or batting practice homer. For my first time in a baseball stadium it was quite a sight, that unbelievable green expanse filling my eyes, spreading everywhere I looked. And lots of Aaron Judge jerseys.
One of the things I looked forward to seeing most at Yankee Stadium was Monument Park, home of the most distinguished Yankees in history, so we headed there as soon as we could before it filled up quickly.
We got there pretty fast and it wasn't too busy, which was a bonus. Monument Park was everything I wanted it to be, home to some of the most legendary names in the game. I could have spent hours there.
We spent as long as possible in Monument Park, soaking in all of that history. We saw and read all of the plaques, including Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. I paid extra attention to the Joe DiMaggio monument. Of all the Yankee legends, DiMaggio is my favourite, and I have read nearly every book published on him. Its hard to explain my fandom for Joe, especially as he was reportedly a bit of an asshole, but of all the hall of famers from that era, he has resonated with me the most. Maybe it's his 1941 record-setting 56 game hitting streak, or maybe it's because he read Superman comics on roadtrips, I just like the dude so we spent a bit longer with his plaque. After we left Monument Park there is a small little store dedicated to the legends nearby, so I picked up a DiMaggio t-shirt.
We then began making our way to our seats, up, up and up. When I bought the tickets on StubHub months beforehand, it showed you what the view of the field is like, but I still wasn't entirely sure what to expect in reality. I had purchased 2 seats in the first row of section 425, in the infield grandstand overlooking third base. And when we got to our seats, I could not have been happier with the view.
Come on, that's what you call great seats! No obstructions in front of us at all, and for $15 a ticket!
It's safe to say we were pretty happy at this point. A quick comment on the caps of choice: of course I was going to rep the Indians! I saw nearly every team's cap represented at Yankee Stadium that day but I didn't see any other Tribe caps but my own. The wife had previously picked up a Yankees cap the night before, and it was a large part of the baseball experience she had been looking forward to the most, buying a cap for the ballgame and eating hot dogs. If I was forcing her to watch a baseball game on her honeymoon then she wanted the entire American pastime tradition.
Speaking of hot dogs, we decided to grab them before the game started. I didn't want to miss any of the action on the field waiting in line for food. I understand it's a bit of a contentious issue putting ketchup on your hot dog but I'm English, and I'll put ketchup on everything. So yeah, I probably ruined this hot dog in your opinion, but I loved it so whatever.
Soon enough the game got underway. The pitching match-up featured CC Sabathia taking on Anibal Sanchez. It was interesting getting to see Sabathia pitch, as he was one of the first Indians pitchers I learned about when I discovered baseball ten years ago, so it was fun to watch the 2007 AL Cy Young winner. Early in the game the jumbotron highlighted the famous people in the crowd and former New York Knick Amar'e Stoudemire was present. As was Oklahoma City Thunder's Paul George, who funnily enough attended the same showing of The Lion King on Broadway we went to the next day. Paul, if you're reading this (of course you are), we weren't stalking you, I promise.
I'm not going to recap every detail of the game, as it happened over a week ago and despite being an entertaining and closely contested game, a play-by-play list doesn't make for fun reading. Instead I've attached some videos below of moments during the game that really stood out to us:
Sabathia started the game well but ran into trouble in the second inning, getting tagged for a 3-run homer by Detroit's John Hicks. Down 3-0, this amazing play by second baseman Tyler Wade stopped the Tigers from putting together another rally. Dixon Machado hits it straight up the middle and Wade, playing the shift, somehow managed to contort himself in the air to make the play. The wife knew a great play when she saw one and clapped in appreciation with the rest of the stadium.
By this stage Sabathia had given up another home run, a solo-shot to Justin Upton, and things were starting to look bleak for the home side, down 4-0 now. Just prior to Didi Gregorius coming to the plate in the bottom of the fourth, I was telling the wife all about Yankee Stadium's famous short right field porch and how lefty batters can hook home runs into that corner. Up steps Didi who proceeded to do just that! I was really hoping we would get to see a home run in our first game (we saw three) but I was especially hoping we'd see a home run by the Yankees. It's a bit more special when the home team hits one out.
In the next inning Detroit were threatening again but third baseman Todd Frazier channeled his inner Brooks Robinson and made this incredible diving stop on a sharp Justin Upton groundball. The home fans around us were especially sweet on Frazier, a Jersey boy, and all rose in applause and recognition for an outstanding play.
As the game neared its end, the Yankees kept things interesting. The inning before saw Didi collect another RBI, his third of the night, to bring the Yanks within one run but reliever David Robertson had put Tigers on first and second in the top of the ninth. When Detroit right fielder Andrew Romine blooped a single into shallow center field, I thought for sure the game was over and the Yankees would not be able to come back from a multiple run deficit. But Brett Gardner charged in from center field, collected the ball on a single bounce and fired home, nailing the runner at home plate to end the inning. It was an awesome moment to see in person and really energized the crowd.
Sadly the Yankees were unable to come back in the bottom of the ninth. They made it close, getting runners on second and third, but with two outs Clint Frazier could only pop up and the Tigers emerged victorious, running out 4-3 winners on the night.
The result did nothing to spoil our night however (I'm not a Yankees fan after all, even though I do dislike the Tigers). For my first ever game in the flesh, I enjoyed every minute of it, and saw some absolutely brilliant moments. I was actually surprised how fast the game went by, despite clocking in at 2 hours and 59 minutes. On TV the game feels a lot slower but in person I had no issues with the pace at all, in fact it flew by quite quickly. Even the wife had no issues, and I had previously warned her about it being a slow game. In 2012 I went to one of the Wembley NFL games in person and thought that to be much slower, and was quite bored by the end. Not so with baseball and thankfully the whole experience lived up to my expectations.
With my first live game in the books, I'm eager now to see more and hope I can get back to the States in the future to see another game soon. It'd be especially nice to see my Indians next time...