Barbara Kopple’s compelling documentary on both the old and new Yankee Stadium during the Steinbrenner era provides an interesting look into the Yankees future. The old is great, the new is shaky.
The old Yankee stadium was the Taj Mahal of Major League Baseball. Whether a Yankee or a visiting team, anyone who was fortunate enough to walk out onto that field stood in the presence of greatness.
The poignant story of Lou Gehrig, after his famous farewell speech, walks off and finds a chair out of sight where he let’s his emotions get the best of him. The people, places, sights and sounds over a 16 year career all came rushing back. Years later, after declining on several occasions, Derek Jeter finally visits the spot where Gehrig had his tearful goodbye and remembers just how important the old Stadium was to the history of baseball. The beauty of this moment tells how generations have passed, stadiums have crumbled, but the bond between Yankee captains remains unbroken.
Then the new stadium is erected along with Hank Steinbrenner organization. Hank is far different from his father in every way. Hank lacks the flare of George, making him less interesting to watch. When George Steinbrenner opened his mouth to speak, you became scared. Not about what he would say, but whether or not it was directed at you. He was leader.
When Hank speaks you expect to hear a series of numbers referring to profits and losses. There is seemingly little attention to baseball as a sport, as opposed to baseball as a business. He is the guy behind the leader.
Yankee fans are skeptical as usual when it comes to accepting their new stadium and their new “boss.” When a season ticket holder gets his new seats with an obstructed view, one pointed fan hollers, “go back to Flushing!” while the guy with seasons is on camera. There is clearly a divide between these two fans that aptly reflects Yankee sentiments towards the new stadium. Traditionalists face off against the Modernists and their need for ballparks with bells and whistles. Neither side is necessarily right or wrong, but it does beg the question: Does baseball need bells and whistles?
The season ticket holder has every right to be mad about his new seats. The voiced gentleman, who, from the looks of it, was not a season ticket holder, but rather a guy that probably scored free tickets from his boss and came for the sushi and $8 dollar beer specials, is not in a position to be mad or scornful. A 1.5 billion dollar new stadium, a 76% increase in ticket prices, and now I can’t see left field? I would be mad too.
I understand that anything Yankees has to be the biggest and brightest. However, pricing out fans will eventually have its consequences. Especially among the fans who still remember when baseball games were an affordable night for your family.