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Saturday, March 23, 2013
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An article in the NY Times sports section on the 1965 NY Yankees brought back some memories for me. That was the year that the Yankees fell from grace; their streak of winning seasons and frequent World Series appearances from the 1920’s came to an end after 1964 and the Yanks wouldn’t be back again until 1976. They ended 1965 at 77-85 and started a decade of seasons where they finished under .500 or barely got over, usually by less than 5 games (save for a somewhat hopeful 93-69 season in 1970 and and a second place finish 2 games out in 1974). Various sports commentators wonder if this year will be a 1965 repeat for the Yanks, given how several of their biggest stars (Jeter, ARod, Rivera, Pettite, Suzuki, etc.) are finally feeling their age.

To be honest, I’m not much of a Yankee fan anymore, so I can’t really comment. But I can say a few things about the Yankees of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. They lost a lot of games, but I still had fun as a teenager making frequent Saturday or Sunday afternoon trips to the Bronx with my cousin to watch the Yanks play. Sure there was a lot of heartbreak, but because the team was so inept, things around Yankee Stadium got a good bit more informal than today. Thus, one could get away with stuff that modern Yankee fans could never imagine.

My cousin and I would buy the cheapest seats we could get inside the stadium (and you never had a problem buying day-of-game tickets at the park even if the game was starting in 10 minutes). Then in the later innings we would move down to the first level and get progressively closer to the field. More often than not, our attempts to get into the box seats at the top of the 8th were successful. There were usually lots of unoccupied seats down there if the Yanks were hopelessly behind, as they often were, and the stadium attendants didn’t feel like kicking out the rabble (given that the rabble — and no one much else — were still coming out to see a depressing, dejected team play). Not far from the fence and with blue sky above us, we would be in-range of catching a foul ball; unfortunately, that never happened. We say a few get close, but were never at just the right spot.

Another sign of loose stadium control often happened once a game ended. Today, guards and stadium attendants ring the field to make sure that no one jumps over the fence onto it. But by 1968, crashing the field after another depressing loss to the Orioles or the Twins became a tradition, and my cousin and I certainly were not going to miss out on the fun. Below is a pic that I took one afternoon from the field. You can see the red-shirted staff trying to keep people off the infield, but otherwise letting fans see what the House that Ruth Built looks like from the grass. They would open up the gate behind the pitching bullpen and that’s how you would walk off the field and out to the street. It put you a few blocks from the subway stop, but the detour was worth it!

Eventually George Steinbrenner came along, pumped some real money into the franchise, the team started winning again, the Stadium filled back up, and the Yankees became a money-making entertainment enterprise. I went a few more times in the mid and late 1970s, and it was nice to see that the Yankees were a powerful team with a real chance to win most any game. But the rules were now being enforced and ticket prices were going up, and you couldn’t do things like bringing a bag lunch to eat during the 2nd inning anymore. And we were no longer kids and were starting to worry about getting jobs and finding wives and becoming respectable citizens. The fun days at Yankee Stadium were over.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 3:09 pm      

  1. Jim, Nice memories of when you were a kid. Even then you could take good pictures. MCS

    Comment by MCS — March 25, 2013 @ 10:35 am

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