It was one thing in Fenway. As a fan of the Baltimore Orioles, I admit to having a reasonable distaste for our AL East rival Boston Red Sox. But this? This was practically a sacrilege.
It was a sweltering day. We stepped from the Baltimore heat into the chilly confines of an Amtrak train headed north to New York. A small fortune expended, I held in my hand three left field front-row tickets to see the New York Yankees play the Seattle Mariners – our first trip to Yankee Stadium. Three hours and a crowded, sweaty “D” train to the Bronx and there we were. Facing the house of the Evil Empire.
The New York Yankees – oh how we love to hate them, especially here in Baltimore where they have always treated the Orioles like a piece of lint to brush off, or like some poorer, weaker, second-class cousin; flagrantly flaunting their “World Championships”, their big names and the big checkbook it took to get them. When their fans are unwilling to pay their astronomical ticket prices, they travel gleefully to our Camden Yards, practically taking over the ballpark, becoming way too comfortable. They are unwelcome houseguests greeted by the sight of O’s fans unapolgetically sporting “Yankee Hater” and “A-Roid” t-shirts. They are loud. They are obnoxious.They speak with those accents (Def-initely…Fuggetiboutit…). Worst of all, on their team is that man who wears jersey #13 whose name I refuse to type anywhere in the contents of this blog.
My son rode all the way from Baltimore without wearing his own signature baseball hat and sunglasses making him practically unrecognizable to us. Upon arrival at Yankee Stadium, he immediately purchased a hat and a (Maryland native) Mark Texiera t-shirt. He put on the Yankee cap and Texiera shirt and looked at me cautiously, probably wondering if this shirt would somehow disappear in the laundry.
I went in with a plan to just enjoy the ballpark itself, to somehow ignore the team that plays there and to stay as detached as possible. As we started to walk around, I became oddly enchanted by the place. There was a mystical quality to it – banners and signs and shops displaying the faces of baseball legends who transcend today’s petty rivalries – Berra. DiMaggio. Gehrig. Mantle. Jackson. Jeter. The House That Ruth Built.
“Today’s my birthday”, an elderly African-American woman that we had befriended in the seats next to us said. “She took me here for my birthday,” she said, gesturing towards her proudly smiling friend. Everywhere I turned fans were beaming with a light from within at the thrill of just being there. Those Yankees fans that take over Camden Yards were nowhere to be found, and I was surrounded only by respectful, real, reverent baseball fans enjoying their home team.
The game ended with the Yankees losing to the Mariners 4-2 with all of the offense (two 2-run homers) provided by ex-Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano who had left New York for Seattle (and $240 million) after nine seasons. Fans tossed back both of those home run balls in disgust. “Sell out!” someone yelled. There – now that sounded more like New York.
On the way out, Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” and the famed chorus “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere…its up to you…” echoed out through the loudspeakers. Looking up, we saw the face of The Babe keeping watch over his house. It felt good knowing that he was a Baltimore guy.