The Days (Years) Leading Up To The Day
It was the mid 90s – while much of our community was enjoying the new found concept of Satellite TV (Star Sports, BBC, CNN and Chinese Entertainment were the only satellite channels on the menu), the concept of TV itself – as was everything else that had anything to do with technology – was a pretty new phenomenon in our household. With only two channels [decent looking Doordarshan (DD) and mostly scrambled Doordarshan2 [DD2]) and an occasional news paper subscription to stay tuned with happenings around the world, I had rarely seen any sport in action – other than Cricket, Soccer, (Field) Hockey, Tennis and Swimming to some extent.
It was around the same time (and for the next few years) that one of those two national channels started televising a 30-minute Sunday pre-noon sports show. Much of its coverage was Cricket and other regional happenings, the penultimate section being international sports and concluding with follies to keep the audience laughing. It was then that teams like Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers and the New York Yankees were playing very well and as such, forever gained a soft spot in the sporting section of my mind/heart and great admiration for individual athletes like Micheal Jordan, Steffi Graf, Monica Seles, Pete Sampras, John McEnroe, Stefan Edberg, Leander Paes, …
Time passed and through a series of fortunate events, I found myself across the Atlantic, for what seemed at first, purely academic reasons – only to (re)find my passion(ate addiction) for sports, photography, computers and the holy spirits. As much of my stay on this side of the Atlantic was in the beautiful Upper Peninsular of Michigan, I naturally happened to follow pro-sports teams from Michigan & surrounding areas – Detroit Pistons, Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Tigers.
In spite of Detroit Tigers putting on a remarkable turn around couple seasons ago beating the Yankees on their way to MLB Championship, it was hard to dis-affiliate myself from the Yankees. The team that I played with for the first four years in Michigan Tech Graduate Summer Softball League (2003-2006; four straight finals appearance, two back-to-back championships, one perfect season and an enviable 43-6-1 record — all as a result of countless hours of practice & execution and, super-supportive fans) was hated by almost every other team in the league and was often referred to as the Yankees of Graduate League!
With Detroit Tigers playing so well and Detroit being so far away from where I lived, it wasn’t always easy to find economical ways/tickets to watch them play. And being historical about some of the things I do (like picking the as historical a venue as possible for the Major League games – especially the first one), I too once hoped to be in the Yankee Stadium, for my first Major League Baseball game. Previous attempts to even see the stadium were marred once by poor planning (in 2006) and once by the rude behavior of Yankees personnel (in 2007). May be it’s one of the blessings in disguise that I moved to East Coast for work purposes and considering it was the last season for the house that was built for Ruth [yes, the house that was built for Ruth as opposed to the commonly held notion that the house that Ruth built. Allow me to explain please: the house that Ruth Built is just a play on the British nursery rhyme, The House That Jack Built. And I remember reading - the reference to which I cannot find now - that the construction of the stadium had something to suit Ruth's way of hitting, making it the house that was built for Ruth. But he did hit a home run in the very first game played in the stadium, hit a lot more later, attracted lot more fans much to the disappointment of the then New York Giants (another baseball team) and as such, the stadium was more popularly known as the house that Ruth built!], I started searching for tickets to see one game. Of all the games I could get the seat for, I ended up getting (a bit of planning, a bit of luck and good timing) it to see one of the most storied rivalries in sports:
Boston Red Sox coming to play the New York Yankees for the last game of the penultimate series in regular season in the Final Season of the Yankee Stadium
Pre-Game, Game & Post-Game
I met with my advisor, Dr. Pandey, and Kavi around 2pm in Edison and after a good discussion about varied topics with elderly people & watching parts of rain-delayed Wimbledon Men’s Final, we set off towards the city. A short stop in Tom’s Restaurant (a.k.a. Seinfeld Restaurant), Columbia University and few subway segments later, we were in the neighborhood of Yankee Stadium. I was very pleasantly surprised with cordial Yankees personnel, considering the opposing team, magnitude of the game and all – although I would have been even more happier if they had let me carry in my 70-200mm lens (instead of politely asking me to keep it in baggage storage facility). While searching for our seats, we did get a very good view of the interiors of the stadium – from behind the home plate. Seats were good although the view was partially obstructed.
This was by far the most exciting of all the major league games I have been to: (inter)nationally televised game on ESPN (Sunday Night Baseball), A-Rod Home Run #536, good pitching (first four innings took only about an hour), double plays (one from each team), kinda bad pitching (next 5+1 innings took about three hours), Dustin Pedroia’s 2 run single with two outs in the fifth inning to take BOS ahead 3-1 that hushed most of Yankees Universe, Joe Girardi’s ejection, Robinson Cano’s 2 run triple to tie the game at 4-4 in seventh inning that woke up the sleeping Yankees Universe, singing Take Me Out To The Ball Game as part of seventh inning stretch, seeing Mariano Rivera strike out Manny Ramirez – amidst the chants Manny Sucks – in 3 pitches to preserve a 4-4 tie game, Mr. Nobody (a.k.a. Brett Gardner) – with two outs – hitting a game winning RBI single off of Jonathon Papelbon in the bottom of 10th inning to an erupting crowd of ~60,000 and to have witnessed it all in Yankees Universe with my advisor (I later learnt that it was his first MLB game too) and Kavi (a die hard New York fan) … were just some of the moments that I will cherish for a very long time.
These and other pictures are here. Getting out of the Stadium and catching the last train out of New York Penn Station, needless to say – with the same ocean of ~60,000, was a unique experience in its own merit. All said and done, I get to scratch off one more item from my wish list and more importantly, re-realize the fact that…
But for sports, distance between New York and Boston wouldn’t be measured in games!
If the Yankees do somehow manage to make it to the playoffs and somehow manage to win the MLB Championship to bid a fitting adieu to this holy cathedral, I could look back and proudly say, I was part of The Final Season!!