In the mid-1950s, when Casey Stengel’s Yankees were doing a whole lot of winning, some bemused and frustrated baseball writer (or executive or player) coined a phrase: “Rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for U.S. Steel.” This year, as the Yankees are seemingly involved in more off-field controversies than ever before, I am reminded of that phrase but for all of the wrong reasons.
The big story yesterday concerning the Yankees and the way the organization treats its fans focused around confusing communication during Monday’s rain delay. As I reported yesterday, some fans were told by employees that the game was being canceled. When those fans attempted to return, security guards refused to let them in.
In truth, everyone was to blame for that debacle. The fans shouldn’t be leaving without official confirmation from the team, and the team’s employees at the stadium should not be spreading false information about the game. That’s the short of it though. There was an undercurrent to the events on Monday that really bothered me. It goes well beyond a story told in The Times today about a guard who refused to let one fan see someone he knew in another section. At the time of that incident, the only thing on the field was the tarp and some rain.
When a riot nearly erupted outside of Gate 6, a Daily News photographer happened to be nearby. As he started snapping pictures of the brewing dispute, Yankee Stadium security guards threatened him with a revocation of his press credential if he did not vacate the scene. That’s a pretty egregious abuse of power.
The rain delay melee overshadowed what, on any other day, would have been a fairly shocking column by Bob Raissman’s mustache. The Daily News columnist is known more for his facial hair and outrageous opinions than anything else, but his column on the Yankees’ heavy hand in the stadium is well worth our attention.
Basically, members of the media are pretty unhappy with the way the Yankees are treating the press at the new park. The team has jacked up the park-and-power fees and live broadcast fees by 300-400 percent. The Yankees are trying to charge networks $12,000 per game, up from $3000 at the old park, just to broadcast. The team is jamming internal communications frequencies and isn’t allowing off-duty broadcasters into media-only areas that go unused.
According to Raissman, even Paul O’Neill was hassled by security. The beloved ex-Yankee was watching the Yanks take BP when a security guard told him he couldn’t loiter by the indoor cages. What an odd turn of events.
Having read Jane Heller’s book the Yanks’ efforts to block her access to the team, having seen Yankee officials defend obscenely high ticket prices, exclusionary access to the Stadium and blatant abuses of political power, I feel like I am rooting for some evil version of U.S. Steel. I know some RAB readers will accuse of me of being overly sensitive to the Yanks and buying into some anti-corporate portrayal of the team’s leaders. Still, from stadium issues on down, the Yankee Front Office has been rubbing me the wrong way this year. They certainly know how to lose a PR battle.
For now, though, I’m going to take solace in the fact that I’m rooting for a baseball club. I don’t need to like what the Yankees media department is doing or how their security forces won’t let fans watch BP from the empty expensive seats three hours before first pitch. I’ll cheer on Joba and Derek, Mo and Mark and hope they do well. Maybe as the Yanks win, the Front Office will relax and just let baseball happen as it should. We all like control, but at some point, overbearing control and security just become too much.