The Yankees and the South Bronx have always co-existed rather uneasily with each other.
When the Yanks first arrived in the Bronx, the demographics of the area were far different from what they become in the 1960s and 1970s and what they are today. In fact, as the borough changes, so too did Yankee Stadium. While the renovations in the 1970s were ostensibly about modernizing the stadium, the Yankees sealed off the inside of the park from the outside. Gone were the views of the tenement houses across the street. Instead those residents saw a drab gray wall backing up along River Ave.
This stark contrast between the rich and powerful Yankees and a very poor and struggling neighborhood came to head in 1977 when the South Bronx erupted in riots. As the Yankees played at night, smoke from the fires in the area wafted over that high outfield wall. While the Yanks try to make fans forget they’re in the Bronx, the Bronx would not allow the fans to forget where they were.
Today, the stories of class conflict in the city have fallen by the wayside. The areas around Yankee Stadium are still among the poorest and least safe neighborhoods in the city, but as the team grew wildly popular and successful throughout the 1990s, friend of the Yankees Rudy Giuliani made sure that no place in the city had more cops than Yankee Stadium at game time. Now, no one thinks twice about trekking up to the South Bronx to see a Yankee game.
But what about the people on the other side of this story? What about the hundreds of thousands of people who live around Yankee Stadium? For them, the impending destruction of the old stadium and the arrival of the new stadium tells a different story.
David Gonzalez, writing in The Times this weekend, delves into that story of a neighborhood defined, often reluctantly, by a stadium in which most residents could never afford to set foot:
It’s just that too often, no one much respected the neighborhood outside its walls, including Yankee executives. That’s what makes for my melancholy heart.
Over the years there was griping about how the area was unsafe — this despite scores of police officers assigned to games and the presence of two pretty well-fortified courthouses and a transit police station a couple of blocks away. And there were arguments about whether the Yankees could develop a fan base in the Bronx — a borough that is home to legions of baseball-mad Dominicans and Puerto Ricans.
On one level, you could dismiss it as just posturing, a bargaining ploy over the years meant to wrest something new from the city — tax breaks or a stadium. But for a track man at Cardinal Hayes High School who ran past the stadium every day, it could feel like an entire community’s recent history had been reduced to a negotiating tactic.
The Yankees exist in Yankeeland, as much a part of the Boogie Down Bronx as the tony Riverdale neighborhood is. The rest of the South Bronx neighborhood along the Grand Concourse, near 161st St., exists in a separate world. It is one in which neighborhood — and, in particular, the now-gone Macombs Dam Park — matters to those who live there. It is a neighborhood defined by adversity and a neighborhood much better off than it was 15 or 20 years ago.
When the Yanks move across the street and open a new ballpark in seven months, the views we’ll change. The center field backdrop will now be 1020 Grand Concourse instead of the familiar court house. The stadium will be more insular than ever before with restaurants and martini bars and a mini Yankee City within the walls. But the neighborhood will be the same, defined not by an 85-year-old Baseball Cathedral but by a stadium that stole a park. We celebrate — or bemoan — the Yanks every day, but as an era draws to a close today, we can’t forget the countless people who have grown up and have lived in the shadows of the Yankees, for better or for worse.
The Yanks apparently have decided on the final two players they’ll be sending to the desert this fall: second time AzFLers Juan Miranda & Kevin Whelan. So it looks like I misremembered, for some reason I thought they only had one pitcher spot empty, but I guess they never filled that second infield spot. Scott Aldred, Double-A Trenton’s pitching coach, will serve the same role with the team in Arizona, which is great because he’s familiar with all the pitchers the Yanks are sending. Season starts Oct. 7th. (h/t Chad Jennings) · (9) ·
Earlier today, Damaso Marte threw yet another scoreless inning for the Yankees, and his mid-August troubles are seemingly long gone. In his last 14 appearances, stretching back to August 16, Marte has thrown 11 innings, allowing one run on three hits and four walks. He’s struck out 13 in that span and is pitching about as well as any reliever could. As he’s now shown why he was a hot commodity at the trade deadline, I believe the Yanks will pick up his option this fall, solidifying the late-inning need for a lefty next year. · (76) ·
As Robinson Cano lined a single up the middle to give the Yanks’ a walk-off 1-0 win over the Orioles, the team closed the book on a chapter of Yankee Stadium. No longer with the field at the southwest corner of River Ave. and 161st St. in the Bronx play host to day games. No longer will the Bronx County Court House preside over sun-drenched afternoon affairs.
The Yanks couldn’t have asked for better weather in late September for their afternoon send-off to the stadium. With the mercury pushing 68 degrees and nary a cloud in the sky, the Orioles and Yanks racked up zero after zero until the Yanks broke through in the bottom of the 9th. Two unlikely pitchers – Brian Burres with an ERA over 6.00 and Al Aceves with 20 Big League innings under his belt — kept the opposing hitters guessing, and the game came down to a battle of the bullpens with the Yanks’ pen pitching just a hair better than the Orioles’ relievers.
For the third time in three starts, Aceves threw six innings and didn’t allow much. The Orioles knocked out just five hits against the Mexican righthander and worked three walks. Aceves struck out three and didn’t allow a run. On the season, Aceves sees his ERA drop to 1.38, and many Yankee fans are writing him in as a presumptive starter next year. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
To me, the biggest question mark surrounding Aceves is the “luck vs. skill” debate. Right now, Aceves’ BABIP is a meager .217, and it’s highly doubtful that this mark would stand. His three strike outs today gave him just eight in 19 innings as a starter, and the 2:1 K:BB ratio isn’t stellar. Today, he recorded four outs on the ground and nine in the air. While in his first start, he induced a Wangian 14 ground balls in seven innings, if his fly ball rates are up and his strike outs remain low, he’ll start to give up more runs.
Now, I don’t mean to sound negative about Aceves; he’s shown better stuff and command than Darrell Rasner or Sidney Ponson did. But once the league gets a long look at him, we’ll know for sure what we have. At the worst, he’d make for a great long reliever next year.
Otherwise, the offense had nothing today. The Yanks mustered four hits and just seven base runners against Brian Burres. But what else is new? This team has long had a tendency this season to make bad pitchers look good. At least today they came out on top.
With one game left at Yankee Stadium, the Yanks are riding the hot hand. They’ve won seven of their last nine at home and are enjoying good pitching and timely hitting. With tomorrow’s emotional stadium finale on tap, today’s was a great win.
We’ll get around to wrapping up the Yanks’ 1-0 victory over the Orioles later. For now, the news is about Derek Jeter who left the game in the 9th after getting hit on the hand with a pitch. According to Ed Price, x-rays on Derek’s hand came back negative. While Jeter is sure to be sore tomorrow, there’s a snowball’s chance in hell he’ll miss the final game at Yankee Stadium. · (8) ·
I’m just wondering: would anyone be interested in hitting a New York bar on Sunday night? I’d be down if we have enough interest. Thing is, I’m not sure where to go. I’m out in Queens, and honestly there aren’t many places around me that would fit the bill. Plus, I figure it’s easier to meet in Manhattan. So if anyone is interested and/or has any bar suggestions, leave a comment. We’ll get this going if we drum up enough attendees. · (7) ·
It’s the last day game in the stories history of Yankee Stadium. In 40 minutes, the Yanks will take the field on the House that Ruth Built for the last time under the sun. It is a bittersweet moment, to be sure.
Al Aceves draws the start today for the Yanks. In his last Yankee Stadium start, he held the White Sox to two runs on five hits and a walk over six innings. He is 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA in 20 innings this year. Facing him will be Brian Burres, 7-9 with a 6.32 ERA.
Final Game Notes: The Biz of Baseball has the complete rundown of the ESPN TV coverage scheduled for tomorrow. If you can’t make it to the stadium for the farewell game, there are plenty of tributes to watch on the Worldwide Leader.
Photo Credit: The new Yankee Stadium by Librado Romero for The New York Times.
According to numerous reports, George Steinbrenner will not be at Yankee Stadium on Sunday evening. Considering all that George has meant for baseball and all that he has done with the Yankees since buying the team in the early 1970s, I have to believe that he must be rather incapacitated if he’s missing the final game. For better or worse, it won’t be the same without him around. · (5) ·
After pulling the Carl Pavano Special this year (pitching like crap when we wasn’t hurt), Jeff Marquez will be heading to the Arizona Fall League to make up for missed time. The Yanks still have one pitchers spot to fill, but it seems unlikely that Ian Kennedy or Chris Garcia will get the call. Maybe it’ll be JB Cox, assuming his knee’s okay? Otherwise I dunno who it could be. · (19) ·
While Mike Mussina earned himself a nice curtain call last night, Carl Pavano wishes he could win the adulation of the fans that way. Pavano, another high-priced pitcher who failed to deliver for the Yanks, won what will probably be his last start for the Yankees in a home uniform as New York triumphed over Baltimore 3-2.
Pavano threw five innings against Baltimore tonight, allowing two earned runs on six hits and a walk. He also struck out two. Somehow, improbably, Pavano is now 4-1 with a 4.99 ERA. While he probably has just two starts left in the Bronx, he is somehow pitching his way to another guaranteed contract, albeit one with incentives.
But while Pavano stymied the Orioles through five, the real pitching stars came out of the bullpen. Phil Coke, Brian Bruney, Damaso Marte, Joba Chamblerain and Mariano Rivera combined for four shut-out innings. This group gave up just two hits — both off of Rivera in the ninth. Coke and Bruney faced two batters and struck them both out; Joba faced three and walked away with three K’s. With Bruney and Coke set to return and Mark Melancon and Humberto Sanchez waiting in the wings, the Yanks’ bullpen is primed for a huge 2009 season.
With their victory tonight, the Yanks moved back into sole possession of third place. They’re nine games behind Tampa and 7.5 behind Boston. They are on the verge of postseason elimination for the first time in fifteen years. Yet, the fans care about these final games at the Stadium, and the team is playing with an urgency we haven’t seen all year. While it might be a little late for the Yanks’ October dreams, at least they’re sending the stadium out on the right note.