CON GAMES: Yankees Blind To Fans

Until Game One of the 2017 American League Championship Series (ALCS), the last time I had been in Yankee Stadium was the night Lou Piniella retired from the Bombers in 1984. Sweet Lou ripped a single in his last at-bat then jogged out to play left field—ending his career on a hit—only to be subbed out to the roar of a loving crowd. For the record, it was Sweet hit number 26 in 86 at bats, allow His Looooooness to end that year with a .302 batting average as the exclamation point on a bodacious 16-year playing career. Not too shabby for a guy who won two titles with the Yankees and went on to manage the Yanks and win a World Championship as a manager of the Cincinnati Reds.

That was the old Yankee Stadium 33 years ago and of course ALCS Game One against the Houston Astros was in the new one at the same 161st Street subway stop in The Bronx. On the subway ride out from Manhattan, two fans were talking about their tickets, with both deciding the important thing was to be “in the building” for the game. I agreed, and I had proved it by buying the cheapest ticket in the house—$98 online—in the highest point of the right field stands, as high as you could go and still be in the building.

The Yanks jumped out to an 8-0 lead with the help of an Aaron Judge home run and won 8-1 in a rout to bring the ALCS to 2-1 Astros. The Yankee fans in my section were rapturous, rambunctious, mostly plastered, deliriously happy throughout—and a real joy to be with. The Yanks also won the next two in The Bronx before succumbing twice to the Astros in Houston.

But you know there’s a “but” in this story and here it comes: I’m guessing a minimum of 500 seats in our section, maybe more, were obstructed views. We could not see deep right field from our seats. We could not even see the bottom-right side of the massive video screen in center field that could have compensated for what we missed on the field. We could barely see a tiny B-S-O sign with two dots for balls, two for strikes, and two for outs high above the Yankee dugout. That was all the game data available from our seats.

In fact, when Judge made a great leaping catch at the right field wall, no one in our section could see it. The secondary roar came with the replay in center field, when our section erupted, though much of the replay was also obstructed-view. From my seat, I never got a clean look at a defensive gem, either on the field or on the video board.

So here’s the most obvious thing. Tickets with an obstructed view in any venue should be marked as such and sold at a discount. Period. Case in point: I once sat in the midcourt Celtics seats at Boston Garden owned by Jack Walsh, a political operative. How could they be obstructed view at midcourt? That was the catch. From these seats you could see the entire court and the benches—but you could not see the crowd behind the benches. Who cared? Jack Walsh had the best seat in the house discounted because of a meaningless obstruction. What a deal! My admiration for him rose immeasurably.

No such obstructed-view warning was available when I bought my ducats for Game One at the Stadium—the first time being “in the building” had ever been a disappointment for me. I had to ask myself how the Yankees—and the architect—could have built a brand-new ballpark in the modern era with nearly 50,000 seats while allowing 500 fans minimum to pay full-freight without being able to see all of right field or the video board. And these were core fans, too, people happy to be in the building just see their beloved Bombers in a big game.

This could never have happened if the Yankees had cared more about their fans. The sweet seats behind the dugouts are so expensive they can go begging, so to speak, but we all know those are not the true fans who keep a team alive even in the dark times.

I get that they call them the cheap seats for a reason, even if I don’t remember when $98 for a ticket to a ballgame, albeit an ALCS game, became cheap. But I’ll never watch a game from The Bronx again for my friends in the right field seats who never saw one of the best plays of the game.

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