With the new $1.5-billion Yankee Stadium now open, I HAD to visit its "Monument Park" area to pay my respects. After all, what's not to like about a sickeningly posh edifice partly funded by massive subsidies from taxpayers who can't afford its ultra-expensive tickets and food? To paraphrase Marie Antoinette, "Let them eat $5 hot dogs."
So there I was in that "monumental" shrine to Yankee greats. I saw the retired numbers of legends such as Babe Ruth (3), Lou Gehrig (4), Joe DiMaggio (5), and Joe Six-Pack (6) -- along with their nicknames. Ruth: "The Sultan of Swat." Gehrig: "The Iron Horse." DiMaggio: "The Yankee Clipper." Joe Six-Pack: "The Guzzling Guy Who Formerly Frequented 'The House That Ruth Built' (Yankee Stadium I) Before Being Priced Out of 'The House That Greed Built' (Yankee Stadium II) Which His Son Joe Jr. Can Afford Because He's an AIG Crook With the Money to Buy $10 Beers in Cheapo Souvenir Cups As He Sits in a Luxury Box With His Rich Buddies Rather Than With Joe Six-Pack His Working-Class Dad Who Would've Attended His AIG Son's Birth If He Hadn't Been Busy Watching Mickey Mantle Hit Home Runs From Both Sides of the Plate During Frank Robinson's Triple-Crown Season of 1966 When Robinson's Baltimore Orioles Won the World Series While the Yankees Finished Last and Rich People Didn't Bother Showing Up at the Old Yankee Stadium But Now They're at the New One Because the Team Spends So Much on Players That They Always Have a Chance to Make the Playoffs and Rich People Like to Be Associated With Winners Even Though Many Rich People Are Morally a Bunch of Losers."
You can imagine my shock when I saw Joe Six-Pack's nickname: How did they fit so many words on one plaque?
But I digress. What amazed me about "Monument Park" was seeing several VERY large numbers there. No, not "56" for Joltin' Joe's famous hitting streak, nor "184" for Gehrig's American League record of RBIs in a season, nor "714" for the quantity of hot dogs Babe Ruth ate during a date with Marie Antoinette. Instead, one monument had "663,000" on it for the number of jobs the U.S. lost last month. Another had "210,000,000" on it for the dollar amount of bonuses that obscenely greedy mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac want to pay their pathetically performing people. And so it went.
What were those six- and nine-figure monuments doing there? I'll get to that in a minute, a period of time which has the same number of seconds as round-trippers hit by Ruth in 1927.
I sorrowfully write this post as a formerly avid Yankees fan who followed the men in pinstripes through many a lean post-1964 season. Then, during the 1977 World Series, I cheered the three home runs on three pitches that made Reggie Jackson "Mr. October." Nineteen years later, I cherished the Yanks' come-from-behind triumph over the Atlanta Braves and their fans whose stupid "tomahawk chop" was so insensitive to Native Americans that Sitting Bull still won't put "Georgia On My Mind" on his iPod.
Not that the old Yankees were a progressive franchise. Heck, their Major League roster didn't have an African-American player wearing the interlocking "NY" until Elston Howard in 1955 -- eight years after the Brooklyn Dodgers brought Jackie Robinson to Ebbets Field. Also, the obnoxious Steinbrenner family has owned the Yankees since buying the team in 1973 for six bucks and a bat signed by the 1975-born Alex Rodriguez, who could hit like the dickens even before he was conceived. But at least most tickets were once affordable at the Bronx Bombers' 1923-built home.
So what were those "663,000" and "210,000,000" numbers doing in "Monument Park"? Were the incompetent corporate titans who fire workers while paying themselves huge salaries thumbing their noses at 663,000 jobless people? Had Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac purchased a sponsorship like bailed-out Citigroup did to get its disgraced name on the New York Mets' new ballpark? (When a Mets hitter gets buzzed by an inside fastball, will he "bail out" of the batter's box? Bwahaha!) Then I realized that the new Yankee Stadium -- which sits on parkland "yanked" away from a low-income community -- is itself a monument to some of capitalism's worst excesses.