In baseball, a double-header is when one team plays two games in one day. On vacation last week in New York City, I did something similar to a double-header, only over more time.
One afternoon, I saw the Yankees. Two nights later, I saw the Mets.
One great city, two great teams. And that’s literally true this year, as the Yankees lead the American League East, and the Mets top the National League East. (You wouldn’t know it by the games I saw: Both home teams lost big. Hey, it happens.)
You may recall my long-term goal is to see a game in all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums. This quest has, like a baseball game, progressed slowly. But in June, Kansas City was No. 12 for me, and knocking off both New York teams in one trip got me to 13 and then 14. Bam!
Finding both teams playing at home in the same week wasn’t a coincidence. With interest in going to NYC, I’d made a careful comparison of the two teams’ schedules to look for overlap, or near overlap, then booked a flight accordingly.
I got to the Big Apple early Tuesday after a red-eye flight. The Yankees were at home that day and the next. Guessing I might be too zonked to stay awake through Tuesday’s night game, I bought a ticket for Wednesday’s day game versus the Seattle Mariners.
I rode the subway up to the Bronx, admired the rebuilt Yankee Stadium, took my seat in the shady upper deck and busted out my new acquisition: and transistor radio.
Who knew anyone still made them? My young, baseball-lovin’ colleague Javier Rojas, that’s who. He recently tweeted a photo of himself at a Dodger game with his new radio. Javier told me he’d been inspired to get one after seeing an older fan with not only a radio but binoculars. (Perhaps he was combining baseball with birding.)
Via Amazon, I got a radio in time for my trip. It’s not digital at all. It operates on batteries. From the Amazon description: “Take a breather from technology.” Don’t mind if I do.
Earplug in one ear, I tuned the dial to WFAN-FM to hear John Sterling, voice of the team since 1989, and Suzyn Waldman.
It was fun, once adjusting to the lag of 10 seconds between the action and the commentary, and the commentary helped me understand two teams I knew nothing about. The pair even talked for a while about Vin Scully, who had died the day before.
They’d each heard Scully decades ago. Waldman recalled that so many fans in the stands were listening on transistor radios, they were reacting more to Scully’s delayed calls than to the action on the field. And Sterling marveled that Scully was so good, the Dodgers essentially pushed out Red Barber to give Scully the lead spot at the tender age of 23.
My row was practically empty, by the way. A man sat two seats to my right. He had a scorebook on his lap to record every play. Meanwhile, there I was with my transistor radio. This is baseball fandom, analog version.
For lunch, I got an Italian sausage sandwich from the concession stand — “onions and peppers?” “yes, please” — and a souvenir Yankees soda cup.
The day’s most unusual sight: a fella seated a few rows down from me was reading the New York Times, tidily folding over the pages, looking up at the action now and then. I like a dedicated newspaper reader.
How was the game? Fun for me, less so for the Yankees. The Bronx Bombers bombed, 7-3.
(The next day, the Yankees went to St. Louis for three games against the Cardinals. My Cards swept them. Ha!)
Onward to the Mets.
The forecast for the rest of my trip called for rain. The Mets were in town Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Would the games be rained out, or would they keep playing through a drizzle as I caught a cold? I opted for Friday night’s game, packed a rain poncho and umbrella in my knapsack and hoped for the best.
And the best is what I got: The skies were clear and not a drop of rain fell. New York, land of enchantment.
The subway got me out to Queens, along with tons of other fans. Outside Citi Field is a statue of pitcher Tom Seaver, possession in full wind-up. I made my way to the upper deck to my $30 seat and settled in.
Once again I tuned in on my transistor radio. A young guy a few seats away had a scorebook on his lap. We baseball fans are a lovable lot.
While the experience at the Yankees game had been fairly sedate, the Mets game was a blast.
Jets from nearby LaGuardia Airport would rise in the distance beyond the scoreboard every five minutes, a strangely beautiful sight.
The fans had more energy and made more noise, even with the Mets trailing the Atlanta Braves the entire game. The ballpark’s musical cues were very Noo Yawk. When a Met walked, a few seconds of Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” played. A rallying cry was the Ramones’ “Hey, ho! Let’s go!”
What song did we sing during the seventh-inning stretch? Billy Joel’s “The Piano Man.” Lyrics were displayed on the big screen for us to bellow along to, alongside video views of fans singing and swaying back and forth. It was hysterical.
In the concessions area, I got in line at Patsy’s Pizzeria for a slice. The line moved slowly, in part due to some problem with the register. The older guy behind the counter was using his phone calculator.
When it was my turn to pay, he looked at my single slice (value: $6), and the two slices of the man and his son behind me, and at the growing line behind us, and said, “That’s it? Don’t worry about it.”
We couldn’t believe our luck. “It pays to wait in line,” the father chortled to his son as they walked away.
I’d planned to buy more food later but decided against it. Better to savor a once-in-a-lifetime moment: Amid overpriced ballpark food, I had eaten for free.
The Mets lost, 9-6, but I felt like a winner.
In the 1975 “Peanuts” strips now being reprinted in (cough) some daily newspapers, Snoopy gets a letter from his brother Spike, who writes that he’s “going to be passing through your town on my way from Needles.” What was Spike doing in the remote San Bernardino County town? Muses Snoopy: “I think he ran the Harvey House out there.”
David “Harvey” Allen writes Friday, Sunday and Wednesday. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 909-483-9339, like davidallencolumnist on Facebook and follow @davidallen909 on Twitter.