2008
Two Guys & a Map
The Big Apple Mini Tours


Yankee Stadium facade

Part I: Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Lose, Sometimes It Rains


(Scroll Down for Part II: Leave No Doubt)

May 8 - Cleveland Indians vs. New York Yankees, Yankee Stadium
May 9 - Cincinnati Reds vs. New York Mets, Shea Stadium *
May 10 - Florida Marlins vs. Washington Nationals, Nationals Park

YMCA

The back of the 2008 shirt

Most baseball fans either love or loath the New York Yankees. There’s very little middle ground. The fact that we fall into opposite camps on this issue is a testament to the strength of our friendship. We’ve been fast friends since 1979 despite the fact that DC lives and dies with the Bronx Bombers while Dave considers them to be The Evil Empire.

But even Dave has to admit that the corner of East 161st Street and River Avenue in the Bronx is hallowed ground. As DC is always quick to point out, Yankee Stadium was the home of twenty six World Series winners, more championships than any team in any major sport. All time greats Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford played their home games there. Babe Ruth’s 60th home run in 1927, Roger Maris’ 61st home run in 1961, Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series, Lou Gehrig’s famous “Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth” farewell speech, Reggie Jackson’s three home runs in the last game of the 1977 World Series, the clinching victory in the Brooklyn Dodgers only World Series championship and the infamous George Brett Pine Tar game are only a few of the momentous events that occurred in The House That Ruth Built since it opened in 1923.

DC grew up on Long Island and over the years has made many trips to Yankee Stadium. Dave had been there a few times as well but we’d never been there on an organized Two Guys trip. We had planned on going there as part of the 1998 Two Guys and a Mapholder tour but couldn’t work it in that time and had never gotten around to it.

But in 2006 the Yankees broke ground on a new Yankee Stadium, to be built across the street from the existing stadium and scheduled to open in 2009. So when the 2008 season rolled around, we knew we had to get to the original. The New York Mets were also getting a new park in 2009, so we came up with a mini-trip that would get us to both Yankee Stadium and the Mets home, Shea Stadium. Since it has to be on an organized trip to count as a Two Guys visit, we decided to throw in Nationals Park, the new home of the Washington Nationals, which opened in March of 2008.

So, less than two weeks after we returned from the If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be The Giants Tour, we set out on the first of our two mini-trips for 2008. We’d spent a lot of time on airplanes on the earlier trip – this time we drove, starting out for New York before sunrise on May 8.

The trip got off to an unfortunate start – one of Dave’s co-workers, a huge baseball fan who had never been to Yankee Stadium, was scheduled to join us for our first game, then head home while we continued on. But a family emergency came up suddenly and at the last minute, he had to cancel.

We got up to New York and parked the car, then headed up to Yankee Stadium on the D Train. New York’s subway system may be old but it can take you anywhere you want to go in the city and get you there quickly. It’s a much better way to get around New York than driving.

The first thing we saw upon exiting the subway was the new Yankee Stadium rising up across the street. The Yankees have taken great care to make sure the new one incorporates many of the features that made the original Yankee Stadium unique.

D Train

Chase Field

New Yankee Stadium

Take The D Train

The new Yankee Stadium

We had hit the road so early because we wanted to have enough time to visit Monument Park, where the Yankee retired numbers and monuments to several key personnel (players, managers and executives) are located. Yankee Stadium has undergone several facelifts over the years. The left center field of Yankee Stadium used to be so deep that the monuments were actually on the field but in the early 1970s the fences were moved in, making balls that reached Monument Park home runs instead of very long outs or doubles.

We did manage to get in. It is indeed an impressive place and when you walk through there, you get a real sense of how historic this particular ballpark is.

New from old

Thurman

Monument Park

The new seen from inside the old.
Monument Park is at the base of the flagpole

Thurman Munson, DC's favorite

Momument Park


Tradition is important at Yankee Stadium. Although he was not doing every game at this point, Bob Shepherd had been the public address voice of Yankee Stadium since 1951. Frank Sinatra’s version of ‘New York, New York’ is played after each game. When the Yankees take the field in the top of the first inning, the fans in the right field bleachers begin chanting the names of each Yankee in the lineup until the player in question acknowledges them with a tip of the cap. The grounds crew rakes the field in a choreographed routine to the tune of the Village People’s ‘YMCA’. You never have any doubt where you are when you see a game in Yankee Stadium.

While it has a very large seating capacity (more than 55,000 people), Yankee Stadium is still smaller than the modern domed stadiums such as Chase Field in Arizona. In part because there are so few luxury suites, there are more seats in the lower and middle decks than in places like Chase, which makes the capacity of the upper deck, while still large, less so than at the modern stadiums. The lack of a roof structure also makes the stadium feel smaller than its modern counterparts. Even those fans way up at the top have a great view of the game.

YMCA

It's fun to go to the YMCA...



Yankee Stadium



Mike Mussina, who had appeared to be at the end of the line a few weeks earlier, pitched well for the Yankees and earned his fourth straight win. Home runs by Johnny Damon and Jason Giambi in the fourth had given the Yankees a 3-0 lead but the Indians came right back to tie it the next inning.

The tie was short lived as an RBI double by Damon gave the Yankees the lead again and after that their bullpen turned in four shutout innings including one each by the new darling of Yankees fans, Joba Chamberlin and the unhittable save machine, Mariano Rivera. Home runs in the seventh by Robinson Cano and Wilson Betemit gave them some breathing room and the Yankees won an entertaining game by a score of 6-3.

The House That Ruth Built - probably the site of more baseball history than any other single ballpark.

At one point Dave heard snatches of a phone conversation from the person sitting behind him. The caller was comparing the New York subway with that of his hometown and mentioned the Ballston stop – which is on the Washington D.C. Metro system. Dave struck up a conversation with him and found that for the second time on a Two Guys trip, he had met a person in a ballpark from Arlington, VA, a town not far from his home in Springfield.


After the game we checked into our hotel and rested up before heading out for the evening. The Allman Brothers Band had been playing two weeks worth of shows every May for years at the Beacon Theatre in New York (a much more intimate venue than they normally play) and we had gotten tickets for that night’s show. Unfortunately, Gregg Allman had gotten sick and they cancelled the 2008 Beacon run.

But we found a reasonable alternative – Jeff Kazee, the keyboard player of one of Dave’s favorite bands, Southside Johnny and The Asbury Jukes, had put together a group to play a set of Stax Records inspired soul music (for more on Stax, check out the 2006 Life on the Mississippi Tour page.) The Cutting Room was only eight blocks from our hotel, so we walked down and were treated to a very fine show. Highlights included a fabulous version of Sam and Dave’s ‘I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down’ and an appearance by Vaneese Thomas, whose father Rufus and sister Carla both recorded for Stax. Vaneese did a knockout version of Wilson Pickett's 'I'm In Love'.

Kazee Show

As we walked back after the show, we looked up at the Empire State Building, which was only a block from our hotel. Dave had never been up in it at night, so we decided to check it out. There was hardly any line so we were able to get up to the 86th floor observatory pretty quickly. Since we went on a whim, we didn’t have the camera with us so we don’t have any photos but take our word for it, the view was spectacular. It was a beautiful night and visibility was 25 miles. We made out several New York City landmarks (the Chrysler Building, Macy's, the Flatiron Building and more) and saw a fireworks display way below us near the Statue of Liberty.

The next morning we made our way out of the city onto Long Island and drove out to see DC's parents and sister. We spent much of the day visiting with them before heading for Shea Stadium to see the Mets play the Cincinnati Reds.


* ”Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes it rains.” (Ebby Calvin “Nook” LaLoosh)

Ebby Calvin “Nook” LaLoosh is a character played by Tim Robbins and he uttered those words in the best baseball movie ever, 'Bull Durham.' In all our years of going on Two Guys trips, we’d been rained on a few times, but never rained out. It was drizzling Friday morning and that had turned into a shower by the afternoon but the weather report called for a window of no rain in the evening, right about the time the game was to be played. So we headed off to Shea Stadium, confident that we’d be seeing baseball.

We fought our way through traffic on the Long Island Expressway and made our way towards Shea Stadium. The first thing we saw upon arriving was Citi Field, the future home of the Mets, which was being built next door. The Mets play in Queens, right next to Brooklyn and Citi Field is not only a retro park a la Camden Yards, it’s an overt homage to Ebbetts Field where the Brooklyn Dodgers played before heading to Los Angeles.

Shea Stadium

Left - Shea Stadium,
home of the Mets 1964-2008

Right - Citi Field,
the Mets home as of 2009

Shea Stadium

The rain hadn’t stopped and since the game wasn’t going to start on time, we walked around inside Shea for awhile. It had opened in 1964 in the midst of the multi-purpose stadium boom. The New York Jets shared it with the Mets for several years before moving across the river to New Jersey in 1977. It was also used for concerts, the most famous of which was a show by The Beatles in 1965. The deciding game in each of the Mets' World Series victories took place at Shea. The first was in 1969, when the Amazing Mets won after years of futility. The second was in 1986, the year of the infamous boot by Bill Buckner of the Red Sox. DC had seen baseball at Shea before. His first game there, when he was eleven years old, was a beauty – Tom Seaver took a perfect game into the ninth inning before giving up a hit to the number eight hitter in the Cubs lineup.

Shea has a couple of distinguishing features – the stadium is painted blue, unlike virtually every other baseball park, which are usually simply the color of the materials used to build them. There is a large apple that rises out of a top hat whenever a Met hits a home run. But Shea has the same shortcomings as the other multi-purpose stadiums of the 1960s and 1970s – it’s big, round, symmetrical and somewhat lacking in character.

As we walked around, we kept an eye on the skies. The promised halt in the rain hadn’t happened yet – in fact, every time we looked out from under the stands, it seemed to be raining even harder. Then, at 8:15 PM, the announcement came that, for the first time ever, a Two Guys and a Map game had been rained out.

Shea Stadium

Shea Stadium

It's NOT a beautiful night for baseball...

but this guy is ready!

The game was to be made up the next night. We couldn’t stay for that – we had tickets for the Nationals game in Washington. Despite the fact that the game wasn’t played, we decided that Shea Stadium counts as a park visited by Two Guys and a Map. As Dave's friend Bill said "Rainouts are a part of the game and have been ever since Abner, or whoever really, invented the game." We had tickets, we showed up – there was a good faith effort on our part to see baseball at Shea. We did get to walk around most of the stadium (despite a very small crowd and the long rain delay, fans with upper deck seats were not allowed to walk around the lower bowl of the stadium) and make notes of its pros (few) and cons (many.) So we chalked it up as a park visited and headed for home.

The next evening we headed for the new home of the Washington Nationals. Corporate naming rights hadn’t been sold yet so it was named Nationals Park. After relocating from Montreal, the Nats had played their first three seasons in Washington at RFK Stadium, the first of the 1960s multi-purpose stadiums. Those stadiums simply aren’t good for baseball and part of the deal that brought the team to town was an agreement that a new stadium would be built.

Nationals Park had opened in March. While this was the first official Two Guys trip there, it was our second visit. This is our hometown park so we really wanted it to be great. It’s not. It’s nice but it’s not anywhere close to the beauties in San Francisco, San Diego or Pittsburgh.

The first distinguishing feature of Nationals Park is something that is NOT there – parking. There are far too few spaces available in the area for a baseball stadium. There is a subway station but it would be overwhelmed if it had to handle a very large crowd. So the owners of the Nationals came up with a good solution. RFK Stadium is about a ten minute drive away. Unlike Nationals Park, RFK has quite a lot of parking. So Nationals fans are allowed to park at RFK and take a shuttle bus over. Both the parking and the bus are free – an excellent deal in this day of $15-$20 (or higher) parking fees.

We took the shuttle over and headed for the park. It’s not real attractive from the outside, a modern steel and concrete structure without a lot of character. You can say it fits in with the neighborhood – there was a gravel company right next door. The hope is that the stadium will attract businesses to the area, which has been run down for quite some time. At the time of our visit, that renewal had not yet begun but there were signs up touting future development.

Nats ticket



Nationals Park

Nationals Park

DC likes the fact that the Nats greet him by name

The center field entryway to Nationals Park

DC meets Teddy

The one really unfortunate feature of inside the park is that hardly any of the seats have a view of local landmarks like the Washington Monument, the Capital dome or the Anacostia River. There are several buildings right outside the park that block what could have been an iconic view of the Capital dome from inside. Instead of being able to look out at the field and see the Capital in the background, you have to leave your seat and look out of the stadium, away from the field, in order to get a good view of it. The same is true of the river and Washington Monument views. That’s a real shame.

But from the time you enter through a big plaza in center field, the inside is very nice. Cherry trees, like those around the Tidal Basin, had been planted by the center field wall, which will be a nice touch in the future. There is a wide concourse from which you can see the game even when you’re standing in line for food. Washington area natives like Dave were pleased to see that among the concessionaires are local restaurants including long time Washington landmarks Ben's Chili Bowl, Hard Times Cafe and Gifford's Ice Cream.

DC meets one of his favorite Presidents, Teddy Roosevelt. Milwaukee has racing pork products, Washington has racing Presidents. The four from Mt. Rushmore (Teddy R., George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abe Lincoln) race each other during every Nats home game. At this time, four years into the races, Teddy had never won.

The field itself is asymmetrical, partially in honor of Griffith Stadium, the home of the original Washington Senators (where part of the outfield had to come in and around a house outside the center field wall.) The Nationals insignia, a curly W, has been cut into the center field grass. The scoreboard is very nice – the huge high definition screen has great picture quality. We had been at Chase Field in Phoenix just a couple of weeks earlier, where the huge scoreboard showed a lot of information but the presentation was so busy that it was hard to read. Not so with the one at Nationals Park. A lot of statistical information is shown in a very clear, readable manner. The out of town scoreboard is built into the center field wall and it not only shows the score and inning, it lets you know which team is currently at bat, the number of outs and where the baserunners are.

The sightlines from the 41,000 seats are generally excellent. The Nats have done a pretty good job on pricing – basically, the really expensive seats in the lower bowl subsidize the upper deck, making prices up there fairly reasonable. At the time of this game, the most expensive seats were $330 each and not selling at all. This left the impression when one watched the game on TV that no one was there because those are the seats that are most visible on the standard TV shot of the batter taken from centerfield. On the other hand, there are excellent seats that can be had for around $20 each.

Nationals Park

Nationals Park scoreboard

Nationals Park in its inaugural season

Nationals Park scoreboard and out of town scoreboard below

The game itself was a disaster for the Nats. On our Sunshine State Mini Tour the year before we had seen the Marlins destroy the Nationals. This game was even worse. Cody Ross of the Marlins hit the first pitch of the game for a home run. The Marlins scored not one, but two runs on wild pitches. They scored seven runs in the fourth inning. Four of those came on a grand slam by Dan Uggla, who had smashed two long home runs in the game the year before. The Nats managed only three hits and went down 11-0.

For the second year in a row, our Washington D.C. tickets had been provided to us by Dave’s friend Kevin. Despite the debacle happening on the field, we had fun sitting with Kevin and enjoying the beautiful night, which was a far cry from the awful weather we’d experienced the day before.




Part II: Leave No Doubt


July 9 - Tampa Bay Rays vs. New York Yankees, Yankee Stadium
July 9 - San Francisco Giants vs. New York Mets, Shea Stadium

We had been to Shea and considered it to have been visited by Two Guys... but still, we hadn't actually seen baseball played there. Besides, we had the rainchecks to use - so we checked the schedule and found one of those rare days where the Yankees and Mets both played at home. We were able to get tickets to the Yankees game and use our rainchecks from the May 9 game to get Mets tickets as well. So on the morning of July 9 we hopped on the train and rode from Washington to New York.

We checked into our hotel and headed on up to Yankee Stadium. If you'd told us before the season started that we'd see the first place team in the American League East playing in Yankee Stadium on July 9, we wouldn't have been surprised. If you'd told us it would be the Tampa Bay Rays who were in first place, we would have probably laughed. But that was indeed the case.

Us at Yankee Stadium

Dave had friends who really wanted to see Yankee Stadium before it closed. He had suggested to them that only way they would get tickets was to go to a weekday afternoon game against a lousy team. Since everyone expected Tampa Bay would be lousy in 2008, this was the game each had chosen. Kevin, who had been to two previous Two Guys games (in 2007 and on the first leg of this tour), had brought his whole family to New York for a vacation built around going to Yankee Stadium. We visited with them before the game.

Kevin knew we were going to be there. Dave's friend Sherri did not. We went to where Sherri and her daughter Ashley were sitting and got a good laugh at Sherri's reaction when Dave called out to her. Shock would be an understatement. After visiting with them for a bit we went back to our seats to enjoy the rest of the game.

We were in the upper deck above third base. Kevin and his family were near the right field foul pole. After we visited them, Kevin actually spotted Dave's Two Guys and a Map t-shirt from across the stadium and got this shot from his seat.

This was the final time we'd visit the old Yankee Stadium. To DC's delight, the last thing we saw there was Derek Jeter scoring from first base on a double by Bobby Abreu in the bottom of the tenth inning, giving the Yankees a 2-1 victory in a very well played game.

We then took the subway back downtown. The 161st Street station was packed with people after the game and we got to talking with two very nice couples from California, both of whom were in New York specifically to go to baseball games. They made the wait in the oppressive heat a little more tolerable.

Then it was off to Shea Stadium. Our tickets were waiting at will call as promised and we went in. Unlike our trip to Shea in May, baseball was actually played this time. The Mets were playing the Giants, who we'd already seen three times earlier in the season on the If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be The Giants Tour.

We saw our fourth former Cy Young Award winner of the summer when Johan Santana took the mound for the Mets. He was opposed by Jonathan Sanchez, who had pitched a terrific game when we were in San Francisco. Sanchez was not the same pitcher this evening but he held the Mets scoreless until the bottom of the fourth when they took a 3-0 lead on a home run by Ramon Castro.


We actually see baseball at Shea Stadium!

Shea



Shea neon

Then, as soon as the game became official after the top of the fifth, the skies opened up, it began to pour and the umpires called for a rain delay.

Dave had now been to Shea Stadium three times, once for a concert and twice for baseball... and it had poured every time. He'd had enough of the place and, in an unusual move for us, we left before the game ended. (The Mets eventually won, 5-0.) We had another interesting subway conversation, this time with a pair of Red Sox fans who had come to New York for the same reason we did, to catch games in both Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium on the same day. Despite DC's Yankee fanaticism and the other guy's equal zeal for the Red Sox, the conversation was remarkably civil and friendly.

It's not all about baseball - we try to get some culture in any city we visit. On this trip to New York, it was a late night slice at Famous Original Ray's Pizza.

There are several different works of neon art on the outside wall of Shea Stadium.

The next morning, it was up early and back on the train. We headed to Washington and were both at work before noon.

And with that, the Two Guys and a Map Big Apple Tour(s) came to a close. We’d now been to all but two of the current Major League parks… but there was one more mini-trip scheduled for 2008.


Our most recent trip was in 2016, The Way Out West Tour. For a complete list of parks we have visited, check out our Two Guys and a Map Ballpark Scorecard.

Return to Two Guys & a Map Home Page

Prelude - The 1979 World Series
1990 - The Windy City Tour
1991 - The Lost In Cleveland Tour
1994 - The Great Lakes Tour
1996 - The Midwest Tour
1998 - The Two Guys & a Mapholder Classic Ballparks Tour
2000 - The Y2K Southern Tour
2002 - The Midlife Crisis Tour
2004 - The Days of Awe Tour
2006 - The Life on the Mississippi Tour
2007 - The Sunshine State Mini Tour
2007 - The Close To Home Tour
2007 - The Midwest Mini Tour



2008 - If It's Tuesday, This Must Be The Giants Tour
2008 - The Big Apple Mini Tour Tour You are here
2008 - The Touch 'em All Tour
2009 - The Empire State Tour
2010 - The Riding In Ron's Car Tour
2012 - The Jazz Fest Tour
2014 - The Contiguous Completion Tour
2016 - The Way Out West Tour

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Two Guys and a Map Ballpark Scorecard
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