A Baseball Story
I know. I’m supposed to be writing about hockey. But the hockey off-season is full of lulls in the action and no one wants to listen to me reminisce once again about how great hockey was in the 80s. Besides, it’s the baseball All-Star break. The fun part of the season where we get to kick back, talk shit about Bud Selig and watch our favorite players not participate in the game. Which makes it a perfect time to tell you my favorite baseball story.
It was the summer of ‘86. I had gone back to college the previous spring after an extended hiatus. 21 credits crammed into one semester after not being in school for a while was exhausting, so I passed on taking any summer classes. I was majoring at St. John’s University in what was then called Athletic Administration and was later changed to Sports Management. I just finished off a temporary job working in the Athletic Administration office (where one of my job duties was to make sure Walter Berry went to class) and was looking forward to spending my summer days sleeping until noon and working in the record store at night. And then my Dean made me an offer I couldn’t refuse - a summer job that would entail driving to The Bronx every morning, not getting home until midnight most nights and working weekends, all for no pay except a few college credits. I almost laughed at him until he explained who I would be working for. The New York Yankees.Â At first I though the meant “Working for the Yankees but not really working for the Yankees” as in a job at the stadium selling beer or cleaning out the women’s bathroom.
But no, he meant working for the Yankees. Inside the vaunted walls of Yankee Stadium. And the job would have nothing to do with Budweisers or clogged toilets.
I was to spend my days as an editorial assistant for Yankee Magazine, cropping pictures, proofreading stories and doing advertising layout for the magazine. At night, if the Yankees were on a homestand, I would stay for the games and run errands. If I wasn’t needed I was welcome to stay for the games anyhow.
I spent a lot of time that humid summer in the cool confines of the archives. It was a small, windowless room stuffed in a corner at the far reaches of the stadium. I felt nervous just walking from the magazine office to the archive room, quietly making my way through this place I felt I had to no right to be in as anything other than a fan.
There were full days holed up in that archives room poring through photos of Yogi Berra and Joe Dimaggio, reading scorecards from games played long ago and generally living in a baseball time warp. The room was stuffed with trophies and plaques and mementos of the greatest baseball team that ever existed. And here was all this history, all this fame right at my fingertips. Ticket stubs, game programs, yellowed articles and dusty photographs were my companions that summer. Each time I left the room - usually after a futile search for whatever memorabilia or picture I was sent for - my fingers would be coated with the dust and grime of the legacy of legends.
There were other perks to the job as well.Â I watched so many games from the press box. Sometimes I helped keep the scorecard, sometimes I just chatted with reporters or with players who were on the injured list. I ate lunch in the third base seats, legs stretched out, sun beating down and Yankee Stadium seemingly to myself. I parked in the player’s lot, sometimes walking in with the players themselves. I was the original George Costanza.
Late that August the pennant race was heating up and the summer nights were cooling down. I knew my days as a part of the New York Yankees staff were drawing to a close. In a way, I was relieved that I wouldn’t have to make that miserable morning drive on the Grand Central anymore. But I hated to give up the perks of a job where I mingled with Don Mattingly and had my name in the Yankee Magazine.
It was close to my last night there when I was invited to watch a game from the General Manager’s office. There I was, in this huge room full of baseball impresarios, sharing drinks and glad-handing each other. I stood quietly in the corner, too overwhelmed by the presence of baseball greats to move out of the spot. I wandered over to the window that overlooked the playing field of Yankee Stadium. I was watching the game from an office behind home plate, surveying the game as if I owned the team. I looked at the outfield bleachers where I had sat so many times before. I was mesmerized, lost in a world that I never thought would belong to me, not even for this brief time.Â
Â Then a voice beside me: “Great view, isn’t it?” I looked up to see Mickey Mantle standing next to me, grinning. I nodded, unable to speak. Me and Mickey, watching a Yankee game from the office above home plate.Â
A week or so later my internship ended. I changed my major to English in September (I know, I know) and then left school all together when life interfered with my plans. But I’ll never look at my stint at SJU as a waste of time or money. I spent a summer among legends. I watched a game with Mickey Mantle. I lived a baseball story I’ll get to tell my grandchildren some day.Â