Sunday, September 21, 2008


Tonight gives us the closing of a venerable piece of American history as Yankee Stadium hosts its final baseball series between New York’s pinstriped bunch and the Baltimore Orioles. Before the finale, there have been (and will be) a lot of tears and tantrums, some waxing poetic and sardonic, some reflection and a few suggestions such as “raze the damn thing already!” Yet, there are very few thoughts coming from the neighborhood itself.

Then again, that’s always been the case, it seems.

David Gonzalez hoped to have provided at least a more honest native voice in his article in Saturday’s New York Times. He spoke of having grown up in the area, more so about attending Cardinal Hayes High School with the Stadium’s imposing presence nearby. He touched upon several incidences where the executives showed a blatant disrespect for the immediate world outside of the Stadium’s walls. To this day, many of the fans that descend onto 161st Street and River Avenue have either heard about, read about or at worst, perpetrated the stigma about the neighborhood it surrounds.

Even as Harlem – where out-of-town fans would speed through en route to the Stadium because of similar fears – continues to gentrify across the Macombs Dam Bridge, you’ll hear a few of the newest residents ask if the borough of “Fort Apache, The Bronx” lore remains.

As someone who has spent his life on both sides of the Bridge, I have never heard anyone who I grew up with say “hey, let’s go to a Yankee game this weekend”. Outside of talking about the players and how they will fare in the postseason, people around the way didn’t take to the Stadium experience the way that the outside world may have assumed. The reasons stem from any combination of the price to attend and enjoy the game, the racial history of the team (integrated fifteen years after Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby) and the beating taken from Howard Cosell’s alleged “the Bronx is burning” quip (amongst others in media). The organization doesn’t embark on a ton of publicized community efforts anywhere in the metropolitan area, but New Yorkers are more likely to see the Knicks (the most active), Mets or either NFL team out and about.

So the closing of one Stadium for another may further cool a frosty-but-accepted existence between franchise and borough, especially as the economic downturn compels the Yankees to reach for the affluent fans from the outside. Yet, with this new attractant into the City should come changing perceptions about the people and the place that is the Bronx.

As said, it should… but it won’t.

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