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Monday, March 31, 2008

Forget the high-priced flash; give us those old-time ball games

The following is a column by Randall Beach


They say “Opening Day” has already happened, somewhere in Japan, on a Tuesday in March, at 6:05 in the morning.
I think I missed it. But that’s OK, it was only the Red Sox.
So that was the “kick-off” to what is shaping up to be a strange, disorienting season for Major League Baseball.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my day trip to Yankee Stadium, undertaken to buy tickets to a game in mid-August.
The online and phone ticket “services” weren’t very fan-friendly, so there I was, standing outside “the Shrine” in order to gain admittance later this summer for the final year before wreckers tear down this national monument.
I noted I paid $45 a pop for four seats that could be behind the flag pole.
This drew a phone call from Andy Tosetti, husband of Durham’s Linda Ruth Tosetti, who happens to be the granddaughter of Babe Ruth. (I interviewed her when Barry Bonds, currently unemployed, was about to break Ruth’s home run total.)
The Tosettis were down in St. Petersburg, Fla., when he called. They were enjoying a Yankees spring training game, but even they were worried about how they were going to land tickets to see a game this season in “the House that Ruth Built.”
When Linda got on the phone, she acknowledged the Yankees organization probably will come through with some tickets for her this year, perhaps even for the final regular season game Sept. 21.
“If they invite me, I’ll go,” she said. Noting the jacked-up prices for that game, she added, “I can’t afford a ticket.”
She told me a friend of hers who grew up in New York City can no longer afford the big bucks required to get into the Stadium. “Die-hard fans are being shot down. Who’s going to be sitting in those seats? Stars, advertisers, corporate people.”
My column also elicited a letter from Charles Ryan of East Haven, who said he “flinched” when he read about what I’d had to pay for tickets.
Ryan recalled riding a bus to Yankee Stadium with his pals from the Ansonia YMCA, circa 1947. Joe DiMaggio won the game with a home run.
“The price for our jaunt to the Stadium that day, tickets and bus fare, came to a whopping $1,” Ryan said. “A hot dog and soda and box of Crackerjacks probably brought the grand total up to $2.50, which came out of the earnings from my two paper routes in the Valley.”
Ryan said the “unique, old-time Yankee fans will be replaced by elite wine and cheese socialites who will be the only ones who can afford a game.”
Ryan said in the 1940s, Major League Baseball “seemed to be simpler and more fun.”
This was the theme of an e-mail message from Brian O’Neill of Wallingford.
His field of dreams is Fenway Park in 1983, when he dated a woman who lived near the ballpark.
In those days, fans could see doubleheaders, two games for the price of one, rather than what O’Neill calls “a day-night doubleheader scam.”
“I walked up and bought a general admission ticket for the princely sum of $3.50 and found a seat four rows from the field, where I was 15 feet away from George Brett” of the Kansas City Royals.
O’Neill saw two games for that $3.50. He said he also had a couple of $2 beers.
“This was way before the huge scam known as ‘Red Sox Nation’ was foisted upon the willing participants and going to a Red Sox game was merely watching professional baseball,” he noted.
O’Neill returned to Fenway about five years ago, sitting in “horrible seats way out beyond the bullpens” and paying $6.50 for a bag of peanuts. He won’t go back. He has also stopped going to Yankee Stadium.
O’Neill predicted that some day, “People will get tired of the huge outlay of cash to see the wealthy play baseball, amidst a din of hip-hop music, commercial announcements, the flash of the lights glaring images of stuff. You can’t even hear yourself think, let alone hear the sweet sound of baseball striking a wooden bat.”
I will try to go to the Stadium once a year with my kids. More often I will enjoy listening to games on the radio on my deck, watching other games on TV and heading down to Archie Moore’s or Sullivan’s on Chapel Street for big occasions, such as the real Opening Day, Monday, when the Yanks take the field.
Randall Beach can reached at rbeach@nhregister.com or 789-5766.

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