By Ernie Palladino
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This was in the days of old Yankee Stadium.
Not the new old Yankee Stadium. The old old one, before the refurbishing, where the copper façade had long ago turned an elegant green and batters needed a telescope to see the left centerfield fence.
Great stadium, that one. Full of ghosts from glory days which, in 1965, sat a dozen years from reprise.
It was easy to get a ticket then because the Yanks were, well, shall we say, not very Yankee-ish at all. Dad could walk right up a couple hours before the game to one of the classic kiosks that stood around the outside walls, plop down a little cash, and take his two boys inside for the weekend doubleheader he had circled weeks ago.
See, back in those days, you didn’t need a rainout and a scheduling logjam to get a double-dip. It just took a Saturday or Sunday, or Memorial Day or Father’s Day, or some other holiday. And the only ones who played those greedy day-night things that required separate admissions were the Red Sox, and that’s because Fenway only sat 15 people.
Anyway, Dad would pay the ticket guy — a buck and a half for general admission — and the three of us would head immediately to the best seats in the house. No, not field level behind the plate. Upstairs. Last five rows of the upper deck, behind the plate, the perfect spot to watch a baseball game.
We weren’t poor, and Dad wasn’t cheap. He could easily have afforded the 10 bucks or so that got you behind the netting. And as two well-mannered Italian boys from the suburbs, his sons would have satisfied every behavioral prerequisite of Lonn Trost’s ideal field-level spectator.
But to a guy who grew up spending his last nickels so he and his cousin could watch their beloved Giants battle at the Polo Grounds, field level wasn’t for him.
“When you go to a baseball game, you always sit up high,” he’d say. “The higher the better. Up, behind the plate. You have to see the whole field to know what’s going on.”
We never envied the suckers who craved proximity to the players overseeing the whole game. Sure, we had a post in front of us. The old place had a lot of them. But an inning or two would go by, you’d bend a little bit for the full view, and before you knew it you’d forget the thing was even there.
Field level? Worst seats in the house.
As for the folks who sat there, we all thought “More power to them.” But we held nothing against them. Different strokes for different folks.
The Yanks, themselves, treated everyone with respect. That franchise would never think of degrading the common fan. There was no caste system like the one Trost intimated in igniting the StubHub vs. Ticketmaster firestorm last week.
How dare the great unwashed invade the land of the wine-and-cheese set, he said. Those filthy commoners have some nerve buying those self-printed tickets off StubHub cheap and parking themselves in the $2,500 to $450 neighborhood! You can just feel the property values drop by the inning!
Back in the old days, an egalitarianism existed about the seating plan. Rich people who wanted the birds-eye view could sit upstairs. For just a few dollars more, a regular old Joe could mingle with a president in field level on opening day. A kid in T-shirt and jeans could sit next to a CEO in a three-piece suit without anyone from the franchise’s front office blinking an eye.
This Yankees administration insults everyone with their premium layout. They even put in an extra wide walkway, a cement moat if you will, to separate patrician from plebian.
For all that, the television audience gets to see a sea of empty seats whenever the center field camera clicks on.
Maybe it’s because the Yanks made a huge mistake in creating such an elitist philosophy to begin with. Even the rich have their limits on what they’re willing to pay for a baseball game.
Or maybe they just wised up. There are far better views at that ballpark.
Like upper deck, behind the plate.
Best seat in the house.
Follow Ernie on Twitter at @ErniePalladino