Why I am a Yankee fan

This past winter, my 90-year old grandmother called my father and said she would like to attend a Yankee game this season. The woman has been a die hard fan her entire life, yet hasn’t seen a Yankee game live since 1948. We all felt that this season might be her last chance to see her beloved team.

But being that she is completely blind, it would only have been worth it to take her if she could sit right up next to the field so she could really “feel” the game. In other words, she would require seats that we could not afford.

Since I am the “writer” in the family, my father suggested I write the Yankees a letter seeing if they would be willing to treat us to a game. I had little faith in this approach, but I wrote the letter anyway:

Dear New York Yankees,

 

On April 2, 2015, my grandmother will be 90 years old. She is a cancer survivor who has recently lost partial sight in both of her eyes, had hip surgery 2 years ago, and musters all the strength she has to walk around her apartment.

 

She is also a lifelong Yankee fan. Her favorite player is Joe DiMaggio, and my grandfather gets jealous because she still giggles like a teenage girl when she talks about him and how handsome he was. During the season she sits by her radio for every game to listen to John Sterling & Susan Waldman give the play by play, and she was crying hysterically when Derek Jeter got his walk-off game-winning hit last season in his final game at Yankee Stadium. My Dad’s old bedroom is a shrine to Yankeedom, with numerous plaques of Joe DiMaggio and paintings and photographs of Monument Park and the old stadium.

 

She raised my father in the Bronx less than 20 blocks away from the old stadium, and my father recalls numerous summer afternoons at the stadium watching the likes of Whitey Ford, Clete Boyer, Joe Pepitone, Roger Maris, and Mickey Mantle. He grew up as a Yankee fan and has passed his love of the Yankees down to me. My father and I manage to attend at least 5 games a season, and it is a tradition that I will continue with my children.

 

Unfortunately, my grandmother hasn’t been to a Yankee game in years. We have offered to take her in the past but she worries about the logistics of getting her in and out of the stadium. However, this winter she called us and told us that she wants to go to a game this season. I fear she realizes that she is probably running out of chances to say goodbye to her favorite team.

 

Although my father and I would love nothing more than to bring her to a game, we sadly cannot afford a handicap accessible seat that would put my grandmother at field level. She relies on a walker for transportation, because she is too proud to use a wheelchair. This is the only way a partially blind woman like herself could “feel” the game. We are asking for your help to fulfill my grandmother’s wish, to see the team she grew up with one last time. We would like tickets to a game any time after May 8, 2015, where the three of us (grandmother, father and son) can sit in a handicap seat area that is in the shade but also close to the field. We know it would bring great joy to a woman who still curses out Joe Girardi when she thinks he is going to the bullpen too early.

 

Can you help us fulfill her wish?

 

Sincerely,

 

Matthew Speiser

I gave it to my father and he sent it to 8 different addresses at Yankee Stadium, including the Steinbrenner’s themselves. Neither of us expected anything.

But about a month after we sent the letter I received a call from a woman named Carol Laurenzano with Yankees guest relations inviting us out to a game. I was as surprised as I was grateful. The invite included field level handicap accessible seats, parking in the 164th street garage adjacent to the stadium, and privates tours of Monument Park and the Yankee Museum. I accepted graciously.

But when our scheduled game rolled around in May, my grandmother fell ill and wound up in the hospital. What did the Yankees do? They sent her a complementary Yankees jacket and allowed us to reschedule for a game in August. When that game rolled around, my grandmother and grandfather (who now wanted to join us) decided the weather was too hot for them to be able to sit through a game. Again, the Yankees let us reschedule.

Finally, this past Sunday on September 13, my father, grandparents, and I journeyed out to the Bronx to see the Yankees take on the Toronto Blue Jays.

As promised, we were allowed to park in the adjacent parking garage and were shown in through a private entrance into a spacious air conditioned lobby. There, we met a customer relations specialist by the name of Robbie who led us through the catacombs of the building and into Monument Park via a private entrance:

My father and grandparents with the George Steinbrenner plaque in Monument Park.

My father and grandparents with the George Steinbrenner plaque in Monument Park.

Me posing with the new Bernie Williams and Andy Pettite plaques.

Me posing with the new Bernie Williams and Andy Pettite plaques.

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Three of the most recently retired Yankee numbers.

The true origin of the interlocking NY.

The true origin of the interlocking NY.

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On our way out of Monument Park, I was also able to grab this shot of the field:

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Then Robbie led us to the Yankees Museum via the parts of the stadium that are oft untraveled by common fans.

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I had never been to the Yankee Museum before, but the highlight was easily the glass display of baseballs signed by hundreds of current and former Yankees.

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Robbie told me that roughly 80% of every person ever to wear pinstripes has a signed ball in that glass display, including Babe Ruth and Joe Torre as well as Cory Lidle, Chien Ming Wang, and Bubba Crosby. Equally as cool is that the glass display is in the shape of the arc of Don Larsen’s final pitch to Yogi Berra to complete his perfect game in the 1956 World Series. Statues of Larsen pitching and Berra catching stand on either side of the display.

Other cool things in the Yankee Museum:

A 2009 Yankees World Series ring.

A 2009 Yankees World Series ring.

 

World Series trophies from 1977 and 1978.

World Series trophies from 1977 and 1978.

Finally Robbie dropped us off at our seats, and what seats they were!

A panoramic view from our seats.

A panoramic view from our seats.

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We even got to see the Yankees honor A-Rod for his 3,000th hit:

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Needless to say, my grandmother had an amazing time. The Yanks won 5-0.

Of all the sports teams I root for, the Yankees are the most important to me. I think that is because my fandom was passed down to me from generation to generation like an heirloom. Rooting for the Yankees shows not only my commitment to the team, but a commitment to my family. Most fans will root for a team their entire lives and not expect anything in return. That is why I was so grateful for what the Yankees did. There was absolutely no need for them to give us free seats for a ballgame, but they did that and even more. That really reaffirms the family connection that I have felt with the club ever since my father first took me to a game. It is a connection I will be proud to pass on to my kids. That is why I am a Yankees fan.

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