BY HARVEY BLUMENTHAL
Because the original Yankee Stadium was scheduled to be demolished the following year, my sons and grandson leaped at the chance to see one of the last games played in that beloved baseball shrine. We’d arrived early to soak up the ambiance, my grandsons wearing the pinstriped Yankee shirts and caps – Rodriguez’s #13 on Stevie’s shirt, and Jeter’s #2 on Ben’s – we’d bought for them. The guy sitting next to me obligingly snapped the photo of the four of us sitting in the upper deck, along the third base line. We couldn’t have been happier on that sunshine-splashed day, Saturday, June 30, 2007.
The day prior, we’d taken an early Amtrak train from Washington D.C.’s Union Station to Penn Station in midtown Manhattan. On the train, the boys and I talked about the old houses and the decaying and deserted factories bordering the tracks. We spoke of the people who likely lived and worked there, and of opportunity, or lack of it, and “how lucky you two boys were.” Upon arrival, we took a harbor tour of the city, enjoying panoramic views of lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and gliding under the Brooklyn Bridge. When Stevie had a question for the tour guide, I urged him to approach him. The guide happily explained over his bullhorn that Stevie had asked him whom Frederick Bartholdi had used as a model for the Statue of Liberty. The answer: “his own mother!”
As we exited the ferryboat, I thanked the guide, Frank, tipped him $10, and then asked what some of his most interesting experiences were as a guide.” He marveled about “the many people compelled to tell me their stories, stories about their parents, or grandparents, how they came to America and Ellis Island. And how they made a new life in America.”
As we stepped off the gangplank, Bill was teasing me about my new friend, Frank. Then, unexpectedly, while the four of us walked along the wharf, Frank hurried after us. He wanted to show me photos of his parents and grandparents who had immigrated to America from Russia. Then, he added, “It was beshert,” a Yiddish word meaning it was fate, fate that he happened to give his tour comments from the top deck that day; usually he did so from the enclosed lower deck. Beshert. How did Frank know we were Jewish?
The morning before the game we walked around Ground Zero, the site of the World Trade Center attacks, and the boys had searching questions about this; “Why did they do it?” Stevie wanted to know.
Luckily, the subway ride uptown to The Bronx was crowded with keyed-up fans excitedly talking baseball!
Nine years later, we all smile whenever we mention this trip, for we had a wonderful time, but each of us for different reasons. This grandpa, for example, loved sharing history with his grandsons, enjoyed the way they soaked up the culture, and they, in turn, loved shopping for those jerseys and thrill of being in Yankee Stadium. We all felt lucky to be Americans.
Oh, by the way, the Oakland A’s beat the Yankees, 7-0.
Harvey Blumenthal is a retired physician in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He has published many essays and memoirs. He served two years (1970-72) active duty as a Navy physician during the Vietnam War.