"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Lasting Yankee Stadium Memory #56

By Luis Guzman

(as told to Alex Belth)

I grew up in Greenwich Village in the 60s on 10th and Hudson. I went to PS 41. Then when I was ten, we moved to the LES, to the Lower East Side. All my life I’ve been a Yankee fan, B. Mantle, Pepitone. I remember Horace Clarke, Kekich, Peterson, Hamilton, “the folly floater.” When I was between the ages of say 10 and 14 which would have been ’66 to 1970, I’d get together with my buddies in the Villiage, my man Wayne Teagarden, my boy Norman sometimes too, and we’d shine shoes outside of the bank of 7th avenue and Christopher Street. We’d shine shoes in the morning, make enough money, sneak on the train, get up to the Stadium, and sneak into the bleachers. We’d make $2-3 dollars which was pretty good back then. Sometimes we’d pay to get in, it depended. It was fifty, seventy-five cents. We’d fill up on hot dogs and soda and cracker jack, which was the thing at the time.

Back then, they had day games during the week. We used to go out Sunday for bat day and hat day and ball day and yadda-yadda day. It was great. I’d go to every Old Timers’ game, that was a big thing for me, and nothing was bigger than the day Mickey Mantle retired. We had seen Mickey play, he had hit a few home runs when I was there, that was big stuff man. But that day, his family was there, it was heavy.

Between 66-70 the Yankees weren’t doing too good. But we watched Mickey Mantle wind down his career, and you’d see other guys that would come in—Yaz with the Red Sox, Luis Aparicio with the Twins, Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew.

We didn’t know at the time but the old Stadium was…it was amazing. They had those beams that would come down and we’d wonder how anybody would be able to see if they had to sit behind one of them. But we were always in the bleachers, the right field bleachers, cause we used to like looking into the bullpen to see who is warming up. Remember when the bullpen was in the tunnel? We’d be talking to the pitchers.

Back then Yankee Stadium was a real relaxed, kicked-back kind of a place. They didn’t have guys coming onto the field between innings like now, it wasn’t this high–security place. It’s when it was a ballpark. Dude, we used to wait for the third out in the top or bottom of the ninth and after the third out we’d jump over the railing and run around all over the outfield. There would be fifty, one hundred kids running around. But that’s all we’d do was run around. We were respectful about it. We’d wait for the last out, you know, bro.

What ruined it were the people who would jump on the field and tear up the grass. We were just happy just running around. The Stadium guards would open up the gates to the bullpen and behind it the gates to the exit. They’d wait for us to run out of air. And then we’d exit and go home. There was no harassing. That’s when it was worthwhile being a kid.

But even the new place has nostalgia. I was there in the Seventies when they turned it around. And later, I took my first son there with me when he was one, one-and-a-half. This was in ’92. We’re sitting front row right on top of the visitor’s dugout and who are they playing? They’re playing the Toronto Blue Jays—Joe Carter, Robbie Alomar, David Cone, Devon White, all those guys. So Robbie gives my little boy a ball between innings. My boy looks at the ball, and I’m like, ‘Oh, my god, he just got a ball from Robbie Alomar.’ Little guy looks at the ball and throws it back out on the field. I said are you kidding me? Robbie gave me the ball back, he thought it was funny. He and I became buddies after that.

And Devon White, what a gentleman he was. One of the nicest guys I ever met. He goes to one of the people who takes your order and says, ‘Whatever he wants.’ And the lady goes, ‘Ah, I need money.’ I go, ‘Devon, Devon, don’t worry about it, I got it.’ What does he do, he goes down to the clubhouse, comes back and gives the lady $200 and says, ‘Whatever he wants.’ I said, ‘Damn, thank you.’”

I remember being at the game when Charlie Hayes caught the last out. I sat right behind home plate for that game. That’s probably the loudest I ever heard Yankee Stadium. Mickey Mantle day was big too, I was there when I was a kid, but I was out in the bleachers for that, when you sit in the box seats the sound is different, that’s for sure. There’s nothing like the World Series in the Bronx, man.

Luis Guzman is one of the great character actors of his generation.  He has appeared in many movies, notably Carlito’s Way and Boogie Nights.


1 ms october   ~  Nov 12, 2008 3:38 pm

great yankee stadium memory.

i wish i could have gone when "Yankee Stadium was a real relaxed, kicked-back kind of a place"

luis guzman is a tremendous actor. he was great in those movies and more. and though i hated el cid (oz) he was great in that. even some small things - like coincidentally the other day i saw the re-run of frasier where he was a parking garage attendant and he killed it.

2 Alex Belth   ~  Nov 12, 2008 4:25 pm

He is always solid. True New York actor. Was a social worker down in the LES before he started acting.

3 thelarmis   ~  Nov 12, 2008 4:56 pm

off-topic to this post...i promise to read it later! some real yankees news, however:

marte signed for 3 years plus option. pete abe has the scoop over at lohud...

4 thelarmis   ~  Nov 12, 2008 5:16 pm

great story! please don't jump on me for this people, but i'm not a movie guy much at all, so i've never heard of luis. but it's really nice to read true yankees' fans stories for the lasting memories series. i don't know how many are left - though i hope Alex Belth gets the last one! - but i really hope there is not ONE yankee hating/red sox promoting one left in the bunch. i don't think i can stomach another one of those posts...

5 thelarmis   ~  Nov 12, 2008 5:18 pm

ooh, please FIX THE CLOCK!!! i just saw "5:16pm" and flipped out thinking i was late to teach!!! yikes... : ~

6 Evil Empire   ~  Nov 12, 2008 9:31 pm

A Lasting Yankee Stadium Memory about....cue the music....Yankee Stadium!!! Fantastic. Sorry, Alex, just being a grumpy old man about Neyer's from the other day. I really do love this series.

7 BronxToCT   ~  Nov 13, 2008 1:24 pm

Loved hearing about the old Stadium in the 60's -- I'm a few years older than Luis and grew up in the Bronx. My friends and I used to take the #12 bus to the #4 frain, and then get grandstand seats, which were general admission in those days. Our favorite location was just over 1st base, section 11. We had tons of room to spread out -- attendance was around 13-14,000 in those days, even on the weekend. We used to bring sandwiches and snacks -- no one checked -- I'm not sure I ever bought anything at a concession stand. One of my favorite memories is making paper airplanes (not just us -- kids all around the Stadium were doing the same thing) and sailing them toward the field. Some of the planes would land on the screen behind the plate, but a few would make it to the field. I'm embarassed to say that one of mine, I recall, actually landed on or right near the plate.

My best memory of the old Stadium, however, is without question Mickey Mantle Day -- It was the only time I actually went to a game with some homemade item, like a banner or sign. I took an old plastic "straw" hat, decorated it with ribbons and magic markers [#7 THE MICK) and actually wore the thing during the game. (I can't believe I threw it away when I was cleaning my stuff out of my mom's house in 1989....) When Mickey took a tour around the Stadium in a golf cart (car?), man, did the fans go wild -- it seemed like it would never stop. Luis and Alex -- thanks for the memories!

8 JL25and3   ~  Nov 13, 2008 3:25 pm

thelarmis, you'd probably recognize Luiz Guzman if you saw him. I also loved him in "Oz," one of my all-time favorite shows (even if it was completely over the top).

Nice memory, Luis, and thanks. I didn't go to the old Stadium as often as you did, but I certainly remember it. At least once I was partly obstructed by a post, and it was no fun.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
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