"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Gearing Up


There are a bunch of good Yankee-related articles in the Times today, starting with Richard Sandomir’s profile of Randy Levine, the Yankees’ own bad cop:

Levine’s headstrong style has been visible in telling the Boston Red Sox to tend to their own business; encouraging questions that put Joe Torre, then the Yankees’ manager, on the spot after games on the team’s YES Network; and in talks to secure the stadium deal and to create Legends Hospitality Management, a food-concession company with the Dallas Cowboys.

“It’s tough love with Randy,” said Gerry Cardinale, a friend and managing director at Goldman Sachs, the investment bank that is a partner in YES and Legends. “He is brutally honest, has a very high demand for performance and little tolerance for not getting his way. He respects me because I won’t back down.”

During labor negotiations with correction officers in the mid-’90s, the union’s president, Norman I. Seabrook, said recently, Levine’s closed-door demeanor was close to a blood sport that neither man took too seriously.

“He’ll smile, shake your hand and cut your heart out if you’re not prepared,” Seabrook said. “Don’t mistake that smile for anything but a knife.”

Next, is a story about a promising documentary project, followed by a compelling piece about the fate of Stan’s sports bar.

Finally, an essay by William Zinsser:

My Mets are moving into a park named for a bank that I’m helping the government to bail out. The Yankees’ new stadium comes wrapped in a vocabulary that has no connection to baseball: luxury boxes, bond issues, cost overruns. My fellow taxpayers and I are also footing that bill, though the announced prices will dissuade many of us from going there to enjoy the fruits of our charity.

I assume that the new stadiums will feature the newest advances in audio-visual assault. I stopped going to Mets games at Shea Stadium when my friend Dick Smolens and I could no longer hear each other talk between innings — such was the din of amplified music and blather from the giant screen in center field. But baseball is also a game of silences. After every half-inning, it invites its parishioners to meditate on what they have just seen and to recall other players they once saw performing similar feats. Memory is the glue that holds the game together.

Excellent job by the Times.

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1 joejoejoe   ~  Mar 29, 2009 12:42 pm

Randy Levine, proud liar:

Levine demanded a two-year wage freeze [from NYC teachers] while promising that Giuliani administration officials would not receive raises. After the deal was completed, the city raises were announced.

“That’s one of those things you never do in a labor relationship,” said Weingarten, now the union’s president.

When this was relayed to Levine, he said, “We signed an agreement; people have to live with an agreement.” - NYT

Congratulations to the NYY on having a team president with lower ethics than any player agent. That's old school.

2 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Mar 29, 2009 1:01 pm

Damn, that doc does look good. Check the trailer here.

3 monkeypants   ~  Mar 29, 2009 1:03 pm

[0] I'll leave others to spar over the political and economic commentary. I will say, however, that Zinsser is right about one thing: blaring audiovisual assault at the ball game. Some people complain about the Yankees continued playing of God Bless America, or the overused YMCA. But that is just the tip of the sonic iceberg: ads, ear-splitting sound effects, various loud contests.

And really, one of the benefits of paying the hefty ticket prices to attend a game live should be NOT having to hear John Sterling's voice...at all.

4 Rich   ~  Mar 29, 2009 2:36 pm

The media keeps repeating the (false) meme that YES employees (read: Kim Jones) were directed to ask questions in order to put Torre on the spot, but having watched most Yankee games (and accompanying postgames) during Torre's tenure, I can't recall one instance of Jones asking a question of Torre that was unfair.

5 williamnyy23   ~  Mar 29, 2009 3:05 pm

[0] Change is always met with a measure of resistance based on fear of the unknown. The theme of many articles has followed that same archetypal structure. It would be interesting to see a study about how different the fan base in 2009 will be, but I have a feeling it will pretty much be the same.

I also don’t think the notion that the Yankees are pricing out the average fan is an accurate argument. For almost all of this decade, when I would receive the Yankees season brochure in late November, the lower seats between first and third base were much cheaper, but they were always marked SOLD OUT. In other words, even though a prime seat was affordable to “an average fan”, all of the seats had been sold as part of a season package to corporations at values well below what the market would otherwise dictate.

As for Mr. Zinsser’s essay, NY taxpayers are not “footing the bill”, no matter how much he wants to believe it. Also, the Mets have a quite a few tickets priced $20 below on sale right now, so if he is being dissuaded by “announced prices”, well, then maybe he doesn’t want to go that much.

[1] A labor/union negotiator who isn’t completely honest? I’m shocked!

[3] If it was up to me, the Stadium would be filled with the sweet music of the Hammond organ along with a few interludes of Sinatra, Como and maybe a little Al Martino. In fact, so would dance clubs, restaurants, radio stations and the blaring speakers of passing cars. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the musical preference of the age in which we live. The loud blaring music along with the complementary ads and novelties (as sad as it is to admit, YMCA, the Top Hat Tease and the Great Subway Race sometimes get more of a reaction from the crowd than the actual game) is more a symptom of our culture than the changing experience at the ballpark.

[4] You’re absolutely right. Whether or not YES suits were involved, I can’t recall one person pointing out a line of unfair questions. Also, no one ever seems to make an effort to ask Jones what role others had in the questions she asked.

6 monkeypants   ~  Mar 29, 2009 3:36 pm

[5] is more a symptom of our culture than the changing experience at the ballpark.

I agree entirely. We've talked about this and other, related issues on various threads. I seem to enjoy my actually stadium experience less and less with each passing year, even though I love the great game of baseball just as much, if nor more, than I did in my youth. At this point, I pretty much go a Yankees game out of a sense of obligation (to keep my annual tradition alive) more than because I like it.

Maybe my my feelings on this will simply change, or I suspect that within a few years I will no longer attend games at YS, opting instead for MLB on TV and MiLB for live baseball.

7 williamnyy23   ~  Mar 29, 2009 3:42 pm

[6] I think you and I probably have a very similar thoughts about what an ideal ballpark experience would be. In fact, I probably would take it further because I also would love it if they banned beer sales. After all, nothing is more distracting than sitting around liquored up fans who couldn't care less about the game. That distraction doesn't compare to loud music and gimmicky promotions.

Ultimately, however, the game between the white lines trumps all else, so I can deal with the increasing unpleasantness. Unless my love of baseball diminishes, I can't imagine the other distractions becoming so overwhelming that I wouldn't want to go the ballpark. Having said that, I think I could be very content following the season on YES if I did reach that point.

8 monkeypants   ~  Mar 29, 2009 4:22 pm

[6] Where you and I depart slightly is here: the game between the white lines trumps all else. To me, the game between the line matters, but that same game can be observed live or on the Tee-Vee. Attending live does provide more fulfilling vantage of the game itself, but not by such a great margin that it trumps attendant annoyances.

BTW, I sure do love a cold beer at the game, but I would not be disappointed if alcohol sales were banned.

9 monkeypants   ~  Mar 29, 2009 4:23 pm

[8] was meant for [7], of course.

10 joejoejoe   ~  Mar 29, 2009 4:24 pm

[7] I believe the bleachers were alcohol free along with two tier reserved sections in the old ballpark. Not sure about the new one. The Yankees have long opposed bills in the NY state legislature that would set aside 25% of the total seats as alcohol free sections,

11 OldYanksFan   ~  Mar 29, 2009 5:49 pm

from PeteAbe: "Joe Girardi just announced that Brett Gardner will be the center fielder."

Joe, Mickey, Bobby, Bernie aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand Brett!

12 williamnyy23   ~  Mar 29, 2009 6:05 pm

[11] I think that was kind of inevitable. Hopefully, Melky isn't buried on the bench because I think he can still contribute something. Also, having Melky makes it easier for Girardi to pinch hit for Gardner if a big spot presents itself.

13 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Mar 29, 2009 6:43 pm

Melky is an awful right-handed hitter, which renders him useless as a pinch-hitter for Gardner. I really don't think he has much to offer. He's not a better defender (so he's not a good late-inning defensive replacement for Gardner), he's not as fast (so not a good pinch-runner for Gardner). He would be a decent pinch-runner for other players (Matsui, Posada, etc.) and a good late-inning defensive replacement for . . . well only Nady, really, baring the rare situation late in a game in which you want to have the best arms out there to try to gun out a run at the plate, but then you'd put him in for Damon, not Gardner.

14 RIYank   ~  Mar 29, 2009 7:06 pm

OT, but I just saw the trailer for the remake of The Taking of Pelham 123. I mention this because after Alex linked a YouTube of the old one, I got it from NetFlix and man, that was a great movie. The new one clearly will not match that classic NY gritty informal feel. On the other hand, it stars Denzel as the Walter Matthau character, with John Travolta as the main bad guy, and it looks promising.

15 monkeypants   ~  Mar 29, 2009 7:11 pm

[13] However, a clever and daring manager might pinch hit for Gardner/Melky in a tough spot earlier in the game (say with Swisher or Nady), then swap the counterpart in on defense.

16 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Mar 29, 2009 8:00 pm

[5] William..I assume you were joking by mentioning Perry Como...I hate the overuse of music and video at the stadiums now (though have heard it is MUCH worse at NBA areans) but really, Perry Como...?? Do you want the crowd to fall asleep? :)

Really hope they retire GBA, YMCA and Cotton Eyed Joe this year though..

17 monkeypants   ~  Mar 29, 2009 8:05 pm

[16] Perry Como or whoever...

One of the reasons why MLB games take so "long" was the decision, by MLB itself, to make the time between half-innings longer, for more advertising. Meanwhile, at the stadium, this has only allowed for the audio-visual assault to intensify. In the "old days," the time between half innings was filled with the (brief) sound of players throwing catch and, maybe, an organ.

How I long for those simpler times.

18 Chyll Will   ~  Mar 29, 2009 8:07 pm

[14] Let me know if you think Denzel mailed it in this time around. The scuttlebutt I heard from people that worked on set makes me think that this movie will only fare well because of the post-production work; not that such things make a movie bad in principle. I'm just hoping they made a true commitment to craft throughout...

19 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Mar 29, 2009 8:23 pm

[17] how about this between innings?? http://tinyurl.com/a2w3zf

20 Chyll Will   ~  Mar 29, 2009 8:23 pm

[17] Same here, baseball-wise anyway. There's real baseball being played all over the world now; you don't have to fall for the slick advertising all the time.

I'm not a hockey guy, but I went to West Point several times to watch their hockey team take on some other teams, and it was a cool experience (no pun intended). I've never watched the Knicks play at MSG before, but I've been to several Nets games and enjoyed myself. I've never been to Giants Stadium to watch football (and with the PSL crap, I likely never will), but I've witnessed Steve McNair tear up one of my college's team at it's Homecoming Game. I've even been to Mets games and made memories I didn't have at Yankee Stadium; I find Mets games more accessible than Yanks when it comes to community outreach.

Now, I'll likely either go watch the Newark Bears or the Hudson Valley Renegades before I get to see a Yankee game at home (maybe I'll even drive to Scranton for the out-of-body experience), but I don't mind. The experience is really what you make of it, and I'd rather enjoy the game without all the bells and whistles than to be constantly reminded of how much you're paying to be dissatisfied with all the crap you didn't want or need in the first place.

21 Chyll Will   ~  Mar 29, 2009 8:30 pm

Good one, but this one's far more appropriate... (I know you saw it on the side there!) >;)

22 Chyll Will   ~  Mar 29, 2009 8:31 pm

[21] ==> [19]

23 williamnyy23   ~  Mar 29, 2009 8:33 pm

[13] That isn't what I meant at all. Having Melky around means you can pinch hit for Gardner without having to slot Damon into CF. Having said that, I still wouldn't dismiss Melky's ability as a right handed hitter. After all, the same thing was said about Bernie's ability to hit left handed at the same point in his career.

24 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Mar 29, 2009 8:33 pm

[21] yeah but wasn't sure that would pass the censors! can't go wrong with the monster groove on Kalaluta Show either..funny how we don't hear 20minute Fela Kuti grooves at Yankee Stadium..

25 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Mar 29, 2009 8:37 pm

btw..glad Randy Levine is on our side and not with the BoSox..he's "a real piece-o-work" as my Pops would say...

26 williamnyy23   ~  Mar 29, 2009 8:38 pm

[16] I wasn't joking at all. I also didn't realize that good music put people to sleep, but I guess that would explain a lot of what is popular today :)

[17] Again, I agree, but do you think most people do? After all, the crowd around me seems to really get into all the pre-inning gimmicks, whether it is the Top Hat Tease, YMCA, Great Subway Race, Name that Tune, etc.

27 williamnyy23   ~  Mar 29, 2009 8:40 pm

[25] Levine has more than his fair share of critics, but I am also glad he is on the Yankees side. Things can get rough and tumble in the business world, and fighters like Levine are good to have around just in case.

28 Chyll Will   ~  Mar 29, 2009 8:46 pm

[25] Don't the BoSox have Larry Lucchino? Not that they necessarily cancel each other out, but they do strike me in a similarly distasteful way as Dan/Jim Duquette did as GMs (without the blood relation, AFAIK)...

29 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Mar 29, 2009 8:49 pm

[26] If Perry Como is "good music" in your book William..well, at least we have our Yankee fandom in common! (You make me think of Bruno Kirby's character in "Good Morning Vietnam"..)

Does the crowd really get into those things at this stage though? At least something like the sausage race in Milwaukee has "local" meaning..why not "Take the A Train" by Duke Ellington followed by a Grand Master Flash cut? give it some real New York feeling..

30 Chyll Will   ~  Mar 29, 2009 8:54 pm

[27] Easy Rawlins applies the same logic with his connection with Mouse in Devil In A Blue Dress... everyone has or needs that one wild card/thug in their corner for "special occasions" when you're in the game, I guess...

31 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Mar 29, 2009 9:14 pm

[30] Yep, the Luca Brasi guy..a bit scary but nice on your team..hey, just like Kyle Farnsworth! Think KC would trade him back?? who's the Yankees "enforcer" this year anyway??

32 williamnyy23   ~  Mar 29, 2009 9:25 pm

[29] Yes, I have a feeling that our opinions of music are vastly different.

As for the gimmicks, yes, the crowd does seem to get into them, especially the kids, who ironically, everyone always seems to think we should all be so worried about.

[31] Luca Brasi is muscle, but without the brains, so I am not sure he qualifies.

33 monkeypants   ~  Mar 29, 2009 9:32 pm

[26] I tend to believe that consumers can be relatively easily manipulated, and that most crowds (in various senses of the word) tend to "get into" whatever is being offered them because that's what crowds do. As such, while the attendees of Yankees games seem to get into the various between-inning gimmicks, I a not convinced they would not get into more "traditional" offerings.

On the whole, though, this is not an issue that I have much energy to debate. If it IS the case that the vast majority of attendees really dig blaring music, then I have to accept that I am in the minority. When such distractions become too...well...distracting, I will simply concede that the product (live MLB) is not aimed at me and I will no longer pay to consume it.

34 monkeypants   ~  Mar 29, 2009 9:36 pm

[32] To continue from [33]: I think that "we" (MLB and its fans) are doing a long term disservice by appealing to kids via gimmicks and loud music, rather than simply baseball itself. Of course, I cannot prove this, and many parents will now post saying how their 5-year-old loves YMCA, yada-yada.

But I firmly believe that if you take you child to an MLB game, and pay attention to them, and explain the game, and show your enthusiasm, they will learn to appreciate this amazing game. I know this will be my approach with my own kids. I guess in 30 years we'll have to bring up this conversation again and look at my case study as evidence!

; )

35 williamnyy23   ~  Mar 29, 2009 9:38 pm

[33] As is often the case when the topic turns to music here, I also sady have to accept that I am in the minority. I am with you on most of your preferences, but I guess I am just able to filter out all of the extraneous stuff.

36 Chyll Will   ~  Mar 29, 2009 11:17 pm


As is often the case when the topic turns to music here, I also sady have to accept that I am in the minority.

"No-body knooows the trouble I' seeeen... no-body knoooows the sor-roooowww..."

Being in the minority isn't such a bad thing, isn't it Will? Especially with the rich cultural history behind it! >;)

37 SteveAmerica   ~  Mar 30, 2009 11:48 pm

I went to Busch Stadium several years ago. I went because I was visiting a girl I was dating at the time in St Louis. I didn't like the Cards, or any of their player really.

In the 4th inning, the Cards were trailing, bases loaded, two out, Scott Rolen starts walking to the plate. Some song by Limp Bizkit (a band I hate) starts playing, the line in the song is "Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'" which is apropos because, ya know...his name is Rolen.

It was a cool moment, it was theater. I liked it. It didn't ruin my baseball experience.

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