Volume 75, Number 48 | April 19 - 25 2006

Talking Point

Say it ain’t so, Georgie; Steinbrenner sweeps Bronx

By Daniel Meltzer

It was an entertaining game for kids and the working classes. We loved to watch it, play it, talk about it, argue about it. Today our working classes live in Hunan Province, and our kids are hooked on MySpace.com. Baseball should be renamed Mogulball.

Two weeks ago, the multimillionaire yachtsman, sportsman, locker room scourge and owner of the team that used to be the richest AND the greatest, but which is now just the richest, won big time. New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, the man who can’t seem to get what he wants from his tycoon ballplayers on the field, managed to secure all he needs from us.

The City Council overwhelmingly approved, and the mayor is likely to rubber-stamp:

a) the hurling of a slow wrecking ball down the heart of the strike zone of the fabled Bronx House That Ruth (Babe, not Dr.) Built, and

b) a newer, smaller Yankee Stadium that will nonetheless occupy more acreage by stealing part of a public park. The dealmakers were last reported bending over backwards to buss their own behinds in congratulation.

Yanks 1, Bronx 0.

The new ballpark will cost close to a billion to build. The city will front the money, but the profit-making Yankees will reimburse us by buying city-issued bonds. Sounds like a fair deal, except that, according to The New York Times, the team’s payments will be collected in lieu of taxes. They get the ballpark, we get to help pay for it.

Yanks 2, Taxpayers 0.

If you had a hard time getting tickets before, you will be chagrined to learn that the new ballpark, in keeping with contemporary business plans, will actually contain fewer seats but will offer 60 luxury “sky boxes” for the limo-loving elite who like their lattes and their catered crepes and crudités served high and inside; inside a virtual upper-deck condo-complex of five dozen comfy air conditioned suites, segregated from the hoi polloi in their goofy hats and face paint by plate glass as thick as it comes. More seats for the richest fans, fewer for the rest.

Yanks over Fans — 3 games to 0.

This is Major League Baseball we are talking about, the “national pastime,” the only professional (i.e., profit-driven) sport in the country to have ducked designation as a business; as a result, it remains out of the reach of the just-too-short arms of federal antitrust laws that can’t ever seem to lay a glove on the steroid trade’s favorite clients. Dugouts may also have to be extended up the baselines to accommodate the ballooning bodybuilders on the bench. Subtract a few more spectator seats for that.

Corporations and law firms already own all the best boxes, which go this season for $115 a chair per game. Even discounting inflation, a box seat, if you saved your delivery boy tip money, was once doable for a kid. A bleacher seat was a buck, tops. If one guy kept belting the ball over the walls, we blamed it on Wheaties. We thought a steroid was something zooming around in outer space at a billion miles an hour. We memorized batting averages and pitchers’ stats. Today, the kids quote contract specs and the endorsement deals, who’s got the biggest yacht or country estate, the coolest cars, the hottest babes.

Yanks 4, New Yawk 0.

Looks like a sweep from here. The team should be so lucky in October.

Meltzer teaches journalism at New York University

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