Bigger than The Babe
(Babe Ruth at bat)
We were parked on River Avenue in the shadow of the new Yankee Stadium. Scrappy D had his hind legs on my thigh, and his snout was against the window. I ran my fingers up and down his back.
Sitting next to me, my lady friend(LF) hoped her sister wouldn’t be mad at us. We were supposed to be at her apartment in Greenpoint an hour ago. “She made dinner, homemade perogies,” my LF said tonelessly.
What had happened to me and my friends a few short moments before was too mind-boggling to talk about.
We drove off with the pizza delivery guy behind the wheel. The Chinese delivery guy was riding shotgun. Neither showed any interest in either my LF’s current cell phone conversation with her sister, or what Scrappy D was doing, which would be their main concerns under normal circumstances.
Just moments before we had seen the ghost of Babe Ruth. He put on an otherworldly hitting display at the new Yankee Stadium. Only he didn’t look exactly like The Babe, and the place we had just come from looked Dali-inspired. It was nothing like the new ballpark.
The Sultan of Swat had persuaded a guard to let us into the Stadium. We had followed Ruth through a tall steel gate on River Avenue. He wore slacks and a blazer with a derby.
Once we caught sight of the field, there came a steady breeze that was full of light-hearted voices. The sky and the crowd seemed interlaced.
The Babe was a hulking figure though his features were flatter than in the pictures of him. Plus he was bone white and vaporous. Each time I tried to stare at him, I could have sworn multiple people were staring back.
In the stands, I had turned my attention to a snarling, accusatory voice. It took a few seconds to realize he was repeating the words, “Getcha Coney Island red hots, here!”
Thank goodness I had enough sense to scoop up Scrappy D and zip him up inside my jacket. Actually, I can’t say I did it out of fear for his well-being. It had probably been out of habit. Inside my jacket is one of his favorite spots. He knows it’s the only way we can bring him inside stores or out to eat.
There was no scoreboard or signs anywhere. And the fans had been perched at unreasonable heights. Some hung precipitously over the field. They were cartoonish and feral. Their motions had made me think they sat atop some sort of inflated platform.
The moment Ruth replaced his derby with a Yankee cap, it became clear that he was already wearing the pinstripes.
Seconds later he set foot onto the field, holding a bat in his left hand. The crowd rose higher into the air. I cowered and looked directly up. I half-expected to see something falling down on us.
I was full of fear and anticipation as I dropped my gaze. The outfield looked like a pond of green water, set before a mountain of jittery people.
The Babe handled the bat like it was a two by four–and he was getting ready to brawl. At the plate, which was the highest point on the field, he took a practice swing. I felt the breeze and then perceived something standing very close to me, though I couldn’t see it.
I had no idea where my friends were, or who was close-by.
“Hey Red, your time is coming!” the Babe called out to a man, just as he stepped through a blaze of light onto the pitcher’s mound.
The pitcher raised a baseball glove that was hardly bigger than his hand. He put it to his ear, so he could hear the Babe.
I squinted and saw the words “Red Sox,” written across his chest. The rest of the players in the field were hardly more than stick figures.
“O’ forget it, Red,” Ruth cried, “you’ll find out someday.” Then he leveled the bat over the plate and winked at the pitcher. “Just don’t try and jip the fans.”
Red wound up and delivered a pitch that zipped in with a high arc as if slung by a machine. Ruth didn’t budge until the last possible second. His hands and torso whipped around and there came the crack of the bat, and for a full moment, I realized an ineffable joy. It was like I saw God.
The ball sailed high and looped way out over the stadium walls.
The crowd erupted and thereafter never stopped hooting and howling. The Babe went on to knock one ball after another out of the park. Some traveled diagonally up and never showed a downward trajectory.
Over the right field fence, I saw the NYC skyline. It was outlined in black and covered with thin gray clouds. It must have been from the 1920’s, because I didn’t see the Empire State Building.
The next thing I remembered, we were all back in the car out on River Avenue. I sat, mystified.
For some reason, I found myself searching the street ahead, under the elevated trains. A few people caught my eye, and I knew they were sensitives just like me and my friends.
Yet we were the ones that had been “lucky” enough to see the vision at Yankee Stadium. And it was bigger than The Babe.
I pulled Scrappy D to my face, not wanting my friends to see that I was trembling.
Here are all the posts in this series: Episode Twenty-Three – December 2009
Here are more Yankee Stadium photos along with a set from Citi Field. It’s where the Mets play–
Mullaly Skate Park in the Bronx (next door to new stadium)