Big Doings at the Big Ballyard

The World Series Has Yankee Stadium Rocking — Even on an Off Day

'We're waiting in line for tickets that may or may not go on sale,' Myles Lewis patiently explains to the radio reporter from W-something-some thing-something in Atlanta.

'Don't listen to him, he's a scalper, he's been divorced three times, arrested I don't know how many,' jokes the bearish Peter Barrett, just behind him in the line.

The buzz on this early Monday Bronx morning is that a few of the tickets allotted to the Braves might be released to the general public at some point in the indefinite future. What could be sweeter? Sitting in a seat that had once been reserved for say, Chipper Jones's maiden aunt, or Jorge Fabregas's babysitter's cousin. A chance to camp out behind enemy lines.

"Hey, why don't you take a walk around the neighborhood?" suggests Lewis to the all-too-gullible man with the mike. "Thanks, that's just what I'm going to do, man," he drawls, striding away in search of the beautiful mosaic that is the South Bronx at 10:35 a.m. This impromptu production of Waiting for Godot—they'll go on sale any minute now, Gogo, I'm sure of it—has generated its own mini media blitz. Ten minutes later, Doug Johnson from WABC-TV asks a few blasé questions, and then strolls off. He's followed a few minutes later by a relief reporter, a perky blond better suited to working the crowd for some "Whooop-whooop/Go Yankees Go" footage.

"Four-and-oooh-oooh-oooh, four and oooh-oooh-oooh," chants an obliging Jose Prieto, putting a four-fingered South Bronx spin on the Tomahawk Chop. Bedecked in a Starter Yankee windbreaker and a New Era fitted Yankee cap, he's the official hard luck case of the line. Last Thursday, he called in sick, got on the ticket line at 2 a.m., and still got shut out of even a wristband. He spent the whole day dialing Ticketmaster. Tennessee. Buffalo. Florida. No luck. On a flyer he comes back to the stadium midafternoon. He works his way to the front of the line. Only $150 seats are left, two-ticket minimum. He's got $280 in cash. Ouch.

After the camera crew leaves, he sidles up to me. "In the bleachers we'd say, "'Fuck-the-Br-aaa-aaa-aaves,"' he says conspiratorially. "But you can't say that on TV."

This bunch is nothing if not media savvy. Barrett pumps out the one-liners like Shecky Greene—"How long will I stay? Until my wife calls or my boss finds out....All those people at Turner Field? They were all TBS employees....The Yankees are a seasonal drug and you can't go into rehab until after the season"—recycling the same lines, but changing the delivery, tweaking the syntax like Jerry Seinfeld working a tough room.

"John Rocker? We're gonna rough him up until he looks like the Corvette he crashed," says Sebastian Korytowsky. The consensus on this one? It needs a little work from a sound-bite perspective.

Around the corner, pursuing a different angle, is a guy in a double-breasted Armani suit, with a pay phone in each ear. "Ticketmaster? They suck," he howls. "They're the worst. I've been on hold for a fucking half an hour." He slams the receiver against the stainless steel casing, redials, and returns to the Land of the Blinking Light.

Around yet another corner, a different sort of kvetching goes on. "What's going on here?" says the guy from FOX as he stands in a credential pick-up line that is, at least for the moment, as inert as the ticket line. "1996, 1998, 1999—three World Series and they still don't have their act together. I mean, like, why can't we park in that lot over there? And the cops, don't they understand that we're not a bunch of crazy fans? We've got a job to do!"

— Inside Yankee Stadium, it's a different story. Groundskeeper Dan Cunningham is running around doing one of the million little things that turn the House That Ruth Built into the House That Costas Televises. His biggest concern? "The media." He's not just busting me. The wiry worker with the wild blond hair has spent the morning reporter-proofing the sidelines. He and his "YMCA"-singing crew are busy laying giant plastic welcome mats around the fringe of the grass and stringing plastic chains around the hand-painted World Series logos—a day's work that could be ruined by a couple of muddy Warner Wolf footprints.

On the field itself, however, it's pretty much business as usual. To Cunningham, who can tell who pitched the night before just by looking at the cleat marks on the mound, the eyes of the world are nothing compared to a monthlong drought or Hurricane Hugo. The Long Island Blue Eye turf thrives in these temperate days and cool October nights, and the forecast for the next three days is encouragingly uneventful. "This place pretty much runs itself," he says modestly.

Any special mowing instructions? A special Fall Classic cut, per haps? "Nah," he says, looking at me like Lyle Lovett might if I asked about his next hairdo. "Some teams do different funky cuts, but we do a traditional straightaway cut, nothing that'll make your eye wander." If you want the kind of moiré pattern that made Turner Field look like the Sea of Tranquility, you'll have to wait for Game 6.

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