When Gay DiVirgilio was in the third grade, her class took a trip to Braves Field in Boston, where she saw her very first baseball game. Astounded at the sight of her first home run, she wondered aloud, “How did he hit that?” A stranger put his arm on her shoulder.
“That man made contact between the ball, the bat, his teammates, and God,” he replied. It wasn’t until after the ballgame that DiVirgilio found out that the man was Lou Perini, the owner of the Boston Braves. And thus a baseball fan was born.
More than half a century later, DiVirgilio was one of about 20 people to board a bus yesterday at the Yogi Berra Museum for a visit to Yankee Stadium. The museum charged $75 a head to take fans on a guided tour of the $1.5 billion home of baseball’s winningest team and to catch, rather than a ballgame, a 90-minute glimpse of the glory.
Some were diehard fans who recognized the most obscure Yankees name from decades ago, while one woman asked me, pointing at the infield, “Is that home plate? I’m not really a baseball fan.” Though the tour included people between 8 and 80, your true age was measured by how long you’d been a fan.
For instance, Jim Mastrich, 58, has been a Yankee fan for more than 40 years. His friend Bob Dahl, 55, has only followed the team since 2002. These men from Lambertville are nearly the same age, but in baseball terms, Mastrich might as well be Dahl’s grandfather. Mastrich opposes the designated hitter. Dahl is for it. Mastrich has been going to ballgames since Mickey Mantle patrolled center field. Dahl was wearing the jersey of a player who got traded a month after he bought it. Josh Deck, one of the younger children on the bus, only became a fan recently. To him, the 109-year-old franchise might as well have come into existence when they signed Mark Teixeira in 2008. His uncle, Mike Deck, 58, pines for the days when the stadium’s outfield still had monuments in the field of play. You get the idea.
The tour included a brief trip to the Yankees museum on the stadium’s main level (a hall full of game-worn jerseys and over 800 Yankee-signed baseballs), a Monument Park visit, and coolest of all, five minutes spent sitting in the Yankees actual dugout along the first-base line. The tour ends, as tours do, in the gift shop, the only room that Yankee reps don’t rush you out of to make space for the next tour. Now I didn’t buy a $25 Thurman Munson action figure, but that is not to say that I didn’t think long and hard about it.
All in all, most of the tour was stuff that you could explore without a tour guide; both the Yankees Museum and Monument Park are open to fans before home games. The dugout, however, tends to be reserved for Yankees.
The Yogi Berra Museum still has tickets available for its next Yankee Stadium tour on August 10.