How George Steinbrenner Broke My Heart.

Babe Ruth is homeless in New York.

He was a bona fide hero of story book proportions, the patron saint of pinstripes and line-drives, and yet the house he built in the Bronx is no longer home to the Yankee ballclub. No matter what Michael Kay may advertise, this “New Yankee Stadium” is just that: new and cold and devoid of all history. They’ve ripped out the proverbial bricks of tradition and replaced them with luxury boxes, and that place under the arches where that old-time Yankee passion used to shine is lost in the shadow of progress and greed.

And really, the entire world of Major League Baseball has changed. Sure, it’s still ninety feet to first and three-strikes-you’re-out, but every time I turn on the game, I know it’s not the same. The Great American Past Time is fast becoming just another big-business endeavor; my beloved Yankee Tradition has been stolen from the fans and reduced to a pocket-lining marketing tool.

The heart of baseball has been lost somewhere between the contract negotiations and paychecks and failed drug tests. The road to Cooperstown is now paved with asterisks and press conference apologies. The game we’ve loved, the game that’s made us scream and cry and laugh and believe has been forgotten, replaced by this twisted mess of money and media. And while the team owners and accountants are cashing in, it’s the kids with the big-league dreams, the fans who’d follow their teams to the grave that are losing their footing and watching their faith in the game fade away.

Now, on late-night TV infomercials, they’re selling pieces of the Yankee Monument Park to a world that needs, now more than ever, to know where their heroes are and where we can find them. I don’t want a piece of sod in a plexi-glass case. I don’t want an overpriced recreation of somebody’s signature on a picture that’s been airbrushed a dozen times. I want to see the passion of carrying on a tradition worthy of Yankee pinstripes. I want to feel the history and smell the grass and know that even when the world is falling apart, somebody’s still going to be playing this damn game.

And yet, here we are, October again, and the World Series owns TV sets all over the country. Our classmates are swapping stats and speculating about whose bullpen will dominate and hoping, praying, believing, that their team will pull through. In spite of everything, baseball still survives.

That, I think, is because the team owners and accountants never take the field. George Steinbrenner would more likely watch a game with the Bleacher Creatures than pick up a bat. We, as Yankee fans and baseball fans in general, have to learn to draw a line between the business and the game. We have to dig down and find the heart of it all that still survives. Yankee tradition is not about the people in suits and ties up in the luxury boxes, watching the games with calculators and cash registers. Yankee fans do not need arches lined with gold. It wasn’t us who kicked The Babe to the curb.

And when it comes down to it, we still believe one pitch can change the world.

See, it doesn’t matter if you’re rooting for the Yankees or the Phillies or the Mets or the Red Sox (well, maybe not the Red Sox). It doesn’t matter if you watch every game or know every stat. Being a fan, being a true-blue, die-hard baseball fan, will always be about believing in the game.

Because when it’s the bottom of the ninth with two outs and a full count, anything can happen. That old time baseball passion lives, if you know where to look. That’s where the devotion and the trust in your players really make a difference. That’s where baseball, the heart and soul of it, is still alive. When the businessmen and the advertising moguls and the overpaid cheaters (ahem, A-Rod, ahem) melt away, when there’s nothing but you and your team and the game, you’ll see it, you’ll feel it: that game you loved as a kid, that they make heart-wrenching movies about, that promised us all our dedication was worthwhile.

In the first at-bat outfielder Hideki Matsui had as a Yankee, he hit a grand slam. Jeter recently broke the Iron Horse’s record for most hits in the franchise. Kids are wearing the numbers of their favorite players, and fans everywhere are still devoting their whole hearts to the team. The Yankees of today, the real Yankees who aren’t afraid to get their spats dirty and run out the squibblers and swing for the fences, who still have the sense of pride and wonder, who play with that leave-it-all-on-the-field attitude, remind us why we pledged allegiance to this ball club in the first place. If we look past the shadows that have been draped across the infield, we can see that this is still the historical, beautiful team we love.

When it comes down to it, no amount of money or press or elitism is going to send a hit over the fences, round the bases, and cross the plate. This is why we can’t lose faith in baseball altogether.

Maybe Babe Ruth is angry at the prices of hot dogs and beer at “The New Yankee Stadium”, maybe he doesn’t even get the YES network in Heaven, but the things he stood for, all of the heart and passion he represents, will still take the field this Series, will still keep the fans fighting for their team (any team, in any city, at any ballpark). I still believe that the Yankee Tradition, though tarnished and worn, is what makes us different from the rest, even if the proof of it is hard to find. I still believe the heart of the game will keep on beating as long as the bats keep swinging.

And, after all the pitches and been thrown, outs have been made, and games have been won (or lost), I still believe in baseball.

How George Steinbrenner Broke My Heart.

Harper Joplin

Joined October 2009

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This was recently published in my college’s newspaper Acquinas.

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