My friend Moorphrang is from Nepal and he recently visited me. In order to introduce him to some true American culture, I decided to take him to see an afternoon game at Yankee Stadium.
We decided to see the Cleveland Indians against the Yankees on Saturday afternoon last. I checked online and realized that even at the last minute I could still get four tickets for seats three rows from the field just a little to the third base side of home plate.
The tickets were only $2,625.00 apiece with only a $59.00 handling charge tacked on. So I sprang for the $10,736.00, put it on my MasterCard and planned to pick up the tickets at the Will Call window when we got to the park.
My wife and daughter had other plans for the afternoon so I figured Moorphrang and I would get there early enough to pick up the tickets and we could scalp the two spares outside the stadium while we waited to get in.
Moorphrang had never been to New York before so I wanted to give him the whole experience. We made our way to the subway at 59th and Lex and waited for the 4 Train to take us to the Stadium.
Moorphrang was a little intimidated by the enclosed space waiting for the train and was even more freaked when we actually boarded and the doors closed. But I managed to convince him to close his eyes and think of riding an elephant back home until we got to the park.
We were early enough that there were not so many on the train and the sight of a dark skinned man with his eyes closed chanting in an obviously unintelligible tongue was not unusual enough to draw any second looks on the train.
When we got to the Yankee Stadium stop at 161st Street and River Avenue, I managed to rouse Moorphrang and encouraged him to get up and out of the car. We got off and headed down the stairs to the street level.
Moorphrang had no idea what we were going to see and had even less idea about baseball. When I explained to him that we first had to go to the ticket window and pick up the tickets I had paid for online, he could not comprehend that I had paid more money than anyone in his country could earn in their lifetime to see a sport being played.
We got the tickets and I stationed myself between gates four and six in Babe Ruth Plaza to try to sell the two extras.
First of all I had to try to explain to Moorphrang why they called this place Babe Ruth Plaza. All my life I had heard that Babe Ruth was the most famous man in sports history and that no matter where you went in the world, Babe Ruth's name was known.
Apparently not in Nepal because the more I tried to explain Babe to Moorphrang the worse it got.
I told him that Babe had played in New York about eighty years ago and he asked why we were talking about someone who had been dead that long.
I said that Babe Ruth was the greatest baseball player who had ever lived and that he had changed the game. I even pointed to the old Stadium across the street and tried to explain that Ruth was so great that they called it "The House that Ruth Built."
"Oh, he was an architect," Moorphrang said, thinking he had figured it out.
"No," I said, "He was a troubled kid who was sent away to a school for juvenile delinquents and the only thing he was really good at was throwing a ball and hitting it."
"And they named this street after him because of that?" I gave up and went back to trying to scalp the extra tickets.
I had made a crudely painted sign advertising two tickets for sale for only $2,750.00 each. I wanted to make just a little profit on the tickets to pay for part of our food at the game.
Keeping a close eye out for any officers who might frown on my entrepreneurial spirit, I got a lot of strange looks from other fans coming to the game. I was not sure if it was my sign or my friend in his long flowing green robe. (He's the one standing in the middle in the picture above.)
In any event, we wanted to get into the Stadium in time to get to Monument Park, so we couldn't stay outside long enough to get the two extra tickets sold. I finally decided just to eat the extra $5300.00 and just go in and enjoy the game.
So Moorphrang and I got on line and waited until the gates opened. I don't think he really understood the concept and he tried to explain to me in his broken English that no one in Nepal would ever stand in line for anything, not even an elephant ride.
Eventually they opened the gates and we scanned out tickets and got in. Entering the Great Hall I thought I was going to have to put a leash on Moorphrang so I could keep up with him.
He had never seen many photographs in his life and he certainly had never seen pictures of men in strange costumes, all alike, which stretched about 25 feet up to the ceiling and silhouetted against huge windows that would usually only be found in Gothic churches.
As we walked the Great Hall Moorphrang noticed that many of the people who had come to the game had on pinstriped jerseys and Yankee hats.
"Are these players in your sport?" he asked.
"No they are just fans, just people who came to see the game, the same as us."
"But why have they worn the same costumes as the men in these large photos?"
I realized that some of this was only going to come to Moorphrang by experience and no explanation would suffice, so I didn't try.
We walked down the length of the Great Hall and he saw the video screen at the end and no question came at that point. His eyes got very large and he simply stopped in his tracks.
The screen was running a loop of Lou Gehrig's Farewell Address at the time and Moorphrang asked who he was.
"That is Lou Gehrig, a Yankee who played at the same time as Babe Ruth."
"Why is he talking about being lucky?"
"Well, you see he has just found out that he was dying and they were giving him this day in his honor and..."
As I was trying to explain this I looked at Moorphrang and I could tell that there was no way I could adequately explain why this great man who had had such a powerful body would consider himself lucky when a disease had ravaged him.
"Well, you see, everybody loved him and he had done so much to make people happy."
"Was he a doctor or a priest?"
"No, he was a ball player."
"Just a ball player? That is all he did and yet you say these people loved him?"
"Yes, you will see in a few minutes that they put up a monument to him and retired his number."
"His number? What do you mean they retired his number? What is a number?"
"Well, see in the pictures, each player has a number on his uniform so you can tell who he is and the Yankees were the first team to give their players numbers and when a player is really great and loved, when he quits playing they retire his number so nobody else can ever wear that number again."
"How could they tell who players were before they gave them numbers?"
"Well, gee, that was a long time ago and I don't know. I guess it must have been hard."
"Doesn't just giving somebody a number take away their soul. Doesn't it make the man less?"
"Well, no, I mean, it isn't just a number. Everybody knows who Lou was and they called him The Iron Horse."
"That did not insult him to call him a horse?"
"No, Moorphrang, you just don't understand. See a lot of the players get nicknames and its just a way to show them how much the fans love 'em."
I tried to move him along but then he saw the guitars hanging outside the HardRock Cafe. I didn't even try to explain that except to say that it was one of the restaurants in the ball park and try to get him on toward the field. But I had made a mistake.
"Restaurants? One of the restaurants? You mean they have places to eat here? Why?"
"Well, you see when you come to a game it lasts quite awhile and people want to eat and they are willing to pay for the food and so in this new place they have put in quite a few of them. We'll get a hot dog and a pretzel and some peanuts and a couple brews a little later."
"Sure, but first let's get down there and get in line to go to Monument Park. You gotta see this man."
"Monument Park? What is that?"
"Just come on."
So we left the concourse area and started over to get in line to see the monuments when I realized Moorphrang wasn't with me any more. I turned around and looked for him and it wasn't hard to find him with his long green robe.
He was just standing where he had been, staring out across the stands and the field. So I went back to him.
"Moorphrang, what's wrong."
"Why are all these chairs in here? What is that farm down there and what do they grow there?"
"No, man, that's the field. That's where they play ball. That's what we came to see. And these seats are where everybody is going to sit to watch the game."
We had gotten there so early that there weren't more than a few thousand fans in the area where we were.
"You mean this many chairs for people just to watch someone play? No. That is not possible."
"Yeah, man, you'll see. Come on we gotta go get in line to see the monuments."
"In line, again? We have to get in line again?"
"Yeah, but you'll see, it's the monuments to the great Yankee players come on."
I took him by the arm and he kept asking questions but I just hustled him along until we got to the ramps leading up to the queue for Monument Park. We got in line of course and he looked disgusted so I tried again to explain to him that we were going to the place where they honored Great Yankees.
When we got far enough down the line to see the monuments and plaques, Moorphrang said, "Oh, I see it is a Cemetery? They have buried them there?"
"No, they aren't buried there, it is just to honor them."
"They did all this just for these ball players?"
I didn't try to explain, just took him around and showed him the five monuments, the plaques for other greats, the plaques for the three Popes and the memorial to 911.
He had about a million questions, but we had to keep moving to let others come in and finally I got him out and back up to the Concourse where we started to go find our seats.
On the way we got a couple of hot dogs each and two beers and Moorphrang was not too impressed by Nathan's Finest. After two bites he threw his dog away. I took his second hot dog and couldn't wait to eat all of them.
"I don't see how you Americans can eat anything that disgusting."
As we got to our seats, the Stadium was beginning to fill up. Moorphrang could not believe that this many people could be coming to see a game.
"How many people altogether will be here?"
"Well the Stadium seats a little over 52,000 but it probably won't be full even though it is a Saturday afternoon game."
"Fifty-two thousand people? Today?"
"How many times do they play these games here?"
"Well, in the regular season the Yankees will play 81 games here."
"Eighty-one games here? And people come to everyone?"
"Yes, for many years now the Yankees have had more than Four Million people come to the games every year during the regular season."
"That is not possible. You are lying to me. Why would you tell me something such as this?"
"No, seriously, it is true."
Moorphrang looked insulted and thought perhaps that I was making fun of him. I was going to try to divert his attention when he looked up and for the first time saw the huge new screen above the batter's eye in centerfield.
"Another television here in this place? What is it for?"
"Well, they show pictures of the game while it is going on and pictures of the players as they come to bat and scenes from other games."
"Stop. Do not play with my mind. Why would they have such a television screen to show pictures of the game when you are sitting here watching the game. That cannot be. What is it really for?"
"Moorphrang, I am not kidding, they spent millions of dollars to put that screen up there to show instant replays and shots of the game."
"That is ridiculous. That is not possible. I do not know why you would tell me that."
Players had begun to assemble on the field and I tried to get Moorphrang's mind of the diamond vision screen and onto the field.
"Look, you can watch the Yankees warm up now. See in the outfield, they are jogging, getting loose."
"Getting loose? For what?"
"They have to loosen up so they don't get hurt, don't pull a muscle when the game starts."
"They come here to play this game and there is a chance they may be hurt doing it? Again, I think you are not telling me the truth. Why would anyone play something just for fun if they are going to be hurt doing it? Can you explain that to me."
"Well, it is not just for fun. I mean, it is fun. But the players don't just play because it is fun. This is their job, they get paid to play this game."
"Paid to play a game? Now I know you lie to me. Why would anyone pay these men to play a game?"
"Well, Moorphrang, it is complicated. You see, these are the greatest baseball players in the world. And people come here and pay a lot of money to see them play. And when the people come here, they pay to ride the train or they pay to park their cars.
"And then when they get to the park, they buy food and souvenirs and they buy uniform jerseys. And then there are magazines about the sport and newspapers have stories about the games and the players and people buy more newspapers to read about it.
"And see all the signs on the walls, State Farm and W.O. Mason and Arbitron. Well they have to pay the team to advertise on those signs. And there are other signs that are electronic and they come on during the game and they have to pay the team also.
"And then see around the Stadium where there are tv cameras. Every game is on television and the stations pay the team to broadcast the games.
"It is millions of dollars every year and the stations sell advertising for the games and companies that sell beer and cars and razor blades pay the stations so their commercials are on the games because they know millions of people are going to watch the games and they want the people to buy their products."
"Stop, it is not possible. How could they pay these men? How much do they pay them?"
"Well, see that big guy down there, playing long toss in the outfield. That's CC Sabathia and they just signed him this off season. They are going to pay him around $23 million dollars each year for seven years to play here."
At that point Moorphrang got up out of his seat and slapped me in the back of the head and left. I don't know for sure where he went.
I started to go after him. But I thought about the fact that I had a little over $10,700 invested in this game and I expected the Yankees to handle the Tribe pretty easily, so I went and got another beer and two more of Nathan's finest.