My father trained
for schoolboy track meets in Crotona Park, the Bronx; I was born in University
Heights Hospital, the Bronx; and my father and I attended our first baseball
game together in Yankee Stadium, the Bronx, a warm rite that forever fixed the
Bombers as my favorite team in my favorite sport. But I remember, too, being
disappointed that first time. Mel Allen on the radio had prepared me for
something grander—lusher outfields, a more imposing spectacle, a greater sense
of sanctuary from the city squatting beyond the fences. He was preparing me, I
now realize, not for the House That Ruth Built, but for the House the Taxpayers
Rebuilt, that beautiful, shameful, symbolic enclave that now glitters like a
diamond in the ashes of the borough of my birth.
Stadium is an outrage," I said one day recently to the Borough President of
the Bronx, Robert Abrams.
me tolerantly. When we first met, he had eagerly told me that we had gone to
the same college and had dated the same girl, but now that our locker-room
rapport had evaporated, his smile seemed merely politic. After all, he had
helped cheerlead the renovation through the city's fiscal channels.
Stadium is part of the chemistry of life in this town," said Abrams.
"Every major institution is part of that chemistry, and I'm talking about
the Bronx Zoo and the Statue of Liberty and Radio City and Yankee
price," I said. "There are estimates this stadium will eventually cost
the city $150 million."
"I was never
really made aware of the cost," said Abrams, looking me square in the eye.
"In 1971, when we were told it would be in the area of $24 million, I
thought it made economic sense."
"Do you think
you were deliberately misinformed, or didn't you do your homework?" I
An aide rushed up
to tell him of an urgent phone call. Had Abrams made a signal I never saw? He
excused himself, and I knew he would never return.
the city? Bull!" roared former City Council President Sanford D. Garelik, a
career police officer who alone voted against the Stadium renovation project
when the Board of Estimate decided to go ahead with it. "Ask Abrams about
the chemistry of all the schools and the libraries and the hospitals that were
closed down for lack of funds."
"Was it a
crooked administration that rammed the Stadium bill through?" I asked