NEW YORK — Hundreds of Yankees fans in New York City who hit the streets to revel in their team's 27th World Series championship have been greeted by an NYPD van, several patrol cars with lights flashing and officers standing on street corners.
Fans in Yankees jerseys and hats who watched the 7-3 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies at sports bar Stout poured onto 33rd Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues early Thursday to celebrate and remained well-behaved.
"Hundreds" of Yankees fans? As Chase Utley might say, "Are you (bleep)in' kidding me?" Hundreds? Here in Philadelphia, we throw that many fans into a police paddy wagon in the first 90 seconds after a big victory. See that picture up top? That's Phillies fans a couple of weeks ago celebrating just getting into the World Series in a way that puts New Yorkers to shame -- there's no comparable picture from Manhattan or the Bronx last night to show, no NYC equivalent of Frankford and Cottman, where regular folks pour into the streets by the thousands. And we know from last year how crazy this town would have been if we had actually won this thing.
So what's wrong with New York? OK, there are two important caveats. One, and I know from my years in and around the Big Apple that this is important, is that close to half the people in the city who care about baseball are Mets fans who hate the Yankees more than you do, if that's possible. The second is that NYC is much more of a magnet for a) immigrants who've not yet adopted our strange and wonderful traditions of baseball and b) out-of-town transients seeking to make it in theatre, media, Wall Street, whatever. In other words, the so-called "penetration rate" of Yankees fans in New York is actually much much lower than the percentage of Philadelphians who get jacked about the Phillies, despite the disparity in World Series rings.
But I think there's something else in play. If you paid attention to what's happened in the Bronx the last couple of years, the Yankees have done everything to price out of their market the kind of fan who'd paint his chest and head out to a street corner with 10,000 of his newest bestest friends. In moving into the new Yankee Stadium this year, in the teeth of the worst economy since the Great Depression, the Yankees jacked up their average ticket prices by a mindboggling 76 percent, from $41.40 to 72.97. That's also about 40 percent higher than the No. 2 team, the Boston Red Sox, where a high fan base and Fenway Park's limited seating creates huge demand. The Yankees still drew fairly well this year -- in the nation's largest city, with more millionaires than you'll find anywhere else -- but also had a couple thousand empty seats right behind home plate for most games -- even some at the World Series! -- because of premium prices as high as $2,625 for one seat.
And you wonder why New York's Joe Sixpack wasn't excited last night?
I saw a sad story in the New York Times during the Series, about how moving across the street into their $1.5 billion palace -- which elected officials, who financed the infrastructure with tax dollars, claimed would be a boon to local merchants in the faded Bronx neighborhood -- had in fact devastated many of these local businesses, souvenir shops and working-class-style tap rooms. The article was kind of weak on explanation, but you have to think the kind of stockbroker dudes paying hundreds of bucks to see a baseball game aren't going to shop in, you know, the Bronx -- unless you count the Yankees' own clean and overpriced merchandise shop inside their elite fortress of a ballpark. That's great for the Yankees economically, which is how they buy the best players, but you don't have to grease your streetlamps for partying investment bankers when you win, either.
On the whole, I'd rather be in a winning Philadelphia, of course. But beyond that, I'd also rather be in the kind of city that goes wild for its two World Series wins, instead of the one that yawns at its 27 titles. Wouldn't you?
(Blogger's note: It's a long weekend for me, thanks to a scheduling flip. So I'll see you early next week.)