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Out of the Old Ball Game
by Thomas A. Droleskey
February 22, 2001

Each of us is made to know, to love, and to serve God in this life so as to be happy with Him for all eternity in Heaven. He is our First Cause and our Last End. Everything else in this passing vale of tears must be subordinated to a love of Him through His true Church that surpasses any and all love and attachment we have to the people, things, and creatures of this world. We are taking nothing out of this world except the state of our immortal souls at the time of our bodily deaths.

However, we are composed of bodies and souls. We do develop attachments to the people, things, and places of this world. As a New Yorker, I developed a deep attachment to the game of baseball when I was a little boy. It is simply part of the culture of the New York metropolitan area. And while it would not be until the birth of the New York Mets in 1962 that I began to follow baseball very closely, I was attracted to the game even in the first decade of my life in the 1950s, a time when three teams played within three of the boroughs of the City of New York — the New York Yankees in the Bronx, the New York Giants in Manhattan, and the Brooklyn Dodgers in Brooklyn. Each of those teams played in more than one World Series in the 1950s, with the Yankees involved in every World Series save two (1954, 1959) from 1950 to 1959. The departure of the Dodgers and the Giants from New York left a void in the nation’s most populous city insofar as National League baseball was concerned until the birth of the Mets in 1962.

As I explain in my digitally published book, There Is No Cure for This Condition (available on CD-ROM from, I took to the new team immediately and began to devour every book written about the history of baseball I could lay my hands on. Couldn’t get enough of the game or its statistics. I read newspaper stories about the game with relish (and still do). Following the Mets on TV and radio became a routine part of my life between Spring Training and the end of the regular season (and into the post-season on the six occasions the Mets have played beyond the end of the regular season). The opening of Shea Stadium in 1964 made it possible for me to attend games regularly. Shea Stadium became something of a second home to me, a place where I was able to enjoy the one real diversion I have in life, namely, major league baseball.

Indeed, I went to 1,601 major league baseball games from July 15, 1962, through the last and most regrettable game of the 2000 World Series on October 26, 2000. Baseball and the Mets are in my blood. Mind you, I do not live for the sport. I have lived quite well without it during players’ strikers and owner lockouts. But it has been a great diversion. And as is somewhat well-known, at least in baseball circles, in 1976 I helped revive the tradition of the baseball novelty figure, the fan who dresses up to entertain other fans. My adoption of the persona of The Lone Ranger of Shea Stadium added another dimension to my following of baseball and the Mets. The act, originally meant to be nothing more than a one-day lark, turned into a bit of an institution at Shea and became something that many fans expected and looked forward to during the games.

However, all things in this passing world must come to an end. I still love baseball. I will be a fan of the New York Mets until I die. But facts are facts. Although the good people who staff the Mets’ ticket office have been most kind and gracious to me over the years, ticket prices are getting out of hand. The wonderful season seat I have had since 1994 is going to cost $60 a game for the 2001 season. That’s a total of $4,860 for the 81 home games, not including an additional $567 for the right to find a parking space for my car when I attend the games. And none of that includes the expense of gasoline to get to and from the Big Shea, as the ball park in Flushing Meadows is called now and then. All of that is a lot of money for a man who does not make a lot of money. Moreover, the full complement of post-season tickets a few months ago cost more than $1,800, payable in September. Enough. Uncle. It’s over. I’m out of the ball game.

Most of the people who own the seats around me are very wealthy people. The two seats immediately adjacent to the one I have had for the past seven seasons are owned by the agent for the singer Billy Joel. Wall Street financiers own most of the other seats in the area of my season seat. Those people can afford the increases that have occurred in the past few years. In 1994, when I had the chance to grab my season seat owing to the poor season the Mets had suffered through in 1993, it cost $14 a game. That rose to $17 a game by 1996 before skyrocketing to $25 in 1997, $35 in 1998, $45 in 1999, and $54 in 2000. I am being asked to help subsidize the millions of dollars paid out to athletes to play a game. Enough is enough.

Sure, I will miss the game. I will miss the stadium that has become a second home to me. Most of all, however, I will miss the ushers, some of whom I have known since the park opened in 1964. Those men work so very hard to make a living, being paid a pittance in base salary and relying on tips to support themselves and their families. Then there are the hostesses who work in the Diamond Club, the season-ticket holders’ restaurant. They also work very hard to accommodate patrons who are often unruly and very uncivil (quite a change from the scene in the Club in the 1960s and 1970s, a time when people behaved most civilly). One of the reasons I kept renewing my season seat over the past few years was to help support the little people who work behind the scenes at the ball park.

Ending my association with baseball and the Mets will mean also that I will not get to spend time with my fellow fans, people whom I know only from the time we fleetingly spent together at the stadium. Little Alexander Garrett, an 8-year old boy who was born with only one leg and gets around the stadium with shoe rollers on it, is a gem. He makes the rounds to visit his friends in the ball park, and I was honored to have been one of them. Evan and Lee Katz, 7 and 9, loved to come up to the Lone Ranger during the games to learn how to keep score. Dennis Arfa, Billy Joel’s agent and a fan of the New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves, just loved to needle me when his teams were beating the Mets. Other fans who were seated in my area would stop to say hello and exchange pleasantries. I will miss them a lot.

Shea Stadium was the scene of more than 25 gatherings of friends of mine in the past quarter-century. Conceived originally as a means of getting together with friends from high school and college, the annual gatherings underwent several transformations. More than 415 people attended a gathering in the Picnic Area at Shea on Memorial Day in 1985, most of them students of mine from Nassau Community College and St. John’s University. In the past decade, however, the gathering became a means for traditionally minded home-schooling parents and their families to enjoy a day out at the ball park, although a few holdovers from the old days in the 1970s still showed. I’ll remember those gatherings with great fondness.

When push comes to shove, baseball salaries are out of control. Baseball clubs are catering to the big-money people who can afford the increased admission costs mandated by ever-escalating salaries. Major League Baseball, the entity that runs the game, caters to the demands of the TV networks that televise the games, starting night World Series games as late as 8:30 p.m. so that they run well after midnight in most cases. The fan in the stands is simply window dressing for the TV cameras. The fan’s convenience (and the needs of those watching at home to go to bed at a reasonable hour) means nothing to the scions of baseball. (By the way, I’ve crossed swords with the head of Major League Baseball, Commissioner Allan H. “Bud” Selig, on the matter of the double standard applied to Ted Turner’s anti-Catholicism vis-a-vis the allegations of insensitivity made against former Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott.)

The game itself retains its charm and its beauty. As far as I am concerned there is nothing else like it. But the greed of both the owners and the players has reached a point where average people who work hard for their living are being priced out of the game. Mind you, there is no such thing as a free ride. You get what you earn in life. I simply don’t earn enough to warrant spending money I don’t have on a game that is run by billionaires and played by millionaires. It’s time for me to take myself out of the ball game.

Ironically, the greed of both the owners and the players is going to result in a lockout of the players by the owners before the beginning of the 2002 season. That could result in the cancellation of the entire regular season. In essence, you see, the owners are saying to the players that they, the owners, have to be stopped from spending their money extravagantly to pay the players who they believe will help their teams attract fans and win the World Series. It’s madness, plain and simple.

As Catholics, we know that sacrificing legitimate pleasures in this world can help us love the Blessed Trinity more fully, so that we become more and more attached to the things of Heaven and less and less attached to the things of this passing world. While I will miss the ambiance of Shea and the people whom I have come to know there, my goal in life is to gain my season seat in an unending Easter Sunday of glory in Paradise by cooperating with the graces won for us by the shedding of our Lord’s Most Precious Blood on Calvary.

Thus, with a hearty “Hi-Yo, Silver, away!”, the Lone Ranger of Shea Stadium rides into the sunset, hoping that Mary’s Son will smile on him at the moment of his particular judgment.

This column is distributed by the Griffin Internet Syndicate.
Copyright © 2001. All rights reserved.

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