Saturday, November 3, 2018

The Fish Man Cometh

October 31, 2018, was a great day for the New York Yankees.  They cut $2 million off the yearly cost of a player—Brett Gardner—and the soccer team they own in conjunction with an Arab sheikh won a playoff game, thereby setting themselves up for at least one more home playoff game, and maybe two.

Why was this great?  Well, both events furthered the main objective of today's New York Yankees, which was adding to the revenue stream going to its owners, the Steinbrenner family.

Some 115 years ago, the original incarnation of the Yankees was owned by two of the most dubious characters in New York City, a gambler named Frank Farrell, who may have controlled the most extensive illegal gambling enterprise in American history, and one "Big Bill" Devery, a great, colorful walrus of a man who was probably the most thoroughly corrupt police chief the city ever knew.

"He was no more fit to be chief of police than the fish man was to be director of the Aquarium," Lincoln Steffens wrote about him, "but as a character, as a work of art, he was a masterpiece."

During the Yankees' second season in existence, when they were still also known as the Highlanders and playing up in hilariously awful Hilltop Park, a.k.a., "The Rockpile," the team found itself immersed in a thrilling, season-long pennant battle with the Red Sox—then also known as the Pilgrims.

The way things turned out, the Yanks were half-a-game out in a season that went into October, with the five remaining games, including back-to-back, season-ending doubleheaders...all AT HOME against the Red Sox.

Sweet, huh?  The Yanks won the first game up at Washington Heights behind Happy Jack Chesbro's 41st victory on the season, to move into first by half-a-game.  Some 10,000 cheering fans carried Happy Jack off the field.

But wait!

The Saturday game in this series was NOT going to be in NYC after all!  Turned out, some weeks previously, Big Bill and Frank Farrell had rented The Rockpile out for a Columbia-Williams college football game, expecting to get a much bigger crowd.

The Highlanders/Yankees would be forced to take the train up to Boston, where they dropped a Saturday afternoon doubleheader, then came back to split the final doubleheader in New York on Monday, and finish 1.5 games out of the money.

Now, I'm not saying that Hal Steinbrenner would ever hand over a key Yankees date to a college football game.  MLB would never allow it and besides, Columbia just isn't that big a draw anymore.

But he and his family HAVE finished the conversion of the Yankees to a multi-sport, international entertainment "entity," complete with the YES Network, and their "Legends Hospitality" event catering service, and their association with the mighty Brooklyn Nets.

And with NYCFC.  For those of you who might not have been paying attention, New York's own major-league soccer club is a wholly manufactured entity, one that has absolutely nothing to do with the city's long tradition of ethnic soccer clubs but like most of the MLS imitates worldwide soccer traditions.

The "FC," for instance, stands for "Football Club," which of course is what no one in America calls a soccer team.

Since its invention in 2015, moreover, NYCFC has also made informal nicknames for its players—the "Pigeons," or "the Boys in Blue," something apparently no one remembered we use to call the (real football) Giants.  Its "supporters," i.e., "fans," are "the Third Rail," and their great rivalry with the Red Bulls of Harrison, New Jersey is now the "Hudson River Derby."

What's more, the Pigeons play in Yankee Stadium, often overlapping with the baseball season.  Both the club and the Yankees pretend to be very, very upset about this.  But that's mostly a ploy to pressure New York into handing over, gratis, the land where the very same parking garage that was a key piece of George Steinbrenner's original deal with the city still sits.

The Yankees, it seems have a whole scheme to build a "soccer-friendly" stadium there for maybe 25,000 or so, and—hey, whattaya know!—a developer willing to turn that free land into a major luxury housing development.

Yes, like our friends the Mets, the Yanks have also become a real-estate racket.  Though I'm sure Hal would feel very insulted by how small and unimaginative that sounds.

The Yankees have much bigger fish to fry now, and they just can't be too bothered by any one part of their global operation, such as improving the baseball team's roster.  All they are really interested in doing is maximizing the profit, without wholly destroying the brand.

They may have picked the wrong investment in soccer, where attendance at "Pigeons" games has already dropped by 28 percent since 2015, despite how competitive the team is on "the pitch."  But hey, in transforming any stodgy old capitalist venture, you have to take a few risks.  (Look at Sears!)

Maybe, someday, Hal or one of his descendants can buy out the sheikh and acquire his main property: the Manchester City soccer team in England.  Or maybe the Steinbrenners can take over some other flourishing, entertainment opportunity of the future, such as a race track or a casino.

The world is their oyster!  They are magnates!!  Tycoons!!  Captains of industry!!!  Stop complaining about the pitching!


Anonymous said...

So who censored all the comments? duque or HC66?

13bit said...

I have not seen any comments, but I was off the blog for much of the day. If they did delete anything, it must’ve been some real asshole action because they are pretty tolerant guys. And it’s not censorship. This is a private blog and they can do whatever the fuck they want. Even though it’s more work, I wish we had registered user names so that assholes could be blocked.