We arrived at the Court Deli Restaurant early that morning for coffee
and to get a sense of the people’s feelings on the subject.
After all we were in a diner occupying its location in the Bronx since 1936 as their website states, “Since 1936, the Court Deli has proudly served New York residents, court house employees, Yankee fans, police, firemen and tourists. We are conveniently located between the Supreme Court House, and Yankee Stadium in Bronx, NY at the corner of E 161st and Walton Ave. The Court Deli is open seven days a week, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.”
Let’s establish right off the bat this is as much an American institution—a true diner that is—as the judicial establishment down the street from it! The signage self-proclaims its pedigree. “Trust, but verify” Reagan used to say. Early on diners, prefabricated structures no less, were properly called “lunch wagons”—offering a wide array of mostly American cuisine, served in a casual atmosphere, providing counter service, and late operating hours. Real food. Real people. Real life. The Court Deli Restaurant checks all the boxes.
So what’s the buzz? Last night, Tuesday October 18 the Yankees won the 2022 ALDS 3-2. The final game was originally set for Monday, but mother nature intervened with miserably rainy conditions postponing the do-or-die finale by twenty-four hours.
In the moment of victory jubilation reigned at Yankee Stadium. The morning after, cooler heads prevailed perhaps recognizing the out of the frying pan into the fire aspect of it. We wanted to get a sense of the mood on the street and so we paid our bill, left a good tip for the good service and headed towards the Bronx Bombers’ home base.
Before going any further, let’s get one thing straight. Yankee Stadium as it was is no more. That edifice was demolished in 2010.
The “Cathedral of Baseball” one of several monikers bestowed on the original stadium which opened in 1923, in a way fittingly built on property previously purposed as a lumber yard, the walls constructed of a concrete developed for durability by Thomas Alva Edison no less. It stood the test of time and then succumbed to obsolescence. For 85 years “The House That Ruth Built” hosted World Series games, no-hitters and perfect games; the stadium back in the day was unique and became famous as a venue in its own right. John Philip Sousa, America’s March King and the “Silk-Stocking” Regiment Band knocked it out of the park with a rousing version of The Star-Spangled Banner on opening day. Asked for his opinion of the stadium, Babe Ruth at the time remarked, “Some ball yard.”
As we head toward 1 East 161st Street—the new stadium built right across from the original so they could share the same address—stopping at a light, I ask a fellow pedestrian what he thought of the game last night. “Great, but it doesn’t get any easier from here” he basically muttered. That was pretty much the consensus, betting against the odds.
Let’s face it. Recent history did not bode well. If you run the stats, comparing then vs. now it’s pretty clear. A 13-year championship drought, early playoff exits. The fans who buy the tickets are perturbed at best. This is a team that has after all won 27 World Series. The American dream and the Field of Dreams have things in common, there is always hope.
Baseball was “America’s pastime” —no more. But baseball still represents something emblematic about America. John Rawls (1921-2002) American philosopher and devoted baseball fan thought it through. He noted that the rules are in balance, giving a fair shot to the players, the diamond’s just the right size, the pitcher’s mound just the right distance from home plate. The game does not particularly advantage the tall over the short, the lean over the stout, each can find a place for themselves on the field. Players use everything they’ve got, hitting, running, speed, accuracy, shrewdness, strategy. The game is all out in the open, transparency reigns supreme. The ball is only one aspect of scoring and time is not the final arbiter. There is always the possibility for a comeback, the at-bats in the ninth inning can matter.
What happened next? Astros ace pitcher Verlander, Yankee errors, coaching mistakes, resulting in a resounding sweep by Houston making them for the fourth time in the last six years American League champions. It will be Astros vs. Phillies for the Fall Classic beginning Friday October 28.
For the Yankees, does this play out as the rise and fall of the Roman Empire or will there be the likes of a ninth inning comeback?
The Yankee Diner
Poem from Gallery: A Collection of Pictures and Words
For further reading
Photo and video content by the author
Author Note: I was in New York to present a preview event for the NewVoicesProject at the same time the Yankees won the 2022 ALDS. Things did not go well thereafter, for the Yankees that is. I wanted to use the situation in the baseball world as a form of metonymy for the state of things in America in general; where we go from here is a real question, yet there is still hope.