Friday, October 17, 2008

The Stadium

by Ivelisse Robles Marrero

“I won‘t miss this place…because it’s inside me.”
-Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra

The Stadium. From the ESPN sportscasters, to the neighborhood bum, when you say The Stadium everyone knows you’re talking about the one, the only, Yankee Stadium. With the greats of the past like Ruth, Mantle, Gehrig, Lazzerri, DiMaggio and Ford to our present stars like A-Rod, Mariano and Jeter, this stadium has seen baseball at it’s best. From three papal visits, legendary boxers like Dempsey, Graziano, and of course Ali to name a few, who threw their winning and in some cases last jabs there, famous football games and celebrated concerts, this stadium means so much for baseball and non baseball fans alike. Hate the Yankees or love ‘em, Yankee Stadium is it’s own entity and there’s no denying the important role it has played in so many lives.

My apartment building was approximately five blocks away from Yankee Stadium. I couldn't see it from my six floor window, but just like many who called that neighborhood home, we knew even if we didn't follow baseball, when our Yanks were home. During baseball season Bronxcites know that if there’s a home game avoid the 4 train. They knew that their drive home will most likely end up in bumper to bumper traffic. Home games meant an extra hour to find parking. The stadium lights shining bright could be seen even from Morris High School on Boston Road and 165th Street. The cheers were loud enough to let you know a Yankee did something good and the Hammond Organ playing the Stars Spangled Banner or that famous interlude before the fans yelled CHARGE was recognized in every household with an open window. Sinatra’s “New York New York” was heard loudly at the end of the night whether the Yanks won or lost. Baseball season meant that our sweet piece of The Bronx with its bad reputation welcomed with open arms the crowds of fans who came to root for their home team. Those who could afford a ticket were lucky, but for most of the neighborhood during the time I was growing up, we had the radio, or TV sets, some folks on their rooftops or fire escapes just to listen to the games and yell at the same time the crowd of fans from inside The Stadium did. During baseball season, the neighborhood was proud to house such a glory. We loved Yankee Stadium and considered ourselves the lucky ones to live close by.

Yankee Stadium did so much for the community I lived in. Without our stadium, the streets of 161 and around wouldn't have been the safe haven it was then. Police patrolled the area heavily. The lights remained bright so that your walk home wasn't scary. There were so many businesses that catered not only to the visiting baseball fans but the neighborhood too. You didn't need to look far to see the Yankee logo in many local restaurants and shops.

What the magazines and newspapers won’t tell you are the special things Yankee Stadium did for the people in its community then. For many families, thanksgiving dinner wouldn't have been possible if it weren't for The Stadium giving out free turkeys and sides. Every July 4th all the neighborhood tenants would gather on their rooftops to watch the fire works given by The Stadium. Parks were built on and around The Stadium grounds where Bronxcites can play sports like handball, tennis and basketball. There were smaller fields built for little leagues and a track where the community could exercise. There was Yankee Bowl and all the surrounding souvenir shops and my favorite pizza shop, Yankee Pizza which displayed old pictures, many autographed, of Yankee players, great plays and of The Stadium itself over the years. Sadly, this pizza shop was knocked down to make way for a McDonald’s.

The first time I was allowed to place posters on my wall in my bedroom, I didn't look through Teeny Bop or Tiger Beat Magazine. I went straight to one of the novelty shops across the street from The Stadium and brought a poster of Kevin Maas, Steve Sax and a pencil sketch of The Stadium before the renovation in the 70's. I remember my best friend and I wanted to be independent one day and walk the neighborhood without our moms. The first place we hit was Yankee Stadium. We sat on one of the stone benches beneath the high walls and spoke about how much we loved the Yankees and how cool it was to live there. We, like so many others, loved the icon that glowed in our South Bronx, our diamond in the rough.

In an old cigar box that my best bud gave me I hold the ticket to game six of the 1996 World Series, Yankees vs. The Braves. I don’t remember Bobby Cox ejected during the 5th inning or Wetteland almost blowing the game when he gave up a run in the ninth bringing the score to 3-2. I can’t even recall Charlie Hayes catching that last out, not even the team jumping on top of each other with extreme joy. What stays etched in my mind was what happened as we exited The Stadium. The streets were packed with all the neighborhood. Strangers hugged each other, everyone screamed, people crying of happiness. I had never seen so many of my fellow Bronxcites as I did that night come together and celebrate on Jerome Avenue. I feel that most of those fans, who couldn't get a ticket for whatever reason stood outside the walls of The Stadium to listen to the game and be there for the neighborhood team. That night represented much more than the Yankees winning another World Series. Yogi Berra says it best when he says “The city came together, here in The Bronx. A family, and it wasn't always about baseball.”

I’m not an avid baseball fan like many people I know. Don’t ask me who played first base three seasons ago. I won’t know the answer. Don’t question me about Jeter’s stats this year versus when he first wore the pinstripes. I’ll shrug my shoulders. I am a fan of the Yankees not so much because of the baseball team. I am a fan of what Yankee Stadium represents to me, to my neighbors, to my community. I am a fan of the Yankee essence that lives only in those walls which will soon crumble and disappear.

People I've met over the years have asked me where in The Bronx am I from. I don’t say The South Bronx, or 161st street and Sheridan Avenue. I don’t say that I lived by the Bronx Court House or by Cardinal Hayes High School. I don’t even mention the grand ole Grand Concourse. I just say…

“I grew up at Yankee Stadium.”

That’s all they need to know.

Yankee Stadium (1923-2008)
880 River Avenue
Bronx, NY 10451

Visit the following links for more inspiration regarding The Stadium:

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Winter Wonderland

by Christopher Rivera

When I was growing up in The Bronx, I lived on this one block long street, (Torry Ave) which for the most part was completely devoid of traffic. I have so many memories of all the neighborhood kids just hanging out in the street, playing kickball, dodge ball, tag, all those stupid games kids used to play and not having to worry about a constant stream of cars passing by interrupting our fun.

The best memory I have growing up there was one winter, I had to have been maybe 7 or 8, and we have this vicious snowstorm. Not the crap we have today and have the nerve to call a snowstorm. I'm talking about 3 to 4 feet of snow coming down and just blanketing the neighborhood. It was a kids dream come true. Anyway as you can image our little dead street was even more quite then before without a single car passing by, the perfect time for a neighborhood snowball fight.

But of course being kids we couldn't just have any old snowball fight. We had to have the snowball fight to end all snowball fights and so we decided we were going to play capture the flag. All of us kids divided into groups and we went about preparing ourselves for all out war. Forts were created, and not just little mounds of snow forts either. These were massive structures standing at least 6 or 7 feet (at least that's what I remember) with secret tunnels into and out of them, defensive towers where we could repel the invading army and an armory full of perfectly shaped snowballs ready to be thrown. It was every kids dream.

I couldn't tell you what happened that day other then a complete and total cluster fuck of kids trying to kill each other in the ultimate snowball war. I do remember crawling through tunnels, trying to get to the nearest stash of snowballs so I could get back at the kid who just hit me. And climbing atop of one of the ledges and just hurling snowball after snowball at the kids who were coming to try and invade our castle.

It was one of the greatest days of my childhood and probably the best winter I can remember. I wish for once it would snow like that again and the city would shutdown and kids could go out and be kids again.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

La Tercera (Third Ave)

by Ivelisse Robles Marrero

Fordham Road, Castle Hill, White Plains and Pelham Parkway, Westchester Sqaure, Bathgate Avenue; a few of the many shopping district that call The Bronx their home. You find everything from clothes to appliances, to the best pizza your money could buy. Prices are cheaper than going to 34th street and it was a walk or a bus ride away from where you lived.

Where I grew up, we had Third Avenue, also known as The Hub but better known to us Bronxericans as La Tercera which in Spanish means third. La Tercera was the place that my mom would take me to do my "first day of school" shopping, our Christmas shopping; we even went to there to buy our first washing machine. We could spend a whole day at La Tercera buying all we needed and wanted. As a teenager I would hook up with friends there, help them shop for a new pair of kicks (sneakers) or we'd go to the Easy Pickin's for the latest in spandex. Whatever we needed to buy, whatever we wished to have, La Tercera was the place we'd go.

As a child my mom and I would wake up early on any given Saturday morning and head out to La Tercera. My mom would walk many different routes to Third Avenue and if it was raining we'd take the Number 6 bus to Webster Avenue and there catch the Number 41. If we walked, the most frequent route was through the projects where we would end up on 152nd street and Third Avenue. There on the corner was the bacalaito man. He sold cod fritters for a dollar and they were the most delicious, greasiest fritters I've had. Right across the street from his cart was the famous Alexander's. This was always our first stop.

Alexander's was The Macy's of The Bronx. There were two, one at La Tercera and the bigger one at Fordham Road. All my Easter outfits were from Alexander's. If I needed a winter coat or spring jacket, Alexander's was where we got it. Pantyhose, dresses, patin leather mary-janes, jeans, shirts, every article of clothing I owned as a child most likely came from Alexander's. If my mom didn't buy my outfit at Alexander's then she made it from a pattern kit brought at the Woolworth and the yards of cloth from a mom-and-pop fabrics store.

After Alexander's we would head uptown, stopping by the many stores labeled "Gift Shop." We called these stores the Chinos and they had every knick-knack you needed. Flip-flops, bookbags, pencil cases, belts, scrunchies for your hair, baseball caps, baby strollers, novelty t-shirts, sunglasses, even the hard to find little round batteries for your hand games or digital watches. We'd head up to ThomMcAn on 149th and Third Avenue to buy my different color skippys or my mom a pair of sexy dance shoes. Our winter boots also came from ThomMcAn. I remember their sneaker brand was called Balloons. They had the same style and were out way before the Reebok's classics. If we didn't find anything there we'd try the Fayva, the original Payless. They were the first shoe store I knew of that had the Bogo, buy one get one half price. Here, mom would get my summer sandals and my easter purse.

As I got older, newer stores started to occupy lots in La Tercera. There was VIM and Dr. Jay's, the urban jeans stores. Mirage and Tic Toc had all the sexy clothing for girls. The Wiz literally started it all on that 151st street triangle and if the TVs at The Wiz were too expensive then you went to Crazy Eddie's a few blocks up. There was Youngland where every mother put all their kids clothes on lay-away and Freddies for those who didn't mind wearing the bootleg versions of the brand names in style. The scattered record shops were where my mom would buy the new salsa LPs and blank cassettes so we could record from the radio. Even Alexander's had competition with Ray's on Third Avenue below 149th street. That's where I brought my first computer desk. La Tercera was the first place I went to when I got my first check from summer youth. I bought a pair of navy blue clogs and brought my cousin Jessica an outfit at the Easy Pickin's.

When I was in high school my mom was employed at Lincoln Hospital on 149th street between Park and Morris Avenues. After school I would roam La Tercera for hours until she got off of work so we could walk home together. For my mother and I La Tercera held so much for us. Not just a place that held all the things we can buy, it became a meeting place where we'd sometimes go window shopping just to have an excuse to talk. La Tercera was a life-line for the nearby neighborhoods. We didn't need a Jersey Mall, or the bustling glamour of downtown Manhattan to spend our hard earned cash. If La Tercera didn't have it, then we didn't buy it, and that was that.

Bronx, U.S.A.

by Barbara C. Vazquez

As far back as I can remember, 161st Street and Walton Avenue was it for me – the place I called home for 21 years. When thinking back, I have so many memories – good, bad, happy, sad, funny and not so funny – with stories for each season, year after year – I don’t even know where to begin. If I had to choose, I guess the dog days of summer and growing up in the 90’s, and how particularly fascinating these years were to my friends and me would be a great place to start. It was fun, simpler times then, and it didn’t take much to make us happy. We lived without a care in the world, and we had it all – each other, no school for 2 months each year, and the sky was the limit – which is all we needed because fun was whatever we made it to be.

If you are familiar with the area, then you know there were so many things to do and even more places to go within this one neighborhood. There was good old Joyce Kilmer Park. We would hang out there for hours each day, just sitting on the benches talking, laughing, and snapping on one another - all just to pass the time. On the hottest days, we would pry open the pump with a pair of pliers and let it rip full blast. The water was freezing, but it was so much fun and so refreshing! When cars drove by, one of the guys would come with a can and while holding it to the nozzle of the pump, would create what seemed like a huge never-ending wave of water that shot right up into the sky. The car would get a free wash, and we all stood under the cold shower with our arms wide open, enjoying every second of our crazy lives.

There was also time well-spent hanging out in the handball courts behind Yankee Stadium where we watched countless handball and paddle ball tournaments, in Macombs Dam Park at the track [where we vowed to exercise – and all we ended up doing was walking and talking and did absolutely no running and exercising!], the tennis courts, and of course, the infamous Mullaly Park, better known to the locals as Mullaly Baseball and Mullaly Basketball. Anyone who lived in the area frequented these parks on a daily basis. It was a staple in the neighborhood, and rain or shine, you could always find someone out there working on their game. There was also the gym on Anderson Avenue, the traveling carnival that annually took up residence in the parking lot at the foot of 161st and Woodycrest Avenue for at least two good weeks each summer, the many nights we spent hanging out on the court house steps just “people watching”, the visits to Concourse Village Plaza and the movie theater, and I’ll even go as far as to mention night pool – a guilty little pleasure we’ve all experienced. There is so much more, and the list can go on and on, but these are just a few of the things that were a regular part of our lives that made us genuinely happy.

I was also lucky because my bedroom windows faced Yankee Stadium, the 4 train, and the track, so I always had the coolest option of just chilling out and enjoying and partaking in things going on in my neighborhood, without even leaving my home. I did everything from shout “CHARGE!” with the fans attending the Yankee games, to watching train after train go by wondering if it would ever end, to counting the number of laps a person ran around the track at a time, to hearing Billy Joel perform live at the stadium, to even watching 4th of July fireworks take place in the stadium and track simultaneously – God Bless America! – all this by simply sitting on my fire escape? How cool is that?

It was a great time, in a great place, with great friends – and it is a place I will always call my home. My friends and I probably won’t run under an open pump or sit on a fire escape any time soon, but whenever I think of these things and more, it will always bring me back to the best, most humble years of my life growing up in the one and only Boogie Down Bronx.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Baseball in the PJs

by Jesse Marrero

I'd wake up early on a Saturday morning to my friends calling my name 10 floors below on 1270 Webster Avenue on 169th street to play baseball in the parking lot behind the building. After jumping out of my sofa bed in the living room, I would get dressed, wash up and run out the door before moms would yell "YOU GOTTA EAT SONTING!"

We chose teams by tossing the bat in the air and then you know the rest: fist, finger, pinky, fist, fist, finger, no sky rockets, I win. Kawan and I were the best players so we were automatic captains. My first pick? Jermaine. Kawan picked white Marquel (light-skinned) and I'd pick black Marquel. There were seven to eight kids per team, brothers David and Jason, Dwayne, Edward, Kevin, Jamal, brothers Sharif and Mike and little Troy, Annibal, Corey, Sammy, Ronnie and sometimes we let Tina from the back building play to even out the squad...oh yea and we all had a crush on her.

The game would be scored by memory of course. Sometimes it led to arguments. I could remember being the only kid to have a father who lived home and hung out with me. My dad would buy me a glove every week from that guy who would show up at his job in the door factory on Tremont Avenue and Third Avenue just for a couple of pesitos papi, and you always knew for what (remember Lou?). So we would play with six gloves, one sponge ball bought at Mommies Candy Store for 50 cents and the famous yellow Emigrant Bank Bat that I got at Yankee Stadium Bat Day. Play ball!

We would play until about noon. After the game all you'd hear was "I'm hungry." or "I'm thirsty."

"I'm not going all the way upstairs!"
"Yo! C.E.S. 132 got free lunch."
"Let's go."
"We should've came earlier."
"As long as they got juice, whatever."
"Miss, what's the sandwich today?"
"Peanut Butter and Jelly. There's plenty."
"Any watermelon left?"

After lunch we would head back to the parking lot, pick new teams and start a new game. We'd play until six-seven o'clock or until we'd hear "COREEEEEEEEY!" from the 13th floor.

"Alright, we'll finish tomorrow."
"We up 6-3."
"NBO (new batting order)."

We'd all run in, to eat, watch TV, sleep, dream, and get up tomorrow to do it all over again.

The version

I was born in a Manhattan hospital, but my mom took me home to 917 Sheridan Avenue on the corner of 163rd street in The Bronx. At the time she rented a studio apartment that was bigger in square footage than some one bedrooms for rent today. Besides a small foyer and iron stair rails that led you into the sunken living room/bedroom, my mother kept my new crib in a small room by the kitchen. Our windows faced the inner courtyard belonging to the Art-Deco building, gated to keep outsiders off the property and, eventually, it's tenants too.

It was 1977 and although most of the Jewish families who occupied these beautiful apartments with the huge casement windows, crown and chair molding and spacious rooms moved elsewhere, leaving the building to the Puerto Ricans and Blacks who now dominated the neighborhood, you can still see the Mezuzahs affixed on almost every door frame. The sunshine still illuminated the marbled floors of the lobby and the Otis elevators welcomed you in with their doors open wide.

Growing up in what was once considered opulent and wealthy accommodations, 917 Sheridan Avenue was a world in which I played in, made life-long friends that I still maintain til this day, went to school, learned to play the violin, played the best childhood games, discovered boys, enjoyed house parties and most of all experienced a youth in the mist of what I consider to be the best borough in New York.

For what I hope to be a long time, I 'd like to share poignant stories of my experience, good and bad regarding The Bronx. I also ask my fellow Bronxcites, whether you used to live here or still do, to share your stories as well. Email them to

To the streets that raised me and that are now raising my children, this is our boogie down...The Boogie Down Bronx.