my summer with the yankees
interning at yankee stadium in 1986
It was the summer of 1986. I had gone back to college the previous spring after an extended hiatus. Twenty-one credits crammed into one semester after not being in school, while still working full time exhausted me. It was a lot to take on; I had a job managing a restaurant in the evening hours that was stressful and tiring, and the workload of such a packed semester wore on me. I decided not to take any summer classes, thinking I would just work and have some time to wind down and relax, enjoy my days going to the beach and baseball games and just reading in the backyard.
I was majoring at St. John’s University in what was then called Athletic Administration and was later changed to Sports Management. I had just finished off a temporary job working in the Sports Administration office and was looking forward to spending my summer days sleeping until noon and working in the record store at night.
And then my dean made me an offer I couldn’t refuse — a summer job that would entail driving to the Bronx every morning, not getting home until midnight most nights and working weekends, all for no pay except a few college credits. I almost laughed at him until he explained who I would be working for: the New York Yankees.
At first I thought he meant “working for the Yankees but not really working for the Yankees.” A job at the stadium selling beer, maybe, or cleaning out the women’s bathroom. But no, he meant working for the Yankees. Inside the vaunted walls of Yankee Stadium. And the job would have nothing to do with Budweisers or clogged toilets.
I was to spend my days as an editorial assistant for Yankee Magazine, cropping pictures, proofreading stories, and doing advertising layout. At night, if the Yankees were on a home stand, I would stay for the games and run errands. If I wasn’t needed, I was welcome to stay for the games anyhow.
I knew getting this internship was an honor I should take seriously. I was surprised when I got it, but I had worked my tail off in school, participated in the Athletic Administration club, and proved myself by working in the sports information office for two semesters. I was proud of myself and immediately told anyone who would listen that I would be working for my beloved Yankees.
I spent a lot of time that humid summer in the cool confines of the archives, a small, windowless room stuffed in a corner at the far reaches of the stadium. I felt nervous just walking from the magazine office to the archive room, quietly making my way through this place I felt I had no right to be in as anything other than a fan.
There were full days holed up in that archives room poring through photos of Yogi Berra and Joe DiMaggio, reading scorecards from games played long ago, and generally living in a baseball time warp. The room was stuffed with trophies and plaques and mementos of the greatest baseball team that ever existed. And here was all this history, all this fame, right at my fingertips. Ticket stubs, game programs, yellowed articles and dusty photographs were my constant companions. Each time I left the room — usually after a futile search for whatever memorabilia or picture I was sent for — my fingers would be coated with the dust and grime of the legacy of legends.
There were other perks to the job as well. I watched games from the press box. Sometimes I kept score, sometimes I just chatted with reporters or with players who were on the injured list. I ate lunch in the third-base seats, legs stretched out, sun beating down and Yankee Stadium seemingly to myself. I parked in the players’ lot, sometimes walking in with the players themselves. I was George Costanza before there was a George Costanza.
As the season wore on, there were days when I almost grew tired of the internship. I was exhausted from being mired in the traffic going to and from the Bronx from Long Island every day. I was missing the pool, the beach, and reading. Going from the Stadium to my night job and then doing it all over again the next day grew a little bit stale, but that staleness was tempered every day when I pulled into the employees’ lot at the stadium and walked through those hallowed halls. The ballpark, the archive room, the press box, the office of Yankee Magazine—they all became familiar after a while and started to feel like home, and every time the drive there started to get to me, I would just remind myself of how very lucky I was to sit and eat lunch in the stands of Yankee Stadium.
Late that August the pennant race was heating up and the summer nights were cooling down. I knew my time as a part of the New York Yankees staff was drawing to a close. In a way, I was relieved that I wouldn’t have to make that miserable morning drive on the Grand Central anymore. But I hated to give up the perks of a job where I mingled with Don Mattingly and had my name in the Yankees Magazine.
It was close to my last night there when I was invited to watch a game from the general manager’s office. There I was, in this huge room full of baseball impresarios, sharing drinks and glad-handing each other. I stood quietly in the corner, too overwhelmed by the presence of baseball greats to move out of the spot. I wandered over to the window that overlooked the playing field. I was watching the game from an office behind home plate, surveying the action as if I owned the team. I looked at the outfield bleachers where I sat so many times before. I was mesmerized, lost in a world I never thought would belong to me, not even for this brief time.
Then, a voice beside me. “Great view, isn’t it?”
I looked up to see Mickey Mantle standing next to me, grinning. I nodded, unable to speak. Me and Mickey, watching a Yankees game from the office above home plate. I lived a dream, for a summer.