The Bronx

A-Rod World Series trophy

OK, Yankees. You held up your end of the deal, and it’s time for me to do my part. Now that you’ve shown those obnoxious Phillies how it feels to come up short at the end, and now that you’ve shown those obnoxious Phillies that REAL world champs don’t spend time at their celebration being sore winners who mock the teams that didn’t get there, I will officially bury the hatchet I’ve been carrying since that time you hurt me in 2000, and we can be friends again. Not BFF, but, you know, we can say Hi when we see each other at parties. I’ll even stop criticizing you for buying championships and admit that I wish my high-payroll team were as good at buying championships as you are.

But don’t get too cocky. I may not be mad anymore but if you start blathering about the Yankee Way and the Yankee tradition of excellence, I will have no choice but to remind you of the Bronx Zoo ’70s, the fruitless ’80s, and all the other times that your precious history wasn’t so pristine.

Congratulations, guys.

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The new Yankee Stadium officially opened to the public today. Much has been made of the design touches that replicate parts of the “original” Yankee Stadium. There’s just one problem with that story: the original stadium–the House that Ruth Built, that DiMaggio graced, that hosted Larsen and Berra’s great hug–was destroyed more than 30 years ago. The building that was demolished this winter was a cheap imposter.

The 1976 renovation of Yankee Stadium (which actually began in 1974) was so drastic that it turned what had truly been a baseball cathedral into Shea Stadium North, a bland mass with little personality, lots of terrible seats, and a false claim to history. The centerfield wall that stood behind DiMaggio and then Mantle was 461 feet from home plate; the one that got knocked down this winter stood at 408. During that renovation, the stadium’s upper deck was completely rebuilt; it’s famous facade was removed from the top of the stands and a phony version was tacked onto the top of the scoreboard (which was also completely redesigned).

The version of Yankee Stadium that closed at the end of the 2008 season was so different from the one that closed at the end of the 1973 season that director (and lifelong Yankees fan) Billy Crystal had to film the 2001 movie 61*–about Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris’ home run chase–in Tiger Stadium instead of Yankee Stadium. Because, as the official press release about the film explained, “the current renovated stadium bears little resemblance to the architecture of the original,” and Tiger Stadium looked more like Yankee Stadium than Yankee Stadium did.

So sure, get excited about the new digs. But don’t rave to me about how nice it is that it has a new new version of the old new version of the original facade. It’s like going to a housewarming party and having to listen to the owner brag about how he installed a replica of the orange shag carpeting that had once been in the den, and restored the electric fake fireplace left behind by the previous owner. The best parts of the new stadium are the ones that hark back to its grandfather Yankee Stadium (1923-1976), not to its overrated imposter father, Yankee Stadium Jr. (1976-2008).

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Ever wonder why the Bronx gets a “the” before its name when none of the other boroughs do? Me too. So I looked it up. Turns out the answer is pretty simple: the Bronx is named after early settler Jonas Bronck and his family, the Broncks. I can’t tell you when or why the spelling changed, but it explains the “the.”

Interestingly, somewhere around 15 years ago a team of urban historians scouring local records discovered that the Bronck family owned a community social hall where dances were often held, thus earning the family the nickname the “Boogie Down” Broncks, and that’s exactly what everyone from the Bronx has called the borough since 1994.

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When I was in high school, I lived in Queens and went to school in the Bronx. It was about a 35-minute drive, but the only way to go via public transportation was through Manhattan, making the commute about 90 minutes each way.

Enter Gagnon Transportation, a school bus company that existed for the sole purpose of taking Queens kids to and from the Bronx every day. On Sunday Gagnon announced, apparently to only some of its customers, that it no longer exists, thanks to what it described as a very successful arson at its terminal.

Gagnon has always been a bit sketchy, so even despite the cool photo of a burned-out bus on the company’s homepage, I’m not sure I believe their story about the fire (although setting fire to all the Gagnon buses was a not-so-secret fantasy for many a student over the years). Neither do some of the angry parents, according to NY1.

Still, for thousands of kids from Queens and former kids from Queens, it’s the end of an era. And for regular riders of the R train and 4 train, the morning commute just got a little more crowded.

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