Baseball is considered America’s past time, and for baseball fans there are a few sites that really embody the game as a whole: Cooperstown, New York (where the Baseball Hall of Fame is located), Fenway Park, Boston (where the Boston Red Sox play), Wrigley Field, Chicago (where the Chicago Cubs play), and Old Yankee Stadium (where the New York Yankees played until 2008). These sights are relevant because they have seen the most baseball history go through them. The Yankees, for example, have won 27 World Series, the majority of which were played out at Old Yankee Stadium. And the legend of the “Yankee Tradition” of all time great baseball players cannot be overlooked. I know these things because I am a baseball fan, tried and true, I had been to many stadiums, but never considered myself a tourist there- just a baseball fan. However, according to Erik Cohen, author of “Who is a Tourist?: A Conceptual Clarification,” despite all of my baseball knowledge (or anyone else’s), I was a tourist at Yankee Stadium. I was certainly a tourist under Cohen’s description, but because Yankee Stadium exhibits all the tenants of Dean MacCannell’s (author of The Tourist: A New Theory On The Leisure Class) sight sacralization I found I became a stereotypical tourist as well.
There are two parts of being a tourist. Firstly there is the common stereotype for a tourist that Cohen defines as “the slightly funny, quaintly dressed, camera-toting foreigner” who is “ignorant, passive, shallow and gullible” (Cohen 527). Through Cohen’s lens of what it is to be a tourist and what the common conception of what a tourist is, it is clear that despite my love of baseball, and my knowledge of Yankee history I was nothing more than a tourist in a ballpark for as Cohen uses his definition of “a ‘tourist’ [as…] a voluntary, temporary traveler, traveling in the expectation of pleasure from the novelty and change experienced on a relatively long and non-recurrent round-trip” (Cohen 533). While it is relatively easy to see that most people on a trip are tourists according to Cohen’s definition, it is also easy to see that many may not look at themselves as a stereotypical tourist. However, it seems that it is very easy to fall into becoming the stereotypical tourist- especially when one is visiting a sight that has been sacralized.
Cohen breaks up his definition into six aspects of what it is to be a tourist: to be temporary, to be voluntary, to be on a round-trip, to be on a journey with length, to be on a non-recurrent trip, and to be on a non-instrumental trip (Cohen 531-532). I was all of these things. I was temporary, as I was only in New York for two days, and at Yankee Stadium for three hours (the length of a game). It was voluntary for me to go on this trip, and in fact something I had been looking forward to doing for my entire life. It was a round-trip, since I had to come back to California in order to attend school. It was non-recurrent; I have only been to Yankee Stadium once. And the trip had no point, other than to have fun and experience Yankee culture.
But why was it so important to experience Yankee culture? Other than the fact that the stadium had existed for a long time what made it so important to me? The answer lies in MacCannell’s explanation of sight sacralization. MacCannell writes that sight sacralization takes place in five steps; the “naming phase”, the “framing and elevation phase”, the “enshrinement” phase, the “mechanical reproduction” phase, and finally the “social reproduction” phase (MacCannell 44-45). The completion of these five phases is, according to MacCannell what makes draws tourists to a sight as it has become “worthy of preservation” (MacCannell 44). Yankee Stadium has undergone all of these phases. Firstly, it is referred to as Yankee Stadium, so it has a name and it is authentic- it is in fact where the Yankees play. Secondly, it has been framed and elevated, it is on display, more World Series have taken place there than anywhere else, you have to pay to get in, it is not a normal baseball field, it is (was) the baseball field. The field is enshrined by the Stadium itself, it is lifted up as the sight where all the greatest players in the history of baseball have played at one time or another, and behind the walls there is monument park, a shrine to the players themselves. Mechanical and social reproduction is abundant. There are countless photos of the stadium, streets named after the stadium or the players who once called it home (Babe Ruth has a street named after him), there is even a subway line going directly there. Yankee Stadium is the essence of a baseball sight, which has been sacralized.
Perhaps more than the Stadium itself is the fact that it holds the aforementioned Monument Park within it. Again Monument Park has gone through all of the stages of sight sacralization, and if anything sacralizes former players. As Ali and I walked in through the left field gates, we saw the field- and there was Monument Park, where all the Yankee greats have plaques with the achievements etched in them and their numbers retired- a must see for any fan of the classics. This is the shrine within the shine, and it is unique to Yankee Stadium. Of course, the Yankees have more players to enshrine than any other team, but even still it gives the ballpark a special feel, that ultimately raises the tourist value of the Stadium as a whole. MacCannell writes that “is the putting on display of an object- placement [..] on a pedestal” in this case the plaques are on a pedestal (MacCannell 44). They are behind a fence, which is behind Center Field, they are guarded by security, and most importantly visitors have to get to the game hours early in order to view them up close (I learned this the hard way). In this way Yankee Stadium itself serves as a marker for Monument Park, the sight of desire. And since it is so difficult for one to visit Monument Park, even a regular to Yankee Stadium may not get to see it regularly it creates a sense of urgency to act like a tourist and take photos of it. To look ignorant as one gasps in awe at the feats that are denoted on the plaque of their all time baseball hero, no matter how many times they may have read these statistics in books. To appear gullible as an older fan may tell stories about how Mickey Mantle was the fastest player they had ever seen in their sixty years of watching baseball, a story that is more than likely exaggerated, but after the travels and trials that a traveler has gone through to get to this enshrined area, one cannot help but believe it- if only for a minute, or if only to bring home a unique narrative of their own.
While Monument Park, and Yankee Stadium as a whole, were juxtapositions from my “home” ballpark of Angels’ Stadium, the entire atmosphere of culture was unique from any stadium. Cohen writes that a key component of the tourist is how much they wish to “immerse [it]self in the novelty and change offered by the host society” (Cohen 544). By going to see Monument Park and listening to older Yankee fans tell stories I was seeking the novelty of Yankee Stadium- something that cannot be found at Angels’ Stadium, if only because the Angels have only been a Major League team since 1961 (to put this in perspective Mickey Mantle’s rookie year, as well as Joe DiMaggio’s final year were 1951, a whole 10 years prior). This history is part of the sight sacralization, as Yankee Stadium is framed as the place where so many World Series have happened and so many great baseball players have played, it creates a unique culture of prestige that cannot be found anywhere else in sports (here is the elevation factor coming into play). Furhtermore, I ate a hot dog in order to be a part of the culture, to maintain this experience. This is something absolutely “touristy”- as I would never eat one at Angels’ Stadium (I’m a vegetarian), but to be a Yankee Stadium and have the “stereotypical” meal was something that I could not pass up, or at least I was “ignorant” enough to believe that. I had become the “gullible” stereotypical tourist that Cohen warns of in the beginning of his article as I listened to stories of players past. I had become a camera toting tourist who would take pictures of and with everything- eating that hotdog, Monument Park, Center Field, the seats, the players, all of it.
The question that begs to be asked is why at Yankee Stadium? Why not at Dodgers’ Stadium, which is a mere hour away from Angels’ Stadium? Or why not at the Coliseum in Oakland? Why not Wrigley Field? Why not Camden Yards in Baltimore? In order to go to these places I had fulfilled the same tourist criteria that Cohen lays out. These had all been journeys I had taken that were relatively farther away than Angels’ Stadium, they were voluntary, and fun, even exciting, but I had not become a stereotypical tourist there- I had not eaten hotdogs, I had not listened to stories of players past, I had not spent hours looking at etchings of retired players, and I certainly had not spent the majority of games taking pictures of the ballparks. The pictures I had taken are even posted in a “New York” album on facebook, inherently presented in a touristy way, as I grinned in front of center field where Joe DiMaggio played. The answer seems to be in the fact that Yankee Stadium has been fully sacralized, as MacCannell might put it, while the other stadiums have not undergone these processes to the same extent- sure they all have names, but none has been framed and elevated even as closely as the small Monument Park has- none of the players raised to the same extent either.
Cohen explains that “tourism connotes a change from routine, something different, strange, unusual or novel” and that change in Yankee Stadium is exactly what fans are looking for- and what seems to drive them to acting “stereotypically” towards this sacralized sight (Cohen 532-533). It is an experience they cannot get anywhere else in the league. And it is exactly what Ali and I got on our trip, it was exactly what we had hoped for- a slice of history. We wanted to remember things exactly as they were at that moment in time, which was especially important considering ground had just broken on New Yankee Stadium the day before, because it was unlike anything I could experience anywhere else- people on the East Coast are simply more passionate about baseball and as a result the atmosphere they create and the way they worship their baseball heroes is unlike anything on the West Coast. Ultimately, we simply looked like the stereotypical tourist, but after having gone through the actual tribulations of being real tourists to get to the stadium and being confronted with the sight that we had heard so much about it was nearly impossible not to act like a tourist, to be honest we were acting like excited baseball fans- who had waited 18 years to see a stadium- but perhaps the only reason we had waited so long is because of how Yankee Stadium has been sacralized. Anyway, it is an experience I will always remember fondly, despite how foolish I may have looked to native New Yorkers, though I think now that all people at Yankee Stadium have been tourists on at least one visit there.