No matter where you go out to a ball game, you’ll get the crack of the bat, the roar of the crowd and the smell of freshly cut grass (exception: artificial turf fields). But only in New York City will you get these other nine things. Take that, Chicago.
1. We have four teams.
The National League’s Mets, the American League’s Yankees and two minor league teams—the Brooklyn Cyclones and Staten Island Yankees, both in the New York–Penn League—all play within city limits. No other American city has as many teams, because we’re the best and always have been.
2. The pitcher hits here. Sometimes.
No disrespect to the Yankees (as their fans will remind you unbidden, they do have 27 World Series championships), but there’s only one ballpark in New York City where you can experience the joy of seeing a pitcher at the plate, and it’s in Queens. (A moment of silence for Bartolo Colon’s departure to Atlanta—but at least he’ll be in Queens as a visiting player, bringing joy to the masses with his memorable at-bats).
3. Our fans are part of the show.
The Yankees’ vocal, sometimes profane Bleacher Creatures—known for their “roll call,” in which they chant players' names until they’re acknowledged—have in recent years been joined by the Mets’ own color-coordinated 7 Line Army. Both bands of merry loyalists give NYC’s big-league parks the kind of intensity you might more readily associate with college basketball or European soccer.
4. Our players are larger than life.
5. We’ve got every kind of stadium you could want.
The new Yankee Stadium echoes the House That Ruth Built, and its on-site museum has memorabilia related to scores of Yankee greats. Citi Field’s homey design tips its cap to Ebbets Field—former home of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Plus, there’s Shake Shack. MCU Park, the Coney Island home of the Brooklyn Cyclones, has neon lights in keeping with its neighborhood’s carnival atmosphere—and you can smell the ocean and see the roller coasters beyond the outfield wall. And Richmond County Bank Ballpark, home of the Staten Island Yankees, has a panoramic view of New York Harbor over its outfield wall.
6. We have a scouting wall of fame…
It's true. At Richmond County Bank Ballpark, there’s a tribute to the folks behind the scenes who spot talent. We’ve also got team halls of fame at Citi Field and Yankee Stadium—plus Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park, with plaques honoring the team's greatest players (including the likes of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Reggie Jackson).
7. …and the Stickball Hall of Fame.
The Stickball Hall of Fame honors the baseball-like game that a generation of young New Yorkers grew up playing on the street. Eight former New York Yankees are members of the Stickball Hall of Fame—Phil Rizzuto, Willie Randolph and Joe Torre among them. And as the Stickball Hall’s management will be quick to tell you, the game—which requires just a broomstick, a rubber ball and some imagination—lives on to this day. The Hall’s East Harlem location is open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
8. We’re the most important city for baseball history.
Baseball came into its own in the New York City area during the 19th century. A key early game took place in nearby Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1846, and local teams like the Knickerbockers and Gothams were influential in baseball's development. Babe Ruth’s Yankees greatly increased the popularity of the game, the Shot Heard ’Round the World may have been the sport's greatest broadcast moment, Jackie Robinson and the Dodgers integrated baseball, and the Mets of the 1960s—with their creative fans—helped bring the pastime into the modern age. This year marks the 70th anniversary of Robinson’s breaking the color barrier, and the Brooklyn Historical Society is marking the occasion with a new exhibition. There are also still fragments of old ballparks, including a staircase from the Polo Grounds (former home of the New York Giants) and a wall from Washington Park (the version that hosted the Brooklyn Tip-Tops; the pre–Ebbets Field Brooklyn Dodgers played where the Old Stone House stands today, in a stadium also called Washington Park). Sometimes, on Governors Island, you can even spot guys playing baseball by old-time rules.
9. You get to ride in with the rest of the fans.
New York is not alone in being a public transit city, but more people ride our subway than any other system in America. When you travel to Citi Field or Yankee Stadium that way, you'll be surrounded by people in team gear who are psyched and ready to talk baseball with you. And on the way back, you'll have company with which to celebrate a win or commiserate after a loss. What a game! What a town!