NEW YORK – For the second consecutive playoff game, swaths of empty seats filled Yankee Stadium, entire rows without a single fan. And on Saturday night, instead of letting them sit embarrassingly open for Game 1 of the ALCS, ushers were told to fill them with fans from other sections.
"We were up there," said Bill Brady, 46, of Roxbury, N.J., pointing from his new seat in Section 334 to the top of 434b. "Way up there."
Brady was one of dozens of fans ferried by ushers in the bottom of the fourth inning to Section 334 down the left-field line, which just an inning earlier had nine people sitting among more than 100 unfilled seats. One usher, who asked not to be identified, said he was told by a superior to start sending fans to the higher-priced seats.
"I don't know what it's about," the usher said. "I guess they want to make it look better on TV."
While some Yankees fans mobilized on Twitter and other social networks to rationalize the second consecutive non-sellout, fans in Section 334 were miffed and disappointed that a metropolitan area of 22 million couldn't sell out a stadium with a capacity short of 51,000. The announced attendance was 47,122.
Empty seats during playoff games are the domain of Atlanta – and even the Braves sold out their wild-card game this year. To see Yankee Stadium with giant blue patches not only down the left-field line but in Section 207 in right field was stunning and inconceivable for a game played at the old Yankee Stadium, which was shuttered in 2008.
"At the old stadium, a playoff game, Saturday night, it was electric. It was a zoo," said Charles Weimer, 33, of Staten Island, who was sitting in the sixth row of 334. "There were guys in jersey-shirts, drinking $8 beers. They're gone, and I don't know if they're going to come back. Your $10 tickets are $50 tickets now."
Indeed, the face-value ticket prices are exorbitant. Seats for Sunday's Game 2 against the Detroit Tigers are available on the Yankees' website for between $113 and $688. The Legends Seats – behind home plate and the surrounding areas – range from $860 to $1,715. A spokesman for Major League Baseball said the league offers a variety of potential ticket prices to each team, which then chooses its desired pricing for its LCS home games.
For the discerning consumer, on the other hand, there are bargains to be found. On StubHub at 10:30 p.m. ET, more than 8,000 tickets were available – nearly 250 for less than $40.
One of the original denizens of 334, 51-year-old Irene Gallante, of Poughkeepsie, bought a pair of tickets off StubHub for $128. Her sentiment echoed that of Don Young, 47, the only person sitting in the 29-seat back row of Section 333: Nobody knew the Yankees were even going to be in the ALCS until late Friday, when they beat the Baltimore Orioles in Game 5 of the division series.
"I thought it was just too last-minute," Gallante said.
There is some merit to that, and to the idea of Saturday-night plans, annoying traffic, problematic parking, crowded trains, a bad economy and even getting so spoiled by success that even ALCS games no longer hold the cachet they once did.
Still, these are the Yankees. Winners of 27 championships. Purveyors of the most popular brand in American sports. Architects of a $1.5 billion stadium that was supposed to be the diamond of baseball diamonds.
On Saturday, it was cubic zirconia, the team resorting to desperate measures to fill seats.
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"I don't understand," Brady said. "I figure at the drop of a hat Yankee fans would show up."
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