HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT

Here's an exclusive peek at the madness inside Yankee Stadium with the Astros in town

Altuve received the most hate by far. Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images.

Yankee fans waited four long years to jeer and boo the cheatin', pennant-stealing, MVP-robbing Houston Astros, and like that famous New York rapper from the 1700s, Alexander Hamilton, they didn't throw away their shot.

"F-Altuve!"

"Cheaters!"

"Houston sucks!"

"Go to Hell, Astros!"

And those were Hallmark cards compared to some of the other comments hurled at the Astros this week at Yankee Stadium. I left my Astros cap back at the hotel, took the 4 train uptown to 161st Street, passed through stadium security, and sat in Sec. 408 of the upper deck.

Yankee Stadium even during the waning days of the pandemic is in full lockdown. Capacity is limited to 25 percent, and fans must present a vaccination card or recent (within 72 hours) negative Covid test to enter. Fans must wear a mask at all times, and the Yankees mean it. Blocked seats are locked in their upright position so fans can't sit in them. Security people roam the stadium the whole game like library shushers, ordering fans to wear their mask correctly, covering their mouth and nose.

Photo by Ken Hoffman.

The whole city takes mask-wearing seriously. Out of habit, I forgot to put my mask on when I finished lunch at Joe's Pizza on Broadway and 40th. As I started walking, I noticed people moving to the side to avoid me. I was like Moses parting the Red Sea. Then I remembered and put my mask on.

Later this month, the New York Covid crackdown will loosen up and the Yankees can increase attendance. Vaccinated fans will be allowed to sit in designated sections without social distancing. Unvaccinated fans will be assigned other sections and made to observe social distancing. All fans still will be required to wear face coverings.

Yankee Stadium soon will be a Covid vaccination mega site. Get your shot, get a free ticket to a Yankee game. Something to consider, Astros management.

The Astros bashing started during pre-game warmups. When Altuve did sprints from the left field line toward center, fans let him have it good. Altuve is one of five Astros convicted of cheating during their World Series run in 2017. You may think you've heard it all, but you've never heard an entire stadium hurling F-bombs at one player for an entire game.

There were only 10,850 fans in the stadium but it sounded like standing and cursing room only. After the game, Astros manager Dusty Baker said, "They (fans) can say whatever they want, it sounded like a packed house tonight. We have to accept it."

Carlos Correa wasn't in such an accepting mood. After Tuesday night's 7-3 loss, he complained, "The Yankees allowed fans to personally attack me and, more importantly, one of the best men on the planet, Jose. New York is classless. MLB needs to step in." Carlos, this is New York, have you met?

In the seventh inning I hopped a few rows behind me to a particularly raucous group of guys and asked, "Why are you picking so much on Altuve? The whole infield was part of the trash can banging team in 2017."

One of them said, and it does make sense, at least to them: "Altuve stole the MVP from Aaron Judge that year. 'F' all of them, but Altuve the most. He never even apologized."

Actually, Altuve sort of did last year, after they were caught and the team was punished. "I want to say the whole Astros organization and the team feels bad about what happened in 2017. We especially feel remorse for the impact on the fans and the game of baseball. And our team is determined to move forward."

I guess that's an apology. For what? Well, something.

Photo by Ken Hoffman.

One fan wore an Astros jersey that had "Trash Can Banger" on the back instead of a name. There was a sign with Altuve's head sticking out of a garbage can like Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street. A sign said "Cheater, Cheater, Pumpkin Eater." Another sign had only a simple, large asterisk on it. Sorry, buddy, the Astros 2017 championship stands.

Photo by Ken Hoffman.

Concession prices at Yankee Stadium make Minute Maid Park look like a 99 Cents Store. If it's Tuesday, it must be Dollar Dog Night, right? Not in The Bronx. I've got a feeling we're not in Houston anymore. I had a hot dog, fries and Diet Pepsi and left the change from a $20. But those Nathan's French fries at Yankee Stadium are incredible.

Although Bregman hit a homer in the first inning Tuesday, his two-out throwing error in the sixth led to three Yankee runs and doomed the Astros. Altuve and Correa, the main objects of fans' bloodlust, both went 0-4. The jeering each time they swung and missed was merciless and laced with profanity. Some of what the fans yelled was physically impossible, even for professional athletes. Outfielder Michael Brantley, who wasn't on Astros in 2017, got into the act when he caught a fly ball for the third out in one inning and feigned throwing the ball into the stands for a souvenir. Instead he carried the ball back into the Astros dugout. "Boo, you d-bag, you suck!" That's called team bonding.

Back at the hotel, I watched the replay on TV. The crowd's colorful commentary came through loud and clear. It was the only baseball broadcast that needed an R-rating for "harsh language, some material may be inappropriate for children." And Astros fans.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
The Texans are moving in the wrong direction. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

1. This team started incredibly slow and outside of a couple of drives in the second half disappointed. The defense got worked by the Chargers' star players, and the offense sputtered too often. It was really a summary of the season up to this point which is to say inconsistency.

2. Davis Mills was shaky early. The first drive interception was tough to stomach. The pocket got messy as he tried to drive the ball and he floated one up there. It gave the Chargers an easy drive for seven points.

3. One of the early offensive mistakes erased a scoring opportunity. Kenyon Green got nailed for a holding call that erased one of the best passes and catches between Brandin Cooks and Davis Mills all season. The rookie’s mistake was compounded the very next play when the offense allowed Mills to be sacked. It was a 40-yard swing that led to a punt.

4. Another third down penalty led to a mishap for the Texans. Laremy Tunsil gets a false start on third down to make it third and 10. The shovel pass to Rex Burkhead goes for six yards and then the Texans botch the field goal. Back-to-back drives and third-down penalties affected the offense and ended with no points. That was all just in the first quarter!

5. The Texans were abysmal with short yardage in key spots yet again. In the second quarter, Pep Hamilton opted for a pass on fourth and one. Davis Mills never got the play off and was sacked. After the game, Mills said the team wanted to catch the Chargers off guard running when most expected a pass, but Rex Burkhead was the running back. It was again a situation, a key and critical moment, that the team trusted Burkhead over the more dynamic Dameon Pierce.

6. The Chargers were very chunky on offense against the Texans. There were 16 plays that went for at least ten yards for the Chargers of their 67 plays. Mike Williams and Austin Ekeler were fantastic for Los Angeles.

7. The pass rush was non-existent for the Texans. This was one of the more disappointing aspects of the day to consider the Chargers were playing a rookie right guard, their center is injured but playing, and the left tackle was a backup left tackle. Nothing seemed to get home on an injured Justin Herbert. The Texans recorded just two quarterback hits in the game.

8. The linebackers got worked again. This is the absolute weakest unit on the team right now. They look like they’re easily exploited by most opposing offenses.

9. It was a rough day for the rookie class of the Texans. Derek Stingley was handled by Mike Williams on multiple occasions in key spots. Kenyon Green allowed a big sack and had a holding penalty erase a huge play. Jalen Pitre was the target of some offensive success in the Chargers' passing game.

10. Not all the rookies had a bad day. Dameon Pierce is so much fun to watch. He has the chance to be a truly impactful player for this team. His 75-yard touchdown scamper gave the team some juice, and he constantly fights and gets extra yards when the ball is headed his way. He finished with 14 carries and six catches for 20 total touches.

11. The Texans need teams to help them stay in games, and even then, it is a challenge. The tough part about where the Texans are through four games is there are some positives to look at and point to, but not enough to say the team is surely headed in the right direction. There surely has to be some adjustment by the team when the season is where it is after nearly a quarter of the year. The current direction isn’t going to lead anywhere positive soon.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome