A state Assembly committee is making a determined effort to get the records of the New York Yankees. And there'll be a showdown in court in Albany next Tuesday.
The Yankee organization has resisted subpoenas calling for those records to be produced and a judge has ordered that the Yankees turn them over. But state legislators say the Yanks have stalled and now they'll have to explain that to a judge.
The documents should shed some light on the darkest corners of the Yankees' stadium deal, explaining the origins of the new schedule of ticket prices, the tax assessment that has benefited the team and the luxury suite for City Hall purchased with money provided by the tax payers through bonds.
Among the questions the lawmakers want answers to are: Did the Yankees tell City Hall how much they would charge for tickets? How did they manage to get reductions in their tax assessment?
The court showdown is part of the turbulent recent history of the Yankees under an ownership and management that critics say ignores the history and tradition that have endeared the Yankees to generations of New Yorkers.
In the epic movie that has become part of American folklore, "The Pride of the Yankees," Lou Gehrig's last words to his fans are spoken by Gary Cooper. As the fans cheer -- many with tears in their eyes -- Gehrig, dying of an incurable disease, tells them: ''I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.''
As a kid growing up in the Bronx, I remember how we worshiped this man and other Yankees. What a legacy he left and how it has been despoiled!
The latest episode in what could be called ''The Disgrace of the Yankees,'' is the news that ticket prices have been ''reduced'' because there are too many visible empty seats in the stadium.
It could be considered good news for billionaires or multi-millionaires.
But it is hardly good news for the fans who paid for the new Yankee Stadium as taxpayers---and can't afford to go there because, even with the so-called reductions, the prices are prohibitively expensive.
The ticket prices have been cut drastically because the seats aren't being sold. Some of the $2,500-a-game tickets will now be sold at the bargain price of $1,250 each, a bargain worthy of the spirit of Filene's Basement!
P.T. Barnum, whose saying ''There's a Sucker Born Every Minute'' left its mark in New York and other places, had nothing on the Yankee executives.
And it is hard to understand how a mayor running for re-election could authorize this kind of plunder. The working class or middle class guy who wants to take his family to the ball park to enjoy the national pastime simply can't afford these prices. Yet City Hall authorized the floating of bonds that helped make construction of this stadium possible.
It may take a team of high-paid lawyers to decipher all the language in the agreements between the Yankees and the city. But, basically, the taxpayer is getting rooked. That the average guy, the average fan, can understand. If he doesn't fully understand it yet, he or she will. The mayor and his buddies sometimes seem to inhabit a different world, where deals like this are not considered so strange.
According to a report issued by Assemblyman Richard Brodsky's committee last fall, the mayor and his aides decided to use the proceeds of bonds to buy a luxury suite to be used by city officials at the new Yankee Stadium. According to Brodsky's report, the city failed to justify the purchase of this suite or why City Hall failed to disclose these shenanigans.
Ultimately, it's the taxpayer or the baseball fan who has to foot the bill for all of this. The Brodsky committee's interim report states: ''It is unlikely that average middle class New Yorkers, whose tax payments subsidize the new stadium, can afford regular access to most seats.''
That's the heart of the matter.
How can a project that was supposed to benefit the public actually deny people what should belong to them? When I was a kid, we played in Macombs Dam Park, which the Yankees took over to build their new stadium. Yankee and city officials have been sluggish in their actions to replace park land, as promised, in constructing the new stadium. We wonder whether any of the current generation of kids who lost their park when the Yankees steam-rolled their neighborhood will be asked to bear witness before a legislative committee as to what happened.
It might be illuminating -- for the Yankees and Yankee fans.