Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Binghamton I

It was a rare day off, and an even more rare dry day yesterday. I don't get to New York's southern tier as much as I once did, and as much as I would like. I pointed the car north to brave the horrendous Interstate 81 construction and went to Binghamton.

My first stop was NYSEG Stadium, formerly Binghamton Municipal Stadium. The above photo is the big wall behind home plate. The photo below is the concourse behind the wall.

Below is the view down the first base line. This isn't the most charming ball park, but it gets the job done. 6,000 seats-- and that's adequate for a AA team.

A little history: the stadium opened in April 1992, and it was designed by a Clarks Summit, Lackawanna County firm. I was with WYOU at the time. The boss reasoned, correctly, that we should go to opening day. In addition to the Lackawanna County connection, we were sure the Binghamton Mets would attract fans from Susquehanna County, PA, and that's part of our coverage area.

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. A photographer, satellite truck operator and I were enlisted to help a sports crew from the CBS station in Rochester. At the time, the home of the Rochester Red Wings was getting old. Rochester wanted a new stadium, with state help, like Binghamton. Mario Cuomo was governor at the time. We were in the plaza when Cuomo arrived. Apparently, sports people aren't used to chasing politicians. Cuomo was getting away from the Rochester people. I grabbed the microphone from the Rochester guy and made a leap toward the governor. Luckily, I didn't get shot by security and I did get a chance to ask a couple questions. The big one was what Rochester had to do to get a stadium like Binghamton. Cuomo said something like the people and governments of that part of the state had to make a proposal for state help in a unified, organized voice, like the people of the southern tier did. The guy from the Rochester CBS station was thankful I helped him get the sound bite he needed. I have my exchange with Cuomo on tape somewhere around the house. Getting Cuomo would be the last good thing to happen to me that day.

It poured, and the game was rained out. I did two pieces from Binghamton-- a long story for the 5:30 PM news, and a shorter version for the 6:00 PM edition. I hope I'm not too "inside baseball" here. Pardon the pun. Television live shots are sort of an illusion. Something called the "insert" is usually pre recorded and sent back to the station in advance. The live shot is merely a matter of wrapping around the taped piece. As Curly the Stooge would say "simple work for simple people." It's really not that hard. Most of the time.

An intern back at the office in downtown Scranton was curious as to what was going on in Binghamton. She looked at the taped inserts already fed back to the station from the satellite truck in Binghamton. There was one problem. She left the tape cued up to the wrong position. No one caught it. I introduced the taped piece, and what I expected to be there, wasn't. Silence. The producer and director came back to me live in Binghamton, on camera. Usually, I can ad lib my way out of a bad situation. On this day, at that moment, my guardian angel must have been in line, getting a hot dog at the concession stand. I stuttered and stammered my way through the rest of the piece. It was awful. I often look at the tape of the broadcast later on, and normally the live shot isn't as bad as it feels at the time. It just wasn't in me to take a look when I returned to the newsroom that night.

Yes, the intern admitted to what she did, and she apologized to me. I don't know what ever became of her.

Fast forward 17 years, and yesterday's trip. The success of my expeditions is usually due to the kindness of others. Below is the home plate high shot, and after the photo, I'll explain how I got it.

Of course, the stadium is locked up at 8:30 in the morning. I walked around, and found one, tiny open gate on the first base line. I walked in. The worst they could do is throw me out. I found a guy moving cases of beer with a hand truck. I asked him if he worked there. When the answer was "yes," I asked permission to have a few minutes to take pictures. He said I could take my time. One restriction-- no walking on the field. I was more than okay with that. I doubt you're reading this, but if you are, thank you.

17 years ago, there were predictions the new stadium would improve the neighborhood. It's in a very industrial part of the city. Sorry. No problems with Henry St. today, but it looks the same, to me, as it did in 1992. NYSEG Stadium is just a few blocks from downtown's core. I'm sure the bars and restaurants there get a nice little boost on game nights.

The stadium is a lot of concrete block, but it's nice and it gets the job done. At 17 years old, it still looks pretty good-- and there's a bonus. You can watch freight trains go by, just beyond the outfield fence.