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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Buy Me Some Peanuts and Cracker-Jack

From the Vault Dept.: In 1983, the Albany A’s, an Oakland affiliate, began playing at Heritage Park in Colonie, NY. Two years later, they became a Yankees franchise and played for nine more years as the Albany-Colonie Yankees. After the last ballclub left the park in 2002, it stood vacant for seven years before being demolished. But the food that was served there in 1987 is an even more distant memory, as my vintage review will remind you.


BASEBALL CUTS TWO WAYS: you play it and stay in shape, or you watch it and get fat. As a spectator sport, baseball is inconceivable without food. The TV set allows you to get up from the couch periodically to stock up; at the park, you budget cash for the concessions.

Heritage Park, Colonie NY
So, with a pair of Mets fans up for the Memorial Day weekend, I took them to Heritage Park to see our own double-A Yanks at work. Christine and Patrick had put in too many innings snug in the boxes at Shea: time to get them, literally, you might say, back to the grass roots.

“Okay,” Patrick declared. “Let’s see how the food stacks up against what we’re used to eating.”

Even before we reached our seats, he made a beer stop and ordered us a round of Miller. “I have to admire your social conscience,” I told him, “passing up the Coors because of their bad attitude towards labor.”

“I don’t know about that,” he answered, “but they sure make a pisswater beer.”

We also grabbed us some king-size hotdogs. First disappointment: no relish at the condiments table. And the mustard is the bright yellow kid’s stuff, so you’re advised to bring your own if you want anything with a little tang to it.

The king-size dogs are First Prize, all-beef. “Some people don’t want to eat anything with pork in it,” a concessionaire explained. They’re almost white enough to be bratwurst, and have a sweet, hearty flavor to them.

We finished them in no time, and the game hadn’t begun before I went back down to the stand for a pizza run. Three slices of cheese-covered Sicilian that met with everyone’s approval. As Christine pointed out, “The pizza they serve at Shea is corrugated cardboard sprayed with plastic.”

Patrick agreed. “This isn’t the greatest pizza I’ve had, but it sure beats Mets pizza.”

The first inning began and the Vermont Reds took an immediate 3-0 lead. Even as the hawkers took to the stands with their wares. Despite our 150-mile distance from New York City, the kid with the tray of beer used the Bronx-accented, “Bee-yuh hee-yuh!” style of delivery. It’s probably authentic in ballparks across the country. And he varied it occasionally with, “Hey, got some brew-skees!”

A great difference between Heritage and Shea, Christine discovered, is that the beer is still cold when it gets to your seat. Unfortunately, she has no taste for the sweetness of Genesee and angrily dribbled it onto the ground below.

Although the Reds put up a fight, the Yanks rallied for a 6-all tie by the fourth inning. During the course of the game, we would see runs scored in every possible manner: walks, wild pitches, dumb errors, and some very good hitting.

The portable hot dogs came by. These are beef-n-pork mixtures, steamed, stuck to the buns, served with little packettes of mustard or ketchup. Filler food. Still, it’s a treat to be served a hot dog from an insulated case. Like Good Humor, only hot.

By the seventh inning, when the teams were into double-digit scores, we had gone through a carton of popcorn (run-of-the-mill, packed in a box with a dusting of butter-flavored powder) and a packet of peanuts (annoying: salted in the shell). But we were about to hit pay dirt.

The Park serves a sausage on a roll that’s terrific. Another First Prize product, packed tight with flavor and a surprisingly spicy bite. It even tastes good with the bland yellow mustard. At two dollars a throw, this is the costliest item on the menu, but well worth it if you plan to make a meal out of the ballgame visit.

The Yanks took a 20-12 lead in the eighth and the first wave of attendees hit the exit. The Reds rallied weakly to pick up an extra run in the top of the ninth, but then it was all over. We went home to start up the barbecue and discovered, to our distress, that my local Price Chopper doesn’t carry those First Prize sausages. So I’m all the more inspired to hit Heritage Park again when the Yanks return from their current series in Pittsfield.

Lunch for three, with beverages, was $27.50. Metroland restaurant reviews are based on one unannounced visit; your experiences may differ.
Concessions at Heritage Park, Albany-Shaker Road, Latham. Serving whenever the Albany-Colonie Yanks are playing a home game.

Metroland Magazine, 28 May 1987

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