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Moonlighting As The Hat-Check Girl At Yankee Stadium

By Mary Anne Reardon

Growing up in Indiana I somehow became an avid fan of the New York Yankees. Upon graduation from college my immediate goal was to become a working girl in New York. By mid-June I had stashed everything I thought I couldn’t live without into an overseas trunk and boarded a train eastward. The previous summer I had gone to summer school at Fordham University, so I already had arranged a place to live – convenient to Yankee Stadium, of course.
By pure luck I was hired by the New York Life Insurance Co. There I got to know a woman whose husband was an usher at Yankee Stadium. Better yet – he worked in the mezzanine box seats section located behind the Yankee broadcasters, Mel Allen and Phil Rizzuto. In those days ushers not only showed season ticket holders to their seats – they cleaned them as well. My friend told her husband about the Hoosier Yankee fan who attended all the home games. At every game there were always a few season ticket holders whose seats were not used and I was told that they would be happy to let me use one of these choice seats.
Mel Allen, the renowned Yankee broadcaster, had a secretary, Tilly. By the 5th inning she had finished her work and came out to see the rest of the game. I was introduced to her and she invited me to join her in the Yankee box which hung down from the mezzanine at 3rd base. From this excellent vantage point one got a whole new perspective on the game. As a result of this remarkable string of fortuitous circumstances I enjoyed a fantastic summer.
Come September it was time for the World Series. Play-off games didn’t begin until 1969. This year the Yankees would be playing the Pittsburgh Pirates. Tilly introduced me to Mel Allen who graciously gave me a pair of tickets for each game. I could hardly believe my good luck. The seats were excellent - in the lower deck between home plate and 3rd base.

The 1960 World Series at Yankee Stadium. The bottom arrow points to the seats given to me by Mel Allen. The top arrow points to the Yankee box where I watched many games with Mel’s secretary, Tilly.

I will never forget the excitement of this World Series, heightened by sitting so close to the action. Unfortunately the Pirates won the Series, 4 games to 3.
The Yankees had a Stadium Club for season ticket holders. At that time there there were still venerable fans who came to the game in somewhat formal wear including hats – something now long in the past. Back then day games and Sunday double headers were the norm. Many season ticket holders would have lunch in the Stadium Club before the game.
On Opening Day of the next season the girl who checked hats in the Stadium Club was ill and I was asked to take her place. It sounded easy enough – take someone’s hat and give them a claim check. So I agreed to do it. Opening day brought the season ticket holders to the Club in force – most with hats to check. Quickly I found out that the job wasn’t as simple as it had seemed. Overwhelmed by the number of hats to be checked, I tried not to look at the growing crowd, all of whom probably wondered why I was so slow.
The really serious problem began when it was almost time for the game to begin and everyone seemed to want their hats at once. Trying to match several claim checks at a time with hats on three walls completely defeated me. The frustrated owners of the hats kept trying to point them out. Finally losing patience, a few of them burst into the room and did my job for me. I was quite surprised and rather embarrassed when, after retrieving their own hats, they left a tip. When the majority of the hats had been claimed I regained control of the situation and hoped that those in charge of the Club were too busy to notice the fiasco I had created.
Apparently no one complained. During the following months I was asked to fill in a few more times – luckily on days when far fewer season ticket holders came to the Club. Although never proficient, I managed to do the job with a reasonable degree of efficiency.
After going to most home games over the greater part of two seasons, the initial excitement wore off. New York offered so many exciting things to do that I soon found myself discovering places I would rather go. The area of the Bronx where I lived was deteriorating so I decided to move to Queens where a World’s Fair was held in 1962. Access to Yankee Stadium was not so easy from there and I went to few games. By 1964 I tired of living in New York and moved to Washington D.C.
This year, when the Yankees are playing Baltimore in the post season, I find myself rooting for Baltimore. I suppose I should have labeled myself a rather fickle avid fan.