BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Kristy Mrugala walked up to the Swan St. gate of Sahlen Field Tuesday night knowing she was about to see something special. She possessed the most expensive ticket in stadium history, one that would get her inside to see her beloved New York Yankees play the Toronto Blue Jays.
Her wardrobe was special too.
“I’m actually wearing my grandmother’s Yankees jersey,” Mrugala said. “She’s a huge Yankees fan, or was a huge Yankees fan.”
Her grandmother, Mary Chimera, died a few years ago, Mrugala said.
“She just always talks about the Yankees,” she remembered of her grandmother. “She was always watching the Yankees. She loved Aaron Judge too.”
A lot of Yankee fans do, as evidenced by the group of people who gathered near the club’s dugout looking for an autograph during batting practice. While the Blue Jays are making Sahlen Field their temporary home for part of the 2021 season, make no mistake about it. Buffalo is still a Yankees town.
Brian Frank, a Buffalo baseball historian and founder of Herd Chronicles points out the club was easily accessible on radio and television in Western New York throughout their history. But there’s also something familial about it.
“It definitely is generational,” Frank said. “When you think of just baseball history, you think of the great names that have played for the New York Yankees, from Ruth and Gehrig to Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle, right through the line. I think a lot of fans do root for teams that their parents and their grandparents rooted for.”
That goes for Bill Wilson, who brought his son Nick to Tuesday night’s game.
“We were raised right,” Wilson said with pride. “My dad raised me right with the Yankees.”
“Tomorrow, (Nick) has two exams,” he added as his son shook his head. “But it’s not every day you get to see the boys in the backyard. So here we are.”
The Yankees are in Buffalo for a three game series. While they did play at Sahlen Field in front of an empty stadium in 2020, it’s the first time they’re playing in front of a Buffalo crowd since an exhibition game in 1963, Frank explained. They’re on the Blue Jays schedule again in late September, but nobody knows for sure whether the club will still be using Sahlen Field as their home at that time.
The Yankees ended up winning 6-5 on Tuesday night. There were 7,145 fans inside Sahlen Field. And while Yankees fans dominated the stands, Blue Jays fans were still represented. Michael Lamar, wearing his Toronto gear, had no problem with the dynamic.
“I mean, just have to be a little bit louder,” he said.
Chris Horvatits is an award-winning reporter who started working at WIVB in 2017. A Lancaster native, he came to Buffalo after working at stations in Rochester and Watertown. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.