Saturday, September 20, 2008

Yankee Stadium

Way back when, when we played sandlot baseball, every one of us imagined ourselves playing in Yankee Stadium with Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio. But, alas, none of us ever made it to Yankee Stadium. Not even to watch a game.

As much as I love baseball, I guess I’m not that good of a fan after all. I wanted to go this year, but being out of work/money since February kept me from going. (I shoulda gone anyway.) If I ever make a list of regrets, missing out on Yankee Stadium will be on it.

Well, this weekend is Yankee Stadium’s last. Yes, you heard right. They’re going to tear down Yankee Stadium. No more baseball in Yankee Stadium. Yes, you heard right.

(Of course, they’ve already built another stadium across the street, and the New York Yankees will play there next year, but still...)

Some of the most interesting events in American history have taken place there. Three Popes have held Catholic Mass there, Billy Graham preached there and Billy Joel, U2 and Pink Floyd performed there (not all at once). World-class boxers boxed each other’s ears there. That wounded US flag, ripped to shreds on 9/11, has flown there. Politicians of every stripe have tossed out the first pitch there. South African Nelson Mandela was honored there. And the “Greatest Game Ever Played” was played there—a football game, of all things, between the NY Giants and the Baltimore Colts. And “The Greatest College Game Ever Played” between Notre Dame and Army ended in a 0 – 0 tie and a shared national championship. Football again. It’s quite a place. I guess.

Yankee Stadium, built for baseball, opened April 18, 1923. Babe Ruth promptly smacked its first home run. A few years later, he smacked 60 homers in one year, the last in Yankee Stadium. Babe Ruth is still the stadium’s greatest hero. When he died, he lay in state at Yankee Stadium’s front gate.

Don Larsen pitched the only World Series perfect game in Yankee Stadium. (I was in the 7th Grade.) David Cones and David Wells each pitched perfect games there in the regular season.

David Cone’s perfect game is beautifully thrilling because…
“he was simply perfect on a day when perfection was in attendance. The original battery of the 1956 World Series Perfect Game was on hand because it was Yogi Berra Day at Yankee Stadium. Pitcher Don Larsen was there to throw out the First Pitch and then Cone provided the fireworks for Berra, Larsen and Yankees fans.”—from the Baseball Almanac (no author),

You can’t make this stuff up. It’s all part of the magic of Yankee Stadium.

Homers: They’ll talk about Yankee Stadium homers in Baseball Heaven till the stars burn out. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Reggie Jackson, Don Mattingly, Alex Rodriquez are some of the big stars here, but there are many batters whose individual homers created exciting moments and memories for Yankee fans everywhere.

But then, how can you name Yankee names without saying Yogi Berra, Billy Martin, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Phil Rizzuto, Joe Torre, Whitey Ford, Scott Brosius, Thurman Munson, Greg Nettles, Jorge Posada, Lefty Gomez, Paul O'Neill, Casey Stengel… There are 39 Yankees in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Several more are waiting to enter. We’ll be talking about these men for a long, long time.

And for years to come, we’ll talk about Yankee Stadium. Period. Of all the All-American places that should be designated a historical site, it’s Yankee Stadium. Or at least put its picture on a postage stamp.

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