Sunday, September 21, 2008

My Farewell to the Stadium

In the grand scheme of Yankee history I am a fairly young fan. I missed the glory days of the 1950s, the rejuvenation of the late '70s and the dark days of the late '80s and early '90s. I was fortunate enough to begin paying attention to baseball when the Joe Torre Dynasty began.

My first game was in '96. It was rained out before I even got a chance to get into the stadium and see the grass. I had to wait until the end of the summer in order to get to my first game which I can't even remember to well.

What I do remember from that season is staying up late to watch the Yankees win their first title in 18 years. Watching Charlie Hayes make that catch and seeing Wade Boggs ride around the stadium on a police horse are two things about the stadium I'll never forget.

But as for actual memories of games at the stadium, I have few remarkable ones. I suppose the best one I have comes from only a few years ago.

It was June of 2006 and the Yankees were still in a race for first with the Red Sox. Every game I had attended that year had ended in defeat for the Yankees and it seemed my timing was way off. But this time I finally saw something special.

I was way up in the upper deck in right field with a group of friends. It was Chien-Ming Wang vs. David Pauley, some unknown rookie which usually spells doom for the Yanks, and It started out poorly as David Ortiz hit a ball half way up the upper deck, just a few rows in front of us.

But Bernie Williams was still around and use what little magic he had left to tie the game at one two innings later.

The Yankees took the lead late in the game after Pauley misplayed a Miguel Cairo grounder into a base hit. Then Johnny Damon singled him to second before Melky Cabrera walked. Rudy Seanez came in and walked Jason Giambi to give the Yanks a 2-1 lead.

The next inning in came Krazy Kyle Farnsworth. Immediately I thought we were screwed. We had come all this way and the Yanks had finally taken the lead only to see Joe Torre bring in Farnsworth to face the heart of the Sox line up and blow the game.

But Farnsworth surprised us by getting Mark Loretta on a fly ball and then striking out David Ortiz. Then up stepped Manny Ramirez who hit .556 against the Yankees that season.

There was only one logical conclusion to this match up.

And with a 1-0 count Manny drilled a ball to left-center field. From our seats we were perfectly lined up to watch Melky drift back to the wall. It looked like there was no chance the ball would stay in the park.

But then Melky leaped and pulled the ball from the air. No sat down after that play. The stadium was shaking with jubilation as Melky reached the dugout and we remained on our feet until he came out for a curtain call.

It was the first time I had ever seen the stadium give a curtain call for defense. That was one of my most exciting memories about Yankee Stadium.

Today I do feel some remorse at having to watch the stadium fade into the annals of history, but the reality is that this is not the stadium of Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle. That stadium died with the renovations of the '70s.

Yankee Stadium did. The new Yankee Stadium will have legends that grace it from the beginning, much as the original. Hopefully it will begin creating its own ghosts like the first stadium did.

I will miss Yankee Stadium but, aside from the prices, I am looking forward to the future.


Dan said...

Perhaps the baseball gods had the Yankees miss the playoffs for a reason. With most post-season races all but decided, this gave the Yankees a chance to be center stage during their last game. With the completion of last night's game, we know it's the very last game at the stadium, and everyone could focus and take it in. If they were playing in October, one would never know which game was the last. In this situation, the Stadium could get a proper send off.

Peter said...

Well Dan, I'll let myself be a little dilusional and believe that.

Dan said...

Glad I could help.