Monday, September 22, 2008
A Yankee fan bids farewell to the old ballpark
By Kieran Darcy Page 2
BRONX, N.Y. -- I bought the tickets seven months ago. Just in case.
When single-game tickets went on sale Feb. 29, I figured I should grab a couple for the last regular-season series at Yankee Stadium -- as an insurance policy. Tickets for Saturday and Sunday were sold out immediately, but I was able to snag two seats for Friday night's game against the Orioles.
I still can't believe it ended up being my final trip to The House That Ruth Built.
I must confess, I don't remember the date of my first trip to the stadium. All I know is I went with my dad -- probably when I was about 5 years old, in 1983. I've been there in good times (Old-Timers' Day was a favorite) and in bad (Game 7, 2004 American League Championship Series, 'nuff said). But I've never spent a night there quite like Sept. 19, 2008.
From the upper deck in right at the old Yankee Stadium, you had a good view of the Yanks' new home.
I took my good buddy Dave with me. Figured it was only fitting, since he's the next-biggest Yankees fan I know. When we arrived, we immediately headed toward Monument Park, but the line was incredibly long -- in fact, by the time we got there, they weren't allowing any more people to get in line. So we headed upstairs to our seats in the upper deck to watch batting practice.
I hadn't gotten to the stadium early enough to watch BP in years. It was a gorgeous early evening, with the setting sun blinding us on its way down. And as the Orioles took turns smashing balls all over the park, I gazed at the entire stadium, from left to right, my eyes lingering on sections I recalled sitting in, my mind lingering in the corresponding memories. I paused at the area down the left-field line where Dave and I sat and watched the Boston Red Sox break our hearts back on Oct. 20, 2004. And closer to third base, where my friend Bill and I sat and saw the Florida Marlins dance all over the pitching mound on Oct. 25, 2003.
Yep, those were the last two playoff games I attended at Yankee Stadium. Pretty sad, eh?
From our seats Friday night, 12 rows from the top in right field, we had the best view in the house of the Yankees' new home across the street. And yes, it looked beautiful. But when my eyes reverted back to the building I was sitting in -- well, all I can says is, I think this place is going to be tough to beat.
Sure, the corridors are small, and the concessions stink, and the lines for the bathroom can be unbearable. So what? The score is 161-0 as far as I'm concerned -- 161 postseason games played in the old Yankee Stadium, 0 in the new one.
And do ghosts know how to cross the street?
As the time for the first pitch approached, the sun went down, and with the wind blowing there was an October-like chill in the air. That made it even harder to accept that we were about to watch a "meaningless" game in September. But I tried to enjoy and appreciate one last time all the things that made a game at Yankee Stadium special, like the Bleacher Creatures' roll call. And I tried to forget that Carl Pavano was the pitcher on the mound.
And no offense to Jim Hall, but I kept thinking, "If only Bob Sheppard was feeling well enough to man the microphone." I hope and pray the "voice of God" sticks around long enough to make it to the new park.
The only electricity in the early innings came from all the flashbulbs popping all around the stadium. I feared there would be no real juice in the place the entire night. But by the grace of God, or Lou Gehrig, the stadium gradually became energized. Robbie Cano smacked a homer to right in the third inning, and Brett Gardner made a spectacular catch in dead center in the fourth. Next thing I knew, it was the eighth inning, with the Yankees clinging to a 3-2 lead and Joba Chamberlain on the mound.
Joba mowed down the Orioles in the eighth, striking out the side. And as the "Let's go Yankees!" chants erupted, even though this grand old ballpark clearly still had a pulse, I couldn't help but think to the future -- to a new team, in a new stadium.
I felt a little guilty about that.
The best part of the night was getting to hear "Enter Sandman" one more time in the ninth. Mariano Rivera is my second-favorite Yankee (after Don Mattingly). In fact, I had chosen to wear my Rivera T-shirt for this occasion and was delighted to see him get the opportunity to come in and close the game.
Things got a little dicey in the ninth. Despite a great play by Derek Jeter -- getting Adam Jones out with yet another one of his patented jump throws -- the Orioles had runners on the corners with two outs. I wondered whether the baseball gods could really be so cruel.
But Rivera induced Brian Roberts to pop up to the catcher, and we cheered like the Yankees had just clinched a playoff spot. Almost.
Two old friends posing for one final picture at Yankee Stadium.
As Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" began pouring out of the stadium's speakers, Dave and I sat back down to soak in a few more moments, ingrain a few final memories. We were far from the only ones -- it was a slow-moving departure. I think I could have sat there forever. But after three renditions of Frank's ode to the Big Apple, it felt like time to go. So I stood up, took one last long look and headed for the exits, with a few tears welling in my eyes.
As we walked down the exit ramps, my thoughts turned to my father, wondering what he would have thought about Yankee Stadium's closing if he were still alive. He practically grew up there, living just a few blocks away, and attended hundreds of games over the years. He was there for arguably the stadium's greatest moment: Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series.
I think my dad would have had a hard time with this. But he would have moved on, cherishing the memories he had.
So that's what I'll do. I'll cherish the good times and the bad.
Including the night I held Yankee Stadium's hand and said goodbye.
Kieran Darcy is an editor for Page 2. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.