NEW YORK -- What started with the Bambino ended with the Giambino.
Until Jason Giambi crushed a home run in the seventh inning Thursday, it appeared all that was left for Yankee Stadium was its funeral.
Now, after New York's 3-2 victory over the Red Sox in Boston's final trip to the ballpark, the Yankees cling to hope, perhaps deluding themselves from the inevitable conclusion that seemingly lies ahead.
"The last time we play the Red Sox in this Yankee Stadium, and the battles we've been through, this should end like this," Giambi said.
His two-run homer was Ruthian, clanging off the front of the black batter's eye in center field and tying the score. The alternately maligned and embraced slugger followed with a winning single in the ninth, preventing Boston from sweeping the three-game series and dropping New York so far back that a recovery would appear impossible, even to the most devoted of the pinstriped faithful.
New York players sprinted from their dugout, a bit more slowly than Usain Bolt's dashes at the Olympics last week, and mobbed Giambi. Perhaps there was a similar scene on April 18, 1923, when Babe Ruth opened the stadium with a three-run, third-inning homer into the right-field bleachers.
Still, chances are there won't be any more October glory in the 85-year-old ballpark, no more of those glorious afternoons when the angled autumn sun created a shadow that crept slowly from the first-base stands and extended into the outfield.
New York is six games back of Boston in the AL wild-card race with 29 to play, and these Yankees have shown no sign of spurting to success.
"It's certainly brutal baseball right now," general manager Brian Cashman said before the game.
So much has gone wrong. Co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner summed it up after Wednesday's loss when he said, "The bottom line is, they s---," using a word more forceful than stink.
He, his family and advisers must put out a winner, especially heading into the $1.3 billion palace the team moves into across the street next year, one with $2,500 front-row seats, martini bars and a cash flow that has the other 29 clubs filled with envy.
"It's very hard to accept," Cashman said. "No one likes to deal with the losing, and we're losing right now, and we feel we're better than this. But at some point you are what your record is until you prove otherwise."
Cashman doesn't blame manager Joe Girardi, in his first year as Joe Torre's successor. Girardi has been perennially optimistic, sounding a bit like Charlie Brown lecturing Linus and Lucy: His daily message to players and the fans is that if today's game isn't a win, surely the one after will be.
Opponents shook in their spikes for much of the past 85 years at the mere mention of the mighty Yankees. Not this year, when months of monotonous mediocrity scared only the frustrated fans, not the curious tourists in the third-base dugout craning their necks for one last look at the old cathedral.
A crowd of 55,092 turned out as New York finished 484-285-4 in the regular season at Yankee Stadium against the Red Sox. (In addition, New York has beaten Boston in six of 10 postseason games in the Bronx.) The fans got a few more chances to boo Alex Rodriguez, who struck out three times and fouled out with runners at the corners in the sixth. He saved his best shots for the bat rack, whacking it about 10 times with his Louisville Slugger following the popout.
"We haven't performed. The bottom line is we're not getting what we need to from everybody, that we expected," Cashman said. "A lot of people deserve better, fans included."
There's no first-place fight for the Yankees this year, and even the wild card-leading Red Sox are chasing -- ain't this still hard to believe! -- Tampa Bay.
So many things have happened when the Red Sox and Yankees met here. Ted Williams made his major league debut on April 20, 1939. Ten years later, the Yankees beat the Red Sox on the final two days of the season, catapulting them to the first of a record five straight World Series titles.
Allie Reynolds no-hit the Red Sox in 1951, and Dave Righetti did the same in 1983. Roger Maris broke Ruth's season home run record with No. 61 off Boston's Tracy Stallard on Oct. 1, 1961, and Boston's Bill Lee separated his shoulder during a brawl on May 20, 1976.
Red Sox manager Grady Little watched as Pedro Martinez blew a 5-2, eighth-inning lead in Game 7 of the 2003 AL championship series, and the Yankees won 6-5 on Aaron Boone's homer in the 11th against Tim Wakefield. A year later, Boston became the first team to overcome a 3-0 postseason series deficit, routing the Yankees 10-3 in Game 7 en route to the first Red Sox World Series title since 1918.
"There's been blowouts. There's been close games we've won, close games we've lost," Boston captain Jason Varitek said. "There's been some heartbreaking moments, and there's been some pretty joyful moments."
Red Sox manager Terry Francona was looking forward to his team's first trip to the new Yankee Stadium early next May. Having played for both teams, Johnny Damon just wanted to savor the moment.
"It was a great way to end it," he said.