Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Stadium 9/24/08

I’m far from Mozart, so I can’t imagine writing a decent requiem. This weekend, anyone and everyone in sports and even in some other fields, seemed to weigh in on the closing of the greatest sports venue in the history of the world, the legendary house that Ruth built, Yankee Stadium. They shared their favorite moments; they waxed poetic about history, about the game. Even reminiscing about events that had little to do with sports, like Nelson Mandela’s speech after he had spent nearly 30 years in a South African prison, three Papal masses, and some great concerts. Everyone spoke of their memorable moments at the stadium, well I have some too.
Yankee fans certainly do deserve a state of the art baseball park, there is do doubt about that. The building of the new stadium did create jobs and stimulate an area that was once a rough place to look at. No one is objecting to the building of a new stadium. So why was the old one so hard to let go of? It could be the fact that there will be fewer seats available for the fan that is not a corporation. Add the fact that ticket prices are increasing in the new ballpark, in some sections by about 400% percent, hardly a reason for the ordinary fan to celebrate.
You know, when someone asks me “how many Yankee games have you been to?” I usually respond with “More than I can remember.” Over the weekend I realized that I have saved every single ticket stub since I was a kid, so I actually can remember. I then pulled out the old shoe box and decided to do that very thing. Well I can tell you one thing; I sure have been to a whole lotta Yankee games. Since everyone and their mother was on TV describing their favorite memories of the stadium, I figured that given how much that place means to me and my childhood, I was entitled to my list as well. Now those of you who know me might skip some of the entries whose story you have heard so many times, but here they are. I was going to do ten, but I decided that my top 5 greatest Yankee Stadium moments can tell the story of what I’m going through just as well. I was also there for Derek Jeter’s 2,000th hit and his only grand slam, but when I was thinking about my favorite moments, I always went back to my child/young adult hood. Maybe that is saying something too. So in order this time, here they are…

5- July 20, 1993. Seattle Mariners. Field Box Sec 22 Row B Seat 5 $16.00. I had never seen a grand slam homerun before, until Mike Stanley, catcher for the Yankees right before they made their World Series runs, hit one in the 3rd inning. The place exploded. People forget the great year he had in 1993. And I remember one of many games I went to with my uncle Domingo. We shared so many memories of that place, I loved going with him and sharing those memories, talking shit about family we didn’t like, but mostly because I was underage and he would buy me beer. Nah…I’m just kidding…

4- August 30, 1992. U2 concert, ZOO TV Tour. Field Sec Floor B Row 10 Seat 26 $30.00. Because I had floor seats, it was the only time I had set foot on the actual field at the stadium. Walking onto the field I realized where so many legends had once stood. I looked up at the stands thinking “Wow this is what Don Mattingly sees everyday. This is where Babe Ruth hit so many homeruns.” I was dizzy. Oh yeah, the show was pretty good too. It was at a time when the technology that we take for granted today was in its infancy as far as availability to the public on a massive scale. The stage was its own broadcast studio and had satellite links to anywhere in the world. Bono even decided to call the White House during the show and ask for George HW Bush, who was president at the time. Hysterical. Remember this is a band that had almost called it quits while writing Actung Baby, the album of this tour. The sessions were going nowhere until someone played the opening chords to the song “One” and while not a personal favorite, that song and this tour ultimately saved the band.

3- April 12,1993, Opening Day. Kansas City Royals. Main Box Sec 9 Row E Seat 6 $16.00. Jim Valvano, coach of the 1983 NCAA Champion North Carolina State Wolfpack was scheduled to throw out the first pitch. At the time he was dying of cancer. Too sick to make it to the game that day, “Who would they get as a replacement?” I wondered. And that’s when I saw him for the first time…He walked out of the dugout into the light of the field as he had done for so many years, a regal air about him. Everyone in the opposing dugout stopped just for a glimpse of him. As he approached the mound, the immortal voice of Yankee Stadium, Bob Sheppard, announced him as “The World’s Greatest Living Ballplayer.” He threw a strike, then waved at the crowd that had been standing and cheering wildly since he came out on to the field. Then in his own dignified way, shaking off the ghosts of the game that had ever so slightly battered his now aging body, moving as if on air, Joe DiMaggio quietly walked off the field and the game began.

2- September 4, 1993. Cleveland Indians. Field Box Sec 22 Row D Seat 8 $16.00. It was such an overcast day. “Let’s just stay for the first few innings. We have been to a lot of games this year anyway, and nothing can top DiMaggio on Opening Day, right?” Wrong. By the 7th inning “I’ll just finish this one last hot dog and we’ll just call it a day and beat the crowd.” As I was wiping the remnants of my Yankeedog I happened to glance at the scoreboard. Sit back down, we are not going anywhere. At that moment, every pitch thrown by Jim Abbott was met with a reaction unique to this place. Every close call that didn’t go his way met with the ire of thousands of rabid fans eager to witness history. In the 9th Kenny Lofton tried to bunt his way on, and was met with a barrage of boos so violent he must have thought himself a convicted murderer. A spiteful reaction well deserved. How do you bunt on a one-armed man when he has a no-hitter in the 9th inning you asshole? A weakly hit ball to short…a no-hitter for Jim Abbott. I never allowed the thought of leaving a game early to enter my head again.

1- October 26, 1996. Game 6, 1996 World Series, Atlanta Braves. Main Reserved Sec M28 Row E Seat 10 $45.00 It had been 18 years since the Yankees had won a World Series. That’s why every single playoff game that year was so full of anticipation. Even when they went down 0-2 in the series, losing the first two games at home, you just knew they were going to make one last stand. The pictures I took of the game look as though it were being played in someone’s bedroom. The stadium looked like it was going to spill over, it was so packed that night. The Braves put future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux on the mound against Jimmy Key. Both pitchers were great. But it was the 3rd inning when Joe Girardi hit a triple that charged the crowd. It was the first time I had ever felt the stadium literally shake. In the 7th Mariano Rivera came in and shut down the Braves for the next 2 innings (he was a great set up man before becoming the greatest closer ever). In the 9th John Wettland came on to close it out. Charlie Hayes had already replaced Wade Boggs at 3rd base, manager Joe Torre remembered the 1986 World Series where a late inning defensive replacement was not made and Bill Buckner... well, you know. It was Hayes who caught the last out, and I don’t remember ever cheering so hard in my life. Of all 4 championships the Yankees won in this era, 1996 was the first one they clinched at home, and I was there. I guess a part of all of us who loved that place always will be…

Total Cost of Tickets: $123.00 Memories: Priceless

1 comment:

  1. Incredible, you should be writing a sports column dude.