Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What I'll remember about Yankee Stadium

Yankee Stadium is gone, and we've heard from many that all that's left of the place is our own memories. Here are mine:

The first time I ever went there was in college, in rather unusual circumstances. A friend of a friend found out he was being laid off one day; an anti-celebration celebration was quickly organized. I was in on the plan early in the afternoon when my friend Brion called.

"Hey," he opened. "What're you doing tonight?"

It was college. I was a poor student. The answer was obvious.

"Nothing," I told him.

"Wanna go see the Yankees?"

What, a bar run? Didn't we get MSG in Bethlehem, or was that just in Lehighton?

"No. Actually going to see them."

Well, OK then.

A few hours later, I was in an old Caravan with several other guys, bound for the Bronx.

We drove over the GW Bridge and down the Major Deegan, took the exit and parked pretty close. We managed to get a group of tickets together behind the first base line and watched now-disgraced Roger Clemens pitch for New York; Kenny Rogers - never much friendly so it's hard to call him disgraced - threw for Texas.

I remember walking through the tunnel and getting my first glimpse of the field; it was overwhelming. Even if you despised the Yankees, it's hard to not be amazed at Yankee Stadium. As I walked in, my mind flashed through all of the players that had played on that field: Gehrig. DiMaggio. Mantle. Larsen. Jackson.

Hell, it's the House that Ruth Built.

All of them played on the patch of field before me. Wow.

The second time I went back, I was with my parents and we saw Milwaukee. I had to think a little bit; interleague didn't begin until I started working (I know, because I covered the Phils' first-ever interleague game against Toronto), and I believe I was still in college when i went to the second game. So Milwaukee would've still been an American League team.

That time was just as special, since it was the one time I visited Monument Park in left field.

They can build it bigger and they can build it better - as the new Yankee Stadium is bound to be - but they can't build history into it.

I saw two inconsequential games, both in an inconsequential part of the season. But I saw them, and I saw the stadium.

I can't wait to tell my grandkids about it. Old Yankee Stadium will sound as ancient to them as Shibe Park did to me.

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