Yankee Stadium, which opened in 1923, will host its final game tonight. So, for the moment, I am going to forget that there will be no Yankee post-season this year, which, in itself, is difficult to believe. The last time the Yanks missed the playoffs, well, kids entering college this September, were then entering kindergarten! Anyway, it's just going to feel different watching the Yanks play in a new ballpark, and I am still in denial that the famed "House that Ruth Built," an icon of a stadium, will be destroyed.
I've been to Yankee Stadium several times. In fact, my very first ball game was at the Stadium in 1986 or so, when as a young kid I dreamed of one day becoming the next Willie Randolph or Don Mattingly. I remember distinctly hanging out at the players' entrance, getting a number of autographs (e.g. Mike Pagliarulo, Dave Righetti, etc), then walking to my seat. . .I exited the tunnel near the right-field foul pole and was just awestruck. My buddy, Chris Wilson, and I made a sign on the back of large piece of wallpaper that read "Don Mattingly Rules," while my sister made a sign for Don Slaughter. . .yes, Don Slaughter. I remember seeing Dave Winfield just a few yards away, and though I do not remember who the Yanks played, or even if they won, I will never forget driving home. . .my parents up front, and the four kids in the back, when immediately behind us on the freeway came a little red sports car, driven, get this, by none other than Don Mattingly! We could hardly believe it. . .We waved and yelled, he smiled, waved back, then passed on by. . .
My last visit to the stadium came in 2000. . .Roger Clemens pitched, and the Yanks beat the Tigers in a slugfest. David Justice hit a homer, and Jorge Posada slapped two. I regret that I haven't been up there since, nor will I ever again have the opportunity. Still, I watched while in college and graduate school as the Yanks went on their fabled run. . .There were games and moments I will never forget, Tino Martinez and Scott Brosius going yard on back-to-back nights against the Diamondbacks during Games 4 & 5 of the 2001 World Series; Aaron Boone launching the homerun in the 11th Inning against Tim Wakefield and the BoSox in 2003; and, far and away, the most memorable Yankee Stadium moment, at least as far as I am concerned, Game 5 of the 2001 World Series. . .Paul O'Neill's last game; the crowd chanting "PAUL O'NEILL," over and over again, until O'Neill himself could hardly hold back the tears.
In my book, that was one of the Yankees' best all-around teams: O'Neill, Bernie Williams, Jeter, Mariano, Posada, Pettitte, Tino Martinez, Brosius, Chuck Knoblauch. . . I sure hope the GM could bring together another such team (soon), where everything just seems to click.
So, as I prepare now to watch, for the final time, a game at Yankee Stadium, I just wanted to say thank you and goodbye. . .Thanks for all the great moments; you will be missed.
Oh, and in case GM Brian Cashman is reading this post, I am ready to again don the Pinstripes. Like when I did several years ago and hit the clutch, pinch-hit homerun to take the lead over Boston in the ALCS. . .Don't believe me?
Well, just look at the picture below. . .