I’ve spent all day watching Yankee tributes and coverage of the final game at the greatest sporting venue in America. It’s the present day Coliseum, a cathedral of sporting events. It is the mecca of sports venues, easily the most hallowed ground in sports. Soon, they’ll be knocking down the Stadium itself, but no one will ever be able to bury the memories.
Yankee Stadium is more than simply a baseball field surrounded by 50,000+ fans. It’s a place, that I visited only a handful of times, but I feel as if I’ve grown up there just as much as I have at home. So many memories from my childhood and young adult life involve Yankee Stadium, and the events that transpired within its walls.
As part of the pre-game ceremonies, the Yankees brought out former players and legends. Many of these players mean little more than a history book or a grainy video clip to me. Names like Mickey Mantle, Thurman Munson, Bobby Murcer, Ron Guidry and Whitey Ford are players from my father’s time, not my own. I’ve read about these legendary Yankee greats in books, but I never saw them play in person.
Even though I arrived too late to appreciate these great players in their careers, they too have become a part of my life. I teared up as Bobby Murcer’s family took centerfield, and as Thurman Munson’s son settled in next to Yogi Berra and Elston Howard’s daughter behind home plate. ESPN came back from commercial break with a shot of David Mantle, son of the immortal Mick. He looks so much like his father that I had to remind myself that Mickey passed away over 12 years ago.
These men are a part of millions of Yankee memories, but few of mine. My memories were made with Bernie Williams, Tino Martinez, Paul O’Neill, Scott Brosius and David Cone. One of my all time favorites, Bernie Williams, parted less than pleasantly with the Yankees after the 2006 season and had refused to come back to the Stadium since. He returned tonight for the first time and received the largest ovation of any of the Yankees.
1994 was the year I first began to understand the mystique of the Yankees. I was seven and the Yankees were good. The days of the great Don Mattingly were winding down, and the run that would feature guys like Wade Boggs, Paul O’Neill and Bernie Williams was just beginning. The strike that cut that season short frustrated me at first, but all it really ended up doing was making me that much more excited for the start of the 1995 season.
1995 saw a few certain players make their Yankee debuts. David Cone (who would go on to throw a perfect game for the Yankees) went 9-2 in his first season with the Yankees, Andy Pettitte went 12-9 in his rookie season and John Wetteland came to the Yankees to be their closer. But, three Yankees made their debuts in 1995 that would go on to become three of the most beloved Yankees in the upcoming Yankee dynasty.
SS Derek Jeter
C Jorge Posada
RP Mariano Rivera
Those three would quickly become more than just players on my favorite team, they became my friends. Like countless other young Yankee fans, I wore Jeter’s number 2 all throughout my amateur baseball career. Jeter and the Yankees’ success became my success and I spent countless nights in bed with the AM/FM radio and headphones I used to track the Yankee score. Other players came and went but those three have been constants since the beginnings of my Yankee life.
My most vivid memory came in 1996 on October 26. It was a Saturday night and Game 6 of the World Series extended past my bedtime. But as the ninth inning rolled around with the Yankees up 3-1, dad woke me up to watch the last inning. We sat through three singles and a run before Mark Lemke popped a ball high off towards the stands by the Braves dugout. As Charlie Hayes gloved the ball, dad and I hopped around nearly as excited as Hayes himself.
We did this three of the next four years, and again in 2001. The 2001 World Series was more than baseball. What the Yankees did on their home field lifted New York and New Yorkers up from one of the most tragic days in our country’s history.
As a Yankee fan, players come and go. We fall in love with some and chase others rudely out of town. But the one thing that has always been here is Yankee Stadium. It’s hosted baseball games, meaningless ones, four All-Star Games and Championship games. It’s seen football teams play to scoreless ties, hosted boxing matches and three different popes. Just about every possible event imaginable has occurred at Yankee Stadium.
Saying good bye is always tough, and just because what you’re saying goodbye to isn’t a person, doesn’t make it any easier. Yankee Stadium was the House that became a Home. Not just for Yankee players and fans that attended games there, but for any Yankee fan that grew up with the Stadium. The Yankees may very well miss the playoffs in the final season of a Stadium that is more accustomed to playoff games than any other.
It was a House that became my home, a team that became my family and a game that became my life. And as Yankee Stadium began to close, I cried.
1923 – 1927 – 1928 – 1932 – 1936 – 1937 – 1938 – 1939 – 1941 – 1943 – 1947 – 1949 – 1950 – 1951 – 1952 – 1953 – 1956 – 1958 – 1961 – 1962 – 1977 – 1978 – 1996 – 1998 – 1999 – 2000
85 YEARS .. 26 CHAMPIONSHIPS .. COUNTLESS MEMORIES .. ONE STADIUM .. NEW YORK
Posted on September 22, 2008, in Sports and tagged bernie williams, derek jeter, jorge posada, mariano rivera, Paul O'Neill, tino martinez, yankee stadium, yankees. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.