Monday, September 22, 2008

Good night, Yankee Stadium

The hearts and souls of millions
of sports fans live within these walls.

I know I'm spoiled because I am a Yankees fan.

I went to games as a young kid, but didn't really come around to baseball until 1994. My family was on our annual Cape Cod vacation and my Dad was cursing at the evening news. All I really knew was that the Yankees were in first place, the baseball season was maybe going to be canceled by a strike, and that Don Mattingly (my favorite Yankee, of course) was probably going to retire. The strike did in fact wipe out the season and I remember caring. When Mattingly decided to play more one year for Buck Showalter I decided it was time to start paying attention to the games. I became a baseball fan for sure on October 8, 1995 when Edgar Martinez crushed the Yankees with a walkoff 2-run double in the 11th inning of Game 5. I was so devastated by that game. "Wait til next season," I told myself.

And so it's grown from there. I've been to what feels like 100 games, including 7 playoff games, 2 World Series games, 1 Home Run Derby, and the list goes on. My blood runs pinstripe blue and I've tried to uphold the true Yankee fandom as much as possible. I hated Tino Martinez for the first 6 and a half months of the 1996 season for replacing Don Mattingly. (I warmed up to him during the playoffs.) I still dislike Jason Giambi for replacing my Tino. It's weird to me to look on the field and not see Scott Brosius, Paul O'Neill, Bernie Williams...I even miss Chuck Knoblauch. I screamed when the Yankees won their first World Series during my lifetime, and their second; I was there for the third; and I chanted the lineup with the bleacher creatures in 2000.

But I am most thankful to have had the Yankees in 2001. Grasping like so many others for anything that was normal, baseball was such a welcome relief. I'd thought the idea of the ghosts in Yankee Stadium was kind of silly until that year. My hair stood on end during every game even from 2000 miles away in Colorado. And in Game 5, when the entire stadium chanted Paul O'Neill's name I chanted along.

It is those memories that make me sad to see Yankee Stadium go. But times they have changed. The Yankees of late haven't really impressed me much and there are many players on the team now that I am simply tolerant of. The teams since 2001 don't make my spine tingle the way the teams in the 1990s did. It's not the the lack of a World Series title that bothers me; I'm a bit more relaxed than that. It's the players we've brought in lately who just don't quite feel right to me. If a new Yankee Stadium means a fresh start then I say bring it on. I am of the humble opinion that the ghosts of Ruth, Mantle, DiMaggio and the others long ago vacated this stadium for other planes. Watching the pre-game ceremony on Sunday night was fitting closure I thought. And Derek Jeter summed it up well -- time to move over to the new stadium and make some new memories.

The new Yankee Stadium,
soon to be the only one.

Maybe I'd feel more nostalgic if they weren't meticulously breaking down each piece and putting it up for auction or selling it. The sports memoribilia dealers have it wrong -- it's not the pieces of the building that I care about. It's the whole thing, the aura, the feeling you get walking towards your seat or when the crowd roars. Try packaging and selling that. You can't. I've made peace with the stadium coming down (the field, at least as of now, will remain). And if the ghosts ever want to make a return visit to the stadium, they won't have to look very far. On to the new Yankee Stadium, where new legends will be made.

No comments: