I feel like I just watched a piece of my childhood die. The last game (most likely) in Yankee Stadium. Growing up, the Yankees were among the worst teams in baseball. There were names like Stump Merrill, Alvaro Espinoza, Steve Sax, Mel Hall and Jesse Barfield. But it didn't matter to me, didn't matter in my household. The Yankees were my mom's team--my Nana and my Pa's team. We sat along the 3rd baseline in my dad's work seats. We saw a lot of losses in those days, but we didn't care...the sky seemed bluer and the grass seemed greener in Yankee Stadium. My sister, my brother and I would listen to my parents recount their own stories about Yankee Stadium.
And there was Don Mattingly. #23 was the favorite of almost every child in the tri-state area. I fell asleep every night from about 3rd grade through high school to the sound of Phil Rizzuto's voice, calling the games on the radio ("and the ball goes RIGHT THROUGH Espinoza's legs at short!" was a nightly ritual).
Then came the mid-90s. Joe Torre, Derek Jeter, Paul O'Neill, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera...their names are now the stuff of Yankee legends. I went to my first Yankee game in years (darn living out of state) last year, and had to wait until the bottom of the 9th to see a walk-off grand slam. In my only game this year, my last game at Yankee Stadium, my dad, uncle and I stuck it out again for a walk-off, 2 out, bottom of the 9th homer. We sat in my sister's seats--upper deck, right behind home plate--we could see the entire Stadium. Good way to say goodbye.
Tonight's game started with a tribute to the great Yankees of the past. Mantle, Maris, Gehrig, Rizzuto, O'Neill, . And of course, the biggest ovation of all was for Bernie Williams. The last game pretty perfect--Andy Pettitte gets the win, Jeter left the game to a standing O and Enter Sandman blared through the speakers as Mariano Rivera got the close. Watching those guys tonight, especially as they took a final lap around Yankee Stadium, as Jeter, Rivera, Posada and Pettitte stood together on the mound for a photo op.
Someday, I'll take my own kids to the new Yankee Stadium. And it will be magical, and it will be majestic, and it will be wonderful. I'll watch their faces as they take it in for the first time, wearing t-shirts bearing the numbers and names of their favorite players, kids who are only in high school and even middle school right now. But I'll point across the street...and I'll tell them about MY Yankee Stadium, the Stadium where their grandparents and great-grandparents and great-great grandparents watched the Yankees. I'll tell them about Don Mattingly, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. I'll tell them about the walk-off homeruns I witnessed...and the many many losses too.
Goodbye, Yankee Stadium. Thanks for the memories.
(Note to self...don't post tired...I'll be back to fix glaring errors and bad grammar later.)