Farewell, lady of the Bronx

Eighty-five years is a good life by almost any standard.

When you’ve seen the action Yankee Stadium has, it can’t be described as any thing but great.

The New York Yankees defeated the Baltimore Orioles 7-3 Sunday night, Sept. 21, 2008 in the final major league game in The House That Ruth Built. The Stadium, as New Yorkers (I’m not one) and the Yankees players refer to it, was opened nearly 85 years before – April 18, 1923. Babe Ruth homered that day and the Yankees beat the Boston Red Sox 4-1 to open their run for the first of their ridiculous 26 World Series crowns.

Julia Ruth Stevens, the 92-year-old daughter of the Babe was present Sunday. There was a 65-minute pregame ceremony. Virtually every great living Yankee, and many not living, was honored. Longtime public-address announcer Bob Sheppard, sometimes referred to as the voice of God, made a taped appearance. Derek Jeter was removed with two outs in the ninth, getting the ovation he deserved as the Stadium’s all-time hits leader, and Mariano Rivera was on the mound for the final out – the way it should be.

In 85 seasons, the Yankees went 4,135-2,430-17 at the Stadium. The Yankees took part in 37 World Series at the Stadium, winning 26.

The stadium got a facelift in the mid 1970s, and while it wasn’t nearly the same as the old Stadium, the new Yankee Stadium still had that “something.”

When the Yankees announced Sunday’s attendance, the number they gave was 151,959,005 – the total number of fans who passed through the turnstiles in the Stadium’s 85 seasons. I’m proud to say, though I’ve been to New York City but three times in my life, I accounted for two of those 151,959,005.

My first trip came in 1997. I’ll never forget it. My girlfriend at the time made sure I got to go, and I’m forever grateful.

I’ve heard my dad talk about my grandfather’s wish to see the Indianapolis 500 once in his lifetime. That was Yankee Stadium for me.

We sat near the back on the first base side, and the Yankees lost to the Blue Jays. I visited the monuments and took a ton of pictures (though, I’ve managed to post none here). Although I can’t recall if anyone noticed, I’m certain I cried.

The trip home after the game was as interesting as the game. We followed the subway directions my girlfriend’s sister had provided to get to the Stadium, and it all went smoothly. But she didn’t know that one of the trains we needed to take home, by her directions, didn’t run on the weekends. So as we sat in the station after a night game in the Bronx, waiting for a train that would never come, the crowds disappeared, and soon we were alone with a small crowd people that I’ll just call unruly. Eventually, someone gave us the correct directions, but for a few minutes, we were a little concerned.

I’ve since returned for another game, a couple of years ago on a baseball trip with three friends I love, yet see far too little. But the first time is the trip I remember best. And I can always say I was there.

I’m sure the new Stadium will be amazing. But it just won’t be the old Stadium, even the remodeled one.

I’ve been to a lot of major league baseball parks (27) and seen games in a lot better places to see a game, particularly Fenway Park in Boston. But even as great as it is, it won’t be as big a deal when it hosts its last game. The history just isn’t there.

Farewell, Yankee Stadium.

A little irony

The stadium opened in 1923 with a game against the Boston Red Sox. That was appropriate since it was the Red Sox that sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees and effectively allowed the two American League clubs to swap their fortunes.

But the Yankees have a history with Baltimore, whose Orioles were the final team to visit the Stadium on Sunday night. First, Babe Ruth, the star who got his stadium, was a Baltimore native. Secondly, the New York Highlanders, as the Yankees were known until 1913, were originally the Baltimore Orioles, before moving to New York in 1903. The Orioles’ name didn’t again surface until the St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore in 1954.

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3 Responses to “Farewell, lady of the Bronx”

  1. Larry Ludwig Says:

    Here’s some great pics from 2002.

    http://www.larryludwig.com/gallery/v/2002/yankees/

    Jeanne got them for my b-day and loved the seats. Unfortunately her co-worker is giving the seats up in the new stadium. They now want 150k for the season!

  2. That was a fun trip, made all the better by the fact that we didn’t get a knife in us.

  3. Bob Shepherd brought so much self-respect and class to all Yankee game. He was among a good-hearted, and will sincerely be uncomprehensible! : http://electricitymonitorblog.com

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