Sunday, September 21, 2008
The House That Ruth Built Closes With a Great Big NY Goodbye
It was really a fine farewell. I am an old foggie and I don't handle change well, but I must admit, if they had to close Yankee Stadium this was the way to go. The night started off with a tribute to the first Yankee team to take the field in 1923. The First team was announced and introduced each player represented by an actor. Then each position was introduced with the greats at each position announced and if they were in attendance they came out. If they were gone, a family member came in their stead.
The most poignant moments? They all were, but I guess I was most moved when Yogi walked to the plate (If you do not know Yogi, stop reading here); Thurman Munson's son coming out to represent his dad. The dad who died flying home so he could be with that boy when he was a child; The Mercer family who lost their Yankee, Bobby Mercer just this July. How Bobby would have enjoyed tonight; Whitey "Chairman of the Board" Ford and Don "Perfect Game" Larsen was there too on the mound with Goose and Louisiana Lighting Ron Guidry the family of Catfish Hunter.
Finally, for the first time since he was released by the Yankees, Bernie Williams came back, and was announced to huge applause.
Finally, out of the Yankee dugout, Babe Ruth's daughter Julia Ruth Stevens led by her son, the Babe's grandson, threw out the first pitch, caught by Jose Posada.
There are 700 "alumni" of the Yankees and they were all honored tonight with the way the Yankees did this.
Then "The Captain" Derek Jeter came out with his mom, beautiful sister and his dad and was given a beautiful Waterford bat and ball for having the most hits in the Stadium. He surpassed the Iron Horse, Lou Gehrig just this week hitting 9 hits in a week to pull it off.
The Game ended in a win. Yankees 7, Orioles 3. Johnny Damon, known more for his exploits in the stadium as a hated Red Sox hit the next to last home run, and Jose Molina, the substitute catcher got the last one. How appropriate that Andy Petite got the win, He is one of the only guys left from the teams of the late 90's that won the four World Series, Jabba Chamberlin, one of the newest Yankees a Yankee of the future, pitched and Marianno Rivera probably the greatest closer the game has ever seen, came in in the last inning and put it away.
Afterward, Derek and the others came on the field and it looked like the boys had just won the World Series. Except they didn't. It was the only thing that they couldn't pull off this year to say goodbye to a great old lady... Yankee Stadium was home to so many great teams, moments and memories. In a few minutes, the cheers will die down, the fans will go home, and the debates will begin again. But for tonight, it is about the Fans, and the history.
As Sinatra singing "New York New York" blared in the background Derek Jeter walked to the picher's mound with Mariano, and speaking on his feet without a script thanked the fans for the cheers and the loyalty. Jeter is a special guy, he is "the Captain." his speech was perfect. It was off the top of his head, but it sounded like he wrote it and practiced it for weeks... You just get the idea, that when his time to retire comes, Derek Jeter will be able to do anything he wants. His best line about being his feelings:
"That's pride, it's tradition and most of all, we have the greatest fans in the world." Then the whole team, which had found its way to the mound, took their hats off to the crowd.
It is an organization and a stadium for the ages. I hate to see it leave. But it is, so I guess we will have to hold onto the memories, and begin to think about next year. Part of me just feels that, the Bronx will just never be the same... Next week we say good bye to Shea... The Jets are leaving Hofstra this year too... I feel really old and kind of lonely. I will miss these places, and those men, the heroes, even if imperfect, of my youth.