Sunday, September 21, 2008

Time To Say Goodbye

So tonight is the final game at Yankee Stadium - The House That Ruth built. Baseball in New York isnt just a sport - it is a religion, and Yankee Stadium is our Great Cathedral, where we worship the gods that walk the field, who fight in epic battles that last years, decades, generations. The sight of 83 year old Yogi Berra, who led the Yankees to an impossible 10 World Series Championships in his career, walking out to home plate one last time, to the sound of thunderous applause that lasted over a minute, was something that I will never forget. They can build a new Yankee Stadium, fill it with all the modern amenities, electronic food odering, self flushing toilets, and wider seats to fit the new 21st Century plus size fan - but there will never be another Yogi Berra.

There will never be another Whitey Ford. Or Mickey Mantle. Or Lou Gherig, or Joe Dimaggio, Phil Rizutto, Thurman Munson, Bill Dickey, Elston Howard, Reggie Jackson, or Ron Guidry. Those names and their respective uniform numbers are eternal, etched into our collective memories, and etched into the plaques at the back of The Stadium. The plaques with the names can be moved, but the players can never be replaced, their accomplishments can never be repeated, those championships cannot be won again. Muhammad Ali will never fight there again, Joltin Joe will never cruise the outfield, the Colts will never defeat the Giants in the first overtime in NFL history, the Pope will never speak there again, Pink Floyd will never play another concert there, and The Babe wont be taking a big swing and then a long, slow trot around the bases anymore.

So many amazing games, so many good times with friends of mine, with my family, walking around the stands after they won a playoff game, just the buzz and the excitement outside the stadium before a big game in the summer, and the memory of Aaron Boone sending one high and deep to left, and us going crazy, just going crazy in the bleachers. I remember Jeter smashing his face up running headfirst into the stands after a foul ball in a game against the Red Sox, I remember Tino Martinez hitting one right into my section in Game 1 of the 1998 World Series, Roger Clemens throwing the bat at Mike Piazza in 2000, watching them win it all for the first time in my life on TV 1996 when I was in college, listening to David Cones perfect game on the radio up in Katonah, the summer of nonstop winning in '98 where they went 125-50, sitting up in the stands with my Dad watching one of many epic failures by the Yankees bullpen in the last few years, as all the other fans slowly get up leave.

ESPN's Peter Gammons said before the game that Yankee Stadium is the "epicenter of our national pastime." It represents the history of the sport from World War I to the start of the 21st Century - the entire modern era. In many ways the Stadium and its winning teams mirror the history of our country - what a great run we had from the 1920s to 2000, but the future is currently unclear. The feeling tonight is almost one of a funeral, with the Yankees currently out of contention for the first time in over a decade, our country at war and in an uprecedented economic depression, all the great players of golden ages past like Bernie Williams and Goose Gossage were in attendance to say goodbye.

Yogi said before the game: "I wont miss this place. Because its inside me. Baseball is my life, and this is where I lived it."

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