Monday, September 22, 2008

Yankee Stadium

Once the Cowboys game ended last night, I flipped over to the Yankees-Orioles game to catch the ninth inning - the final inning - of baseball in Yankee Stadium.  If someone were unfamiliar with the history of baseball, or American sports in general, they probably could have watched ESPN's seven hours of pre-game coverage and gotten all caught up (I flipped back and forth during the afternoon football games to see the interviews with some of the greats who played at Yankee Stadium ... wow, that's a lot of greats).

Mariano Rivera took the mound in the top of the ninth, the Yankees leading 7-3.  When the game ended, he literally took the mound - or some of the dirt from it - in a small container to forever preserve and remember some of the history he made there.  Jeter left the game with two outs to a special ovation.  And when it ended, the moment caught everyone in what can only be described as a surreal daze.

The ESPN broadcaster Jon Miller just allowed the game to unfold, withholding comments for virtually all of the 9th, allowing the TV audience to soak it all in.  Fans cheered, but not a loud, raucous, rowdy cheering.  Instead, fans quickly allowed the joy of winning to succumb to the realization of losing.  Yes, the Yankees will have a new stadium next year, but this is THE Yankee Stadium, and the fans in New York and sports fans nation wide are losing it.

And as the players remained on the field, flash bulbs sparkled around the stadium and no one left their seat.  Fans seemingly refused to leave.  One sign hung up by a fan put it best: "LAST ONE OUT, TURN OFF THE LIGHTS!"  

Yes, they turned out the lights for the final time at Yankee Stadium last night, but the memories of the park will forever shine bright.  From Ruth's home runs, to the NFL's 1958 Championship Game, 26 World Series, and everything else, no one will forget Yankee Stadium's rich history.

From all the hoopla, it almost seemed as if the Yankee franchise was being contracted or dissolved.  It was as if the team was being relocated to a new city.  The players will still be there next season.  The monuments will be moved across the street next season.  They'll still play the Red Sox next season.  It just won't happen in the House That Ruth Built, as it did the previous 85 seasons.

So perhaps as people reflect on their fondest memories of Yankee Stadium, they should appreciate just how close a building, a structure, can bring people.  The greatest Yankee Stadium memory I have occurred in 2001 when President Bush threw out the first pitch for Game 3 of the World Series.  Regardless of your politics, every American - sports fan or not - can appreciate what that moment meant (go to 3:05 in the video if you don't feel like watching it all).

And that's really what that stadium has meant.  It's hosted so much history, and now, Yankee Stadium will become a part of history.  No longer will it be standing, but forever it will be remembered.

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