Today is a sad day for Yankees fan. There once was a time when I only wished sad days on Yankees fans, but I like to think I have grown up a bit.
There was also a time when I thought they would NEVER tear down Yankee Stadium. Shea Stadium, we all knew, was on the endangered species list almost as soon as it opened its doors. But Yankee Stadium was always called a "cathedral" for baseball and cathedrals are supposed to be sacred places, immune from wrecking balls or the call of luxury boxes.
Not so. And today, Yankee Stadium will close its doors, at least to baseball, forever (there's a concert scheduled in November). I took my oldest sons to Yankee Stadium this summer. They didn't understand why I was doing it but I thought someday they'd want to be able to say "I was at the old Yankee Stadium"...even if it wasn't THE OLD Yankee Stadium:
We had great seats (thanks to my cousin-in-law) and got to the stadium several hours before the first pitch. Unfortunately, Monument Park was already closed for tours.
My kids got their faces on the scoreboard, which was kinda fun. But I was most impressed by the amount of Yankees who stopped to sign autographs. Pettite and Chamberlain both made time to sign. And even AROD took a break from working out to sign:
My kids were as close to AROD as I am to this keyboard I am typing on. Unfortunately, as he signed, AROD passed right over them. Although they weren't wearing any Mets garb, I think AROD sensed the blue and orange in their souls:
Now my kids are officially not AROD fans. And I'm now more impressed by him because he at least made an effort.
I saw plenty of games at Yankee Stadium in my time. My strongest memory was a Mets/Yankees exhibition game in 1993. They no longer called it the Mayor's Trophy Game at the time. My dad had great seats...right next to the Yankee dugout. It was a somber day in our lives as my aunt (Dad's sister) had just died a few nights before. My cousin and I went to the game with his brother and my girlfriend at the time.
During the game, Pete Schourek was pitching to Randy Velarde, who crushed a foul ball right at me. I got clocked in the right bicep by a ball that I swear was going 140 MPH. Since it was about 40 degrees, I had several layers on, which probably kept me from getting a shattered shoulder. Unfortunately, as the ball hit me, I jumped up, causing the projectile to fall beneath my seat and into a scrum of fans. I lost the ball but at least I kept my arm.
When we got home from the game, my grandfather was there having dinner. He was naturally upset, still dealing with the devastating loss of a child. But when he heard I had been clocked by a foul ball, he suddenly snapped to attention. "Wow you got hit by a ball," he said. "Let me see it!" It broke my heart to tell him I didn't get the ball. I always wished I had just bought one at the stadium and gave it to him.
I had plenty of other interesting times at Yankee Stadium. The first wild card game (Mariners/Yankees) in 1995, when Ken Griffey Jr hit one of the hardest home runs I'd ever seen. And of course, the first Mets/Yankees subway series. Dave Mliecki - we will always love ya!
So farewell Yankee Stadium. You're no Shea but it's a shame they're taking you away.