Losing a loved one is one of the most difficult things we can go through in life. Sunday, September 21, 2008 was a bitter sweet day for all of us Yankee Fans as we bid farewell to our loved one, Yankee Stadium. I cannot express what I am feeling right now and only time will help me accept the fact that the House that Ruth Built is no more. I will never forget the sight of past Yankee greats honoring the legendary Yankee Stadium on Sunday. I’ll never forget the sight of Derek Jeter and the 2008 team saluting their fans on that fateful night.
The House that Ruth Built was a great friend to all her fans. She was the kind of friend that stood by you no matter what. She was there for twenty-six World Series, thirty-seven pennants, three perfect games, three papal visits, football games, boxing matches, and countless game changing homeruns. She was also there for the lackluster ’80s, the strikes, and throughout the Mitchell Report Scandal. She had a face lift over the years, but was still our faithful Yankee Stadium. She was there for us when Lou Gehrig started his 2,130 consecutive games played streak and she was there for Lou Gehrig Appreciated Day as a dying man stood in front of thousands of unknowing fans and told them he was the luckiest man on the face of the earth. She was there for the start of DiMaggio’s fifty-six game hitting streak, The Mick’s major-league debut, and Don Larsen’s perfect game in game five of the 1956 World Series. She was there as Maris broke the Babe’s single season homerun record. She was there for Chambliss’ ninth-inning heroics in game five of the ALCS in 1976, and who could forget how she felt the night Reggie Jackson hit three homeruns in game six of the 1977 World Series. She was there for Righetti’s no-hitter, Abbott’s no-hitter, and Gooden’s no hitter. She was there for David Wells’ and David Cone’s perfect games. She was there on Yogi Berra Day to welcome back her dear friend, Yogi. She was there as a grieving nation searched for normalcy during 2001 World Series. She watched as Aaron Boone lifted the Yankees to the World Series with a solo shot off Wakefield in the bottom of the eleventh inning of game seven in the 2003 ALCS. She watched in angst as Jeter dove into the stands against Boston in 2004.
The House that Ruth Built became a home to many athletes and fans over the years. No matter where you are from, how old you are, or who your favorite team is, you cannot deny the energy and history that engulfs Yankee Stadium. I can recall the first time I ever met her. It was a cloudy June day and the White Sox were in town. There has never been greener grass, bluer seats, whiter façade, a more kempt field; she was beautiful. Not only did I take in a great game, but I met several other wonderful Yankee fans that day. The House that Ruth Built tends to bring out the best in me. I’m shy by nature, but I’ve never missed an opportunity to meet someone new while I’m with Yankee Stadium. Yankee Stadium has meant a lot in my life. She helped me put life into perspective after the tragic events of 9/11 and she helped me to realize what I want out of my life. I can also remember the last time I saw her. It was an amazing day to say the least. Not even torrential rain could stop our great time. She had aged on the outside, but she was still beautiful on the inside. Her history, her energy, her kempt field, and signature white façade was still breathtaking.
Yankee Stadium was not perfect; she had an agenda. She punished generations of fans by making them listen to Liza Minnelli after losses, but she also treated us to Frank Sinatra after a win. She demanded excellence and for the most part, she got it. She loved to watch the grounds crew perform YMCA while working on the field during the seventh inning stretch. She forced us to say Day-Oh at her whim. She knew how to get a crowd of 55,000 on their feet. She’s very superstitious and never missed an opportunity to tell others about her ghost sightings. She also knew how to convince the most rational fan to believe in ghosts. She connected generations of Yankees fans; for four hours, the young were old enough and the old were young again.
Yankee Stadium will soon be gone, but we are here to celebrate her life. This is not the time for us to grieve her death; it’s time for us to celebrate her long, wonderful life. We must keep these memories and pass them down to the next generation of Yankees fans so her mystic and history is never forgotten; something tells me that’s the way she would have wanted it. Yankee Stadium wanted to make us happy, so let’s pay tribute by remembering all the great times and how she touched our lives. We should all be thankful to have been so lucky to have known her. My only regret is that I’ll never be able to work with the House that Ruth Built. The House that Ruth built was more than just a building, more than just a stadium. There may be another Yankee Stadium, but there will never be another House that Ruth Built.
Final Whisper: Thanks for the Memories!
Baseball Nerdish as Always,
1. Babe Ruth christens stadium with its first homerun: Ruth’s homerun marked the beginning of The House that Ruth Built. In front of 74,200 fans, Babe Ruth hit the first ever homerun in Yankee Stadium. Ruth’s homer was a three-run homerun that capped a four-run third inning against Boston. The Yankees went on to win the game 4-1.
2. Lou Gehrig’s speech on Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day: On July 4th, 1939 Lou Gehrig stood before thousands of adoring fans and delivered the most famous speech in Yankees history. Yankees fans may not be able to recite the Gettysburg Address, but every Yankees fan (young or old) can recite Gehrig’s famous “Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth…” speech. That day Gehrig’s uniform number became the first to be retired in all of Major League Baseball.
3. Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series: Larsen wasn’t the best pitcher on the 1956 team, but he threw the only perfect game in World Series history during game 5 of the 1956 series. It was a 2-0 win for the Yanks. All Yankees fans can remember seeing Yogi Berra run and jump into Don Larsen’s arms after the final out was made (most of us, however, saw it on ESPN classic).
4. Reggie Jackson becomes Mr. October: Whether he said it or not, Reggie was the straw that stirred the drink. It was October 18th, 1977; the Yankees were locked in a battle for World Series victory with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Reg-gie Reg-gie Reg-gie could be heard throughout the stadium as Jackson hit three homeruns in game six of the 1977 World Series.
5. Derek Jeter’s Final Game Speech: The entire day (Sunday, September 21st, 2008) was magical. Fans packed the House that Ruth Built for one last hoorah. The day before, Jeter was hit by a pitch on the left hand in the 9th inning. He immediately left the game. It was unclear if Jeter would be able to play in the final game at his home of thirteen years. Jeter was far from 100%, but still played. He went 0-for-the-game, but was the bright star of the game. Jeter admitted he didn’t prepare a speech, but when time came he delivered one of the best speeches in the stadium’s history. He gave fans words of comfort, advice, and thanks. Afterwards, the team took a trip around the warning track for the final time saluting fans.
6. George W Bush gives crowd a thumbs up after 9/11: The tragic events of 9/11/01 put life into perspective for Americans. 9/11 effected many Americans, but New York was at the heart of it and really needed baseball as a way to escape from the sorrow, the fear, the tragedy. Baseball took a short hiatus, but was back for the World Series. The Yankees were looking to be back-to-back-to-back-to-back World Champions. George W. Bush became the first President to throw the first pitch at Yankee Stadium during the World Series. Before he threw the pitch he looked up at the crowd and gave everyone a “thumbs up” as to say, “We may be down, but we’re not out. We’ll get through this hard time together as a nation.” The Arizona Diamondbacks went on to win the 2001 World Series in Arizona.
7. David Well’s perfect game: David Wells and Don Larsen both threw a perfect game at the same high school. On May 17th, 1998, David Wells threw the first regular-season perfect game in Yankees history. Paulie was in Right Field and made the final out and with a fist pump it was final. The team rushed the mound to congratulate Wells. The hoisted him up on their shoulders and carried him off to the dugout, were he was prompted for a curtain call. In his book, Wells claimed he was hung over during the game. It’s not clear whether this is the truth or not, but one thing is for sure, the ghosts of Yankee Stadium were out that day.
8. David Cone’s perfect game: On July 18th, 1999, thousands of fans packed Yankee Stadium to welcome Yogi Berra back home on “Yogi Berra Day.” Don Larsen threw the ceremonial first pitch to Yogi Berra that day. David Cone was on the mound for the Yankees that day and pitched the second regular-season perfect game in Yankees history. Cone battled through the game, he never went to a three-ball count during the game. No Yankees fan can forget the sight of Cone dropping to his knees and grabbing his head with both hands. Girardi rushed the mound and pulled Cone on top of him and a dog-pile ensued. The eerie thing was Cone’s pitch count ended at eighty-eight. Cone says he looked behind home and saw an “8” painted in the grass in honor of Yogi Berra and got chills when he realized he had only tosses eighty-eight pitches.
9. Chris Chambliss’ 9th inning homerun in game 5 of the 1976 ALCS: On October 14th, 1976 the Yankees were taking on the Kansas City Royals in game five of the American League Championship Series. The Yankees were searching for their thirtieth pennant. The game was tied going into the bottom of the ninth inning. Chris Chambliss came up to bat and sent the ball sailing over the wall. As he made his way around the bases, fans rushed the field. Chambliss stumbled rounded second, and had to fight his way around the bases. Fans were jumping on him and patting him on the back. He made a bee-line to the dugout after he made his way around the bases. A teammate asked him if he ever touched home plate, Chambliss realized he didn’t, so with the help of a police escort, he made his way back out to touch home plate and officially sent the Yankees to the 1976 World Series.
10. Aaron Boone’s Walk off HR in 2003 ALCS: Scott Brosius had retired and the Yankees were searching for a third baseman. Aaron Boone filled the hole (for the most part) during the season. On October 16th, 2003, the Yankees were playing their rival, the Boston Red Sox in game seven of the ALCS. The Yankees battled back and the game remained tied until the eleventh inning. Aaron Boone led off the bottom of the eleventh inning. Knuckleballer, Tim Wakefield was on the mound for the Red Sox. Boone wasn’t a great knuckleball hitter, but he connected for a solo shot off Wakefield that sent the Yankees into the 2003 World Series and earned them their thirty-ninth pennant.
Final Whisper: I cannot believe the stadium will be gone next year.