Sunday, September 21, 2008

The End Of The Greatest Era Ever

I'm sitting here watching the many ESPN specials about the last day of Yankee Stadium. I'm not afraid to say that I have a lot of tears in my eyes (and on my face) right now. As I take it all in I realize that I am part of a blessed generation. Watching all the amazing memories that others share and seeing the replays of great times in Yankee Stadium I realize that a lot of those are my memories also. I have been a Yankee since 1970-ish, avidly, living and dying with them pitch by pitch. In that time frame there have been some amazing moments.

My earliest memories, the ones I can remember clearly, were watching them play in the 'other' New York baseball park. When they were actually on television and my parents would allow me to watch them anyway. Mostly back then I had to try and find them on the radio. I remember laying in the sun as a kid, ear to the radio, listening intently to every game I could get reception for. I wondered back then why they didn't play very well. I took me some time to realize they were away from Yankee Stadium while it was being renovated.

I was only 10 when the Steinbrenner era began. I remember watching the A's teams of the early 70's and wishing the Yankees would get to the World Series. Then once Yankee Stadium was renovated and the boys moved back home, things changed. The 1976 Yankees were a good team. That season was the one that really made me eat, sleep and dream Baseball. Chris Chambliss sent the Yankees to the World Series that year with his walk-off homer. I could hardly stand to go to sleep between games. Unfortunately The Yanks ran into the Big Red Machine that year. I remember being so crushced by that loss. But they had been in the Series. I was happy with that.

Then came 1977. That season started for me with so much excitement. Somehow I knew we were going to the Series again. I just felt it. I watched the magic of Graig Nettles and the heroics of Reggie that year. Reggie and his 3 homers on 3 pitches off 3 different pitchers. I was psyched.

In 1978 when the Yankees were so far behins in August I was sure we would come back. Guidry was 25-3 that year. I expected him to win every time he pitched. So when he pitched the one game play-off I felt confident. Then Bucky Dent buried the sux and we were back to the World Series.

I had an Algebra teacher that year who was a Yankee hater. My first experience with one of those. When the Yanks lost the first 2 games of the series, he bet me they wouldn't come back. He ate his words (and paid up too) when the boys won 4 straight and the World Series.

Watching the show I realize just how much Yankee history I have experienced. I remember crying when Thurman Munson was killed in 1979. That afternoon game after the funeral was televised and Bobby Mercer single handedly won it for them.

I was watching when the "George Brett pine tar incident" happened. I remember when Billy Martin removed Reggie from the game because he felt Reggie wasn't putting in enough effort. (Then Billy got fired again.) I watched as the Yanks went down in the Series against the Dodgers in 81. I thought for sure they would win that one since it was Los Angeles again. No such luck.

I remember watching Rickey Henderson run the bases in New York. That was great. There just wasn't a great team around Rickey or Dave Winfield. Too bad too. Rickey sure put a spark in a Baseball game. I watched both perfect games by David Cone and David Wells, saw both no hitters by Doc Gooden and Jim Abbott. I somehow missed the one by Righetti.

Naturally I got to see the Yankee resurgence of the 90's. I was crushed again by the loss to Seattle in 1995. I remember in 1996 wondering who the heck that new Shortstop was. I had heard rumors about Derek Jeter. Now look where that has gone. He is a true Yankee. I cheered hard in 1996 when the boys won. I died a little when they lost in 1997. I was in New York, at a Yankee bar, when the Indians knocked the Yankees out of the post season. Talk about a somber bunch when that game ended. I was there to try and get tickets but that didn't work out. The bar was fun though.

I knew 1998 was going to be special. After the ending in 97 I just knew the season would be great. It turned out to be the best season a Baseball team ever had. The best any team may ever have. That year was the best. I just knew every game the Yankees were going to win. I had that feeling every time they took the field. They won most. After the World Series sweep that year I managed to get autographed balls from Andy Pettite and David Cone in the off season. That 98 team was the best team ever. I really believe it was. They proved it for 2 more years after 98.

The mystique and aura of the Yankees always seemed to come out in the post season. The Ghosts took good care of the team. Those ghosts seem to have left us after the announcement of the new Stadium was made. I think the old Yankees are pissed about their home being abandoned. Personally, I think it sucks too. There can be no other explanation for the end of the 2004 season. Joe Morgan just said he believes the mystique will transfer next door to the new Stadium because of the fans. If the fans go along, so will the mystique and aura. I hope so but mostly I hope the ghosts forgive Steinbrenner and move in with the team. :P

Just walking into Yankee Stadium you know there is something very special. If you've never had the chance to see it, you really have missed something. If I had known the last time I was there that the Stadium was going to be lost to us, I would have brought more than just the memories back home. The first time I walked into The Stadium was awe inspiring. I was amazed by how things just opened up when you walked through the entryway and could see the field the first time. It was quite a sight. I was star-struck when I waled thru monument park and when I looked out on the firle where all the best of the best played Baseball. It's hard to describe. If you experienced it, you know what I'm trying to say. If you haven't, I'm sad for you.

The memories keep coming thanks to the ESPN specials. The Aaron Boone homerun is probably my favorite memory of all time. Playing the post season against the sux is hard. To play extra innings in game 7 was more than most people's nerves can bear. I was a wreck. When Boonie came up in the 11th I remember thinking "Good, he is a good hitter." One pitch later and I was stunned with the rest of the world. I stood as Aaron swung and found myself hopping up and down until the ball was officially called a home run. Then I was freaking out. All alone in my private basement with no one to share it with. That is a vivid memory for me.

I think game 4 & 5 of the 2001 World Series rank up there with that one. Those come back wins by miracles on both nights give me the same excitement. I don't know that there ever was a better 3 games played in a World Series than the ones the Yankees won that year.

Back to the show...... Wow, the ovation for Bernie Williams was amazing. We all love the Yankee great and Bernie has been away too long. Seeing Paul O'Neill and Tino back in uniform brought tears to my eyes. I sure miss David Cone, Bernie, Scotty Brosius, Paulie and those great guys. The biggest rounds of applause are for Bernie, Scott, Paulie and Tino. It is huge for Bernie. I guess I am not the only one who misses them.

If you can't understand all this sentiment, you arent a Yankee. I get it and so do the other Yankees around. To me, being a Yankee is not about being a fan. It's about being a part of something a bit above a Baseball team. Thats how I feel anyway. The truth is that there is The Yankees and there are 29 other teams trying to be like them. There are fair weather fans who can call themselves fans. I am not a fan. I am a Yankee. It's been in me since I first saw a Baseball game. I don't know why but that's just how it is. I'll borrow a quote from The Yankee Clipper, Joltin Joe DiMaggio to explain it to you. "I wanna thank the good Lord for making me a Yankee." I was made one too and I am happy with that. lol

I'm very sad that the Stadium is going away. The Stadium is the hallowed ground for Baseball. Even the haters respect what has happened there. It's more than a place to play. It's the center peice of Baseball history. It can not be replaced.

I like the quote from the first show I saw today. "There may be another Yankee Stadium..... but there will never be another House that Ruth built." The new Yankee Stadium just can't be the same, can it? Maybe in another 85 years someone else will be melancholy about the great moments in it as it is being closed. Let's hope so. But this one true original Yankee Stadium will be sorely missed.

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