Yankee Stadium closes doors, but history always remains
Monday, September 22nd 2008, 4:00 AM
The Yankees, old and new, kept running out from the Yankee dugout at old Yankee Stadium, came running out into one amazing cheer after another, one more hello on a night of goodbyes. There will be a big production in November here, when they will wring one last big night out of the place. But this was the beginning of the letting go now on the field now at the Stadium, not The House That Ruth Built now, just the baseball house everybody grew up in. These were the first steps across the street.
"Boy," Yogi Berra had said in the interview room before the night really began at the Stadium. "Boy, this is a big place."
It has always been the biggest and best possible baseball place, and now there they were all over the field, this extraordinary company of New York Yankees. Yogi stood at home plate in his old-fashioned Yankee cap and his old-fashioned Yankee uniform, stood there once more with No.8 on his back at Yankee Stadium, stood there with Elston Howard's daughter and Thurman Munson's son and Joe Girardi and Jorge Posada.
Once more at the Stadium, on the Sunday nightfor it on this side of 161st, there were camera lights flashing everywhere, and there was a baseball sound that only this place has ever made. Yogi was hearing it and feeling it now because they all were. Scott Brosius was at third base Sunday night, next to Wade Boggs and Alex Rodriguez and Graig Nettles, who rocked the old place one night in a World Series, rocked it with the best plays around third base you have ever seen in this world.
Willie Randolph slid into second base. Derek Jeter stood with Scooter Rizzuto's wife Cora out at short, Cora wearing Scooter's No. 10. Bobby Richardson was in this big place Sunday night, so was Billy (The Kid) Martin's kid. Bernie Williams ran out to center field in a Yankee uniform and stood with Mickey Mantle's son David. Paul O'Neill and Reggie Jackson were in right with Roger Maris' son, and Tino Martinez was at first base.
This was the loud beginning of letting-go, on a baseball night when nobody wanted to.
It was all here Sunday night, all the oldest memories of the place and the more recent ones. Don Larsen was at the Stadium Sunday nightand Yogi didn't jump into Larsen's arms the way he did after Larsen's perfect game in the World Series. But when you saw that No.8 on Yogi's back, saw him behind the batter's box once more, it was easy to see him in Larsen's arms again, because that was part of the magic of the night, the Sunday nightof baseball on this side of 161st.
And Brosius and Tino were hitting home runs again in the shadow of September 11. And Reggie was hitting three out against the Dodgers. And Torre's Yankees were once again a team that nobody in this world could beat.
"It will always be in my heart," Yogi had said in the interview room, before his voice started to break when he talked about Elston Howard, and others from his own amazing company of Yankees who are gone.
"I hope we can close it out real good," Yogi said.
They were closing it out good now, good and loud, long before Andy Pettitte threw his first pitch to the Orioles, long before Johnny Damon hit one over the wall and Jose Molina did the same. They were closing it out with what the place has always been built on, and that is memory. The winning is all tied up with that, but it was more than that Sunday nightat the Stadium. On the Sunday nightat this Stadium, it was everybody's first time all over again. It was the first time we all saw the inside of the place. Big place. Biggest ever. Even bigger than you imagined.
"I hate to see it go," Yogi had said. "I played here my whole life."
VOTE FOR THE GREATEST STADIUM MOMENT
This wasn't a World Series night, this Yankee team isn't nearly good enough. It just felt like one of those Stadium nights with all the trimmings and all the noise, as loud as the city. It was because all the years and all the Yankee eras, all the winning, were colliding now on this field, the most famous ballfield in this world. There was one last Stadium victory for Andy Pettitte. There was a curtain call for Jeter when he left the game with two outs in the top of the ninth.
Really, the curtain call was for the Stadium, everything it has been and everything it has ever meant to the company of men on the field Sunday nightand their fans. Babe Ruth's daughter was in the house, there to throw out the first pitch. You better believe Larsen was there. So were David Cone and David Wells, the other perfect-game pitchers for the Yankees. The Mick was there Sunday night. So was Joe D. And Bobby Murcer. And Catfish Hunter. And Scooter. Just because they were. Just because Yankee Stadium on this night was as much the capital of baseball and memory and magic as it has ever been.
And felt more like family than it ever had.
When it was over, a few minutes before midnight, there was the picture of Jeter standing in the middle of the field next to Rivera, who got the last three outs at this Yankee Stadium, of course. Then Jeter was talking about the pride of the Yankees, and memories, and how they are passed on, saying he wanted to salute the "greatest fans in the world." Then he led the Yankees around the field, and nobody wanted to leave. And the last time for all of them, in the stands and on the field, was like the first time at Yankee Stadium.