The Final Curtain Call

…There used to be a ballpark where the field was warm and green
And the people played their crazy game with a joy I'd never seen
And the air was such a wonder from the hot dogs and the beer
Yes, there used a ballpark right here…

• Frank Sinatra •

As I write these words, Yankee Stadium has closed its gates at the corner of 161st Street and River Avenue in the Bronx, where it has proudly stood for the last 85 years. While the countdown clock may remain infinitely frozen at “1,” we all know it won’t be quite the same experience next season when we cross the street to take in our first game at the new ballpark.

True, the current Stadium isn’t exactly the “original” blueprint either. Not really. The address may be the same, but the dimensions, the façade, the Monuments and much else has changed since the days when Babe Ruth roamed the right field corner. Still, it remained true enough for us to feel like we were taking in a little piece of history each time we sat in the stands to view a game. Close…but not quite.

While the new Yankee Stadium will exist on an entirely different parcel of real estate, it will actually resemble the original House That Ruth Built substantially more. Basically, the original architecture + the most modern amenities = the best of both worlds… Or so they promise.

That said, what truly makes a place historical is the memories, and the promise of making new ones each and every time you pass through the turnstiles. While the original Stadium was certainly well before my time, I never quite identified with this one as strongly as others. Maybe it was because I never had the good fortune to personally witness any great, historical occurrences in my visits here. Somehow, I always came away feeling that, while it was certainly one of my favorite places in the world to be, it still wasn’t really the same field that Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle had played on.  

As I sat watching my final game there this season, about a week before the closing ceremonies, I couldn’t help but marvel at the fact that not one seat was empty, even though any realistic playoff hopes had long since vanished. (Compare that to the final game I attended at Shea Stadium – again about one week prior to its closing – when thousands of empty seats could be seen in every corner of the ballpark… and this for a team still mathematically in the thick of it.)  

I suppose there’s simply something to be said for history, whether you count yourself as a fan of the pinstripes or not. I’m willing to bet that many indifferent to the sport of baseball made one last trek to the Stadium throughout the course of this final season; as well as countless followers of other teams, as evidenced by the scores of out-of-town hats and jerseys witnessed throughout the stands.

I can only imagine what the final game was like in person, but on TV – simply priceless. There they were, the legends of past and present Yankee lore lined up at each position on the field, the endless streams of fans navigating the warning track on their way for one last look at Monument Park, the majestic voice of Bob Sheppard introducing the starting lineup, the traditional “bleacher creature” roll call in the top of the first inning, the grounds crew’s rendition of YMCA before the seventh, Ronan Tynan’s bone-chilling version of God Bless America, the team’s salute to the fans from the pitcher’s mound following the final out … Did they miss anything? It sure didn’t seem like it.

When it comes to – excuse the pun – “covering all the bases” with class, no one does it better than the Yankees organization.  

And so now, we prepare to move on - with a touch of melancholy for some, but in eager anticipation of the new Stadium taking shape across the street as we speak. You can bet that many new memories will be made there. And you can rest assured that some of the old ghosts will follow as well – it’s not that far of a walk, after all.

 

{Published: October 1st, 2008}

Jamie Lynn RyanComment