Farewell to Yankee Stadium

Seventy years ago today much of Long Island and New England suffered the most devastating hurricane to hit that area in modern-day history.  When the storm, dubbed the Long Island Express was over, it left over 600 fatalities and the damage assessed at almost $40 billion in today’s dollars.  Although for many New Yorkers and New Englanders, the date September 21st is a day to remember that fateful storm, in today’s sports world – this night will be remembered by more people as the day Yankee Stadium,  will see it’s last New York Yankees home game.  After 85 years of hosting America’s most successful sports team and a host of other events, the stadium is closing and will be torn down. Next season, the Yankees will be playing in the New Yankee Stadium just across the way from the current park.  Coincidentally, tonight’s game is against the Baltimore Orioles, the team that moved from Baltimore in 1903 to New York, first becoming the New York Highlanders and then in 1913 becoming the Yankees.

Like many baseball fans and in particular, Yankee fans, this night will beckon a host of memories.  Some of the most memorable moments in sports history have been witnessed in the old stadium and for anyone who has been to the stadium to watch a game, just being there is an experience that has an indelible quality to it. For me, I have some memories too and they are forever etched in my mind and heart.  Although I have seen my share of games in “the House that Ruth Built,” there are but a few that I hold dear to my memory.

Back in the 1988 season, I was able to take my son Aaron, then eleven years old, to see a game at the stadium.  When we got to the stadium, I was really looking forward to how my son would react to being at such a huge venue where are favorite team was playing.  I remembered what it was like when I was growing up and going with my father to Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium to see the Orioles play.  Like my son, who could recite the names and stats of every member of the Yankees, I was totally into the moment. (See my post on Bobby Murcer)  Although we ended up sitting in the upper deck, on the first-base side, it really didn’tmatter.  We were at Yankee Stadium watching the Yankees – live and in color and with thousands of other excting fans. As luck would have it, about a dozen biker-types were sitting a couple of rows behind us and they were enjoying the game with the aid of a considerable amount of beer.  As the game moved into later innings our biker friends began to get a little more boisterous and crass.  With the Yankees losing the game, the crowd starting calling for Yankee third baseman, Mike Pagliarulo to be put into the game.  Pags, as he was called hadn’t started the game and the fans wanted him on the field.  At that, one of the burly biker guys sitting behind us started yelling, demanding that “Pag-lee-a-ru-lo” be put into the game.  I noted the phonetics of Pag’s name for the purpose of noting that in fact, the “g” in his name is pronounced like a “y.”  When my son heard this mistaken pronounciation, he turned around toward this burly, tattoo-covered biker dude as shouted above the roaring crowd, “It’s PAH-lee-AH-ROO-low, Stupid!”  At that moment, I felt ice pour through my veins.  I began to image myself being chained to a Harley, being dragged to the street of New York by a biker named, Assassin!  As I awaited my fate, I felt what I thought was a baseball bat pressed on my right shoulder.  I hestantly turned to see what was weighing my shoulder down.  Much to my surprise, yet not relieved, it was the forefinger belonging to the guy who’s pronunciation my son had unceremoniously corrected.  Trying to muster up more courage than a schoolgirl and trying not to look directly at the “Assassin’s” eyes (or eye!) I turned toward the next, and possible last chapter of my life.  When finally the tattooed and leather-adorned creature came into focus, he grunted and with a typical, stereotypical biker voice grunted, “You’ve got a hell of a little shit there, don’t ya?”  I wasn’t going to argue with him, so I said proudly, “You betcha!”  Then the biker dude tapped me a couple of times on the back as we returned to our previous positions.  All that remanded at that moment was the smell of Budweiser in the air which permeated from every pore and the breath of my new-found biker friend.  As the game moved on (and Pags did play) the Yanks came from behind to win the game.  At the end of the game, we just sat there listening to Frank Sinatra singing, “New York, New York” and savoring the moment.  Aaron was in heaven.  I, on the other hand was stll wondering if the “Assassin” would make my “little shit” an orphan.

From time to time through the years,  Aaron and I, family and friends would visit the stadium.  Day games, night games, sunny days and rainy ones too, we just loved to be there where our “boys of summer” played the game which is our national pastime. We’ve been so fortunate to have the Yankee Stadium experience as part of our own life’s history.  Hopefully next year, my son and I can make a trip to the New Yankee Stadium to see the Yanks play in thier new digs.  Hopefully, I won’t have to fear for my life this time.

Related Articles:

Giving Up the Ghosts at Yankee Stadium – FOX Sports

Thoughts on the Closing of Yankee Stadium – Sporting News

Facts & Figures on Yankee Stadium

Monument Park at Yankee Stadium

Yankee Stadium Virtual Tour

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