I saw my last game at OLD Yankee Stadium last night - the Yanks won 9-2, but that was secondary. It was a chance for me to say goodbye to a place I spent a large chunk of my life in. I have not done the math but I'd be willing to bet that I've spent about as much time in Yankee Stadium as I have anywhere else.
I was torn...one one hand, I am extremely excited about the new Coliseum-like Stadium being built across the street. If you know me, you know that I have been looking forward to this new Stadium for quite some time. The current Yankee Stadium, while certainly a classic, is a tainted one. The renovation of the early-70s robbed The Stadium of much of it's character; the facade/frieze was taken down, the big scoreboard removed and the open-air "feel" replaced almuminum roofing and clinical, blue-painted concrete. As my Dad was wont to say, "they took all the life out of it". For all intents and purposes, "Old Yankee Stadium" officially closed for good in 1973.
Adding insult to injury, the 70s "renovation" was a slap-dash affair; new structures were built on the 100-plus year old skeleton (a huge chunk of which gave way during the early months of the magical 1998 season), like cement poured on Chernobyl. As a result, the renovation did not stand up to the test of time. Cracks appeared in the new cement within a few years that kept re-forming and getting patched year in and year out. It was only a matter of time before a new Stadium would need to be built.
I took one more walk around the old place before taking my seat. I stopped to get a hot dog and soda from one of the attitude-laden concession stands folks for old time's sake (I won't miss them). As I took my seat in the upper deck - and as the game went on - I scanned for the various places I'd sat in over the years. I rememberd the great games I'd seen here - ALCS-ending HRs from Chambliss in '76 and Boone in 2003...Dave Righetti's no-hitter in '83...Mattingly's last regular-season at-bat in '95 (a double)...a World Series clincher in 1999...all the games I saw from the bleachers (oh, how many second-hand contact highs did I get as a pre-pubescent kid out there...?)...and I got a little choked up looking around at all the places I sat with my Dad over the years.
After the last pitch I walked the same ramps out of the old place just like I had hundreds of times before. This time, I walked slowly, looking around was all the nooks, crannies and signs one last time. "No running". "Slippery when wet". As I walked down to the D train to head to Brooklyn, I turned and took one last look at the old girl, the lights illuminating the now-empty upper deck.
Next year will be full of excitement and pageantry as a sparkling new ballpark, one that corrects the sins laid bare by a quickie renovation some 35 years ago, is unvelied. I will be excited, too - and I am sure my first trip to the NEW Stadium will be full of eagerly-awaited awesomeness - but last night, it was all about remembering the days gone by that will soon be no longer - and saying a fond farewell.
Some good advice from the legendary Ray Stevens.
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