Sep
23

Last Night on Earth

By

End of the 8th

Eight innings down; one to go. (All photos by Benjamin Kabak. All links in the post go to flickr.)

It wasn’t just another night in the ballpark with my dad. It was the end of an era, and the Stadium went out in style.

I didn’t expect to find myself at the final game at Yankee Stadium. My family didn’t get tickets earlier this year, and as the season wore on and it seemed more and more likely that Sunday’s game would be the last of the year, we were resigned to saying our good bye’s sooner. But when this week rolled around, I lobbied my family to get tickets. After all the years, we’ve spent going to games — my dad went to his first game in 1958 and my sister and I were both three when we attended our first Yankee games — how could we miss this last one?

We couldn’t get four seats together, and instead, my dad and I ended up sitting in Tier Reserve 4, Row M, Seats 3 and 4 while my mom and sister sat in the Tier Boxes beyond first base. The view from the tier, with the field stretching out below, was as good as it always is.

My dad and I arrived at Yankee Stadium shortly after 4 p.m. with the goal of watching Yankee batting practice. We had enough time to walk up 161th St. where on one side we saw a new stadium trying hard to be Yankee Stadium and an old station offering up its thanks. A Baseball Cathedral, one building often referred to on Sunday as the “best venue in sports,” stood facing its reluctant future.

Back inside the stadium, the crowd for Monument Park snaked up the left field ramp all the way to the Tier level and back a good ten or fifteen sections. The fans were there to pay their last respects.

As the pre-game warmups went on, we saw the old Yankee guard make its appearance. David Wells took pictures of the crowd, and reporters clustered around Paul O’Neill. Reggie talked to Rudy, and Bob Sheppard, prerecorded just a few days ago, welcomed the crowd one final time. The Yanks wouldn’t have it any other way.

An iconic image

With the Countdown Clock set at one, the Yanks unveiled their very first league champion pennant before trotting out the regular Old Timers. The dugout, needless to say, was quite crowded, but it quickly emptied out. We saw everyone from Cora Rizzuto to Scott Bro. Jorge, in uniform, wistfully reminded us of the season’s lost opportunities.

Yogi provided the crowd with an iconic image, and Bobby Murcer earned the love of the crowd. The start of the night was a more recent Yankee. When Number 51 trotted out to his familiar spot, the crowd roared, “Ber-nie! Ber-nie! Ber-nie!” He was back.

Prior to the start of the game, I witnessed what was the best commentary on the night. A fan with a giant wooden saw attempted to abscond with a large chunk of the stadium. Luckily, security didn’t stop him, and the saw proved rather ineffectual. It made for some great laughs. Behind us, some fans had put up a sign honoring the stadium.

The game progressed apace with Andy Pettitte throwing a ball for the last first pitch. We saw the B win the last Great Subway Race while the D took home the season crown. The countdown clock never hit zero and instead landed on forever because, as Michael Kay explained, there will forever be a Yankee Stadium.

After the Yankees announced a total stadium attendance of 151,959,005, the grounds crew forced the Y.M.C.A. on us yet again. Following one of the youngest Yankees, though, came the oldest: Bob Sheppard read a poem about the Stadium to the crowd. He was as much a star of the night as anyone else, and considering that Bob Sheppard is synonymous with Yankee Stadium, it was a fitting tribute to both the man and the building.

Mo Picks Up The Ball

As the stadium crew ensured the team could sell numerous game-used bases, the hour grew late. Strands of Metallica filled the air, and in jogged Mariano Rivera one more time to throw three more outs. By 11:43, it was all over, and the Yanks were hugging on the field.

The ceremony didn’t end there. With the team around him, Derek Jeter, the last Yankee to bat at Yankee Stadium, addressed the crowd, and the team set off on its valedictory lap. As the witching hour came and went, the Yanks even ensured a familiar name would make an appearance. A recording of Eddie Layton playing “Good Night, Sweetheart” filled the air. No one could tickle those ivories quite like Eddie.

The Babe said good night as we waved our tearful farewells to the stadium. And while we joked about taking everything under the sun on the way down stairs, it was tough to walk through that turnstile. I could feel the stadium pulling me back in. “Don’t go,” it was saying. “I’m 85, and you’re all forgetting about me.” Now, all I have are the photos, the countless memories and a refrigerator magnet.

Our Favorite Players

Pondering the field, one final time.

A Family Farewell

Our last family portrait at Yankee Stadium. September 22, 2008.

For more photos, you can browse my Flickr set or click through for a slideshow.

Categories : Yankee Stadium

49 Comments»

  1. AlexCT says:

    Great looking family! I’m so jealous you got to go! I love the site. keep it up.

    • Steve says:

      Ditto! Wish my family loved the Yanks as much as yours do.

      I’m the lone Yankee fan in a family of Mets Fans. You’re a lucky guy, Ben.

  2. Marsha says:

    Ben–Your post brought more tears to my eyes than being at the stadium on Sunday did. So sad. And your pictures are fabulous (thanks Mom for your excellent camera).
    Lots of memories tied into going to Yankee Stadium with variations of Wayne, Benjamin, and Victoria. And those combinations were there in some memorable Yankee highlights too numerous to list here. I hope we have more family outings at the new stadium but it will NEVER, EVER be the same.

  3. Cam says:

    Ben, excellent post. I hadn’t seen that picture of Babe at the end of the game saying “see you across the street”. It sent chills up my spine. Thanks for all the pics. Sometimes it’s nice to have pictures from someone in the stands as opposed to the official ones from the field because you really get the sense of what it’s like to be there. Very happy for you as well that you got to go with your family. Something I wish I could’ve done. You look exactly like your dad too. Great post, thanks again!

  4. joe says:

    Great game, good photos

  5. The Honorable Congressman Mondesi says:

    Nice post, Ben. I think you captured the experience of being there (and that heart-wrenching moment when we all walked out for the last time) very well. What a strange night, huh? I mean, there have been a lot of historic moments in that place, but nothing like that night.

  6. Wayne's World says:

    This was a beautiful post….a keeper.

    Maybe someday I’ll make sense of all of this, but I don’t think so. What this week proved, once again, was that this was about more than a building. I’m glad the Egyptians didn’t feel the Pyramids had outlived their usefulness. Someday, people will talk of the loss of this ballpark as they do now of Penn Station. At least, Jackie Kennedy helped save Grand Central Station. As nice as the new ballpark will be, all it will be is a new ballpark–a nice new ballpark like they have in cities all over the country. As to food, when all is said and done, all you really need at a ball game is beer and franks. Who really cares about the fancy food (other than those who get rich by selling it)? And I still feel they should have serpentined the lines at the concession stands….would have made the passageways much more manageable. I think they purposely did not do that so that people felt the stadium was just too antiquated to accommodate crowds.

    Fine writing…and great persistence on your part. It must have been hard to convince your stubborn father to break down and get tickets. He owes you his thanks.

  7. joe says:

    Fear not ben, I’ve got a plan. I’m on my way to boston to visit a few friends. We are going to fenway to curse the sox. I was at the game sunday and made a deal with the ghosts. They agreed to accompany me tonight and curse the sox into losing their last six, allowing the yanka to sneak into the playoffs if I wash their socks for a week. I’m going undercover now as I enter enemy territory. I will keep you updated. End communication.

  8. Pete says:

    Awesome shots Ben — I’ve been seeing a lot of blogger’s personal photos the last few days, and yours are by far the best. The fact that they’re in focus is a huge bonus. ;-)

  9. mo says:

    wow dude…first of all great post. second, you’re sisters hot!

  10. Andy In Sunny Daytona says:

    I’m going to miss the stadium. Only one thing can cheer me up, more pictures of your sister.

  11. This picture: http://farm4.static.flickr.com.....80d0c2.jpg

    is haunting.

    It says so much that can’t be said in words.

    Thank you for that post. It was excellent.

  12. Steve S says:

    Great post. thanks for the photos

  13. Corey says:

    your sis is gorgeous…does she really like the yankees?

  14. THU says:

    Thanks for sharing the pics. I wish I was able to go, but I’ll settle for the all star game as my greatest Yankee Stadium memory.

  15. RichYF says:

    Lol, sigh. Internet, how I loathe thee.

    Great post nonetheless.

  16. IvanS says:

    I was hoping to find something that would show where I watched the opening ceremonies from. Your pictures of the Orioles dugout did the trick. I’m the one with the blue shirt all the way at the end of the dugout by the camera pit. I was taking pictures from there with Jeremy Guthrie.

  17. Count Zero says:

    Great post — great pics.

    Thanks Ben — that was really nice.

  18. Baseballnation says:

    Great shots…p.s. does your sis have a myspace?? Lol, I kid…unless she really does which would be AWESOME :)

  19. Joey says:

    Awesome job Ben, great photos and even better commentary. That Yogi photo will live on forever

  20. Chris A says:

    good photos, bro hook me up wit ur sis!

  21. Mike Pop says:

    awesome post man

  22. Aaron says:

    Great photos Ben. Thanks for sharing them.

  23. mustang says:

    BEAUTIFUL family Ben thanks for the pics. I’m not even going there about your sister I have a daughter and nieces of my own, but I suggest a larger gun.
    LOL
    Once again thanks.

  24. Steve says:

    I can’t believe what dogs in heat some of you dopes are. I know its meant in good fun, but yikes. Then we wonder why these sites and sports in general don’t draw a mixed crowd.

    Can we lay off his Sister and his Mom? Pretty please?

  25. Hand of Abbot says:

    Hah, funny everyone read this thread for the same reason.

  26. [...] the Yankees said their good byes to Yankee Stadium last Sunday, the MTA honored the House that Ruth Built with a Nostalgia Train [...]

  27. Diane Dimond says:

    A masterpiece, Ben. You took me inside, seated me up in the tier next to you and your Dad for that final game. This is a great photo-essay!

    Michael and I were at the stadium two days earlier and while it was awesome to be there one last time (first row by third base no less!) we would have given just about anything to have been at the FINAL game.

    Like some of the other posters I too got tears in my eyes as I read this. Except for the part(s) about Victoria which had me laughing! If only your pals knew that your sister is 100 times more beautiful in person!

    Yours is a blessed family, Ben. Thanks for sharing.

    Diane Dimond

  28. [...] of just didn’t do much with the pictures. I tossed mine up on flickr and wrote a post about it. That was the extent of my sharing. The pictures remain digitized for posterity, and the post sits [...]

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