Hideki Matsui hadn’t played in a game for eight days. But with the Yankee Stadium finale on tap, Godzilla didn’t want to miss it. He started, went 1 for 3 and was removed for Ivan Rodriguez in the 7th. After the game, the Yankees announced that Matsui would undergo surgery on his left knee today. He’ll be ready for Spring Training, but how he fits in the 2009 Yankee lineup is, right now, open for debate. · (31) ·
The Irish wake started at 11:43 p.m., and fifty minutes later, my family and I left the Stadium. I’ll have pictures and tales from the game tomorrow. This win — a solid outing by Andy Pettitte, some timely hitting and the final Yankee Stadium home run by an unlikely slugger and one final Yankee Stadium appearance by Mariano Rivera, the greatest current Yankee — was all we could have wanted. There’s no need to recap it right now; just revel in the end of an era of baseball history.
Today is a day that I thought would never come. Like the last day of summer vacation as a kid, I knew it would happen eventually but didn’t want to believe it. But now it’s here, the last game at Yankee Stadium, and I can best describe the feeling as sad, joyful and nostalgic.
I’ve spent many days in The House That Ruth Built, more than I care to count. Whether I was a kid annoying my father for more cotton candy, or cutting class in high school to catch a day game from the far reaches of Tier Reserved, or a yuppie deciding which dugout I wanted to sit behind, the one thing that never changed was the proud Stadium. Walking out of the tunnel to see the greenest grass I’ve ever seen and hear Ed Alstrom on the organ for the first time has always been one of my favorite memories of the Stadium.
We’ve bitched and moaned about the team on the field all season long, but I don’t even care about that anymore. Today is about celebrating a long-standing New York tradition, soaking in the best Yankee Stadium has to offer. As Doug Mientkiewicz perfectly put it: God did create heaven on Earth … it’s called Yankee Stadium.
Yankee Stadium will live on forever in our hearts and memories, but as Jane Heller reminds us: The memories — the magic — were never really about the building. Truer words have never been spoken.
The baseball gods took care of the Yanks today like they have so many times before, granting just a perfect day for baseball. Enjoy the game, enjoy the pre- and post-game festivities, enjoy being a Yankees’ fan.
There sure is a lot of coverage about Yankee Stadium today. Much of The Times Sports Section is devoted to the stadium. The Daily News is running a whole slew of articles. Buster Olney spoke with a good number of current players to collect their memories. Barry M. Bloom of MLB.com has an FAQ about the stadiums. And, of course, Tom Verducci penned a farewell to the Stadium. That ought to keep every Yankee fan busy until ESPN’s wall-to-wall coverage starts in an hour. · (5) ·
New York City Transit, the arm of the MTA that operates the subways, is running a special nostalgia train up to Yankee Stadium this evening. To find the details about catching the train, read my post on Second Ave. Sagas about the special ride. · (2) ·
The Yankees and the South Bronx have always co-existed rather uneasily with each other.
When the Yanks first arrived in the Bronx, the demographics of the area were far different from what they become in the 1960s and 1970s and what they are today. In fact, as the borough changes, so too did Yankee Stadium. While the renovations in the 1970s were ostensibly about modernizing the stadium, the Yankees sealed off the inside of the park from the outside. Gone were the views of the tenement houses across the street. Instead those residents saw a drab gray wall backing up along River Ave.
This stark contrast between the rich and powerful Yankees and a very poor and struggling neighborhood came to head in 1977 when the South Bronx erupted in riots. As the Yankees played at night, smoke from the fires in the area wafted over that high outfield wall. While the Yanks try to make fans forget they’re in the Bronx, the Bronx would not allow the fans to forget where they were.
Today, the stories of class conflict in the city have fallen by the wayside. The areas around Yankee Stadium are still among the poorest and least safe neighborhoods in the city, but as the team grew wildly popular and successful throughout the 1990s, friend of the Yankees Rudy Giuliani made sure that no place in the city had more cops than Yankee Stadium at game time. Now, no one thinks twice about trekking up to the South Bronx to see a Yankee game.
But what about the people on the other side of this story? What about the hundreds of thousands of people who live around Yankee Stadium? For them, the impending destruction of the old stadium and the arrival of the new stadium tells a different story.
David Gonzalez, writing in The Times this weekend, delves into that story of a neighborhood defined, often reluctantly, by a stadium in which most residents could never afford to set foot:
It’s just that too often, no one much respected the neighborhood outside its walls, including Yankee executives. That’s what makes for my melancholy heart.
Over the years there was griping about how the area was unsafe — this despite scores of police officers assigned to games and the presence of two pretty well-fortified courthouses and a transit police station a couple of blocks away. And there were arguments about whether the Yankees could develop a fan base in the Bronx — a borough that is home to legions of baseball-mad Dominicans and Puerto Ricans.
On one level, you could dismiss it as just posturing, a bargaining ploy over the years meant to wrest something new from the city — tax breaks or a stadium. But for a track man at Cardinal Hayes High School who ran past the stadium every day, it could feel like an entire community’s recent history had been reduced to a negotiating tactic.
The Yankees exist in Yankeeland, as much a part of the Boogie Down Bronx as the tony Riverdale neighborhood is. The rest of the South Bronx neighborhood along the Grand Concourse, near 161st St., exists in a separate world. It is one in which neighborhood — and, in particular, the now-gone Macombs Dam Park — matters to those who live there. It is a neighborhood defined by adversity and a neighborhood much better off than it was 15 or 20 years ago.
When the Yanks move across the street and open a new ballpark in seven months, the views we’ll change. The center field backdrop will now be 1020 Grand Concourse instead of the familiar court house. The stadium will be more insular than ever before with restaurants and martini bars and a mini Yankee City within the walls. But the neighborhood will be the same, defined not by an 85-year-old Baseball Cathedral but by a stadium that stole a park. We celebrate — or bemoan — the Yanks every day, but as an era draws to a close today, we can’t forget the countless people who have grown up and have lived in the shadows of the Yankees, for better or for worse.
The Yanks apparently have decided on the final two players they’ll be sending to the desert this fall: second time AzFLers Juan Miranda & Kevin Whelan. So it looks like I misremembered, for some reason I thought they only had one pitcher spot empty, but I guess they never filled that second infield spot. Scott Aldred, Double-A Trenton’s pitching coach, will serve the same role with the team in Arizona, which is great because he’s familiar with all the pitchers the Yanks are sending. Season starts Oct. 7th. (h/t Chad Jennings) · (9) ·
Earlier today, Damaso Marte threw yet another scoreless inning for the Yankees, and his mid-August troubles are seemingly long gone. In his last 14 appearances, stretching back to August 16, Marte has thrown 11 innings, allowing one run on three hits and four walks. He’s struck out 13 in that span and is pitching about as well as any reliever could. As he’s now shown why he was a hot commodity at the trade deadline, I believe the Yanks will pick up his option this fall, solidifying the late-inning need for a lefty next year. · (76) ·