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.
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.
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.
Pondering the field, one final time.
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.
I’m still working on putting together a post about the final game. I took a lot of pictures, and the whole evening was very emotional. Plus, there’s this Civil Procedure reading too. I’ll have the photo post ready to go in the morning for you. In the meantime…
In the clearest indication of where the Yanks’ organization may be headed this off-season, Hal Steinbrenner unequivocally said that the team wants Brian Cashman back as the General Manager. Kat O’Brien has the story:
The Yankees want Brian Cashman back as their general manager next year, and have told him so, Yankees co-chairman Hal Steinbrenner told Newsday in a phone interview Monday.
“He knows that we’re with him, that we want him back,” Steinbrenner said.
Cashman confirmed that to Newsday in a phone interview, saying: “Yes, we’ve talked. They’ve mentioned that during the season.”
Steinbrenner said conversations took place among himself, brother and co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner, father and principal owner George Steinbrenner and Cashman when the Yankees played in Tampa earlier this month. Hal Steinbrenner said: “We did talk in Tampa. We didn’t talk about dollars, but we talked about time frame, length.
Interestingly, O’Brien’s sources hedge their bets when it comes to Cashman’s ultimate decision. While the Yanks want him back, it’s no sure thing that he wants to come back. “I think obviously, it’s quickly approaching that type of decision,” Cashman said to O’Brien. “There’s no doubt about it. I’ll sit down with my family — with the Yankee family and my family. We’ll do what’s best for everyone involved. I love what I do. We’ll just have to see what happens.”
In the end, I think Cashman will come back. I think the Yanks will offer him a very lucrative deal, and I don’t think Cashman can just give up 22 years of organizational ties. I think this story lays out what we’ve all thought for a long time: Hal is more in charge than the backpage editors of The Daily News and The New York Post would have you believe, and if that is indeed the case, I think we’ll see Brian Cashman return.
We’re Cashman supporters here. But we know he has his detractors. Those opponents, though, appear to come largely from outside the organization, and the people making the decisions for the Yankees recognize what they have in Brian Cashman. To give up on him now, in the middle of his restocking plan, would be folly.
While they had the tying and winning runs in scoring position, the Red Sox couldn’t top the Indians tonight, and the Yankees live to fight another day. As David Pinto relates, the game was not without controversy as an ump got in the way of the ball, thus costing the Red Sox a key run. The Yanks are now six out in the Wild Card with six left to play. Stranger things haven’t really happened. · (24) ·
It’s a quiet night in Yankeeland as the players and fans have spent the day reflecting on last night’s Yankee Stadium finale. But just because the Yanks are off doesn’t mean baseball stops.
Across town, as the Mets look to close out Shea Stadium, the team has entered their annual September swoon. Already out of first place, they’re playing the Cubs with their October hopes on the line. In Atlanta, the Phillies are looking to hold on to their slim NL East lead. In Cleveland, the Red Sox are searching for that one win to clinch a playoff berth while we’re hoping the improbable can happen.
Meanwhile, we’re always have CC. Jon Heyman chimes in with yet another Yankee-filled column, and this one’s a doozy. He says it’ll take “crazy” money for CC to come to the AL and the Bronx. Funny thing about the Yanks is that they just happen to have crazy money lying around in piles. Heyman also believes that Bobby Abreu, Jason Giambi and Andy Pettitte will be gone but that Mike Mussina will retire.
He also mentions two other items of note: The Yanks have all but given up on Melky Cabrera and will be looking for a center fielder this off-season. Second, Robinson Cano remains the Yanks’ biggest trade chip, and it is Heyman’s view and his view only that the Yanks could explore trade options. Considering the younger/better mantra the Yanks are attempting to adopt, I don’t see the team moving Cano.
So as the evening wears on, and baseball heads to a finish, use this thread for an open thread. Speculate on the Yanks. Check in on the pennant races. Nothing is off-topic.
I loved last night’s closing ceremonies, but there were a few notable absences. Donnie Baseball wasn’t there; Joe Torre garnered nary a mention; and while the team honored the players, the Stadium itself served more as a backdrop than as the main event at times. It wasn’t until after the game that the Stadium took centerstage. Joel Sherman, a writer to whom we rarely link, runs down some of the more disappointing aspects to last night’s ceremonies. While Sherman, not quite a Yankee fan, is engaging in some Monday Morning Quarterbacking, he raises a few valid points, and for a piece offering up a dissenting view on last night, it’s not half bad. · (28) ·
With the announced attendance of 54,610 last night, the Yanks drew 4,298,543 fans last night. This lofty total is a new record for the Yanks, and as Tyler Kepner notes, it is one the team cannot break in the new stadium. Capacity for the new Yankee Stadium will be 52,325 according to the Yankees, and a sold-out slate of 81 games would find 4,238,325 fans at the stadium. While the Yanks will probably reach that goal next year, they won’t reach the 2008 record unless they expand the seating at the new stadium. It certainly makes me wonder why the team has built a smaller stadium. · (37) ·
We’ve been criticized for our irrational optimism in the past, so we might get some flak for this. If the Yankees can win their final six games, including three against the Red Sox, and the Sox drop their next seven, well, then we’d be in line for a one-game playoff. Impossible? No. Improbable? Yes. But hey, the season ain’t over until we lose or Boston wins one more game. · (44) ·
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.