As Yanks Falter, Stadium Asks To Die With Dignity

For the first time since the strike-shortened 1994 season, Yankee Stadium won’t see October baseball (although the Yanks are still mathematically alive for a wild-card tie). And since there won’t be any playoff games, we might as well just tear the whole place down and start over.

Yankee Stadium

The Orioles did their job of laying down and letting the Yankees win the final game at the 85-year-old ballpark. I mean, they gave up a home run to Jose Molina for crap’s sake. Mariano Rivera got the final out for a non-save (the Yanks won by four), and Joe Girardi curiously removed Derek Jeter from the game with two outs in the ninth (are they imploding Jeter too?). And then afterward, “New York, New York” blared from the speakers…like four times in a row. Yup, just your average Yankee game.

I had what I guess was the privilege to cover Yankee games at the Stadium for several years. And, to be honest, the thing that excited me most about being in the press box was that I got to see where George Costanza’s office was. And I got to urinate next to some of the great ballplayer-turn-broadcasters of all time (you haven’t lived until you’ve peed with Ron Santo on one side of you and Bobby Murcer on the other, may he rest in peace).

A few years back, I was there when Alex Rodriguez hit home runs in three consecutive at-bats against Bartolo Colon — the last a towering grand slam to straight-away center up onto the black tarp that Reggie Jackson made famous in 1977 — and I remember sitting in awe that a ball hit that far was just a long double in Babe Ruth’s day. How did that guy hit 700+ home runs playing here? A few years later I watched A-Rod hit a lazy fly ball down the line that ended up being his 500th home run. Oh yeah, that’s how Babe did it.

One of the first times I went to the stadium, as PA announcer Bob Sheppard (who is an old, old dude) was reading the starting lineups, I got up from my chair to walk to the press concession stand (knishes for 75 cents, you can’t beat it) and walked right past… Bob Sheppard. He wasn’t sitting anywhere near a microphone, but I could hear his voice. And he was wearing, roughly, this:

wacky golf attire

Freaked me out. And that, my friends, is how I learned that almost everything he says is pre-recorded.

Enough from me, let’s see what the important folks are saying about last night.

The CANADIAN PRESS reports that there’s dramaaaaaaaa! over what will certainly be the only Jose Molina home-run ball to fetch more than two dollars on the open market. Seems that “Steve from Colorado” ended up with the ball, but another guy thinks it should be his:

 Another fan, who identified himself as Paul Russo of Manhattan, insisted he had claim to the souvenir, but security officers handed the ball to Steve.

“When it was first hit, you could just kind of see it come right at us and you knew it was coming close. I mean I was right under it, it hit bounced once and came right back to me and I just grabbed it,” he said, claiming he held a grip on the ball through the netting. “Yeah I held it. I wasn’t going to let go of it.”

Actually, I saw this guy holding the ball through the net and wondered if he had a plan for getting it out through the net. I guess he didn’t. Tough beans, Paul Russo. Did you at least try to saw the netting down with your car keys?

AM NEW YORK’s Wallace Matthews notes that George Steinbrenner’s absence at the game was tragic:

The Boss was the Yankees. His was the magic that revived the franchise, his relentless drive the engine that made it go. Aside from a handful of homegrown talent such as Mattingly and Munson and Jeter and Posada and Mariano and Bernie Williams, Steinbrenner’s Yankees were a parade of transients, paid killers from other teams who stopped here, did their jobs and left.

He was the one constant, and while it seemed as if everyone who ever wore a Yankees cap was at the ballpark last night, it was the one who was not there whose presence was felt most of all.

Matthews continues with a cynical take on the new park:

When the last out was made in an 8-5 loss to the Tigers on Sept. 30, 1973, whatever was left of the crowd of 32,238 walked out without looking back, even though they knew that was the last they would ever see of the original Yankee Stadium. No tears were shed on the way out.

It was nothing like the oceans of crocodile tears spilled last night over a ballpark the Yankees have been trying to rid themselves of for the past 20 years. In truth, this was a happy occasion for everyone but the fans, who will need mortgages to afford tickets next year. The Yanks will finally own their own ballpark, the players will finally move from the utility closet in the basement into a real clubhouse, and the ownership will pocket fistfuls of cash from 60 luxury boxes.

Of course, there’s always those who are just downright happy to see the place go away, like LET’S GO TRIBE, who titles their tribute post “Cesspool scheduled for demolition“:

So, you may have heard, they just finished playing the last game ever at Yankee Stadium — once the home to the greatest organization in sports, a symbol of American excellence.  Back then, there was nothing preening about calling it The House That Ruth Built, because baseball was the sport that Ruth built into national obsession, and Ruth was a True Yankee back when that phrase might have really meant something — back when it didn’t induce nausea, back when it wasn’t coming out of the mouth of some disgusting, loathsome, self-entitled pig of a pathetic excuse for a sports fan.

Ah, yes, nothing like a good dose of anti-Yankee vitriol to put everything in perspective.