WRITTEN: August 11, 2009
"If you build it, they will come."
Certainly one of the most revered movie lines ever, this quote symbolizes all that is important about the game of baseball. It symbolizes the return of players past, to lurk in the shadows of the game today, as "ghosts." Field of Dreams nicely conveyed the idea of the importance of what has already happened, in relation to what is happening today.
I think it's safe to say that the Yankees built it, and the ghosts decided to walk across the street to join in on their little party.
In March and April, many things were said about the Yankees' new home, located across the street from the 86 year old "heaven on earth," at One East 161st Street in the 10451 (Bronx, NY).
Barbara Aufiero said, "Much ado has been made about ticket prices and the strict rules limiting autographs to only those fans with tickets for the highest priced sections. The price of a ticket in these sections was so extraordinarily high that even though the cost has been cut in half, each seat still costs over $1000.00 per game! Fans are no longer prohibited from entering all field level sections during batting practice; however, they still cannot enter sections between the bases unless they have a ticket for that section."
Susan Slusser wrote, with help from visiting team pitchers, ""I'm not a mathematician, but that's a ridiculous pace," Oakland starter Dallas Braden said. "I can't imagine that will hold up, but if it does, any word on if they'll get a humidor in here? I'm sure the Yankees' pitchers wouldn't mind.""
ESPN commentator Peter Gammons has denounced the new facility as "one of the biggest jokes in baseball" and concludes that "[it] was not a very well-planned ballpark." Likewise, Gammons' ESPN colleague Buster Olney has described the stadium as being "on steroids" and likened it to his childhood Wiffle-ball park. Newsday columnist Wallace Matthews joined in the criticism, labeling the stadium "ridiculous" and decrying its cheapening of the home run. Former Yankee Reggie Jackson termed the park "too small" to contain current player Alex Rodriguez and suggested it might enable the third baseman to hit 75 home runs in a season.
The Yankees were also criticized for not making a move at this year's trade deadline. The Red Sox, the Yanks main competition in this 2009 season, acquired Victor Martinez, and did not even give up any of their top prospects. The Yankees, acquired Eric Hinske and Jerry Hairston Jr, rather than addressing their "need" of a 5th starting pitcher. It seemed, to Yankees Universe and Red Sox Nation, that the Yankees were just making one bad decision after another.
On, August 6, though, none of that mattered.
The Yankees sold out Yankee Stadium for only the 2nd time all season - 2nd since Opening Day. However, this crowd was not of the April 16th "Wine & Cheese" variety. The fans in the ballpark on August 6 were Yankees fans - and not afraid the mention it.
Joba struggled in the opener vs. Boston. He walked a career high 7 men, and surrendered two home runs through 5 innings pitcher.
None of that seemed to matter. The Yankees erupted for 8 runs in the Bottom of the 4th inning, and won the game, 13-6.
On August 7, 2009, the Yankees sold out again.
Again, Yankees fans flocked to the stadium. Something was catching on.
After 9 innings, not one run had been scored.
In the bottom of the 15th innings, the Yankees had two out, one on, with Alex Rodriguez up. When I tell you the place was still packed, I mean it.
When I tell you A-Rod hadn't homered in 70+ ABs at this moment, I mean it.
When I tell you that was the longest such streak in his career, I mean it.
When I tell you when he swung, Yankee Stadium erupted for this first time in it's short history, I mean it.
A walk-off HR over the LF wall, A-Rod jubilantly rounded the bases to the tune of "New York, New York."
The Yankees entered the series with Boston having lost 9 straight dating back to last season, and were 0-8 in 2009. Slowly, but surely, the Yanks were climbing back into the hunt, and expanding on their lead in the American League East.
I cannot mention Friday night, though, without commenting on A.J. Burnett's performance. To say he was phenomenal would be an understatement. 7.2 IP, 0 Runs, 1 Hit. Anthony James (if that is what A.J. stands for) was impeccable.
The great starting pitching would only get better, as Carston Charles Sabathia would take the hill on Saturday, for the FOX Matinee. Again, the Yankees would not allow a run, and some late inning hits fueled another victory.
Fans in Yankee Stadium (after it's 3rd consecutive sellout and 4th overall) were starting to realize something - this Yankee team is special. Let's keep going to games.
After Burnett & CC were taken off the mound in their respective outings, each commented on the crowd's intensity - the first time either of them had ever experienced such intensity in their entire careers:
"It was pretty loud, the loudest thing I ever heard," Burnett said. "I had goose bumps the whole way to the dugout. I'm just glad I didn't drop my glove.
"That was the loudest I ever heard anything. It was awesome, an environment I really can't describe. To come off the field and get that type of ovation, it was amazing."
"That was unbelievable," Sabathia said, "I had goose bumps walking off there."