Yankee Stadium, both the Old and the New, has seen its fair share of dramatics.
On Friday night, Yankee lore honored the passing of two great men that meant much more to the Yankee franchise and the game of baseball than can ever be expressed in words.
Thursday afternoon, designs for the commemorative patches to honor Yankee Principal Owner George Steinbrenner and long-time Public Address Announcer Bob Sheppard were released. Friday evening, they made their debut.
Bob Sheppard manned the PA booth at Yankee Stadium for 57 years, announcing over 4,500 games during his tenure. The Yanks adorned his circular patch, a microphone placed in the center of a baseball diamond with his name, on the left sleeves of their uniforms.
But "The Voice of Yankee Stadium" would not be alone.
On an elliptical patch sat the initials "GMS" in the middle with "George M. Steinbrenner III" arched over the top and "The Boss" lining the bottom of the patch. Fittingly, the GMS patch was placed above the interlocking NY—just above the heart.
Steinbrenner bought the Yankees from CBS in 1973 for $8.8 million. Today, the Yankees' estimated value hovers around $1.8 billion.
Both patches will, of course, remain on the team uniforms for the duration of the season.
But the honoring and commemoration did not stop there.
Prior to tonight's game at Yankee Stadium, the first home game since the passing of Sheppard and Steinbrenner, a tribute was made by the Yankees, the opposing Rays, and the fans.
In addition to the video remembrance, Yankee closer Mariano Rivera laid two roses across home plate. The captain, Derek Jeter, was invited to say a few words regarding both The Boss and The Voice.
George Steinbrenner's close relationship to the Army's West Point Academy earned both himself and Bob Sheppard a house call from Army officers to present the colors and play taps prior to a moment of silence. It was a silence that was described by YES Network telecasters as so silent, the train beyond the right field fence could be heard rushing by as well as the half-mast flags whipping in the breeze.
But all these tributes still weren't enough. This is, of course, New York, and these are the Yankees.
To honor Public Address Announcer Bob Sheppard, the PA booth remained empty for the duration of the game. No player names were announced coming to the plate, nor were any other sounds coming from the PA booth. Any noise made in the stadium came from the teams, and the spectators.
The Yankees did, however, play tribute videos on their centerfield monitor in-between innings.
Even before C.C. Sabathia hurled the first pitch to the plate, everyone knew the Yankees were playing with heavy hearts, and that was evident on the scoreboard.
For the first six innings, the Yankees struggled to get any kind of offense going, taking a 3-1 deficit into the sixth inning while only earning two hits.
Perhaps it was the somber crowd affecting the team, or maybe it was the other way around.
With two outs and the bases empty in the bottom of the sixth, Robinson Cano lined a laser shot out to centerfield that just made it over the fence. He delivered it into the Yankee bullpen—directly next to the partition of Monument Park.
The spotlight soon shifted when Jorge Posada hit a towering homer on a 3-0 fastball to the second deck in right field to tie the score at three.
It wouldn't be until the eighth inning when Nick Swisher, who was robbed of a home run earlier in the game by Rays' rightfielder Gabe Kapler, would send a shot that no one could take back to the upper deck in right field. This came after the Rays had previously retaken the lead in the seventh.
Swisher was responsible for the Yanks' first run in the third when he laced an RBI single down the rightfield line.
With Curtis Granderson sitting on second base in the bottom of the ninth inning, it was, again, Swisher who came through, dropping a walk-off base hit into right field to score Granderson.
It would have been fitting if Jeter had gotten the game-winning hit. But when asked about it after the game, Yankees skipper Joe Girardi said, in a broken voice and with evident emotion, that The Boss cared about the win—and that is what was delivered to him tonight in dramatic walk-off fashion.
George M. Steinbrenner
July 4, 1930-July 13, 2010
October 20, 1910-July 11, 2010
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