Last night I walked into Yankee Stadium for the final time. I was feeling pretty sad about it, but at the same time I felt like something amazing was gonna happen that night.
The stadium was packed at 5 p.m. The line to get into Monument Park was longer than usual for a Tuesday evening, and there were more people standing around watching batting practice than normal. It made no difference that for the first time since '93 it looks like there will be no October baseball in the Bronx; the fans were there to say good-bye to the stadium.
As I sat in my seat, I thought of all the games I'd seen there and all the different places I'd watched games. I remembered when I first realized who the Bleacher Creatures were, and how I didn't get to visit Monument Park until a cold day in February when I convinced my family to go on a stadium tour three years ago.
I've been lucky enough to see the likes of Paul O'Neill, Tino Martinez, Bernie Williams, David Cone and Roger Clemens in pinstripes, and besides the handful of Red Sox games I've attended, I also got to see a Subway Series game. Not to mention, on the jumbotron in center field, they were showing footage of great Yankee moments, so the memories were on overload.
After Andy Pettitte pitched a one, two three first, and Johnny Damon led off the bottom of the inning with a single, what I'd been waiting for all day finally came.
The recording of Bob Sheppard announced Derek Jeter, and as the captain strode up to the plate the camera flashes erupted. Jeter had a chance to pass Lou Gehrig on the All-Time hits at Yankee Stadium list. Monday night he went 0-4, and there was talk that he was feeling the pressure to do it with only six games remaining at the stadium.
I stood up as he made his way to the plate, and when I looked around, it appeared as if everyone was on their feet. The noise level was ridiculously high for the bottom of the first inning, and the "Derek Jeter" chant started before he had adjusted his batting gloves for the final time.
Gavin Floyd threw his first pitch, and in that instance you could feel everyone holding their breath. Derek swung and the ball was hit near the third baseman, and somehow he couldn't get to it fast enough, and Jeter as safe at first. And there it was; a 72-year-old record held by a Yankee captain broken by another Yankee captain.
The crowd gave Jeter an ovation that lasted for a few minutes. He tipped his helmet to the crowd to acknowledge them, and then quickly put his helmet on and took his lead off of first. Bobby Abreu stepped in and out of the batter's box twice because the crowd hadn't stopped clapping and cheering yet.
The rest of the game was relatively forgetful. The White Sox ended up with the win and, Andy Pettitte had lost his fifth straight decision for the first time in his career. Of course I'll remember that my last trip was the night my favorite player passed Lou Gehrig on a now untouchable list.
More than that, I'll remember the electricity in the air, all the people posing for pictures with the famous ball park, and the way 55,000 plus stood and waited for the captain's first at bat of the game. It was a better final visit than I could've ever imagined, and a night that I can store with the rest of my Yankee memories of 161st Street and River Avenue.