Today was kind of a strange day. I was given my sister's car, as my oldsmobile is, well, old and virtually undrivable. As I moved my CD's and Yankee window clinger out of my '96 oldsmobile and into my new '06 Elantra, and peeled my Mercy College sticker off the back windshield, I thought to myself "I'm moving my things into my new car today, and the Yankees are moving their things into their new Stadium after tonight." It all felt so strange.
I made my way up to Hopewell Junction, NY to watch the game with my two best friends, Dave and Vito. When we arrived at Vito's house, we played a game. Of course, it was a pickup game of baseball. It is a game that captures the spirit of our youth. After the game, we headed in to watch the pregame ceremonies of the Yankees vs. Orioles.
The pregame ceremony was extravagant. Yogi Berra, Don Larson, Willie Randolph, Paul O'Neill, Scott Brosius, Tino Martinez, Reggie Jackson, Bobby Richardson, Bernie Williams, Whitey Ford, Graig Nettles, Rich "Goose" Gossage, Dave Winfield, David Cone, and David Wells...the list went on and on. All Yankees--past and present--were on hand to see the Stadium off.
After the ceremonies, the game itself started.
Taking the loneliest spot in the world, A.K.A. the pitching mound at Yankee Stadium tonight was Andy Pettitte. In his final start at Yankee Stadium, he pitched five innings, gave up three runs on seven hits, walked one, and struck out three.
He was opposed by Chris Waters, who went 5.2 innings, gave up five earned runs on six hits, walked four, and struck out two.
The Orioles put up two runs, one in the top of the second and one in the top of the third with RBI from Jay Payton and Melvin Mora.
Vito, Dave, and myself thought "this is not the way we want to go out. We can't lose here tonight."
However, the Empire struck back in the bottom of the third. Johnny Damon smashed a three-run homer into the short porch in right field, his 16th of the year, giving the Yanks a 3-2 lead.
"What a coincidence!" we thought. "Babe Ruth was a Red Sock, becomes a Yankee, and hits the first home run in Yankee Stadium. Johnny Damon was a Red Sock, becomes a Yankee, and he may have just hit the last home run in Yankee Stadium!" Even more coincidental, Damon hit the ball into Babe's short porch!
Micheal Robinson, one of my fellow bleacher reporters and Yankee fans, texted me right after the thought occurred to me. "...so Ruth is a former Red Sox player...hits the first home run...Damon, former Red Sox player...potentially hits the last one," Robinson said in his text.
In the top of the fourth, the Orioles would tie it on a single by Brian Roberts to score Kevin Millar.
"I am very happy to have hit the first home run in Yankee Stadium. God knows who will hit the last," said "the Great Bambino," Babe Ruth.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, God told us. Jose Molina smacked a two-run homer onto the netting over Monument Park, his third long ball of the year, and the Yankees took a 5-3 lead.
The Bombers added two runs in the bottom of the seventh with an RBI single from Jason Giambi to score Bobby Abreu, and a single from Robinson Cano to score Brett Gardner, and the Yankees took a 7-3 lead.
As the game entered the late innings and Joba Chamberlain came on in middle relief, Dave, Vito and I found ourselves reminiscing about all of the games we went to together over the years, all the trips to the Stadium we took, our trip to Monument Park in 2002, and everything about Yankee Stadium that was special to us.
"Remember that game we went to and this happened? Remember that game we went to and that happened?" It may have been so hard, but we found ourselves smiling, laughing, and reflecting on all our wondrous memories of the House that Ruth built.
The great one, Mariano Rivera, was called on to close out the game in the top of the ninth, as he has done hundreds, if not thousands of times in the past. Rivera got Roberts to ground out to first, an unassisted put-out, to end the game and send the Cathedral of Baseball off on a win.
As the Yankees took congratulations on their field, my best friends and I found ourselves in awe. As Frank Sinatra's booming, jovial voice singing "New York, New York" resounded throughout Yankee Stadium, we found ourselves watching the greatest stadium in the world take it's final bow.
Pettitte captured the win, and is now 14-14 on the season. He also came to a landmark in the top of the second inning, as he nailed down his 2,000th career strikeout, fanning Ramon Hernandez.
Waters picked up the loss, and falls to 3-4.
Jose Veras, Phil Coke, and Chamberlain all recorded holds.
We watched on after the last out when Derek Jeter took the microphone. Jeter is not a man of many words, but he spoke to "the greatest fans in the world," in his own words.
"It's a lot of tradition, a lot of history, and a lot of memories. Now the great thing about memories is that you get to pass them along from generation to generation," Jeter said. "We are relying on you (the fans) to take the memories from this Yankee Stadium, add them onto the memories of the new Yankee Stadium, and continue to pass them along."
The Yankees then took a walk around Yankee Stadium (led by Jeter) to salute the capacity crowd who gave them a standing ovation.
I write this now, a tear trickling down my cheek, and I will never, ever forget the memories I made in the Cathedral and tonight's Yankee Stadium finale. But I also look forward--with joy--to do exactly what Jeter said: add onto the memories in the new Yankee Stadium and pass them along to the next generation.
Six games remain on the schedule for the Yankees in the 2008 season, and the Yankees spoiled the Red Sox' hopes of clinching a playoff berth with the win tonight.
Tuesday night at 7:07 ET, the Yankees will head up north to take on the Toronto Blue Jays.
Mike Mussina (18-9, 3.57 ERA) will continue his bid for 20 wins against Jesse Litsch (12-8, 3.72 ERA)
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