Even Haters Should Celebrate the End of Yankee Stadium Era

Kevin PaulSenior Analyst ISeptember 22, 2008

Baseball has lost a legend—not a Hall of Famer, not a former World Series MVP, not even human.  The final home game was played at Yankee Stadium last night, as the “House That Ruth Built” shut its doors after 85 years of countless baseball memories—both good and bad, depending on who you are.

Yankee fans and haters alike had to marvel at the names, the faces, the history, the baseball that seeped from the stadium’s doors—especially on this, the final home game.

Speaking as a fan that is used to being on the hater side of the Yankee fence, it’s surprising how captivating this game was.  Expectations of clicker flipping to the Pack and ‘Boys were there, but it rarely happened, if at all.  Instead, this writer was like a moth to the flame.

Football may have ruled the day, but from the moment Julia Ruth Stevens threw out the first pitch, baseball ruled the night.  The sights, sounds, and memories were all there—one last time.

The sights were there.  It was great to see Yankee legends emerge, sporting their pinstripes.  It was great to see Yogi Berra making wisecracks with Whitey Ford, and not parading around with the Aflac duck.  It was great to see replays of Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, and the Babe all littering the broadcast, all the while extracting priceless memories of baseball’s historic past.

The sounds were there.  From Bob Sheppard’s recorded voice (when Jeter approached the plate), to Ronan Tynan belting out “God Bless America” during the seventh inning stretch, to the ground-shaking sounds of “Enter Sandman” (as Mariano Rivera made his entrance), to Frank Sinatra’s voice echoing through the night after the final pitch… it was all there.

The memories collectively filled the air, good and bad—but mostly good.  One couldn’t help but recollect the legendary performances, such as Don Larsen’s World Series perfect game, Aaron Boone’s long ball that shocked the Red Sox, or Reggie’s World Series trifecta. 

One couldn’t help but remember the controversies, such as A-Rod’s ex and her colorfully verbal t-shirt line, or Jeffrey Maier’s outfield interfering catch that single handedly sent the Orioles franchise into a funk.  One couldn’t forget the opponents that left lasting impressions, such as a young Josh Beckett dominating in a Florida uniform, or Byung-Hyun Kim serving up World Series meatballs in an Arizona uniform.

It was all there—and then some…except for the familiar postseason atmosphere.  The place was electric, but with a bittersweet aftertaste.  As Jeter and the boys paraded around the stadium saluting the fans, something didn’t quite feel right.  After all, this wasn’t a playoff team. 

This team would be sitting at home in October—after a decade-plus of being playoff bound.  It hardly seemed fair—which is bizarre to say considering this team has experienced more success than Donald Trump.  Still, it hardly seemed fair to the Stadium’s sendoff, but nevertheless, nothing would spoil this night—not the Orioles, not the playoffs… nothing.

As the old Yankee Stadium shuts down its lights to make way for its brand spankin’ new counterpart, waiting on deck and sporting its billion-dollar price tag, all the while screaming “Hey, look at me”, we as baseball fans are left to reflect on everything that this baseball landmark meant to the game.

Here’s to you Yankee Stadium, even from a rabid fan that chose to root against you for years.  Through all the good and the bad, the excitement, the frustration, the pain, the jubilation—through it all—thanks for the memories.  It’s truly been a fun ride.

So memorable, that even the haters should rejoice.