Taken from my Article on Imaginarydiamond.com:
Babe Ruth’s called shot. Lou Gehrig’s speech. Chris Chambliss’ home run. The race to 61. Jim Leyritz’s walk off. Wade Boggs riding the horse. Aaron Boone beating the Red Sox. Derek Jeter diving into the stands.
Some of the greatest moments in the history of Major League Baseball took place in Yankee Stadium. Now, after opening 85 years ago, Yankee legends past and present reconvened to say good bye to “The House That Ruth Built”, rebuild these great memories, and create an almost perfect night.
Derek Jeter taking the last Yankee at bat, Mariano pitching the final inning, and the Bronx Bombers coming away with a win to maintain a 6.5-game deficit behind the Boston Red Sox in the Wild Card race - what would seem like a meaningless September game was everything but.
Some of the all-time New York Yankee greats were in attendance, and ESPN broadcasted the game to a national audience, turning the game into a baseball spectacle. Between Bernie Williams’ first return and huge ovation, the hours of historical footage detailing the greatness of “The Baseball Cathedral”, and the overall camaraderie between Yankee fans and legends, the Yankee Stadium farewell was nearly perfect.
While the great teams of the 1990’s were well represented on the field by some of its great players in Williams, Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, Derek Jeter, and Mariano Rivera, there were two faces conspicuously absent. Former Yankee captain Don Mattingly, and Joe Toree, manager of the 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2000 World Series, were nowhere to be found on this historical evening. They were 3,000 miles away coaching the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 1-0 loss. Their absences truly put a damper on the event. Mattingly and Torre belonged at the Stadium for this event, and it is a shame that their tenure in the Bronx ended the way it did.
While the great voices of New York Yankee baseball, Michael Kay and John Sterling, were co-hosts of the pregame, ESPN personalities Joe Morgan and Jon Miller attempted to call the stadium’s play-by-play. To say they failed in this great feat would be an understatement. The individual who invented the mute button must have had this game in mind because Miller and Morgan were awful. It became painfully obvious when Michael Kay filled in during the eighth inning and actually showed that he knew what he was talking about.
Between failing too adequately explain to fans the beauty of “roll call”, to continuing to focus on the Yankees’ missing the playoffs, the broadcasting pair seemed lost. Kay has been calling Yankees games since 1993. He knows this team inside and out. He knows the history, traditions, and overall pageantry of Yankee baseball. He deserved to call the final Yankees game more than anyone else, and ESPN robbed both he and the fans of a potential great broadcast.
Despite these few mishaps, the September 21 clash between the Yankees and Orioles will be forever remembered by baseball fans nationwide. The pre-game ceremonies crossed the ages of baseball to rekindle what Yankee Stadium is all about. Fans and players were able to set aside the frustrations of being 6.5 games behind arch rival Boston with just seven to play, and simply live in the glory of the event.
With that game in the rear view mirror, however, and the Yankees mathematically alive in the season’s final week, the wise words of the great Yogi Berra remain in the back of our minds: “It ain’t over till its over.”