As the final days of the stadium are rapidly winding down, I thought it would be fitting to take a look back at all the wonderful and magical moments this grand building has given us, and a chance to say Thank you for keeping us on our feet for the last 85 years.
It started way back in 1923, with a guy that built the park, or so they say, Babe Ruth. The stadium was built because of him and fittingly he hit the first ever homerun in the park, one of his many, monstrous dingers. He also led the team to their first ever Championship, in what would become the all time greatest sports team of the millennium. He started a trend, a way of life in New York and we are still ever thankful for him.
It wasn’t only Ruth, though, that brought out the best in New York. It was Gherig and his consecutive games played streak, earning him the nickname “Iron Horse”. It was DiMaggio, managing to get a hit in 56 straight games. It was the M & M boys of Mantle and Maris and their blazing homerun chase in the summer of ’61 and the list goes on and on.
As the season winds down and a new generation of fans get ready to embark on a new palace, I want to take this moment out to take a look at what has defined the most recent Yankees, the ones who will be trying to re-create what they are leaving behind, The Aura and Mystique that has been so blatantly visible for so long.
It all started in 1996, when the Yankees brought in a stumbling Manager by way of Joe Torre. He was dubbed “Clueless Joe”, and for good reason. He had no idea what he was getting himself into. But throughout it all, he seemed to handle all the pressure and adversity, and for the first time in his career and the first time in the last 18 years of the Yankees, managed to guide his team to the World Series and find a way to pull out a stirring victory after being down 2-0 against the heavily favored Atlanta Braves.
That was only the beginning though. After a rough 1st round playoff exit handed down by the Indians in 1997, the Yankees set off to prove they were not just a fluke the year before, although it did not start good. They went 1-4 to open the season, then turned it on and never looked back. By the All Star Break they were 61-20 and it was over from there. They went on to win 114 regular season games, the most ever up to that point and went on to capture their 2ndWS ring in 3 years.
They continued that winning trend throughout the rest of the 90’s and into the new millennium, getting major contributions from unlikely heroes, like Scott Brosius, Luis Sojo, and Aaron Boone. They have always found a way to make it and play, just when you counted them out they came back and showed you why they are the Yankees.
Nothing will ever compare though to the October of 2001. The City of New York was reeling from the after effects of the most heinous attack on our city ever, and they were turning to the New York Yankees to help them grieve. And that they did. In the first round of the playoffs against Oakland, Derek Jeter wound up on the 1stbase line to make a shovel toss of a errant throw to Posada to tag out Giambi at the plate to preserve the game and help the Yankees advance. But even that magical play pails in comparison to what happened when the Yankees advanced to the Series. With the Yankees down 2-1 to the Arizona Diamondbacks and down to their last out in Game 4, Tino Martinez stepped up to the plate and delivered one of the biggest homeruns of his career. With 2 out, 2 run homerun to tie the score and set up Derek Jeter’s game winning homerun to become Mr. November. So the series was tied and again in Game 5 the Yankees found themselves with their backs to the wall. Again, two out down by two, one on and up walked Scott Brosius. Never before had it happened and probably never again. He replicated Martinez from a night before and tied the game with a homerun of his own. Two Nights Two homeruns and from down 2-1 to up 3-2 just like that. The Yankees would go on to lose the series, but for a few weeks in New York, a city mourned together, with the Yankees trying to heal them.
So many more memories good and bad have filled the stadium, Aaron Boone hitting a Walk off bottom of the 11th inning off the Red Sox to send the Yankees back to the Series, to the most historic collapse in postseason baseball the next year, the Yankees have given us a lot to cheer about as well as a lot to fear. They have taken hold of our hearts on their roller coaster ride and won’t let go.
So as the stadium draws near to its final curtain call, I take this time out to say Thank You. Thanks for all the years, all the tears we have cried, whether it be good or bad. You have given New Yorkers a sanctuary to go to when times were bad and welcomed all of us with open arms. You gave all you could to making us happy and for a few hours each night let us all forget our troubles and bask in the glory of your magic. Thank You.
The Yankees are moving across the street next year and these Yankees who have forged their own name on the walls will try and do that again next door, in the House that 26 World Championships Built. Goodbye Ruth’s House, you’ve been good to us.