- Posted September 23, 2008 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Yankee Stadium's last at bat
The ghosts of Yankee Stadium
Hopefully when the new Yankee Stadium officially opens on April 16, 2009, the ghosts from the old stadium will have already moved in and made themselves at home. They'll only need to pack their mystique and aura for the short trip across 161st Street in the Bronx.
Call it what you want - The House that Ruth Built, The Cathedral of Baseball even if you're not a Yankees fan or a baseball fan, you can probably still manage to muster up some admiration for one of this country's most historic monuments. Serious baseball fans considered a trip to the stadium a pilgrimage, and even players on visiting teams were in awe when they took the field for the first time. From Monument Park to the white frieze to the short porch in right field, the stadium was instantly recognizable as an icon of baseball and of our country.
Having been to a few of the new ballparks - such as Jacob's Field and PNC Park - I will admit that there's something nice about a shiny new park with all the amenities.
As a lifelong fan of the Yankees and the stadium, I can honestly say I didn't care at all about what it was missing. I'd walk into the stadium and instantly feel mesmerized by the sights and sounds around me. I believed the place was pleasantly haunted - it was our Field of Dreams. So many men made this field their home, feeling incredibly fortunate at the opportunity to do for months or years what so many of us wished we could try just for one afternoon.
For years, players would touch a sign hung over the tunnel as they made their way to the dugout, bearing Joe DiMaggio's quote 'I want to thank the good Lord for making me a Yankee'.
There are the most famous images - Lou Gehrig with his hands in his back pockets, giving one of the most heroic speeches of all time, Roger Maris' 61st home run into right field, fans rushing the field after Chris Chamblis' game-winning home run, Reggie Jackson's 3 home runs off 3 first pitches by 3 different pitchers in game 6 of the 1977 World Series, the emptiness of home plate after Thurman Munson's funeral, the team sprawled out over the mound and each other, celebrating their 1998 World Series 4-game sweep of the Padres after a record 114 regular season wins.
Then there were the images most of us never saw - the area under the stands where Lou Gehrig used to go to be by himself to hide the progression of the illness that would eventually take his young life, or Thurman Munson's locker that has remained untouched from his death in August 1979 until the stadium closes for good.
Many who were most familiar with the stadium claimed that during some of the stadium's biggest moments, the entire building shook from the noise. The stadium had its own personality, its own secrets, and undoubtedly its own ghosts. I'm certain the stadium is haunted.
When I sat in the Yankees dugout back in 2001, I quietly took in the whole experience. Sure, my view was a bit different than theirs, but still...what an unforgettable moment. I still have the dirt I grabbed from the warning track in front of the dugout.
When I visited Monument Park, I noticed it was the only spot in the stadium that was much quieter. People mulled around and looked and took photos, but there was a noticeable hint of quiet dignified respect.
I've been to Yankee Stadium 4 times. The first was in 1999 when my first visit to NYC was initially planned around the baseball game. Walking into the stadium for the first time, setting my eyes on the field, I thought 'I'm in YAN-KEE STAD-IUM!' and was just in awe of the entire experience. My husband and I met up with my brother and father to see David Cone pitch a night game against the White Sox in late September. The Yankees won.
My second visit was in September 2001, just days before the terrorist attacks. My husband and I rode the subway to two games against the Red Sox. Again, the trip to NYC was planned specifically so we could see the Yankees play the Red Sox. The weather was perfect as the Yankees won both games - 7-2 and 9-2. I saw Tino Martinez hit 3 home runs over the course of those two games.
Another day during our visit we joined Tony Morante's tour of the ballpark. We visited the press box, dugouts, Monument Park, etc. I have pictures of me in the dugout and on the field. I'll never forget that day and how special it was to visit one of my all-time favorite places.
I'll truly miss the old stadium.