A ballpark is nothing more than concrete and steel, bricks and glass and plastic. None of them, no matter how glitzy and overflowing with creature comforts and distractions, are anything until something happens inside, until some hero makes it his home and marks it with memorable moments.
Those moments stay in the park, waiting for the people who witnessed them to return and watch them again, to breathe life into the steel and stones. Yankee fans from the 1950s and 60s can still see Mickey Mantle in center field, Whitey Ford on the mound and Yogi Berra behind the plate. Another generation looks at the blacked-out bleachers in right centerfield and sees Reggie Jackson in the 1977 World Series and Goose Gossage throwing gas and Graig Nettles diving toward the line to rob someone of a hit.
The fans have been going back all summer long to the South Bronx, like family gathering to visit the death bed of a loved one. They go to say goodbye, but more than that, to reminisce and remember, to relive the good old days.
There are better parks than Yankee Stadium. Fenway is the bandbox gem of the genre, and old Tiger Stadium was the best place I’ve ever been in to see a game. Wrigley has its own charms, and the era of the modern ballpark has peppered the landscape with picturesque and enjoyable venues.
The Yankees owners and management assure us that the new Yankee Stadium will be far better than the old one. I have no doubt they’ll be right about that, if by better they mean more filled with creature comforts. They say they are moving the field in the old Yankee Stadium to the new, and that the new ballpark in the Bronx will have the same dimensions and architectural feel as the old.
Monument Park will still reside in left-center field. Frank Sinatra will serenade departing fans with “New York, New York.” Derek Jeter will still be introduced with the recorded voice of Bob Sheppard. The familiar old façade will be reproduced above the upper deck, just as it was in the original Yankee Stadium.
I’m sure I’ll like the park, but for strictly selfish reasons. The old park has been a difficult place to work in. The press box is cramped and the work room beneath the stadium has all the charm of a dungeon but without the creature comforts.
The new park will have expansive media facilities, top-notch interview areas, a bright and comfortable work room. It will be the same for the players — a bigger clubhouse, better weight room, state-of-the-art trainer’s room.
Every inch of the park swarms with ghosts. That’s where Mickey hit that titanic homer. That’s the mound where Larson and Wells celebrated perfect games. That’s the wall that the kid reached over to steal an out and a playoff series from the Orioles. That spot next to first base is where Billy Martin kicked dirt on an umpire’s shoes and where Lou Piniella went ballistic and where Don Mattingly made so many spectacular plays.
There is so much there to remember, and for most fans it’s only part of what the park represents. There was the first home run in its history belted by Babe Ruth against the Red Sox in 1923. There was Lou Gehrig, dying from the disease that bore his name, telling a weeping audience how he was the luckiest man on the face of the earth. Years later, Babe Ruth said his own farewell to New York and the Stadium when he was dying of throat cancer.
NEW YORK (AP) - Yankees fans showed Don Mattingly the love from the moment he took the lineup card to home plate Wednesday. Hiroki Kuroda, though, wasn't feeling nostalgic when facing his old team.
Yankee Stadium closes
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