I returned to the place of my birth yesterday. Not my actual birth, my baseball birth. The place of actual birth was a hospital that doesn’t exist any more across the street from the Madison Square Garden that doesn’t exist any more. Soon, this Yankee Stadium, the home of my baseball birth won’t exist any more either.
I shed no tears. I was there with my wife, the Boston Red Sox fan (we live two miles from Fenway Park), my eldest daughter, who now lives in the City, and my youngest daughter, a Yankee fan. I was too happy to be with my family, at a place that was so important to me, to even think of mourning.
When we first climbed and climbed to get to the upper tier my wife felt woozy as we reached our seats. She asked me if I felt the same way and I knew that as a kid in the “old” Yankee Stadium these were the seats that I had spent many a Saturday and Sunday afternoon. This is the perspective that I had on a game and the sightline that enabled me to learn as much (or as little) as I know.
I pointed out to my clan how you can see the second baseman and shortstop get into double play position and how that differed from the regular way they played. How the Mariners outfield shaded to the left for Hideki Matsui which then made Ichiro’s “really good play” a less less than a “great” play as he caught a liner in the gap. I warned them to watch how Jeter would hit the ball to the right side of the infield to move Damon to third with only one out. I urged them to watch the shortstop give the signal to second baseman when a runner was on first to indicate who would cover the bag on an attempted steal or hit and run.
I watched their smiles as all these things came to pass, because of all the fundamentals that I learned from my inexpensive grandstand seats during my education at Yankee Stadium. My late father, my teacher, would have been proud.
On the mound yesterday was Mike Mussina and my wife thought it was awful that they were booing him. They were merely saluting him by calling his nickname, “Moose.” And that brought back memories like a tidal wave of Moose Skowren, Bobby Richardson, Tony Kubek, and Clete Boyer. My childhood cat’s name was “Mickey Charles Mantle Chuck.” I saw Maris go for 61, the only man to legitimately break the Babe’s record (no I’m not old enough to have seen Ruth play). I saw Berra, Howard, and Blanchard behind the plate. I saw Hector Lopez and his corkscrew batting stance. I saw Cerv and Bauer, Demaestri, Carey, Gibbs, Reed, Linz, Tresh and loads of other players most of you haven’t heard of. I watched Bill Stafford, Ralph Terry, Jim Coates, Al Downing, Jim Bouton, Bud Daley, Rollie Sheldon, Marshall Bridges, Hal Reniff, Tex Clevenger all pitch. I saw Whitey Ford get the win and Luis Arroyo pick up the save. I saw Ralph Houk manage and Crossetti coach at third. These were names I grew up with and when sometimes I can’t remember yesterday’s lunch I can still picture them.
As the game became official, the scoreboard indicated that there were just 67 regular season games left at the Stadium. All of baseball should hope for the Yankees to make the post-season because this Hall of Famer shouldn’t end its career on the post-season sidelines.
As we drove back to Boston, I caught a glance at the new Yankee Stadium, “the House that George Built.” And it looks magnificent. It should. Someday they will replace Westminster Abbey and Notre Dame and St. Patrick’s Cathedral with something that looks magnificent as well.
I saw my past yesterday, I spent it with my present and with my future.
Sometimes life is pretty damn good.
Goodbye, Yankee Stadium.
Bill Chuck is the creator of Billy-Ball.com and, with Jim Kaplan, is the author of the book, “Walk-Offs, Last Licks, and Final Outs – Baseball’s Grand (and not so Grand) Finales,” with a Foreword by Jon Miller, published by ACTA Sports, and available worldwide.
Autographed first editions are available by contacting, Bill@billy-ball.com or order directly from Acta Sports, http://www.actasports.com/detail.html?&id=3427 or from your favorite bookstore.