Monday, September 22, 2008

Yankee Stadium 1923 - 2008: A Recap of Last Night's Festivities

The Runner's Recipe of the Week will be delayed this week due a series of special farewell to Yankee Stadium entries.

The final home game at Yankee Stadium was played last night, September 21, 2008. Beginning next season the Yankees will move across the street into a new building. I was lucky enough to have a ticket to yesterday's festivities. Gates to the stadium opened at 1:00 p.m. Those with valid tickets were allowed to visit Monument Park between 1:00 and 6:30 p.m. Fans were also allowed to walk on the warning track between Monument Park and home plate between 1:00 and 4:00. Unfortunately, I was not not able to make to the Stadium that early.

The pre-game festivities began with a pre-recorded message from Bob Sheppard, long-time public address announcer for Yankees. Bob is still recovering from an illness but said he hopes to see everyone next year in the new Yankee Stadium. Masters of Ceremony were John Sterling and Michael Kay. In the days leading up to last night, the Yankees said that a special historical memento would be revealed. We finally found out what that was, the first ever AL Pennant raised in Yankee Stadium in 1923. It was the 1922 AL Champion pennant.

Sterling and Kay then introduced the first team to take the field in Yankee Stadium:
Manager: Miller Huggins
Starting Pitcher: Bob Shawkey
Catcher: Wally Schang
1B: Wally Pipp
2B: Aaron Ward
3B: Joe Dugan
SS: Everett Scott
LF: Bob Meusel
CF: Whitey Witt
RF: Babe Ruth

Other Yankee greats of years gone by were then honored: Lou Gehrig, Lefty Gomez, Red Ruffing, Bill Dickey, Joe McCarthy, Allie Reynolds, Casey Stengel, and Joe DiMaggio.

Then the real fun began. Sterling began by saying that the Yankees have over 700 living alumni. Starting in left field, a tribute to former Yankee greats was played on the DiamondVision. the last player featured at each position was the current Yankee to play the position.

First up was left field: Roy White and Dave Winfield were introduced and each trotted to left field.

Shortstop was next: needless to say, Derek Jeter was featured and before any player was introduced, the fans started chanting Derek Jeter! Derek Jeter! Cora Rizzuto (wife of Phil Rizzuto) was escorted out by Mariano Rivera followed by Gene "Stick" Michael.

Third was up next: Greg Nettles, Wade Boggs, and Scott Brosius represented.

Right Field was next: Randy Maris (son of Roger), Reggie Jackson, and Paul O'Neill! Paul O'Neill ! represented. What an ovation Reggie and Paulie got.

Second Base: Billy Martin Jr. (son of Billy Sr.), Bobby Richardson, and Willie Randolph. Willie came out in a full sprint and slid into second.

First Base: Moose Skowron, Chris Chambliss, Tino Martinez (TINO! TINO!)

Catcher: Yogi Berra, Cheryl Howard (daughter of Elston), Michael Munson (son of Thurmon), Joe Girardi. This is where I shed my first tear. There was something about seeing Yogi in the old time uniform behind the plate that choked me up.

Pitcher has the most representation starting with "The Chairman of the Board" Whitey Ford, Don Larsen (who pitched the only perfect game in World Series history), Helen Hunter (wife of Catfish), Goose Gossage, Ron Guidry, David Wells, and David Cone. It was interesting that Roger Clemens was not even featured in the video tribute to great Yankee pitchers. No one really seemed to care.

Center Field was saved for last. Everyone in the building was waiting with bated breath for the last player to be introduced. But before that David Mantle (son of Mickey), and Kay Murcer (wife of Bobby) were introduced. The tribute to Bobby Murcer was very moving . Everyone knew who was the last player to be introduced. #51 Bernie Williams. This is where I shed my 2nd tear. Bernie has always been my favorite Yankee. Any of my friends will tell you that I tend to like Yankees who come up through the system rather than join the team via free agency or trade. Bernie was the first to come up and play through some tough years before Jeter, Pettitte, Rivera, and Posada arrived. I've always loved how he played the game. He never searched for the spotlight, he just showed up every day and did his thing. It was great to see him back especially because he kind of was not heard from after he left baseball.

Bob Sheppard then introduced the starting lineup for tonight's game (yes, there was still a game to played). Each player took their spot next to the former Yankees to play the position
CF: Johnny Damon
SS: Derek Jeter
RF: Bobby Abreu
3B: Alex Rodriguez
1B: Jason Giambi
LF: Xavier Nady
2b: Robinson Cano
DH: Hideki Matsui
C: Jose Molina

The U.S. Army Field Band then played the National Anthem.

Finally it was time for the ceremonial first pitch. We were all waiting to see who the Yankee would bring out. Posada came out to to catch it. Then Michael Kay took the mic and said that in 1923 Babe Ruth christened Yankee Stadium with a home run. It would be only fitting that the Yankees close the Stadium with a Ruth. Out came the Babe's 92 year old daughter, Julia Ruth Stevens. Ms. Stevens came out with a smile on her face and waved to the crowd. She then stood in between the pitcher's mound and home plate and threw a one hopper to Posada.

Notably missing was Yankees principle owner George Steinbrenner. I may not have agreed with all of his decisions when it came to personnel but for the owner of the team not to be there on such a historic night is sad.

I know, I've already written a lot and will be writing a lot more. But I just want to share one more thought. In my opinion, there is no other team in sports that could have put together such a ceremony. The ceremony wasn't meant to make people cry, it was a celebration of 85 years of history and tradition.

I'm sure you're all waiting for pictures, I will post them in a separate entry.

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