The plan this summer was to head to NY at least once, if not several times, to enjoy the Stadium before they tore it down.
Those plans never materialized. For one reason or another I kept putting it off. In part, I suppose, because the Yanks sucked ass. (after all, who wants to drive all the way to NYC just to watch your team stink?). So there I was, looking at the schedule, with only 2 games left in that historic building. I decided to go for it.
Several phone calls, 2 dozen text messages, an EBay bid, and a drive to Upstate NY set the stage. Jess and I would be heading to the Stadium along with my dad and good friend Wes.
Photo: Yankee Stadium at Sunset
You can check out the rest of the photos from that day here: Yankee Stadium Photos
This road trip would prove to be one of our longer ones in recent memory. The early morning drive down to the city was uneventful. We hit our destination shortly before lunch time and grabbed a quick bite to eat before heading over to the gates. The game was not scheduled to start until 8pm, but they were allowing early entrance so that fans could walk out on the field. No way did we want to miss that!
Of course, we were not the only ones who had that thought. When all was said and done, through some mismanagement and poor preparation on the part of the event organizers, we ended up near the back of a 10,000+ person line. After a few hours of slow progress it became clear our hope of hitting the field was slim. So I begrudgingly bailed to my seat, and the rest of the gang soon followed.
This was quite a bummer, and we were certainly not the only ones disappointed about it… but soon it proved hard to dwell on. Batting practice ran its course and it became obvious that this would be a beautiful night to enjoy baseball.
The ceremonies started with some general video tributes and the National Anthem via the United States Army Field Band. Then they began something pretty unique. For each position on the field they had a video highlight of the best players to wear pinstripes throughout the years… if the player was present they would run out to their position. In some cases, the surviving relatives of the player walked out to take their place. Scooter’s wife, Mick’s son, etc.
It was pretty special to be there, to hear the crowd’s reaction to the different names, and to listen to the conversations around us – to be part of the excitement. So many people sharing so many good memories. When Bernie Williams was called to run out to center field the place was literally shaking.
To wrap it up Babe Ruth’s 91 year old daughter, Julia, walked to the mound to throw out the first pitch… the last in Yankee Stadium.
The game was almost an afterthought at this point. But it didn’t disappoint. Andy Pettite made his final start, Jeter was given the opportunity to receive a standing ovation, new star Joba bridged the gap to Mo… who closed down the stadium like only he could.
Oh, and Jose Molina saved my marriage!
I know, it sounds far fetched. But ya see, there were two home runs on this day. The first of which I missed while taking a walk with Jess so she could get a soda. I was pretty bummed at the thought of missing the final HR at the stadium… and so I told her it was her fault. She didn’t find me funny. Luckily, soon after we got back to our seats, Molina drove a ball into the left field seats and we were able to witness the actual last HR. The joke then became that Jose Molina had saved our marriage.
We watched the team celebrate one last time, Derek gave a heartfelt farewell, and the team did a final lap for the fans. By the time it was all wrapped up we were into the early hours of Monday and began our long ride back to Upstate NY, then to Boston. Taking turns driving while the other napped, we pulled into our driveway around 8 in the morning, just in time to go to work.
Now THAT was an epic road trip.
This is one of those experiences that, as amazing as it was at the time, I imagine will be something I appreciate even more as time passes. Yankee Stadium has played such a unique role in the history of New York City, of sports, and of this nation, that to say we were there for its last hurrah – and to have had the chance to share it with people I care so much about – is something pretty special.
Oh, and thank you Jose Molina.