Monday, September 22, 2008

Day 44: Yankee Stadium, The Bronx; September 21

Today will be the last time I ever wake up and go to a Yankee game at Yankee Stadium. Wow. It's hard to think that after all the years/tears/jeers and CHAMPIONSHIPS, this will be the last time I will walk through the gates into the cathedral of baseball on 161st and River Ave. in the Bronx. The game isn't until 8:30, but I get up there close to 2:00 because they are letting fans on the field between 1:00 and 4:00. I am in line no more than five minutes when a wave of angry fans pass us, "No more field access. No more monument park. They've shut down the line." Damn it. I've been a season ticket holder for 10 years and ALWAYS put off the stadium tour. This was my LAST chance to see things up close and I BLEW it! It is par for my golf course, however, if you have been reading this blog, so please do not feign shock out of sympathy. I head to my favorite place for a pre-game meal- the Courthouse Diner- and grab a gyro and split pea soup. It's only about 3:30 when I finish eating so I head to legendary Stan's Sports Bar - right across from the stadium- for 1 or 2 beers (actually 10 but who is counting). The Bud Lights go down so easy as the rowdy bar watches the Giants comeback win and the TV shows blimp shots of Yankee Stadium. (to raucous applause!). I need to interview people for the documentary but the beer tastes SO good and I'm starting to feel even better. I pray the image stabilizer on my camera works extra well today as I speak with an 82 year old Neil from Yonkers, who tells me that DiMaggio was 'a good ballplayer'. Neil wins the understatement of the year contest however he redeems himself with a story of drinking Babe Ruth under the table at an upstate bar in the 1940's. Fans are desperate for tickets and I am desperate for more Bud Light. Scott- the guy I drove up the west coast with two weeks ago- meets me in front of Stan's about 6:30. We drop my bag off at the bowling alley (no video cameras and no bags allowed) and head into the ballpark to meet Stonge for our final Yankee Stadium goodbye. I have had seats for 10 years in section 39 of the bleachers so I know all the regulars so it's tough to think this will be our last time together out here. Security is quadrupled because of looting fears, so I ask an NYPD officer where I can store my hacksaw during the game as it is too big to fit under my seat. He has a good laugh but I am kind of serious. I need to take something home! The pre-game ceremony is long but great as Yankee legends past and present are introduced and serenaded by adoring fans. The Yankees fall behind early and my lack of sleep is starting to catch up to me. I doze off (picture above taken by Scott) and fans to my right and behind me start laughing and taking photos. "You don't know where I've been- what I've done!" I plead, as the laughter continues. Johnny Damon blasts a three run home run followed by a solo shot by Jose Molina. There is no way the Yankees are losing this one! When Mariano comes in through the bullpen for the final time in the 9th inning, the we all know the 7-3 victory is sealed. The players congregate on the field and Jeter addresses the crowd before leading the team around the field for a victory/goodbye lap. Cops flood the field to stop streakers but that doesn't stop a determined few who make the leap and get pummeled. (much to the delight of those in the stands.) No one wants to leave. Fans linger for photos and to take it all in one last time. I don't want to leave- ever- but finally do at 12:30. Yankee Stadium, I'm going to miss you. Rest in Peace.

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