Monday, September 22, 2008

Yankee Stadium Farewell

Dad took my cousin, Mike Pryor, and me to see Yankee Stadium in 1973, the 50th anniversary of Yankee Stadium and the last year before it was renovated.

The Yankees were awakening from a decade-long slump. Yankee Stadium was wild. My memory might be clouded, but I think the Yanks swept a 5-game series from the Detroit Tigers, managed by Billy Martin. Martin was tossed from at least one game.

One night we were sitting in the right field bleachers. A big guy in an "Archie Bunker for President" shirt finally had consumed enough adult beverage that he was ready to go after Norm Cash, the Tiger right fielder.

The guy scrambled over the low right field wall and went stumbling onto the outfield grass, headed for Cash. The crowd noise rose. The Archie delegate raised his arms and triumphantly acknowledged the noise -- right before he was engulfed by a swarm of security men.

The guy emerged from the scrum firmly in the custody of the security team. He didn't seem to be enjoying it so much any more.

Laughing, cheering, booing, screaming. For a 10-year-old from Omaha, well, obviously it's still vivid in my mind.

For a Yankee fan like me, it's as if a beloved cathedral is being torn down. A new one is being built next door. Yankee captain Derek Jeter said the fans will take the memories and tradition of the old stadium to the new one.

It wouldn't hurt if the Yankees play a better brand of baseball than they have the last few years. Watching the Yankees this year has been like watching Nebraska football last year -- hapless, bush-league, unworthy of the team's tradition.

No October baseball in the final year of Yankee Stadium. It's a sacrilege.

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