It's with a wimper and not with a bang that the final weekend of baseball at the old Yankee Stadium will be played. The Yankees are on the brink of elimination from post-season play yet again so, barring a miracle, this is the last weekend for Ruth's House.
The Yankees, often mocked as "The best team money can buy," have fallen on hard times of late. But that didn't stop them from constructing a $1 billion stadium across the street from "The House that Ruth Built." To their credit, the architects did a good job capturing the "feel" of the old stadium. But no matter how hard they try, it'll never really be Yankee Stadium.
Baseball, more than any other sport in America, is obsessed with history and tradition (one of the reasons I love it!). Baseball is about timeless values. It's about remembering the past and betting on the future. Baseball resists change and abhors the "new." Just look at stadiums built in the last 20 years. All of them without exception have been "retro" style stadiums. Baseball endures.
The new Yankee Stadium is no exception to this stadium trend. It's a "retro" stadium much like Miller Park, AT&T Field or Camden Yards. The only difference being that it uses the old Yankee Stadium for its inspiration. Clever.
I have many personal fond memories of Yankee Stadium. Growing up in Connecticut as a teenager, getting to Yankee Stadium was not hard. My friends and I would often set out early Saturday morning to catch the New Haven Line into the city and grab the D train up to the Bronx. We'd get out at 161st street and cross the street to buy tickets from the legion of scalpers hanging around.
My last visit to Yankee Stadium was in May, 2008 while on my honeymoon. Knowing that this was the last chance to see the old place before they tore it down. We sat out in right field and came within a hairs-breadth of catching a Derek Jeeter home run. We sat next to long-time Yankee fans who expressed both joy and sadness that their beloved team would have a new home next year. Many of them told stories about games they'd seen in years past. Many remembered the days of Reggie Jackson and Don Mattingly and the last great run of Yankee Championships. They made a couple of Brewers fans feel warmly welcome in the Babe's House.
I'm sure the Hebrew National hotdogs and $10 Miller Lites will taste just as good in the new stadium. But the ghosts that roam the corridors of old Yankee stadium will, alas, be left behind. Mantle and Marris, DeMagio and Ford. The ballpark that launched 39 American League Pennants and 26 World Series Titles will be torn down and replaced by a parking lot for people who should be smart enough to use the subway to get to the game. It's a shame. But progress often is.
I drink a toast to the hope that the new stadium will launch a renaissance for the Yankees and they will return again as the team that collects AL pennants like battle flags and World Series rings like the Sauron everyone thinks they are.