Photo Courtesy of NY Times
Last night, the final curtain call of America’s greatest baseball stadium was made. The New York Yankees played it’s last home game at, “the house that Ruth built.” It was an unforgettable scene as fans took in the last moments of a place that has seen it’s share of great events.
My recollections of the place were memorable. In 1972, my mom took my brothers and I to see the old Yankee Stadium. They played the Oakland Athletics that day. Mom told us the “A’s” were grandma’s favorite team, as she lived in Oakland, California. So it was a treat to see them. My father wouldn’t go to the game because he hated the Yankees. He was a die-hard Brooklyn Dodgers fan a was still reeling from their defection to the west coast.
The old stadium was majestic…cavernous…and awe inspiring. I could only imagine many of the great Yankee teams that played during their 20 (at the time) world championships. Bobby Murcer was the center fielder that day. He took over for, “the Mick” after he retired in 1968. Roy White was playing in left field, a steady and reliable switch hitter who would lead the team to two more world championships later in his career. Horace Clarke was my favorite Yankee. He was was playing 2nd base that day. He wasn’t the best hitter on the team, but I liked him because of his steady fielding.
The pitcher that day was Fritz Peterson. One of the two aces on the Yankees. The other was another Yankee great, Mel Stollemeyre. That day, Peterson got rocked. Reggie Jackson slammed a three run homer into the right field stands. The “A’s” went on their way to an 11-3 victory against my Yankees that day.
The Yankees of 1972 weren’t that great of a team. They were going through a horrible period. The team was 8 years passed their last World Series appearance. During the mid-1960’s the Yankees finished in last place in 1965 & 1967 and in next to last in 1966 and 1968. The owner at the time (CBS) was more concerned about making money rather than putting a great team on the field. But, a storm was brewing that year. George Steinbrenner, boat builder from Ohio purchased the team, intent on making this team great again.
He started by helping to revamp the old ballpark and bring in some players that would cement the Yankee legacy. I was there when the new ballpark was re-opened in 1976 against the Minnesota Twins. I got to see some great Yankee legends play that day, including Mickey Rivers, Thurman Munson, Graig Nettles and Chris Chambliss.
Later that year, my brother, Vincent and I went to Bat Day. We had a choice of either playing in a softball league that day or going to the ball game and there was no way we were going to give up those game tickets. It was worth the trip. We both sported those bats until they finally broke.
My final time at Yankee Stadium was a night game I took in with my grandfather back in 1978. He visiting was from Lake Charles, Louisiana and who else would be pitching that night than none other than “Louisiana Lightning”. Ron Guidry struck out 12 Cleveland Indians and nearly pitched a no-hitter that night.
If there’s any regrets I had, it would be not going to more games or taking more pictures to show my kids and grandkids. I see the ol’ ballpark one more time in January. It’s not going to be the same anymore. Though the new ballpark will have its own imenities, the mistique of being where so many successful teams have played will be gone.
All there will be are ghosts of moments past.