My Top 10 Yankee Stadium Memories
I hate the New York Yankees.
It’s no secret and anybody who knows me knows that I hate the Yankees about as much if not more than I hate anything.
However, I’ve always held a great deal of respect for the history of the franchise, and my experiences going to Yankee Stadium have always been enjoyable, usually regardless of result.
That said, despite my feelings towards the team that calls it home, Yankee Stadium has been the site of a number of my greatest sports memories, starting way back when in 1996 when I took my first ever trip to The Bronx, late in October for game 6 of the World Series.
That’s right, myself- 9 year old kid without any real emotional connection to the team I was going to see- was introduced to the hallowed grounds on 161st street and River Avenue.
There was the first time I saw Monument park a few years back, along with day-night, two stadium doubleheaders.
There was watching my favorite player take a fastball to his head, and most recently, baseball’s midsummer classic, the All Star Game.
Any sports fan, regardless of team affiliation, can appreciate the history surrounding Yankee Stadium, and the seemingly endless number of legends who have graced its batters boxes and pitching rubbers.
From Ruth, Gehrig, Dimaggio, Mantle and Berra to Munson and Jackson and Mattingly to Jeter, Rivera, Williams and Rivera, some of the games greatest have donned the pinstripes and had the honor of calling Yankee Stadium home.
Since I was 9, I’ve been going to Yankee Stadium with absolutely no regularity, however the times I’ve been lucky enough to have been there, have generally been unbelievably special.
In honor of the closing of baseball’s most prestigious stage, here are my ten most memorable trips to the house that Ruth built.
10. July 24th, 1999
Yankees beat Indians 22-1; I watch all of it from a Luxury Box
This game stands out for two reasons (which I guess I gave away in my little headline), but it was the only time I dined at the Stadium club restaurant and sat in one of it’s luxury suites. As a pure baseball fan, I absolutely detest luxury boxes. They take you away from the crowd, and while the food is great, the experience isn’t. It also isn’t often you see a team score 22 runs in a game, and on this particular July afternoon, the Yankees did just that, highlighted by Chili Davis (you’re gonna hear his name again later…if you can believe that) drove in 6, while every Yankee starter with the exception of Paul O’Neil drove in at least one run. And for what it’s worth, Ricky Ledee, who came in as a replacement for O’Neil, drove in 3.
9. September 25th, 1998
Yankees earn 112th victory of the season
On pace to setting the American League mark for wins in a season (until they were surpassed by the Seattle Mariners in 2001), the Yankees won their 112 game of the year that night, and the atmosphere was playoff like despite the Yankees being heavily favored to win their second world series in 3 seasons. Orlando Hernandez pitched, and the Yanks took care of the Tampa Bay (still at the time) DEVIL Rays.
8. June 27th, 2008
2 Games, 2 Stadiums and 9 RBI’s for Carlos Delgado
The first day of the rest of Carlos Delgado’s season would turn out to be the last regular season game I would ever see at Yankee Stadium, and what a way to go out. The Mets, mired in mediocrity and less than 2 weeks into the Jerry Manuel era, Delgado decided to extend batting practice and go off, hitting two home runs that still haven’t landed. He came into the day with 36 RBI, and left the ball park with 45. As I’ll get into greater detail discussing later on, leaving Yankee Stadium having seen the Mets win a game there always put a big, fat smile on my face. Making the day even more special was leaving the Stadium, heading for the subway, and taking two of them back to Queens, arriving in more than enough time to catch the second game of the two stadium doubleheader. A very unique experience for most, but it actually was the second time I would be completing such a feat.
7. June 25th, 2004 and June 26th, 2005
Mets fans take over in two Saturday thrashings
I listed two dates here because on virtually the same day a year apart, the Mets played the second of three games during their annual visit to Yankee Stadium, and for the first time I was able to remember, I left Yankee Stadium to the sweet sounds of “Lets go Mets”, as the visitors from Queens won 9-3 in ’04, and 10-3 in 2005. In both games, by the late innings, the stadium had mostly cleared out, with Mets fans staying behind and making themselves feel at home (myself included, both times). The chants were loud and the house that Ruth built was temporarily being overrun by Mets fans. It was a wild time, and after years of making the trip to the Bronx and either leaving with a loss or a hard earned win, it was nice walking out with a victory, being serenaded with a chant unfamiliar to the ears of fans who usually fill Yankee Stadium.
6. August 10th, 2005
Yank’s edged out by White Sox; I’m Introduced to Monument Park
The game was exciting, going 10 innings and seeing the Yankees lose a close, 2-1 game to the visiting White Sox. However, this day was defined by my first ever stroll through Monument Park. If you haven’t been there, Monument Park is located out in left field, underneath that netting that are often the recipient of home run balls. While all stadiums retire numbers and honor their history in one way or another, Yankee Stadium is extra special in this manor, having their own hall of fame which contains not only the retired numbers and plaques of legends past, but honors the Pope’s visits, Stadium voice Bob Sheppard along with a moving plaque commemorating both the victims and heroes of September 11th, 2001. Walking around and seeing the plaques of Ruth and Mantle sent chills up my spine, however it was overwhelming to see how many great players have been part of the Yankee family, and for all of the terrible things I’m quick to say about the team, their history is second to none and earns all of my respect. Visiting Monument Park is something any baseball fan needs to do, and with all of the monuments and plaques moving across the street, anybody who didn’t get the chance to see it at the old ballpark needs to make sure they make up for it by visiting them in the new stadium.
5. July 8th, 2000
Two Games, Two Stadiums, One Memorable Hit-By-Pitch
On a long day of New York baseball that started in Queens with Doc Gooden toeing the Shea Stadium mound for the first time in his second stint as a Yankee, pitching well and earning a victory in the first game of the first ever Mets-Yankees two-stadium doubleheader. I made the drive from Shea to Yankee Stadium for the second game, which was a make up for a game I was supposed to have seen a month earlier but was rained out (for anybody who can remember, that rain out was made memorable by Robin Ventura dressing up, facial hair and all, like Mike Piazza and rounding the bases in the pouring rain with the tarp on the field, emphatically sliding into home). That night, Piazza himself was on the field, although not for long. Roger Clemens was pitching, and after being worn out by Piazza in recent years, he threw a fastball at Piazza’s head, drilling him and knocking him out of the game, and eventually the All Star Game. I will never forget the sound of the ball hitting Piazza’s helmet, as I was sitting in the upper tier between home and third with a clear shot of what was happening. In addition to losing their star catcher, The Mets would go on to lose the game, with Piazza’s beaning simply adding injury to insult as the Mets were swept in the twin-bill. Not the greatest Yankee Stadium memory of mine, but one I’ll always remember, for all the wrong reasons.
4. September 10th, 1999
Pedro nearly perfect, strikes out 17 in Red Sox Victory
In what many describe as the most dominating pitching performance by any visitor in the history of Yankee Stadium, then Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez was electric. Being only 12 years old, I sat there not fully aware of how well Pedro was pitching, but inning after inning, strike out after strike out, I started to get it. With the exception of a Chili Davis (there’s that name again) solo home run in the second inning, Pedro was perfect. Literally. He faced 28 batters, allowing only the one run on the one hit, and nothing else. He threw 120 pitches, 80 of which were strikes, and fanned 17 Yankees in the process. In 1999, Pedro ended up winning the Cy Young in what many also consider to be his greatest single season, finishing 23-4 with a 2.07 ERA. In addition to winning the American League Cy Young award, he was started the All Star game in Boston that year, winning the game’s MVP award, and also finished second in the overal American League MVP voting. I was lucky enough to see his 21st victory of that magical season he had, while witnessing perhaps the greatest single pitching performance by a visiting pitcher in the history of Yankee Stadium. Not bad.
3. June 17th, 1997
The Inaugural Mets-Yankees Subway Series (Game 2)
No, I wasn’t in attendance for the first ever regular season meeting between the inner city rivals, but I was there for the second game. While the Mets won 6-0 in game one of the series, I wasn’t so lucky, watching my team fall 6-3. However, among the things from that night I’ll never forget was the crowd and the playoff atmosphere in June. At 10 years old, I probably had no business being there, but that was at the point in my childhood where I was coming into my own when it came to understanding and appreciating baseball, and I knew I was part of something pretty special. If you haven’t caught on, most of my trips to Yankee Stadium over the years coincided with the Mets being there, and that Tuesday night in June back in 1997, my first ever exposure to regular season, Mets-Yankees baseball that was anything by regular.
2. July 15th, 2008
Yankee Stadium hosts the All Star Game one final time
Talk about a once in a lifetime opportunity. Yankee Stadium, in the midst of it’s final season, was hosting baseball’s midsummer classic. Not only was this an All Star game being played in my city, but with it being the lats one ever at Yankee Stadium, I figured they were going to be pulling out all the stops. Sure enough, by the end of a very, very long night, not only had I watched the longest game in All Star Game history (the game ended at 1:40 in the morning after 15 innings of baseball, but I was able to enjoy the largest on field collection of Living Hall of Famers including Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. The game itself, while it started slow, had a thrilling conclusion, ending with a walk-off sacrifice fly off the bat of Michael Young. Extra innings saw great escapes, outstanding defensive plays and guys being thrown out at home, and I sat uncomfortably in the left field bleachers all night, enjoying every second of it. I had never sat out in the bleachers before which only added to the uniqueness of the whole experience, and between the game, the hall of fame players and the fact that it was an All Star game- and the last to ever be played at Yankee Stadium- it was a memory nearly impossible to top.
1. October 26th, 1996
A Dynasty is born; I make my first ever visit
The fact that (to the best of my memory) this was the first time I had ever stepped foot in Yankee Stadium, I couldn’t have asked for me. Game 6 of the 1996 World Series, and not only was I- a 9 year old- going to be there, I was sitting in the lower level down the third base line. A few points to make. First of all, at 9 years old, I was a Mets fan but hadn’t developed any hatred whatsoever for the Yankees, which would explain the Wade Boggs jersey and Yankees cap I showed up to the game wearing. Secondly, the fact that it was my first ever time in Yankee Stadium was secondary to the fact that when I saw Charlie Hayes snag that final foul pop off the bat of Mark Lemke (yea, I remember), I was watching the start of what would be a powerhouse Dynasty in the Bronx, and first real postseason success during their course of 12 consecutive playoff appearances. It was Joe Torre and Derek Jeter being officially welcomed as ‘true Yankees’. It was watching Wade Boggs ride around on a police horse, celebrating his first ever taste of championship glory.
In thinking back, I have no idea why I was lucky enough to experience some of these great Yankee moments, especially considering how much I despise the team.
That being said, as a baseball fan, I will always cherish the chance I had to live so close to a place so special, and witness some of the greatest moments in the history of a franchise that, like it or not, stands second to none when it comes to baseball royalty.
And so, as the gates come down for a final time tomorrow night, in a late September game that is unusually irrelevant, Yankee fans and baseball fans will say goodbye to a stadium that was anything but. And regardless of who you root for, anybody who calls them self a baseball fan- especially in New York- is going to miss baseball’s cathedral, and in that spirit, here’s a confession of mine:
I know I will.
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