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Farewell, Yankee Stadium

Readers of Notablog know that I am a fanatic when it comes to the New York Yankees. Tonight, the 85-year old Yankee Stadium, "the House that Ruth Built," hosts the final regular season baseball game of its storied history. The Yankees face the Baltimore Orioles in a prime-time ESPN event, a great goodbye to The Stadium.

I am not too thrilled about this move away from one of the hallowed fields of baseball. Back in 2005, I was privileged to tour this "baseball cathedral." It was a day that ranks up there with some of my fondest memories of the place. A Yankee fan since childhood, I first set foot in the Stadium... the old Stadium, long before its mid-70s refurbishing. It was for a Mayor's Trophy game between the Mets and the Yankees and the Stadium was incredibly imposing to my young eyes. But when the Yankees returned to their home turf, after a two-season stint at Shea Stadium (which also closes at the end of this year's baseball season), I started attending many more games, especially in 1978, when the Yankees came back from a 14-game mid-season deficit to win their division against the Boston Red Sox, and then, the American League Pennant and the World Series.

There was a long drought in the Bronx through the 1980s and early 1990s ... but I still root, root, rooted for the home team, though, in truth, it was mostly the Mets who owned NYC baseball and the back of the sports pages during this period. Indeed, I spent most of my adult years rooting for a loser, so unspoiled was I by the decades of remarkable Yankee dominance.

When the team returned to its winning ways in the late '90s, with a new crop of talent, it was a true delight. Alas, this year hasn't been such a delight; after 13 straight years of making it to the postseason, the Yankees are most likely playing the very last baseball game on this field.

ABC World News Tonight tributed the place as part of last Friday's "Person of the Week" segment (you can read or, better still, view that segment here). Charlie Gibson reminds us that it wasn't just a home for baseball; it has hosted "Popes and Presidents," and some of the greatest sports events of the past century, from the 1938 Joe Louis-Max Schmeling boxing match to the 1958 Colts-Giants "all-time greatest" football game.

But, ultimately, it is about baseball. As Gibson said, "With a nod to Wrigley and Fenway, this has been baseball's capital for so many years."

I hope to make it to the "new" Yankee Stadium, with its retro design that harks back to the old beauty I first encountered as a child. But no place will be this place. A Field of Dreams, for sure. And for so many memorable realities.

Farewell, Yankee Stadium.

Update: Take a look at these really nice essays and links from the NY Times and the NY Daily News, dealing with tonight's Stadium finale:

Echoes in the Bronx
Blogging the Bombers
Reggie Jackson Has a Hard Time Leaving
Mike Lupica, Magic of Stadium Bridges Generations (and check out Lupica's piece on Derek Jeter)
A Tribute to the Great Bob Sheppard (Yankee Stadium Announcer)

Update #2, 9/22/2008: Check out these follow-up stories by Bill Madden, Filip Bondy, Mike Lupica, Mark Feinsand, and a couple of NY Times features here and here. Cliche that it is... it was truly a night to remember...