Stadium leaves night to remember
Yankees fans take away countless memories from finale
NEW YORK -- They will never forget the date, Sept. 21, 2008, when Yankee Stadium became "old Yankee Stadium."They will never forget the time the Yankees opened the gates seven hours before first pitch and let fans walk around the field. They will never forget a 7-3 Yankees victory over the Orioles, a stadium retired on a five-game winning streak. They will never forget the time when the whole Yankees team did a lap around the field, waving their caps at fans who didn't want it to end. They will never forget Derek Jeter's speech -- one last memorable speech in a line of famous speeches at old Yankee Stadium.
"For us out here, it's a huge honor to put this uniform on and come out every day to play," Jeter told them after it was all over. "We have the greatest fans in the world. We're relying on you to take the memories from this stadium, take them to the new stadium, and pass them on from generation to generation."They will never forget the time when Willie Randolph ran out to second base in the pregame ceremony and slid into the bag as if to steal it. They will never forget the time when Jose Molina hit one deep to left, 60 years after a dying Babe Ruth told fans in a farewell address: "I'm very proud to have hit the first home run in Yankee Stadium. God knows who'll hit the last one." They will never forget when Yogi Berra went out to his old catcher's position wearing cream-white flannel pinstripes with No. 8 on the back. They will never forget the night camera flashes went off for hours on end like glittering stars, well past midnight. They will never forget the time Bobby Murcer's family went out to center field in honor of their late Yankee great. They will never forget the most perfect weather anyone could order for the last official day of summer and a night that dreams are made of. They will never forget the time Bernie Williams came home for one last appearance in center. They will never forget the time they sang "Y-M-C-A" together after the sixth inning.
They will never forget the time a sign out front said, "Thanks for the memories."
Abby Rosario, a season-ticket holder who brought along fellow Long Island middle school teacher Tracy Meissner for the whole day, said, "That's the sign that usually tells you about the next game. I teared up a little bit."They will never forget the time countless collector's outside offered $20 to buy your used ticket stub. They will never forget the time Ronan Tynan sang one last tenor version of "God Bless America" during the seventh-inning stretch. They will never forget the time starting pitcher Andy Pettitte fanned his first batter and it then announced his "2,000th strikeout" on the DiamondVision scoreboard. They will never forget when you could pose for pictures up against the "408 feet" marking on the ball-pocked blue wall in straightaway center field. They will never forget one last walk through Monument Park, and the big blue No. 3 flower arrangement positioned in front of Ruth's plaque. They will never forget how perfect strangers shared their favorite Yankee Stadium memories with each other.
"We were here for '96, and it was the loudest ever," said Greg Packer of Huntington, N.Y., getting to know another fan who had "MATTINGLY" on the back of his jersey. "Charlie Hayes caught the last out, and I remember there was a Yankees fan on one of side of me and a cop on the other, and we were all celebrating. Then Wade Boggs rode around on the horse."They will never forget the time symbolic actors dressed in old-time uniforms ran out onto the field to simulate the 1923 lineup and other late greats who followed. They will never forget how the one guy looked so much like Casey Stengel it was scary. They will never forget the anticipation and how the day was finally here after months and years of wondering what it would be like. Julius Horowitz of New York's Westchester County felt that way. He is 94 and was at the 1923 opener, and his family brought him here.
"I can't explain to you how I feel -- just wonderful," Horowitz said before the game, walking around the warning track with fans and surrounded by TV cameras. "I've never been down here before. I remember when Babe Ruth hit a homer. And I'm never gonna forget this day."They will never forget seeing the Bronx Bombers one last time on a baseball field where 26 seasons culminated in World Series championships.
"This is the most exciting day ever, aside from having my daughters," said Lorraine O'Rourke of Rochelle Park, N.J., much to the chuckling dismay of her two daughters standing beside her. "I got to touch [Mike] Mussina. I asked, 'Would you mind if I touch you,' and he said, 'OK.' I might never wash my hand."They will never forget the last time Mariano Rivera ran out from the bullpen to the mound for a ninth inning while "Enter Sandman" played. They will never forget the time when a giant 1922 American League pennant was unveiled beyond center field. They will never forget when Jeter was removed from the game with two out in the top of the ninth, replaced at shortstop by Wilson Betemit so that fans could shower him with chants of "DEREK JETER! DEREK JETER" and give him a curtain call. They will never forget when Cody Ransom made the last putout in history at this ballpark, a simple 3-unassisted on Brian Roberts' grounder. They will never forget hearing Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" one last time, then one more time, then one more time, and so on and on. They will never forget seeing the emotion flowing on the faces of each other. Bryan Hoch, the Yankees beat writer for MLB.com, said of his most memorable moment: "For me, personally, it was walking the warning track before the game and seeing the looks on people's faces, like they were visiting hallowed ground. Tears streaming down their eyes. A sunny, hot September afternoon, looking at the new stadium from the warning track in right field." They will never forget when Joba Chamberlain went back out onto the mound one last time after that team victory lap, slapping the pitcher's rubber twice and then waving to the area where his father was sitting. They will never forget the time they stayed around past midnight, not wanting to leave, snapping pictures of everything that caught their eyes on the way out, so satisfied and so spent and so emotional. They will never forget Sept. 21-22, 2008, when Yankee Stadium became old Yankee Stadium.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.