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A Last Time
2008-08-28 22:13
by Cliff Corcoran
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

Yesterday's game was the last the Red Sox will ever play at the first Yankee Stadium. It was also the last I'll ever see from the seating bowl of the old ballpark. I have two games remaining in the bleachers this season, including the Stadium's final game against the Orioles on September 21, but that final game will be overrun with hype, anxiety, and mixed emotions. In providing two other, more specific "last"s, yesterday's game provided me with a sense of personal closure regarding the old park.

Twenty years ago almost exactly, I saw my first game at Yankee Stadium from a seat in the front row of the upper deck in right field. The Yankees won that night on a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth by Claudell Washington. Yesterday afternoon, I was a few rows higher behind home plate and the Yankees won on a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth by Jason Giambi. I'll save my reminiscences of the games in between for another time, but I wanted to share a few of the photographs I took of yesterday's game.

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(Above) "Boston Today" for the last time, as the dust from the construction of a new parking deck rises in the foreground.

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"Bad Sign": You know things are bad when this is the best Freddy can come up with, but the fact that the Yankees' playoff hopes are all but officially dead actually increased my sense of closure.

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The Yankees put the shift on against David Ortiz in the first inning, but the alignment wouldn't come into play until the eighth as Ortiz walked twice and struck out in his three at-bats against Mike Mussina. In the eighth, Robinson Cano (seen here in shallow right field) would range back toward his regular second base spot and make a strong cross-body throw to retire Ortiz, the only batter Damso Marte faced in the game.

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Johnny Damon appears to have one foot out of the batters box, but it didn't help; he went 0-for-2 with a hit by pitch against Sox starter Jon Lester.

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You can't see the ball in this photo of Mike Mussina pitching to Kevin Youkilis because it's lodged in Youkilis's hip. This was the top of the sixth. Damon got plunked in the bottom of the same frame and four batters were hit in total in the game, but nobody seemed to get upset about it.

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The Yankees brought Ronan Tynan in to sing "God Bless America" during the seventh inning stretch, a subtle acknowledgement of the significance of their final home game against the rival Red Sox in the old Stadium. Sadly, they continue to half-ass the remaining-games countdown. Yesterday a quartet of front office employees pulled the magic lever to switch the count from 14 to 13 games left. It's nice that the Yankees acknowledged the contributions of these four men, but they should have taken a turn earlier in the season when folks such as, I kid you not, "the Yankees's number-one fan from Rochester, New York" and a quintet of MetLife executives (MetLife sponsors the countdown) did the honors. With 13 games left, the Yankees should be bringing in All-Stars and Hall of Famers, not middle managers. To make matters worse, they didn't even put the names of the employees on the scoreboard when they were announced.

Incidentally, I looked around the upper deck during "God Bless America" and, though nearly every one was standing still, I saw a handful of fans returning from the concession stands and one vender hauling his wares, none of whom were stopped or harassed by Stadium security.

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Speaking of scoreboards, here's a snapshot of a moment in the career of Cody Ransom from the second inning prior to his third at-bat as a Yankee. He was hit by a pitch in that at bat before finally making an out by striking out in the fifth. In his fifth plate appearance as a Yankee, he delivered a two-out double, driving Lester from the game and setting up Jason Giambi's game-tying pinch-hit home run off Hideki Okajima and the facing of the batters eye in dead center. Ransom is now hitting a mere .750/.800/2.500 as a Yankee with five RBIs and three runs scored in five plate appearances.

Given that performance from Ransom, it wasn't a complete no-brainer for Joe Girardi to leave Giambi, who hit for Jose Molina, in the game and replace Ransom, who had started at first base, with Ivan Rodriguez, but it was the right move. Giambi's next at-bat came in the bottom of the ninth with the bases juiced (the normally impatient Rodriguez had walked in Ransom's place) and the score still tied. Giambi took two pitches from Jonathan Papelbon, then singled up the middle to win the game. Being a bit of a superstitious fan, I left my camera in the case until pinch-runner Brett Gardner touched home, but here's some of the aftermath:

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The team surrounding Giambi near first base (G-bombs himself is facing home and fist-bumping Hideki Matsui).

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Giambi doing his post-game interview with the YES Network's Kim Jones.

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The conquering hero (2 for 2 with a home run and all three Yankee RBIs, including the game-winner) waves to the crowd as he departs the field.

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The last Yankee-Red Sox score this scoreboard will ever show.

 

All photographs (c) Clifford J. Corcoran, 2008; click on any photo for a larger view.

Comments
2008-08-29 06:19:27
1.   williamnyy23
I remember that CWub game very well. It was an early September 4-game series against the Tigers with the Yankees in third place behind Detroit and Boston. The first game featured a 10th inning walk-off by Gary Ward (I can remember a photo of the message board outside the stadium touting "A Ward Winning Performance"). The second game, which you attended, featured the CWub walk-off HR. The third game was an NBC Saturday game of the week in which the Yankees rallied late to win. Then, saving the best for last, the fourth game was a classic 18th inning affair in which the Yankees won on another walk-off HR by you guessed it, Claudell Washington.

That series is very vivid in my mind because it was the most exciting four game series I had ever experienced to that point. You can't beat three games with walk-off HRs in one series. I also remember listending to the Friday and Sunday games on the radio because I didn't have cable (the Thursday game was on WPIX and the Saturday game was on NBC). I can still hear Hank Greenwald and Tommy Hutton (whom I loved) doing the play-by-play and Hank going nuts for the walk-offs. I think I have at least one of the re-cap shows on an audio tape somewhere.

2008-08-29 06:29:02
2.   williamnyy23
Since you brought it up, let's take a roll call of first games at Yankee Stadium. Mine was against the Twins in July of 1985. The only thing I remember is that the Yankees won and I thought it was pretty cool to see someone of Kirby Puckett's body type.

Sadly, my first game ever was at Shea Stadium to see an epic Mets-Pirates battle sometime in 1983. From that game, all I remember are the Pirate's yellow uniforms and funny hats.

2008-08-29 06:38:35
3.   Alex Belth
My first Yankee game was in 78 though I don't remember anything about it other than what we ate and that Reggie wasn't playing that day. Don't recall the first trip to Shea, but it must have been 80-81.
2008-08-29 06:42:52
4.   Mr OK Jazz TOKYO
2 Great idea. My first was in 1979 though all I remember was Reggie striking out and my dad saying "don't worry pal, he's still going to hit 40 this year and we'll be sure to watch them all on Ch. 11"
2008-08-29 07:01:17
5.   Shaun P
Old Timers' Day in 1991, Yanks won 12-10 in a slugfest versus the Angels. Tim Leary, pitching out of the bullpen, almost blew it, but Steve Farr came in and got the save. My most vivid memory is seeing DiMaggio, Mantle, and all the legends, in the flesh. My most vivid game memory is Matt Nokes golfing a home run about 5 rows in front of us. I loved his swing.

I'm not sure, but that might have been Reggie's first Old Timers' Day. The crowd gave quite the ovation for Mr. October.

2008-08-29 07:19:43
6.   OldYanksFan
As my father and older brother distained professional sports, and I left NY at 18, I have been (much to my disappointment) to maybe only 6 games in my lifetime.

I did however see a doubleheader against Cleveland where one Bobby Murcer hit 4 HRs in a row.

One game was Old Timers day, and it was cool because it was the FIRST year the announced DiMaggio second to last, and saved Mantle for last.

For 8th grade, I went to a private school in Darien, Ct. I was a bit of a math student then (about 1,823 bags of refer ago) and my math teacher, who was also a Yankee fan, motivated me to attend the 'slow 10th grade' geometry math class by promising to take me to a Yankee game if I had an 85 avg or better (though since I had skipped 7th grade, I was 3 years younger then everyone else and a bit indimidated).

Anyway, in this unlikely scenerio, I went to my 4th Yankees game on a class trip with a bunch of stoners from my geometry class. So on May 14, 1967, we boarded the school bus for the Bronx to see the Yankees play Baltimore. I don't remember a lot, except in the bottom of the 7th inning, Mickey Mantle hit his 500th home run.

2008-08-29 07:33:29
7.   AbbyNormal821
My first time going to the stadium was 8/14/05 - it was me, my mother, my best friend and my then 9 year old nephew. And it was a baptism by fire as we sat in Section 39 with the wild n' wacky Bleacher Creatures (my nephew loved them, potty mouths & all!). Yanks whooped Texas 10-3, I got to see A-Rod and Matsui homer 1st hand (total bombs, naturally!) and there was a nearly hour long rain delay.

It was also hot as blazes, I had the early makings of a cold coming on, but I wasn't going to let that ruin the day!

2008-08-29 07:48:06
8.   chrismarz
Even though we were a yankee household, my dad never took us from Long Island to the Bronx to see yankee games until the mid 80s. I think he was scared to go. So I saw a lot of crappy mets games in the late 70s at Shea, what a way to get indoctrinated to MLB.

My first game at Yankee Stadium was 1984 I think. Phil Neikro vs. the Jays, going for his 300th win. Could that be right? I don't think he got it that night, though he pitched well.

Even with the team fading now, the last 13 years have provided a lifetime of memories; we really can't complain as a group. And we'll be back next year, hopefully with some exciting FAs to add to our homegrown talent. I'll miss the smelly old building.

2008-08-29 07:51:06
9.   tommyl
You know, I don't remember my first game, I was so little at the time (three or four) that I can't remember it. So instead I'll list one game that sticks out in my mind. I was lucky enough to go to Game 1 of the '98 Serious. I was in college at the time in NH and I flew down from Boston for all of two days to go to the game. Our seats were upper deck, right behind home plate. Never before, and never again have I heard Yankee stadium as loud as when Tino hit that grand slam. The place was literally shaking. I had to do my problem sets half asleep in an airport waiting area but it was worth it. One of the greatest experiences of my life.
2008-08-29 07:55:12
10.   dlewanda
My first Yankee game was 9/14/91 (http://tinyurl.com/5zx7mq), a game against the Red Sox that was memorable only because of the Little League play that allowed Bam Bam Meulens to score from first on a pick-off attempt (errors by the pitcher, Mo Vaughn and Mike Greenwell), but I was happy because I got to see a Yankee win (so rare in those days) and a plastic mug with the team picture on it (which I still have). My dad got great tickets from a friend of his (about 11 rows behind the Yanks dugout - the ones gong for $125+ now). I wouldn't make it back to the stadium until 1998.

My first game at Shea was a blustery April affair against the Cubs in 1989 (http://tinyurl.com/5wqgt2), which I didn't realize until looking it up that it featured an up-and-coming spectacle-wearing pitcher who would go on to make quite a name for himself. What I remember more distinctly was that it was cold and that it was Passover, and that my grandfather's lady friend brought matzah and bananas to eat instead of a hot dog, which was quite a bummer.

2008-08-29 07:55:39
11.   FreddySez
I'm probably conflating more than one gauzy memory here, but I remember a Gator start in '78 in which Mickey Rivers hit an "inside the park home run" (I doubt it was officially scored that, but I was 10).

[several minutes' delay]

Holy crap, it actually happened - July 2, 1978. Guidry improved to 13-0. Mick's run was scored a 2B and an error on a weird fan interference call. The Yankes swept a doubleheader -- a scheduled, one-admission doubleheader -- from Detroit.

Other days, man, other days. Gonna crawl off and feel old for a while now.

2008-08-29 07:59:43
12.   jonnystrongleg
The first game I can remember was an exhibition game in 1981 when the players were trying to get in shape coming back from the strike. We were able to sit real close. I got some field dirt. I also saw the 2-1 Game 4 loss to Milwaukee in the Division Series later that year. The game took 2 and half hours.

The first game I was there to watch and record every pitch however, was 4/27/82 when Reggie returned to the Stadium as a member of the Angels and homered off of Guidry in the 7th. The spontaneous "Steinbrenner Sucks" chant was not only a beautiful tribute to Reggie, but it showed an awareness and foresight that I no longer associate with Yankee Stadium denizens.

2008-08-29 08:10:15
13.   williamnyy23
8 The circumstances are likely correct because Niekro was stuck on 299 for a few starts, but the year was 1985 (he got it in Toronto on the last game of the season).

More important than Niekro though, the Yankees were battling with the Jays down the stretch and entered that 4-game series at the Stadium within striking distance. They drew closer in the opener after Ron Hassey hit a mammoth HR to spark a big comeback, but then lost the last three. After hitting that HR, I think one of the tabloids screamed Babe Hassey! Uhmm...not quite.

2008-08-29 08:20:07
14.   williamnyy23
9 You should have heard it when Mattingly went deep immediately after Sierra to give the Yankees the lead. Not only did the crowd go nuts, but I think everyone in the stadium threw what ever was in their hands into the air. It was the loudest I have ever heard the Stadium and I have been to 15-20 playoff games during the run, including the Justice HR, Bernie's Boston Walk-off, the 1999 clincher, etc. In fact, the second loudest moment I can remember was Game 1 of the same 1995 ALDS. The bases were loaded and David Cone has a 3-2 count on Dan Wilson. Before the pay-off, the stands absolutely rocked. Unfortunately, Coney walked him to plate a run.
2008-08-29 08:22:46
15.   williamnyy23
12 It's still there...but is just being drowned out by the other half of the ballpark who are on the bandwagon. My rule of thumb is that once the crowd goes over 30,000 or so, the rest are mostly casual fans or arrested adolocents who go to games to get drunk.
2008-08-29 08:22:56
16.   Andre
My first game at the Stadium was in the late 80's. I don't remember the exact date (or even the year) but what I do remember is that Jay Buhner hit a grand slam for the Yanks. Seemed like shortly after that, he was traded away. I couldn't believe they would trade him away (he seemed to be doing very well for the Yanks).
2008-08-29 08:25:25
17.   bp1
I still have the ticket stub. July 15 1984. From the looks of Cliff's pictures, we were in pretty much the same area. Way high in the upper deck behind home plate. I don't remember much of the game, other than batting practice where Balboni hit a bunch of screaming line drives over the center field wall. Impressive. I also remember feeling a little queezy that high up, almost feeling I'd fall onto the field if I tripped in the aisle. I also remember some kid spitting on our windshield and offering to clean it off as we were stuck in traffic on the way home. My college roomie was a KC fan, so that's how I got an invite.

Funny - until I looked it up on retrosheet, I didn't remember that Balboni was on KC that year.

I remembered that Yankees won, but didn't know the score. Retrosheet is way cool.

http://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1984/B07150NYA1984.htm

I was perfect with games I attended until a BoSox game a couple years ago. Heck - I even saw one of those rare Pavano wins. I thought I was a lucky charm, lol.

2008-08-29 08:27:06
18.   pistolpete
2 Don't remember anything about it, but my Mom saved the date on a calendar and I might have the stub somewhere...

August 7, 1982. Mike Morgan pitches a complete game, and the Burners hammer Frank Tanana for 9 runs. Side note: it's Bucky Dent's last game as a Yankee. He was traded the next day for Lee Mazzilli.

http://tinyurl.com/5dmlc5

Collins at first, Mumhprey in center, Roy Smalley at third.

9 runs, really?

2008-08-29 08:31:01
19.   Just fair
My junior league baseball team traveled to the NYC for the state championship in 1988. We lost, but our coach got tix to that Sat. night's game vs. the Mariners. I had to look up the details on BR b/c all I remember about the game was that they got killed. 9-5, really.
I also remember a few of my brave teammates wandering to the very top of the empty right field upper deck. I watched them get escorted back down from the comforts of my seat on the 3rd base side under the overhang. I also have a picture of the scoreboard welcoming our team to the stadium. That blew me away. : )
2008-08-29 08:32:37
20.   pistolpete
0 Upper deck right behind the plate are my absolute favorite seats (besides sitting in the first couple rows behind the dugout, of course) in that Stadium. Whenever we knew we'd be sitting there, I'd be sure to bring the camera...

I have some awesome shots from a game in June of this year. My zoom lens is something like 12x optical and I upped the shutter speed so I got the ball right out of Moose's hand.

Of course, this was a game that Mariano pulled one of his infamous "not a save situation" performances, and we left more than a little disappointed.

2008-08-29 08:34:46
21.   bp1
17 Oh - and the ticket was $9. Section 613 row b seat 2. Advanced price for that seas is $65 now. Yikes.
2008-08-29 08:50:50
22.   Raf
Been watching for a while, but I didn't make it to my first ballgame until 1991. Yanks-Sox, Memorial Day. Mel Hall hit a GWHR
2008-08-29 09:57:59
23.   Schteeve
The last time I was at Yankee Stadium was Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS (the Boone HR game.) I wanted to get back for a game this season, but given that nothing is at stake this year, I couldn't have topped that game.

In retrospect, I think that might have been the best last game I coulda seen.

2008-08-29 10:19:09
24.   DarrenF
Too young to remember baseball details. I only remember missing the game because I could only see the backs of people standing in front of me when anything exciting happened and I also remember my father censoring his curse words in public: "Sugar" and "Fudge."
2008-08-29 11:31:23
25.   hoppystone
My first game at Shea was 1967, age 9, Mets/Cards. Mets took a big early lead thanks to a grand slam by pitcher Jack Hamilton (off former Met 'Little' Al Jackson!), but of course lost the game, 11-9.

Shortly after that, I went to my first Yankee game vs. the Senators. I was very upset because I was sitting behind a pole, and my father had to ask to switch seats with someone so I could see. All I remember about the game was the Yanks won (rare in those days), and that Frank Howard hit a gargantuan home run well over the left center field wall (off Bill Monboquette?), and everyone gasped when he hit it. Must have been 500+ feet.

2008-08-29 12:25:49
26.   flycaster
Dad, a Red Sox fan, drove us down from Massachusetts so my brother and I (young Yankee fans "brainwashed" by gramp) could be there for Mickey Mantle Day in 1965 (I believe). No greater love for his sons has a father shown. My most vivid memory of the game was 60-some thousand fans throwing paper planes constructed from a Mickey Mantle Day handout.

Oddly enough, I believe there were actually 2 separate Mickey Mantle days at the Stadium. Perhaps some of you historians can verify or clarify?

2008-08-29 13:23:14
27.   Noam Sane
11 I was at that game! The Mick the Quick trip around the bases was a Jeffrey Maier type play (except the ball dropped off the fan's hands and back onto the field). I believe Tigers' CF Mickey Stanley got tossed for arguing with the umps over that one. Gossage saved both ends of the double-header.

My first game was in August of 1976 against the Angels. Frank Tanana was dominating the Yanks. It was 8-0 after 8 innings. My parents decided we should beat the traffic. At age 7, I had no idea why we would leave YANKEE STADIUM before the game was over. Parents won that argument; we left. Yanks tied it up with 8 runs in the ninth. By the 11th I was in front of a TV watching Sparky Lyle give up three runs to lose, but nonetheless, I vowed never to leave a game early ever again (and I haven't). The following year I was at the stadium to see a game against the expansion Blue Jays. The Yankees were down something like 15-2 in the middle innings, but my parents knew I wasn't going anywhere until the final out was recorded. Final score: 18-3.

2008-08-29 14:04:07
28.   Start Spreading the News
My First Ever Yankee Game:
http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYA/NYA199009060.shtml

Jim Leyritz hits a homer that was called back. So he goes berserk and gets kicked out. Eric Plunk came on to pitch 7 innings in relief and the Yanks got the lead only to have the Angels tie it in the 9th. Games ends at close to midnight when Angels score 6 in the 11th.

Back then, you could move up and sit in the nicer seats. So my friends and I were right on top of 1st base by the middle of the game as fans started to leave.

Luis Polonia returned to Yankee Stadium as an Angel after leaving NY ignominiously with statutory rape charge. He was nice enough to wear the uniform number 18 when he returned with the Angels!

Needless to say we razzed him big time when he entered the game as a pinch runner for Winfield -- chants of "jailbait" and other such winners. He later got a basehit and gave us the finger when he got to first. It was pretty funny to the few fans that were left. At first, he was pissed but then later he started laughing when he saw that we were laughing as well.

Yanks gave free tix to the remaining fans at the end of the game. My free game also ended in extra innings which led to another free ticket but only a 9 inning game.

My first $10 spent on tix got me about 31 innings of baseball. Sweet.

2008-08-29 18:29:40
29.   3rd gen yankee fan
18 I remember the day Bucky Dent was traded. Me and my best friend Cheryl were absolutely crushed -- teenage girls in love with cute Bucky Dent.
2008-08-29 21:48:52
30.   weeping for brunnhilde
Fabulous photos, Cliff, thank you.

Very moving.

I'm starting to get really sad.

2008-08-29 21:52:19
31.   weeping for brunnhilde
Oh, and as to first games, I have no idea, but the earliest one that leaps to mind (though I don't think it was my first) was seeing Reggie homer against the Yanks in his first season with California, which was 1982. I was nine and Reggie was my favorite player. I even named my cat Reggie.

It was an unforgettable thrill. As I recall, he hit it deep to left center, maybe in black. The real thrill came when the whole stadium rose to its feet to do the Reggie chant. And of course, the man himself gave a curtain call.

2008-08-29 21:57:18
32.   weeping for brunnhilde
12 Oh my God, I think we must have been at the same game!

Wow!

2008-08-29 21:59:34
33.   weeping for brunnhilde
13 I remember that series vividly, at least, I remember the fact that it was a massacre (we lost three of four, right?) and that, as I recall, Bobby Meacham managed to throw so errantly that the ball went on the roof-netting of the backstop.

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