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Lasting Yankee Stadium Memory #17
2008-09-24 09:05
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

By Charles Euchner

I've seen a lot of great players at Yankee Stadium -- Munson and Jackson, Catfish and Guidry, Jeter and A-Rod -- but my most memorable moment came at my first game in the Bronx. The Tigers came to town in 1971, just a few weeks after my family moved to Long Island from Iowa. I was a Mets fan but wanted to see any baseball game. My dad got tickets from his job at Con Ed, one of the team's sponsors. So off we went.

My most enduring memory is how empty the stadium was. About 12,000 went to the game, a quick check of Retrosheet.org tells me. Foul balls did not set off a mad contest of reaching, grasping hands. Foul balls bounced around empty seats while fans raced to retrieve them from other sections. Since it was a blowout -- a 9-1 Yankee victory, which improved their record to 68-71, good for fourth place, 18 1/2 games behind the Baltimore Orioles -- most people who came left early. Those who stayed sat around looking bored. I tried to convince myself I was watching something special. I wasn't. The Yankees had only one superstar, catcher Thurman Munson. Roy White and Bobby Murcer were decent. Not much else.

In the next couple years, I experienced some real Yankees excitement during promotions like Bat Day that filled the stadium. I have always been amazed how great it feels to be in a stadium with 55,000 other people. Even when the team is out of the race, it can still feel like a playoff atmosphere. I also experienced how rowdy things can get during bad games. I never smoked pot, but I inhaled plenty when I went to Yankee games in the 1970s. At every game, fights broke out and fans got high and drunk. Then, in the late 1970s, the Yankees started winning. I guess George decided he could set some standards for fan conduct. Whatever happened, things didn't get so ugly in the stands.

I have a funny kind of nostalgia for those bad old Yankee teams. I went to the stadium because baseball was fun, not because the team was the best. The Yankee dynasty teams of later years were obviously better "products," as the number-crunching GM's say these days. But I miss the bygone days when winning more than you lost was good enough, before failure was defined as not crushing everyone every day. I'd love to get in a way-back machine and watch that 1971 Yanks-Tigers game again. Maybe I missed something.

Charles Euchner is the author of The Last Nine Innings.

Comments
2008-09-24 09:21:28
1.   JL25and3
Nice memory, of a time I remember well. I agree entirely with the sentiment.

But...Murcer was "decent" in 1971? He was arguably the best player in the league.

2008-09-24 09:38:54
2.   Cliff Corcoran
I think most fans of my generation have the same feeling about the Yankee teams of the late '80s and early '90s. "A funny kind of nostalgia" fits that feeling well.

1 Agreed on Murcer. Goes to show you the crushing power of high expectations.

2008-09-24 09:44:23
3.   monkeypants
2 Cliff,

I have been going to the stadium since about 1979, and I have to say that my fondest memories (or at least most nostalgic) are from the 1980s, especially early- and mid-80s.

2008-09-24 10:06:29
4.   Sliced Bread
Funny, as I've been scrolling through my countless Stadium memories recently, one that keeps sticking out is from the the unspectacular Yankee summer of '93 (unspectacular aside from Abbott's no-hitter).
I had just moved back from Washington DC after nearly 3 years down there. After being removed from the Yanks physically and emotionally in the late 80's-early 90's (my early 20's), it felt great to be back at the Stadium with one of my college buddies. I remember we were both excited about Bernie. My friend was more in touch with the team, and told me the word on the street was that there were more good young players in the organization, and on the rise.
We talked about this, and the old days, surrounded by at least 5 empty rows in our section of the upper deck. It was a day game, but I couldn't tell you which day. I remember we sat wherever we wanted, and kept an empty seat between us for our peanuts, and beers.
I remember how relaxing it was, sunning ourselves, basking in the vast emptiness of the Stadium. I remember wafts of weed from some dudes who snagged themselves the front row of the stadium balcony. We laughed at how conspicuous they were, and figured a TV crew probably caught, and documented their smoking. I have no idea who the Yanks played that day, who pitched, who won, but I remember the experience vividly, sitting with my friend in the half empty stadium (half full?) and for whatever reason, it's a memory that stands out in my mind.
2008-09-24 10:31:12
5.   Sliced Bread
Some interesting stuff from tne NJ Star Ledger yesterday about the summer of 1993, the last time the Yanks missed the postseason:

Gallon of gas: $1.06
Dow Jones (9/23/93): 3,309
Best Picture: Schindler's List
Song of the Year: Tears In Heaven (Clapton)

The Future: Posada and Pettitte were batterymates at Class A Prince William, where Pettitte went 12-9 with a 3.06 ERA, and Posada hit .259 with 17 HR and 61 RBI. Jeter, in his 2nd season in the organization, hit .295 with 5 HR and 71 RBI at Class A Greensboro.
Starting pitcher Mariano Rivera went 1-1 in 12 starts for Class A Greensboro, and Class A Tampa with a combined 2.08 ERA.
Alex Rodriguez was a senior at Westminster Christian High School in Miami, batting .505 with 9 HR, 36 RBI, and 35-for-35 stolen bases in 33 games.

Opening Day lineup:

Bernie
Boggs
Donnie
Tartabull
O'Neill (LF)
Nokes
Maas DH
Spike
Pat Kelly

Jimmy Key on the hill

2008-09-24 11:49:53
6.   Cliff Corcoran
5 That was the first year of Bill Clinton's first term. Joba Chamberlain was seven years old, Phil Hughes was six going on seven.

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