Unlike many of you, my first experience at Yankee Stadium was recent. I grew up in the Midwest, never came to New York until 1999, and didn't get the chance to go to a game at Yankee Stadium until the 2004 playoffs. Yes, those playoffs that Yankee fans would love to forget and fervently wished had never happened and had never let the Red Sox get back in the World Series.
Because my in-person experiences at Yankee Stadium are all within the past five years, what stands out most are the larger-than-life events that have been held there. To me, that's the way it should be, since Yankee Stadium has held big events since its inception. Along with playing host to so many World Series games, people remember great boxing matches held there by the likes of Muhammad Ali and Joe Louis; Notre Dame's "Win for the Gipper" over Army; and several Papal visits. Mostly, though, it's all about baseball.
I remember in 2001, watching on TV as baseball resumed at Yankee Stadium after 9/11. I remember vividly the attempted return to normalcy amid tremendous emotion. I was not yet covering baseball, so I could root for teams. I had never been a Yankees fan, had followed the Cardinals growing up, but I wanted the Yankees to win the World Series that year. That sentiment isn't unique in any way, but I felt like maybe something good could happen there to make New Yorkers smile after tragedy.
Then I remember the playoffs and the in-season series against the Red Sox, which always feel like postseason games. I covered that American League Division Series in which the Yankees beat the Twins (Alex Rodriguez's first playoff series in pinstripes) and the American League Championship Series where the Red Sox broke the Yankees' hearts. The crowds were so into those games that it was a huge thrill just to be in attendance even when some of the games ended so late that deadlines were a mess.
And finally, I remember the All-Star Game this year. The Yankees did a tremendous job of bringing back greats from the past few decades of All-Star Games. And the spectacle was a perfect sendoff for the Stadium, a celebration of all the great baseball that has been played at Yankee Stadium for so many years. Having the Yankees' own World Series greats, from Yogi Berra to Reggie Jackson to Derek Jeter to Mariano Rivera; there made it oh-so-memorable. I believe most of us thought, even at midseason, that there would eventually be a sendoff in the playoffs. That wasn't to be, but I'm sure Yankees fans will always remember the All-Star Game as an emblem of the greatness that has been Yankee Stadium over the years.
I enjoyed my last few trips to the Stadium, peeking in as the 4 train rolled up to the 161st Street Subway. To me, seeing the Stadium before it's open to fans always feels like you're stealing a glimpse.