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.
(Above) "Boston Today" for the last time, as the dust from the construction of a new parking deck rises in the foreground.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
The team surrounding Giambi near first base (G-bombs himself is facing home and fist-bumping Hideki Matsui).
Giambi doing his post-game interview with the YES Network's Kim Jones.
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.
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.