Thursday, August 17, 2006

And Away We Go (Sports)

Welcome to my first entry at steelyankee.blogspot.com. This will be the place for my thoughts on the world surrounding me. I expected to use my opening entry to introduce myself to you if we’ve never met, or perhaps tell those who know me something that they never knew about me.

But I can’t do it. Not today.

The word “yankee” is in my blog address for a good reason. The New York Yankees have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember (the “steel” part is a reference to the winners of Super Bowl XL – the Pittsburgh Steelers). I attended my first game at Yankee Stadium as a three year-old on June 20, 1972, when they beat the Kansas City Royals. I have very vague memories of that night, and my second game, in 1973, when the Yankees beat Jim Palmer and the Orioles. These would be the only two games that I would ever attend with my father, and helped further my affection for the Yankees and the game of baseball. Incidentally things would come full-circle for me in 2005, when I took my three year-old son, Sean, to his first game.

Like I said, I have vague memories of those first two games, but I also have some 8 mm film from one of the games as well. Alas, the old building was in its last days, as Yankee Stadium would be renovated in 1974 and 1975. (A quick aside – my father, a truck driver for a plumbing supply company, drove in to the stadium during the renovation. I always liked that little tidbit.) It would reopen in 1976, and though it was not exactly the same building, the foundation was still the same. Despite what some say, you can still sense the ghosts of Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle and so on.

Well today, those ghosts got a shock, as they (and I) began to face the inevitable. After years of discussion, debate, and rhetoric, the Yankees broke ground for a new Yankee Stadium today. Personally, I’m having a hard time facing the end of the building that I hold as dearly as I do my boyhood home. To their credit, the Yankees are trying to do EVERYTHING right, and that helps to soften the blow. They’re working hard to rebuild the Stadium that we all hold so dearly – the 1923 version. Of course, they will build a 1923 stadium to 21st century standards and conveniences. They are even doing the right thing with the old Stadium. They’re going to preserve it, sort of. The building will be largely torn down, but the field will stay, with a limited grandstand surrounding it. It will be a jewel in a new park system in the South Bronx. It will be perfect for high school baseball and rec leagues. At least it won’t be a parking lot. The Yankees will even build a museum, a hall of fame, restaurants, shops and so on. Sounds pretty sweet, right?

So why am I sad? It’s not the same Stadium as Ruth played in, right? Hey, whatever. Those who want the new building can believe that if they want. But there’s something to be said about Curt Schilling’s two favorite strippers, Mystique and Aura. How do you transport that to another building? Did they do that with the Montreal Forum? Chicago Stadium? Maple Leaf Gardens? Tiger Stadium? Old Comiskey Park? Not to mention Forbes Field, Ebbets Field and so on. Hell, people STILL cry at the loss of Ebbets Field.

In 1998, my wife and I went to Boston with Harold and Tracy, two of our closest friends. Harold is the Boston Bruin equivalent of me as a fan. He’s passionate; right down to his love the building, the history and the minutiae. Of course, Boston replaced their dilapidated but charming building, the Boston Garden, with the Fleet Center (as it was known at the time.) It is now known as the TD North Bank Garden, but does anyone remember that, for a brief moment, it was known as the Shawmut Center? Oh, so many banks, so many mergers. As we got closer to the Fleet Center, Harold prepped himself for the site of the Garden in the process of being torn down. What he HADN’T prepared for was the Garden to be gone. It was completely leveled, and the look on his face and sound of his voice saddened me greatly. That’s the concept that I am now dealing with.

The mere sounds of Frank Sinatra’s “There Used to Be a Ballpark” or even Madonna’s “This Used to Be My Playground” is going to reduce me to sniffles, and inevitably, the demolition of Yankee Stadium, will go down as one of the saddest days of my life. All I can do is hope to get some piece of the old building, preferably some seats. The reality is that Steiner Sports or some sports memorabilia concern will rape us for a lot of money. I watched the same thing happen when Three Rivers Stadium came down in 2001. No disrespect to my friends in The Burgh, but that was a concrete cookie-cutter. This is the House That Ruth Built. The prices will be exponentially higher.

I worry that the new Yankee Stadium will be like the Shawmut/Fleet/TD Bank North building – cold and sterile. The ghosts of the great Bruins and Celtics don’t exactly haunt the new building, but they were an integral part of the old one. And I suspect that the Yankees won’t let that happen. Of course, most importantly, winning takes care of all of that, and allows us to create new memories and new ghosts. But I’m going to miss that magnificent old building, whether it’s truly like Babe’s old building or not. It’s close enough for me. Somehow, Fenway Park and Wrigley Field get to roll into the future. There’s no sense lamenting that Yankee Stadium won’t be allowed to continue on. It’s progress, and I’m sure I’ll embrace it, especially if I can be a season ticket holder, as I am now.

So what I saw today, in an overwrought farce of a ceremony, was the beginning of the end. As I watched it, I couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps EVERY politician and Yankees lackee would get a chance to pontificate about “what a wonderful day it is.” That’s where the Yankees embarrass me at times. But I suppose that rant is for another day. Today was about convincing myself that I have to begin to say good-bye.

5 comments:

Sean G. Kilkelly said...

Rob
Great way to start off! Congratulations on entering the world of bloggers. Best of luck with it!!!

Sean

Stephanie Adams said...

Uncle,

It makes me sad that Yankee Stadium will no longer be and I'm not even as huge of a fan as you! So I can't even imagine what it's like for you. Hey, you should write a Yankee book, I bet it would rock! You've got Yankee writing skills, if you know what I mean.

Peace, Steph

Ricky Fritsch said...

Rob,

I can appreciate your thoughts about Yankee Stadium. As a Mets fan Shea stadium holds a special place in my heart. Yes I know, it's a bland stadium and it doesn't have the aura, history, or any of the "ghosts" that Yankee Stadium does, but it too is the first place I went to a game with my father. Hopefully someday my son or daughter will be saying the same thing about the Mets new stadium. And guess what, the new Mets stadium will be reminiscent of old Ebbets field.

If you keep writing I'll keep reading.

mike said...

good stuff uncle robbie...keep on writting and ill keep reading!

LUVFOOTBALL said...

Rob, you made my son's day (maybe year) at the GYFL Championship -
Thank you so much - you did a great job announcing , too.