Yankees Bid Farewell to The Cathedral of Baseball

Steve Rawlins24 September 2008 - 10:34



On Sunday evening, the New York Yankees played their last ever regular season game at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. It was, as most games have been for the Yankees recently, a must-win to avoid the elimination from playoff contention that is rapidly catching up to them.

Final opponent: Birds
Questionable schedule design meant that instead of the final regular season game at The House That Ruth Built being an iconic match up against the Boston Red Sox, New York’s arch rival, it was actually the no-name Baltimore Orioles that the Yankees faced on Sunday night. The Yankees will close out the 2008 regular season on the road in Boston next weekend. Their historic stadium will be torn down next year as they move across East 161st Street to their new $1.6 billion home, and many fans felt short changed that it was the lowly Orioles penciled-in for the last, historic hurrah.

Playoff hopes fading

The only plausible explanation is that the schedule makers were so sure the Yankees would be in the playoffs come October that the fans would have at least one more game in the Bronx against a worthy opponent. However, right now it looks very much as if the Yankees’ streak of 13 consecutive postseason appearances will end in 2008. Although they’re not out of it yet, the Bombers are hanging on by their fingernails, narrowly avoiding elimination on Saturday, winning 1-0 in the 9th in game two of the series, and then again on Sunday in game three with a 7-3 victory.

A Final Farewell

The Yankees have six games to go, and the odds on them making the playoffs are stacked against them. For many Yankee fans and players the prospect of a baseball-free October is an unfamiliar one. The last time the Yankees did not make the playoffs, pitcher Joba Chamberlain was 8 years old, and A-Rod was fresh out of high school. This might be the first time in Derek Jeter’s major league career that he will not be involved in a post-season game. For a while on Sunday night though, as Frank Sinatra blasted out over the stadium’s PA system and skipper Jeter addressed the packed stands, playoff woes were forgotten as the entire team took a lap of honour, saluting the Yankee faithful and thanking them for their years of support.

The Last Home Run

When Babe Ruth first entered Yankee Stadium after it opened in 1923, he told reporters that he would give a year of his life if he could hit a home run in the first game. And in that game, against who else but the Boston Red Sox, Babe did exactly that, smashing a 3 run homer that would end up winning the inaugural game for the Bronx Bombers. The bat he used to hit the home run sold for a cool $1.26 million at auction in 2004. After that first game, Ruth told the fans: “I’m very happy to have hit the first home run in this stadium. God only knows who’ll hit the last.” On Sunday night, Jose Molina took that honour, hitting a two run shot in the forth inning and keeping Yankee playoff hopes alive, but only just.

See you in April

The new Yankee Stadium opens next spring – although it will almost certainly have a large corporation’s name attached to it by then. It’s bound to be bigger and better than most baseball stadiums around the world, but it will be impossible to re-capture the heart and the history that surrounds River Avenue & East 161st Street.

During a brief period spent working in New York I was fortunate enough to catch a ball game at Yankee Stadium. It truly is a special place – you breathe baseball in the streets surrounding the park and you drink it in the bars. It’s hard to believe that the Cathedral of Baseball will soon be gone.

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