Remember when it used to shake? When it used to rock? When the upper deck moved like an accordion, up and down, pulsating like one giant heartbeat? Remember when it was like that just as much in July as it was in October?
Sure, the paint was chipped here and there. The aisles and bathrooms were tight and cramped. The food options were limited to standard items. But it was my stadium – the one I grew up with and fell in love with. I remember it like it was yesterday, but at the same time it feels like forever ago.
That feeling you got when you walked to your seat in the upper deck. You’d find your section, walk this dark corridor and then boom, there it was, straight down in front of you like you could reach out and touch it; the greenest grass you ever saw in your life. The grounds crew would manicure the field with the precision of an artist touching a canvas.
You’d maybe glance around the field and pick out your favorite memories, as Eddie Layton played something on the organ. Oh, that’s where Charlie Hayes secured the final out of the ’96 World Series, right after he tumbled into the visitors dugout on the play before.
There’s where Jeffrey Maier lent a helping hand towards creating a dynasty. The upper deck in right field? That’s where Tino’s grand slam landed (then you picture the beer that got tossed over the side). You imagine Jeter running full-speed toward that photographers-well along the third base line, right before he flew into the stands.
You saw where Chris Chambliss’ pennant clinching homer landed, just in front of the RF bleachers. The Black – where Reggie Jackson’s third home run fell in game six of the ’77 Series. Although it was heavily renovated, this is where Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle played. You believed in the ghosts. You could see Monument Park from any seat in the ballpark. It was like it’s own ecosystem, with trees and flowers keeping the legends company. It wasn’t a cave tucked away in center field. It felt like hallowed ground.
The players on the team seemed larger than life back then. If you wanted to get a good look at them before the game, maybe you’d go down to the first row to try and get an autograph. No one stopped you. You didn’t need a wristband to enter restricted areas. Freddy Sez walked around, spoon and frying pan in hand, encouraging the fans to cheer and get involved.
You could grab a hot dog and a soda and still have enough money left over. Bob Sheppard’s voice would come over the crackly PA system, although it sounded like it was coming from the sky above. He’d welcome all 52,000 people to Yankee Stadium, but it felt like he was personally welcoming you into his house. You’d listen to the lineups, and Sheppard’s precise pronunciation of every syllable gave you chills. The name “Derek Jeter” was tailor made for Sheppard.
The old Stadium just had charm. It had character. It didn’t feel and smell like a brand new car. While that car may be nice and luxurious, it still doesn’t compare to the old beat-up, but reliable Honda that’s being held together with chicken wire and bubble gum. When you warmed that Honda up right, boy, it purred like a well-oiled machine.
Whether it was a warm night in June or a cool night in October, the Stadium had buzz. The stands were right on top of the field, giving the Yankees a true home field advantage. A 26th player. All of this is gone now. The receded stands, open-air concourses and padded seats absorb the crowd noise. Attendance is also a big factor. The building doesn’t shake like it did when Joe Girardi hit that triple in 1996, or when Brosius brought the Yankees back from the dead in 2001. The only time I felt it move a little was when Jeter had his walk-off in his last home game.
I just don’t have an emotional attachment to the new house like I did with the old one. There’s no history there. It looks nice, don’t get me wrong – it’s hard not to like a billion dollar stadium. But it just doesn’t have the same feel. Look at Fenway and how the Red Sox have tried to turn it into a modern ballpark with new additions almost every year. Yeah, it’s still small and the wooden seats are uncomfortable, but it still has plenty of years left in it. The Cubs are doing the same thing with Wrigley.
I miss meeting at The Bat. I miss the old foot-bridge you’d have to walk over to get from your car to the stadium. I miss the freeze being in the outfield. I miss the tiny scoreboard and jumbotron. I miss the old Bronx courthouse, peering over the right field stands like it was trying to get a look at the action.
I miss the place I fell in love with as a kid, and I can’t even see it anymore because it’s knocked down. How do you knock down YANKEE STADIUM? Now, everyone’s on their phones, everyone’s going in and out of some suite, people leave in the seventh inning. It just isn’t the same, and I don’t think it ever will be.
I wish I would’ve soaked in 2008 better than I did, because it’s true: you really never know what you’ve got until it’s gone.