"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Lasting Yankee Stadium Memory #34

By Maggie Barra

The big deal over the end of the Yankee Stadium is over and before long we’ll be seeing pictures of the Stadium being torn apart. But I don’t want to see those images because I want to keep my memories alive.

The first time I remember going to Yankee stadium is one of my earliest childhood memories. I can’t recall every detail, but I vividly remember the first time I looked out on the field. I was six; I know that because I got to leave my first grade class early. My father was already there, my mother and I joined him.

I remember being perplexed by the slanted ramps that seemed to never merge and were separated by black vertical bars. I remember the dark blue paint next to white everywhere and knowing that they were the Yankee colors. I followed about two feet behind my mother. The game had already started, and most of the people were in their seats. There was a small square doorway resembling a miniature tunnel; the walls were navy again with a hint of shine that felt sticky and reminded me of rubber, especially against the unremarkable concrete floor.

There was a slight upward climb past the door. My mother’s high heels clacked as she hurried, then suddenly she stopped at the edge, seeming to stand in the open with no roof over her. I came up behind her and saw it for the first time. Before I noticed the actual stadium, a deafening roar arose from all around me and a lit up sign announced "Home Run!" I had heard of a home run before, but wasn’t sure what it meant, but I knew from the crowd’s reaction that it was good.

As I stood there, I felt a little breathless as I managed to take in this very large, wonderful place. I noticed the green grass with a crisscross pattern, the white letter-looking sign behind home plate, the endless supply of people surrounding the field except for the spaces with no seats, and at the back, a black area underneath the scoreboard. The net behind the plate expanded like a spider web.

After we found my dad, who was seated with friends, he pointed out the bullpen where pitchers practice. And next to that he showed me "Monument Park," where there was a plaque for every great player who ever played for the Yankees and had his number retired. I assumed that they were buried there. I don’t remember if the Yankees won or lost that night, but it doesn’t matter. It was a wonderful night that I will always remember.

A little over a decade later, I took my last trip to Yankee Stadium. I am now seventeen and have been lucky enough to visit there at least once a year almost every year of my life. As we exited the elevated subway at the 161st Street stop and the train pulled away, I saw both the skeleton of the new stadium and the full-bodied old Yankee Stadium, the one of my memories. There was a sadness in the old Yankee Stadium, it felt like it knew it was now outdated in the eyes of its owners and was politely waiting to make way for the emerging replacement across the street to take its place. My father could recall when his father brought him to witness the 1961 Yankees, and it occurred to me why we are all so attached to this place.

Yankee Stadium – I hate saying the "old" Yankee Stadium – is like your grandparents house. It was a tradition to visit as a kid and continued to be one as you grew up, just as it was for your parents and maybe even their parents. Every trip was special, and just like visiting your grandparents, you always came back with great stuff you didn’t need but loved. My mom would say I had enough Yankees stuff already – as if that were possible!

I can remember almost everyplace I ever watched a game at the Stadium, the people we met sitting near us (especially the nuns who left in disgust during one very nasty loss!), and great plays someone made that the rest of the world has forgotten, like the game against Toronto in 2004 where Miguel Cairo knocked down a line drive hit between first and second, crawled on his hands and knees to pick it up, and then flipped it to first for the out.

It was so good to know that as our baseball heroes grew older or were traded or simply faded , and as seasons passed without going to the World Series, the place where you witnessed all this lf and history remained and would be there next year. It hurts to know that now there is no next year for my old friend, but life goes on.

From Ruth to Gehrig to DiMaggio to Berra to Mantle to Jackson to Mattingly to Jeter to Rodriguez, the players changed, aged, and, in some sad cases, moved on to ballparks not on this earth. And the proof that they real and not some mythological creation, stood proudly. Every year from April to September — and often into October and once even November –The House that Ruth Built was the inspiration of cherished memories from both my childhood and now, almost-adulthood. From my first visit at as a six year old in 1998 to my last visit at age seventeen in 2008, I will always remember the soon-to-be-departed family friend of my grandfather, my father and myself.

Maggie Barra is a senior in high school.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver