By Joe Posnanski
OK, look, I don’t really have a lasting Yankee Stadium memory. I mean, sure, I have them, but they’re no different than the 5,483,794 lasting Yankee Stadium memories that have been told the last six months or six years or six decades or however long this “Lasting Yankee Stadium Memory” series has been running.
So the only reason I’m even writing this is because Alex pretty much bullied me into it by noodging me about it three times a day, every day since before my second child was born. I just assumed he would forget about it at some point, assumed that even for him the expiration date on Yankee Stadium memories would pass, assumed that he would let me live in peace. No. This man, like Billy Martin, simply knows no peace. I am of the firm belief now that that the best way to find Osama Bin Laden is to have Alex Belth assign him a “Lasting Yankee Stadium Memories” essay.
Anyway, what kind of unique Yankee Stadium memory does Alex even think I have? Who am I, Robert Merrill? Hey, maybe my memory was the time that me and the other short-pants kids in the Bronx skipped school and slipped past the front guards at the stadium and caught the last of Larrupin’ Lou’s three homers, which just so happened to heal my sick little brother Tommy. Or maybe it was that day in ’78 when I was a kid sitting outside the stadium and Billy Martin first threatened to hit me in my fat face and then apologized (said he had confused me for “Steinbrenner or one of them”) and then invited me to sit by him and tell Reggie he was benched.
Or maybe, seven years old, and my dad takes me to Yankee Stadium. My first game. We go in through this long, dark tunnel underneath the stands. And I’m holding his hand, and we come out of the tunnel, into the light. It was huge. How green the grass was, the brown dirt, and that great green copper roof, remember? We had a black-and-white TV then, so this was the first I ever saw in color. I sat there the whole game next to my Dad. He taught me how to keep score. Mickey hit one out.
Yeah. Memories. Not my memories. But at this point does it even matter? Others have told all of my memories. Sure, I was there the night when Jeter hit the November homer and listened to the recording of Frank singing “These little town blues …” again and again and again. I was there when John Wetteland went to the mound – this had to be three or four hours after he had gotten Mark Lemke to pop out to clinch the Yankees first World Series in a generation. The stadium was almost empty, and Wetteland stepped on the mound, and he just looked around … it was like he wanted just one more look.
I was there to hear Bob Sheppard say “Yankee Way,” I was there to see DiMaggio’s two-hand wave, I was there to hear a real Bronx Cheer – and it is true that all others taste like grape juice to that fine wine. I was there to see Greg Maddux at his baffling best, there to see perhaps the second-greatest team in baseball history* destroy the Padres, there to see David Cone throw one of the guttiest games I’ve ever watched, there to see Albert Belle snap at some fans, there to catch a glimpse of Bruce Springsteen, there to see George Steinbrenner, there to see Spike Lee, there to see Rudy Giuliani, there to see Mariano Rivera close the door.
*I am writing a book about the 1975 Reds, so by law I must have the 1998 Yankees behind them, and the ’27 Yankees too, and also the ’61 Yankees.
And, yes the memory that Alex probably wanted, I stood in the rain in centerfield back in 1996, the day that Game 1 of the World Series was rained out. I stood out there where (more or less) DiMaggio stood, the Mick, Bobby, Mick the Quick, Bernie, Jerry Mumphrey. I looked around, took it all in, listened for the echoes, looked for the ghosts, all of that. There were a few policemen standing in the rain too, and I thought they were going to come get me, but they seemed to understand what I was doing.
In fact, as I trudged in I passed one of them. He said: “Getting your Lasting Yankee Stadium Memory for Belth, right?” New York police officers are wise.