Over the course of the last few weeks, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on the ghosts of Yankee Stadium. In recent history, it was always a given that the spirits of Yankees past lurked about “The House that Ruth Built.” From the Great Bambino himself to baseball legends such as Lou Gehrig and Thurman Munson, it is a logical conclusion that a lifetime of baseball moments made in “The Great Cathedral” would, at the very least, continue to reverberate through time and that, in the afterlife, a great communion of souls would team up together to haunt opponent after opponent when called upon.
Anyone who has been there will tell you the place had its own sort of energy unlike any other stadium, a sort of aura about it that left most first-time visitors awestruck. From Monument Park to the concession stands and back to the Bleachers, it took on a character all its own. Many modern-day players have made reference to “The Ghosts,” coming out during a game, including current Yankee Team Captain Derek Jeter.
In a previous blog entry, I asked Yankees fans to summon the ghosts of Yankee Stadium to help our boys to victory during the playoffs. I expected a flurry of unexplained Yankee miracles of the kind we fans have grown accustomed to…no, we expect…but that didn’t happen. No miracles, no amazing moments. Just mediocre plays that made for a disappointing end to what was a stellar season, otherwise. It was an anticlimactic unfurling of injuries and missed opportunities. A major let down that left Yankees fans disgusted and in utter disbelief to find that their focus had somehow shifted to raking leaves and Halloween costumes.
So, I found myself asking the following irreverent question:
What if there just aren’t any ghosts at the new Yankee Stadium?
If one follows the theory that spirits who still walk the earth are stuck in some kind of time warp or a timeless eternity set in the past – their past – and that they may not even be aware that they have passed on, one would have to address the obvious possibility that they might not even realize there is a new stadium or even that the old one is defunct.
What if returning to the old Yankee Stadium was their Heaven and, with all good intentions, we have now taken that away? Is it possible that the spirits are so upset and offended that the Babe’s home – their home- has become another victim of the wrecking ball that they flat out refuse to move to the new stadium, choosing instead to relive their choices of baseball moments on the hallowed ground where they forged so much history?
Ask many old-time Yankee fans and they will voice their discontent over the closing of the old stadium – the first three-tiered sports arena ever built – and, in essence, the end of an era. To many, all the modern ammenities in the world cannot make up for a historic structure opened in 1923 that we once knew and loved, and the opportunity to see a ball game for only a few bucks on a hot summer night!
So, what if the ghosts decided to stay put on the old stomping grounds?
What if they, too, chose not to move on?
Embedded in those old concrete walls were:
• the voice of 1927 Manager Miller Huggins addressing his World Championship lineup before the games
• Lou Gehrig’s infamous retirement speech that made the world aware of a disease call ALS
• the crack of the bat by Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio
• the sound of Catfish Hunter’s pitches smacking the catcher’s mitt during Game 6 of the 1978 World Series
• the furious stomps of fans in the upper deck when Reggie Jackson became “Mr. October”
• multiple generations of passionate “boo”s mixed with cheers of “Let’s go Yankees!”
• the wolf-like howls of the crowd when the calendar page flipped from October 31st to November 1st to crown Derek Jeter as “Mr. November”
• cheers of “Hip! Hip! Jorge!” in the stairwells as fans exited after games
• “The Voice of God” a.k.a. Bob Sheppard announcing the players while organists Toby Wright and Eddie Layton filled the air with music from a 50,000-watt Hammond organ.
“Baseball has been erased, rebuilt and erased again.” – Field of Dreams
Perhaps, as Doc saved the little girl in that classic baseball movie, the old spirits of River Drive will come to the rescue when we convey our sincere thanks and appreciation for the memories. When we tell them we’ve built this new field for them, too.
“Build it and they will come.”
“The House that George Built” may not be quite the same as the old Yankee Stadium, but in time, it, too will be filled with its own history, it own timeless memories. It is still young. It’s time for a new generation of devoted fans to make their imprint on the walls, to fill it with a new brand of passion, derived from tradition, that can come only from a pure love of baseball.
Together, we can create that perfect moment in time. Together, we can feel the magic of baseball. Then, when someone asks, “Is this Heaven?” you can answer, “Yes, it’s Yankee Stadium!”
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Don’t change that dial! More coming in the next installment of NYY Logo Girl!