So how was the final night at Yankee Stadium, Darren? Well, I’m back in London and feeling very jetlagged so I might as well gather my thoughts and write them down.
A few days earlier I’d arrived early at the Stadium in order to have a final mooch around Monument Park. That night they closed the line into the park five minutes after the Stadium opened and I didn’t get in. So when they said that they were opening the park at 1.05 pm for a game that didn’t begin until 8.05, I wasn’t going to fall for it again but I did want a good long time to soak up the atmosphere so I arrived in the Bronx about 3. There was a guy on the Stadium gate announcing that Monument Park was already closed – no surprise there – but I decided to go in anyway get myself a hot dog and see what was happening. So I moved forward and presented my ticket. The attendant ran it through his swipe machine – and said there was a problem and that I should go to the "Will Call" window. Mmmmmmm…… I began to worry. But confident that all would be well, I walked round to Will Call. The woman there told me that the season ticket holder who had sold this to my ticket broker and then gone on and re-issued it to himself which is technically very out-of-order but meant that the ticket belonged to him and not to my ticket broker and consequently, no to me. Now, life is beginning to look very grim. Tickets for this game have been changing hands for $20,000 – $70,000 so I’m not about to head to a scalper. Looks like time to head back to Manhattan and settle back to watch the game on TV.
I’m waiting on the subway station when the fog of misery lifted enough to decide to ring my ticket broker who is a good guy and whose fault this wasn’t. I checked my cellphone and found that I hadn’t brought the number with me from the UK. Even bigger crap. Decided to ring my mate, Graham, in London, who is a pastor, only to find he was still at church taking service. Tried my sister in Yorkshire, who didn’t even know I was abroad and, lo and behold, she went on the internet and found a number.
Dialled the number. No answer. Ansaphone message but crucially giving me his mobile. Rang the mobile. No answer. Left a desperate message. Rang again. Still no answer. Mentally gave myself a cut off time that I was going to give back up and decide to do something more fun than sit in a subway station. ……… And then the phone rang. Broker Tim sounded very concerned and said he would call back which he did. Ten minutes later, call he did, and said he’d found a alternate ticket. Amazing. All I’d need was some photo I.D. and it would be at Stub Hub to collect. Only one problem….. my only photo identification, my passport, was in Manhattan and I was in the Bronx. Oh, okay, says Broker Tim, I’ll see what I can do to sweet talk them and get them to break their own rules and give it you without. Somehow or other, he pulled this off and ten minutes later – still only 4 o’clock – I was in the Stadium.
So my own personal crises aside, what else happened? Well, there was marching bands and a whole bunch of guys in the outfield dressed to appear as the 1923 starting line up. There were the greats of years gone by – those who are still in this world and didn’t have another game to be involved in this night. There was Reggie Jackson, Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill, Yogi Berra, Moose Skowron, Bobby Richardson, David Cone, David Wells, Don Larsen, Chris Chambliss, Willie Randolph and a cast of many, many more. There were the sons, daughters, and wives of those who died young. Crowd going crazy and joy unconfined for the devoted baseball fan. So much to see and do that the beginning of the game was definitely going to be at least half-an-hour late. Film and sounds and heroes.
When the game did actually begin, the Yankees were struggling behind a sub-par performance from Andy Pettitte. He gave up two early runs and Waters was pitching well for the Orioles and to be frank the Yankee bats seemed a little over-awed by the occasion. This really had been the story of all the games I had been too. Starting pitching which didn’t look up to the task and the bullpen to the rescue. The problem with this was it had stretched the resources of the ‘pen to the limit and several of the guys had gone out to the mound several nights on the trot.
And then it happened. Remembering where they were the Yankees came to life. Unlikely singles from Matsui (0-for-16 in recent at-bats), and Molina were followed by a home run from Johnny Damon. Pettitte gave up a third run but a two-run homer from Jose Molina (only his third home run of the season and it turned out to be the last ever fence-clearer at Yankee Stadium) in the bottom of the fourth restored the lead.
And then to the bullpen. Veras, Coke and Chamberlain once more delivered the goods. By this time the Yankees had extended their lead to 7-3. And then everyone was on their feet. Enter Sandman once more pumped from the public address. Rivera coming in from the bullpen. Field of Dreams, indeed.
The rest of the night produced laps of honour, speeches from Derek Jeter and more plays of Frank Sinatra’s recording of "New York, New York" than I could count or care to remember.
All this and in bed for three in the morning. Great, great night.