September 28, 2001: Bronx, New York
For some reason, I waited until my junior year at Fordham to attend my first Yankees game. I will admit to having rooted for the Yankees during my high school years, even joining classmates at the 1996 and 1998 Yankee parades, but I was never a passionate Yankees fan. When I began my college career at Fordham, located a few train stops away from Yankee Stadium, I decided to go against popular opinion and pledge my allegiance to the other team in town: the New York Mets. Maybe it was the fact that the Yankees organization thought it was better than everyone else, or Yankee fans’ arrogant attitude, but I never had my heart with the team. During my Fordham days, I found myself watching the Mets instead of the Bronx Bombers. Even though my love for the Mets grew, I had respect for the Yankee players: Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, and Paul O’Neil (my favorite). As the years rolled on, Yankees management (i.e., George Steinbrenner) filled his team with overpriced players who could not deliver (e.g., Alex Rodriguez, Javier Vazquez, and Jeff Weaver). I began despising the Yankees organization and their fans, who seem to think “The Yankees shall win the World Series every year” is the 11th Commandment. Despite my current feelings for the Yankees, their players, fans, and organization, I have to give credit where credit is due; Yankee Stadium was a national monument.
During my four years at Fordham, I was lucky enough to live with Paul Lorenzetti, a quality Yankees fan. He was always fair in his opinions on the team. It was great to have him show me around Yankee Stadium during my first visit. As I stepped off the D Train at 161st Street and River Avenue, I could feel the excitement. Yankee Stadium was as exquisite as it looked on television. As I walked through the gates, I could feel the history. Opening on April 18, 1923, Yankee Stadium is a common thread throughout the team’s illustrious history. On that day, the greatest player who ever lived, Babe Ruth, hit a 3-run home run to christen the ballpark “The House that Ruth Built.”
The success of Ruth and fellow baseball legend Lou Gehrig led the New York Yankees to heights no other professional sports franchise had ever soared. The Yankees organization is home to 20 Hall-of-Famers and an unprecedented 27 World Championships. Many of these players were immortalized in Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park, located behind the Left-Center Field Fence. Yankee Stadium is also known for having some of the wildest fans in the Majors. The “Bleacher Creatures” have become a part of Yankee Stadium tradition. At the beginning of each game the Bleacher Creatures do their roll call, which consists of chanting each fielder’s name until they are acknowledged. Only in New York!
With all of this going on, it can be difficult to focus on the game, but fortunately the Yankees were playing the Baltimore Orioles that night, who were in town for the final time in the 2001 season. It would be Orioles great Cal Ripken Jr.’s final series in the Bronx. We welcomed him with a standing ovation before every at-bat. As much as it was nice to show Ripken our appreciation for his Hall of Fame career, the 42,066 in attendance had their home team to cheer on. Tino Martinez (3-for-3 with 2 RBI) and Bernie Williams (2 RBI) led the Yankees offensively. They gave Yankees ace Mike Mussina plenty of support. The “Moose” went the distance while allowing only 3 hits and striking out 13 of his former teammates. It was a masterful performance: Yankees 7, Orioles 0.
Mussina’s dominance that night was followed by another Yankees postseason run. They would win the American League pennant, defeating the Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners, only to lose in the 7th Game of the World Series to the Arizona Diamondbacks. November 4, 2001 is the night the Yankees dynasty died, as Mariano Rivera blew a 2-1 lead. Shortly after the loss, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was interviewed and promised a Yankees comeback like no other. That statement has backfired for the most part as the Yankees have won one World Series since (2009 in the new Yankee Stadium). How can this happen when ownership continues to spend on player salaries? When attendance has reached the 4 million mark? The Yankee organization moved away from building teams on cohesion and accountability; instead, they went the Fantasy League route, focusing on big name players who had great statistics, but who lack the drive of their predecessors. Despite all this, the history and grandeur of Yankee Stadium was something I will never forget. Even though I am a Mets fan, I sorely miss the old Stadium.