If you didn’t flip by ESPN at any point on Sunday, you may not know that the final baseball game has been played at Yankee Stadium. ESPN devoted approximately 800 hours of programming to this historic event. The Yankees are missing the playoffs this year, so they had to fill their Yanks quota somehow.
Anyway, lots of people shared their memories of Yankees Stadium over the past few days. I’ve never been there, but I have watched a game or two that has been played there. That’s reason enough to share my memories.
As you might expect, these are heavily tinged by the Royals-Yankees rivalry that raged in the late 70s and early 80s. So, in roughly chronological order, here goes.
1) Coming home from school and hearing that George Brett hit three home runs in game three of the 1978 ALCS, but the Royals still managed to lose.
2) Watching the 1978 World Series, the first one I remember.
3) The Thurman Munson game.
4) We moved to Kansas City in July 1980, just in time for a Royals series in New York. Back then, it was rare for an entire series to be on TV, but the trip to the Bronx warranted extra coverage. From July 18 to July 20, the teams played a crazy three-game series that began with a massive George Brett home run into the upper deck. I spent the rest of the summer recreating that home run in our new living room. Check out some of the box scores. Willie Wilson did not suck that weekend.
5) Three months later, Brett hits another upper deck blast that quieted Yankees fans as the Royals finally beat the Yankees in the ALCS.
6) The Pine Tar game. I was visiting my grandparents and watching the game with my grandfather, who hated the Yankees more than he loved the Royals (that’s where I get it from, I guess). We both went ballistic when George Brett cranked a ninth-inning home run off of Goose Gossage, only to see it overturned because of a dumb rule. After calming down, my grandfather took his usual afternoon nap on the couch. When he woke, he looked at me, shook his head, and said, “God damn Billy Martin.”
7) The Jeffrey Maier game. By 1996, I had given up on the Royals and adopted the Baltimore Orioles as my team. This was what I got for picking the O’s to follow for a decade.
8 ) The entire 2001 World Series. Looking back, you can see how we were being manipulated by events around, but not on, the diamond. But the games still stand up as some of the best played. The night of game four, I was suffering from the flu, trying to keep my eyes open so I could watch the game. When Derek Jeter’s winning blast sailed into the stands, I’ll admit I started crying. Unlike others, though, who were crying because of what was going on in the world or because of the greatness of the game, I couldn’t believe I battled the flu until late in the night to watch Derek Freaking Jeter win the game.
9) The Aaron Freaking Boone game. A phenomenal series came down to a monumental managerial blunder and an unforgettable ending. Still hating the Yankees, I couldn’t sleep for hours after this game ended I was so pissed. And it locked me in as a big Red Sox fan for the ’04 season.
10) Game seven of the 2004 ALCS. Games four and five at Fenway are the classics that will stand up over time. But for a Yankee hater, game seven was pure bliss.