April 18, 1923.
On this date, a grand coliseum opened its gates for the first time– thus the evil empire was born.
No, I’m not referring to a place where great Roman warriors once fought to the death in front of thousands of cheering spectators. Although, the environment is chillingly comparable.
The infamous structure I speak of is– Yankee Stadium– located at the heart of New York City’s Bronx borough.
The Yankees went on to win that opening day game, 4-1, defeating lifelong rivals, the Boston Red Sox.
I wasn’t born until 43 years after, but ever since I was old enough to hold a baseball, I’ve had pinstripe pride. It was in my blood in a way. A tradition I was born into, passed down from my grandfather, to my father, then to me. One I will gladly keep alive with my children, that is if they want to live under my roof.
But back to the subject. Whether I’ve realized it up to this point in my life or not, that iconic ballpark has had a major impact on my life.
My Dad took me there for my first professional baseball game on July 27, 1997. I still have the ticket. As a matter of fact, that was the first pro sporting event I’d ever attended, so imagine my excitement at 11-years-old.
I don’t recall the exact score but I do remember the Yankees losing to the Seattle Mariners that day. What I’ll never forget though, is watching the likes of Derek Jeter, Paul O’Neil, Bernie Williams, and the rest of the pinstripes play right in front of my eyes. All the while sharing this special memory sitting next to my old man.
That wouldn’t be our last trip there together either. We made it out to at least one game for every season to follow.
I’ve witnessed big wins and depressing losses. Sat so close to right field that I probably could’ve reached out and grabbed Paul O’Neil’s hair that hung below his cap. Adversely, I’ve watched games with binoculars glued to my face as birds closely circled above us while sitting in peanut heaven.
In 2008, Yankee Stadium celebrated its final season before beginning a new chapter across the street with the new Yankee
Stadium. My father and I took our final venture there on August 12, for the Old Timers Day game. Amid pre-game rain, we wandered through Monument Park, while chills crept up my spine as I was in awe seeing all of those Yankee legends permanently enshrined on the opposite side of the left-centerfield fence and rightfully so. As we took out seats, the sun started too shine and we enjoyed a Yankee win to perfectly end an era at our favorite place to visit.
Even though the stadium has since been demolished, my memories of that place never can be destroyed. Instead, they were brought
across the street with me and further built upon. In the four years at the new stadium, I have made new memories, but with the same old friend.
Yankee Stadium has, and always will be, so much more to me than its own unbelievable history. Forget Lou Gherig’s farewell speech, the good ole days of Murderer’s Row, and the long list of American League and World Series pennants won there. I have my own memories of that place, ones made with a good friend. Like conversations about life on the long road trips, $5 hot dogs that later turned to $9 beers, and simply appreciating America’s pastime in good company. All the while, without even realizing it, taking in lessons and morals that were instilled in me by my father subliminally through the game of baseball. Class, honor, dignity, hard work, dedication, and desire to be better. All things the Yankee organization represents. All things that describe my father which I learned from him through a tradition in New York.
These memories will be carried with me and passed on throughout my life but would have never been possible without my father first.
Thank You Dad. Happy Fathers Day.