Yankee Stadium and The Yankees, My Yankees

As Yankee Stadium, The House That Ruth Built, perhaps the most famous sports venue in the world, prepares for the last game ever to be played on its venerable field tonight, it is the New York Yankees, The Bronx Bombers, who have imparted to this stadium its place in history and made it a part of Americana. The great Yankees such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, and many others have become a part of our culture and mythology.

It amazes me that I have been a Yankee fan for over half the time of their existence. As they mark their 105th anniversary, the Yanks have been my team for 55 years, ever since I first became a baseball fan in 1953 at the age of 9. It was only 30 years before, in 1923, that they played their first game at the Stadium. Names like Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Gil McDougald, Phil Rizzuto, Hank Bauer, and Mickey Mantle made the magic in 1953, and 1923 seemed like an eternity into the past. Interestingly, from my perspective in 2008, 30 years doesn't seem so long ago. The 1978 Yankees are still quite fresh in my memory, and that team definitely does not seem like ancient history now.

When the Yankees won their fifth World Series in a row in 1953 by yet again defeating the Brooklyn Dodgers, it seemed to be in the natural order of things to my nine year old mind. Of course, there were years when the fairy tale didn't end happily. Those times helped me to mature and realize that life was not always victory and joy. The Dodgers finally broke through in 1955 on the backs of Brooklyn greats like Duke Snider, Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella, Carl Furillo, and Gil Hodges. And when Bill Mazerowski hit the ball over the left field wall in in the bottom of the ninth of the 7th game of the World Series in Pittsburgh in 1960, I sat there in disbelief watching every last interview and Chrysler car commercial as I waited to wake up from the nightmare I was sure I must be having. As I dried the tears, I grew up just a little that October in 1960. But the magic was always there. When Roger Maris hit number 61 on the last day of the season in 1961, the storybook quality of the Yankees was again writ large in the book of my life.

CBS buying the Yanks in 1964 signaled a long period of decline. Even though they were later to have a longer drought lasting 14 years, it was the worst 10 years in Yankee history. A large impersonal corporation cannot bring the love a baseball team needs from its owners to be really great, and the Yankees lost their soul for almost 10 years as they floundered from 1965 to 1973. Those were the days when I went into a personal hibernation regarding rooting for a sports team. Football, basketball, tennis, and many other sports are all well and good. But my heart is only really into baseball, and, of course, especially the Yanks. And with the Yanks out of the running, there was little I could actively root for. I was still a Yankee fan, but with stories of wife swapping and losing dominating Yankee news, they were dark times for the fans.

Then the Steinbrenner years began. Say what you will about George Steinbrenner, but he loves the Yankees, and to him, as with me, there is only one acceptable state of affairs for them. That is, of course, being winners. The "Boss" brought the Yanks back to respectability and returned them to prominence in the second half of the 70s as Guidry, Munson, et al regained the glory for the fans and the Yankee tradition. The one game playoff for the 1978 AL East title against Boston in which Bucky Dent hit his famous home run over the Green Monster in Fenway Park was one of the most exciting games I ever saw.

The 80s and the first half of the 90s were tough years for my beloved Yankees as year after year, we were bridesmaids to Toronto at best, and sitting in the cellar at worst. Thurmon Munson's death in a plane crash in 1979 seemed to precipitate a funk that lasted and lasted and it didn't matter what anyone did, the Yanks just couldn't break through. Even with great Yankees like Don Mattingly, we lost year after year. It is one of my great disappointments as a Yankee fan that Mattingly never got a World Series ring. Steinbrenner's gambling scandal caused him to be forcibly separated from running the team for a couple of years. Managers were changed like the weather, and things were not easy for Yankee fans. But unlike the CBS years, there was still a spark kept alive by the knowledge that Steinbrenner did at least bring his love of the team to the Stadium, and you knew that, sooner or later, the Yanks would be back. 

Then in 1996, it finally came together again, and with Joe Torre at the helm and Steinbrenner finally at ease with his manager, the Yanks once again became a joy to root for. In 2001, in the aftermath of September 11th, the Yanks helped to galvanize a spirit in the country even though they did not win the Series. Their spectacular comebacks in games 4 and 5 were among the most unbelievable games in baseball history. Their meaning transcended mere baseball games as the fans at the Stadium, and indeed, throughout the country, and possibly the world, felt the fire of the American spirit during that World Series; a spirit that had been baptized in tears only a month earlier.

It has been said that what is good for General Motors is good for America. I would add that what is good for the Yankees is good for America.

There is no other sports franchise that brings the magic to their sport that the Yankees do. There is no other team in any sport that represents the long-standing quality, excellence, winning attitude, and deep respect for tradition. No other sports franchise has been as successful as the Yankees.

Baseball is only a game, but it is more than that. It is a part of America residing deep in our national psyche. Its lore and trivia have been the answers to questions used to ferret out foreign spies. It is something we can hold onto in these troubling times. When you have rooted for the Yankees for 55 years, you understand that.


Baseball is only a game, it is true, but as represented in my life by the New York Yankees, it is much more. The Yankees have given me a yardstick by which I date other events in my life. They have provided me with many wonderful moments and some sad disappointments. They have been important to me and taught me. How much of what happens in life meets these criteria?


And so, as the Yankees move into their new Yankee Stadium next year, let us hope that they will play for another 85 years in the same tradition that they played in the House That Ruth Built during the last 85 years. I have a feeling that if this happens, we will have survived as the America that the Yankees have come to represent.



As Yankee Stadium, The House That Ruth Built, perhaps the most famous sports venue in the world, prepares for the last game ever to be played on its venerable field tonight, it is the New York Yankees, The Bronx Bombers, who have imparted to this stadium its place in history and made it a part of Americana. The great Yankees such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, and many others have become a part of our culture and mythology.

It amazes me that I have been a Yankee fan for over half the time of their existence. As they mark their 105th anniversary, the Yanks have been my team for 55 years, ever since I first became a baseball fan in 1953 at the age of 9. It was only 30 years before, in 1923, that they played their first game at the Stadium. Names like Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Gil McDougald, Phil Rizzuto, Hank Bauer, and Mickey Mantle made the magic in 1953, and 1923 seemed like an eternity into the past. Interestingly, from my perspective in 2008, 30 years doesn't seem so long ago. The 1978 Yankees are still quite fresh in my memory, and that team definitely does not seem like ancient history now.

When the Yankees won their fifth World Series in a row in 1953 by yet again defeating the Brooklyn Dodgers, it seemed to be in the natural order of things to my nine year old mind. Of course, there were years when the fairy tale didn't end happily. Those times helped me to mature and realize that life was not always victory and joy. The Dodgers finally broke through in 1955 on the backs of Brooklyn greats like Duke Snider, Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella, Carl Furillo, and Gil Hodges. And when Bill Mazerowski hit the ball over the left field wall in in the bottom of the ninth of the 7th game of the World Series in Pittsburgh in 1960, I sat there in disbelief watching every last interview and Chrysler car commercial as I waited to wake up from the nightmare I was sure I must be having. As I dried the tears, I grew up just a little that October in 1960. But the magic was always there. When Roger Maris hit number 61 on the last day of the season in 1961, the storybook quality of the Yankees was again writ large in the book of my life.

CBS buying the Yanks in 1964 signaled a long period of decline. Even though they were later to have a longer drought lasting 14 years, it was the worst 10 years in Yankee history. A large impersonal corporation cannot bring the love a baseball team needs from its owners to be really great, and the Yankees lost their soul for almost 10 years as they floundered from 1965 to 1973. Those were the days when I went into a personal hibernation regarding rooting for a sports team. Football, basketball, tennis, and many other sports are all well and good. But my heart is only really into baseball, and, of course, especially the Yanks. And with the Yanks out of the running, there was little I could actively root for. I was still a Yankee fan, but with stories of wife swapping and losing dominating Yankee news, they were dark times for the fans.

Then the Steinbrenner years began. Say what you will about George Steinbrenner, but he loves the Yankees, and to him, as with me, there is only one acceptable state of affairs for them. That is, of course, being winners. The "Boss" brought the Yanks back to respectability and returned them to prominence in the second half of the 70s as Guidry, Munson, et al regained the glory for the fans and the Yankee tradition. The one game playoff for the 1978 AL East title against Boston in which Bucky Dent hit his famous home run over the Green Monster in Fenway Park was one of the most exciting games I ever saw.

The 80s and the first half of the 90s were tough years for my beloved Yankees as year after year, we were bridesmaids to Toronto at best, and sitting in the cellar at worst. Thurmon Munson's death in a plane crash in 1979 seemed to precipitate a funk that lasted and lasted and it didn't matter what anyone did, the Yanks just couldn't break through. Even with great Yankees like Don Mattingly, we lost year after year. It is one of my great disappointments as a Yankee fan that Mattingly never got a World Series ring. Steinbrenner's gambling scandal caused him to be forcibly separated from running the team for a couple of years. Managers were changed like the weather, and things were not easy for Yankee fans. But unlike the CBS years, there was still a spark kept alive by the knowledge that Steinbrenner did at least bring his love of the team to the Stadium, and you knew that, sooner or later, the Yanks would be back. 

Then in 1996, it finally came together again, and with Joe Torre at the helm and Steinbrenner finally at ease with his manager, the Yanks once again became a joy to root for. In 2001, in the aftermath of September 11th, the Yanks helped to galvanize a spirit in the country even though they did not win the Series. Their spectacular comebacks in games 4 and 5 were among the most unbelievable games in baseball history. Their meaning transcended mere baseball games as the fans at the Stadium, and indeed, throughout the country, and possibly the world, felt the fire of the American spirit during that World Series; a spirit that had been baptized in tears only a month earlier.

It has been said that what is good for General Motors is good for America. I would add that what is good for the Yankees is good for America.

There is no other sports franchise that brings the magic to their sport that the Yankees do. There is no other team in any sport that represents the long-standing quality, excellence, winning attitude, and deep respect for tradition. No other sports franchise has been as successful as the Yankees.

Baseball is only a game, but it is more than that. It is a part of America residing deep in our national psyche. Its lore and trivia have been the answers to questions used to ferret out foreign spies. It is something we can hold onto in these troubling times. When you have rooted for the Yankees for 55 years, you understand that.


Baseball is only a game, it is true, but as represented in my life by the New York Yankees, it is much more. The Yankees have given me a yardstick by which I date other events in my life. They have provided me with many wonderful moments and some sad disappointments. They have been important to me and taught me. How much of what happens in life meets these criteria?


And so, as the Yankees move into their new Yankee Stadium next year, let us hope that they will play for another 85 years in the same tradition that they played in the House That Ruth Built during the last 85 years. I have a feeling that if this happens, we will have survived as the America that the Yankees have come to represent.