Tonight was great, positively great. While it will sink in how bittersweet it is and was, and how sad it is that the Yankees won’t play at Yankee Stadium II anymore, right now my overwhelming sentiment is one of unbridled pride for the team and organization. This was done right. If it was going to close, as it surely was, the organization did this right from soup to nuts. The pre-game ceremonies were immersed in the history and tradition of the team, the game saw the Yankees win, get Lefty his record-evening 14th win, the team winning the last game 7-3, Mariano closed it down as only he can, followed up with a generous post-game speech to the crowd by Captain Derek Jeter.
The pre-game ceremonies were very well done and touching. It began with the team introducing the original lineup for the 1923 first game at Yankee Stadium–actors, but still, a nice touch. They then introduced former players by position, with particular highlights occurring when Reggie Jackson and especially Paul O’Neill were introduced for right field, Tino at first, Nettles, Boggs, and especially Scott Brosius at third, Boomer and Cone at pitcher, Yogi at catcher, and most of all Bernie Williams, the last player so honored in the pre-game ceremonies. All the others received hearty and sustained applause with some receiving loud chants. But Bernie received the longest, most sustained cheers that seemed to genuinely overwhelm him. Conspicuously absent in the pre-game video tribute per position was Roger Clemens, whom the Yankees appear not to want to touch with a ten-foot pole. I would have like to see Chuck Knoblauch appear, but he wasn’t in attendance.
The Orioles took advantage of an inconsistent Angel Hernandez strike zone and Andy Pettite leaving pitches up in the zone to score two early runs. Peyton’s second-inning force plated Jones who had tripled, 1-0 Orioles. In the third, Roberts reached on a Pettite throwing error, stole second, and scored on Mora’s single to right, 2-0 Orioles. But the Yankees responded in the bottom of the third. Matsui and Molina singled and, after I politiely requested that JD rope one around the pole in right, he homered to right, 3-2 Yankees. Molina doubled in the fourth, Peyton singled to Pettite whose slow move off the mound allowed him to reach, and Roberts’s single tied it at 3. But after Cano walked and took second on Matsui’s ground out, Molina hit the last homer in Yankee Stadium, 5-3 Yankees. In the seventh, Abreu singled and stole second, A-Rod’s F9 moved Abreu to right and Giambi’s bloop single to left scored Abreu, 6-3 Yankees. Gardner pinch-ran for Giambi, which was key for he went from first to third on an infield error at short, blazing to third, then scored on Cano’s sac fly to shallow left, 7-3 Yankees as Gardner’s blazing speed added insurance.
Coke was very good in relief, Joba was also excellent, and Mariano fittingly entered in the ninth to close down the Yankee Stadium in style. After the game, Jeter made an announcement to the fans thanking them for everything while urging them to share their memories across generations and Stadiums, after which the team circled the field, waving and tipping their caps to the crowd. It was all a grand way to close a majestic cathedral, a sad evening on the whole but one in which pride more than sadness was the primary sentiment that I felt on this tremendous, historic evening. The Yankees sure know how to throw a celebration, which is exactly what this was. for which the fans should be proud even if sad to see the Stadium close.
New memories and achievements will characterize the new Stadium in due time. Let’s ensure both that as well as the old ones and the previous historic venue not being forgotten.