Major League Baseball Park #13 out of 39
Saturday, September 7, 1996
Toronto Blue Jays 3, New York 2
W– Paul Quantrill
L – David Cone
Attendance – 27,069
Saturday, August 5, 2000
Seattle Mariners 6, New York 5
W– Brett Tomko
L – Dwight Gooden
Attendance – 55,629
Would this historic park still be standing today in the Bronx if Red Sox owner Harry Frazee hadn't sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees? There's a very good chance it wouldn't be.
Yankee Stadium opened April 18, 1923, and is widely considered to be hallowed baseball ground. The Yankees have 26 World Series and 39 American League pennants. As a baseball fan, it's only one of a handful of baseball meccas. As a Mariners fan, it's still the only park where I have never worn any Mariners clothing. I've been warned and I took those warnings seriously.
Beyond the left-field fence is an area known as "Monument Park". The story behind every retired number (15 numbers representing 16 players) can be found there, as well as plaques honoring Lou Gehrig (played from 1925 to 1939), Miller Huggins (managed from 1918 to 1929), and Babe Ruth (played 1920 to 1934), among others. Before the stadium was closed for remodeling in 1973, those three plaques were in the field of play.
There's so much history in this building that I can't list everything here. What comes to mind immediately are Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series and Reggie Jackson hitting three homers off three pitchers with only three pitches in Game Six of the 1977 World Series.
My team (Mariners) didn't come along until 1977, didn't finish a season above .500 until 1991, and didn't reach the playoffs until the lockout-shortened 1995 season. When Seattle beat the California Angels in that one-game playoff, the Mariners' first postseason opponent was Don Mattingly and the Yankees. That five-game Division Series began with two games in Yankee Stadium and the second game ended with a game-winning, rain-soaked homer by Jim Leyritz in the 15th inning. Many baseball people around the country credited that series for helping to bring baseball back after the 1994 strike. Personally, I'm just glad the Mariners took the next three games in the Kingdome.
Our first stop on the 1996 trip was a Saturday game in the Bronx. For some reason, we thought the game started at 1 PM so we were surprised to find street parking so close to the stadium at 12:30 in the afternoon. When we looked closer at our tickets, we discovered the game started at 7 so there we were standing outside the park with over four hours until the gates were opened. So we caught the subway down to Central Park and walked around the softball fields in the southern end of the park. Then we ended up walking over to Mickey Mantle's restaurant for lunch and that place was very cool.
We caught the subway back uptown with enough time to be able to walk through the Monument Park area before finding our seats in the third row along the third-base line. Probably the best seats I've ever had anywhere and it was Yankee Stadium. I couldn't believe there were so many empty seats for a Saturday night game in September when they were doing so well -- or at least better than the Mariners that season.
A few minutes before game time we sat there and, as usual, I had my scorebook in my lap waiting for the announcement of the starting lineups. Then I heard a voice over the P.A. system. If baseball history could have a single voice it would be this one -- Yankees' announcer Bob Sheppard. He could've read the rules during the Academy Awards and I still would've been glued to the screen. Our radio guy, Dave Niehaus, is classic, but Sheppard has a distinctive style and voice I will never forget.
When my wife and I returned in August of 2000 -- at the end of a trip this time -- we noticed a t-shirt vendor outside the stadium with "Mets Suck" and "Mariners Suck" t-shirts. My first thought was, "Hey, we're official opponents now. This is so cool." Yankees folks don't bother to take shots at just any team. The Yankees had won the 1996 World Series by overcoming a 2-0 deficit against the Braves. Then they won the 1998 World Series. And the 1999 World Series. You get the idea. By the time we took our seats (in the right-field bleachers this time), New York fans were in full dynastic mode. It was depressing.
This time the Yankee opponent was our team, Seattle. It was tough to sit out there in the bleachers and not react to anything good Seattle did. We took full and frequent advantage of the low-five and just baked in the August heat. My wife actually began to pass out halfway through and there was a fight between a drunk guy and a victim of a sick drunk guy right in front of us. Then there was another fan in front of us who actually stopped the wave by standing up and pointing at the oncoming exuberance. Our section was where happiness ended that day. The Mariners won the game 6-5, though, so we had our fun at the end. And then the Yankees had their fun after that -- winning the 2000 World Series against their crosstown rivals, the Mets.
So it's two trips, two games, two Yankee losses, and two Yankee World Series rings. I'm not sure I can risk another trip out there because I want the Mariners to win one someday.
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