What a night of nostalgia and emotion it was. I'm talking about the final Yankees game to be played in Yankee Stadium ever. EVER!
I had planned to watch the Yankees take on the Baltimore Orioles in the ESPN game of the week, and turned on the TV early to catch the NFL news and perhaps see a screen crawl on the new college football rankings.
Instead I saw a notice that the pregame ceremonies were being covered on ESPN2, so I hastily switched over and caught a sight of the greatest living Yankees being introduced and standing at their positions. Wow!
The game itself really didn't matter much to me. The Yankees won 7-3, Andy Pettitte got the win, and Jose Molina hit the last homerun to be recorded in Yankee Stadium, bookending a most historical era started by Babe Ruth's first homerun in the first game played at the stadium.
It was the history, it was the legacy, it was the memories. When I was a kid, the New York Yankees were the team we listened to ... them and the Brooklyn Dodgers. I've been a fan of the Atlanta Braves for decades, thanks to cable television, but in those days -- the 1950's -- we only had radio. And we waited for the Yankees games.
I never got to watch a lot of baseball when I was growing up. Remember, this is Hawaii, and only once in a blue moon would major league exhibitions be played here. In fact, I consider myself lucky if I'm able to catch ONE major league game live at the ballpark a year.
So I wanted to watch this last Yankee Stadium game. Like I said, the game itself wasn't that important to me. Derek Jeter, the captain, had a lousy night batting and went 0 for 5 because of a sore left hand that was struck by a pitch the day before. But he won't be remembered for that, or for being the last Yankee to bat at the stadium.
I will remember him for the beautiful speech he gave on the mound, backed up by his teammates, when he thanked the fans and evoked memories of great Yankees, of great games, of great World Series in the past, and asked them to hold those memories in their hearts and share them with the upcoming generations, just as older memories had been shared with them.
And I will remember the team trotting around the warning track, paying homage to their fans, of every age, many with tears in their eyes.
Nobody seemed to want to leave. It was a special night. For me too. Just like the night Mark McGwire broke the Babe's record. Just like the night when Cal Ripken Jr. broke Lou Gehrig's record. I didn't want to turn the channel, I didn't want to shut it down.
Tonight, I was a Yankees fan again. It felt pretty good.