"THE OLD YANKEE STADIUM
THE NEW YANKEE STADIUM"
By Steve Ludwig
With Special Guest Co-Blogger,
I can feel life starting to make sense again; spring training has begun!
So I felt it was time to team up with my buddy and fellow die-hard Yankee fan, Joe Potente, and decide which is better: the old Yankee Stadium or the new Yankee Stadium.
Now just to be clear, this isn't about old Yankees teams or players vs. present-day players; it's about the two buildings.
Here we are at that last, bittersweet game at the old Yankee Stadium, September 21, 2008:
To get to the bottom of this burning question, we did what any decent Yankee fans would do: we went to a bar to discuss it.
So the other day, after spending an hour or so at J & R Music World in NYC (buying things that we may actually get around to listening to before we're both dead), we found ourselves at the great Connolly's Pub and Restaurant, on 46th St.
Over chicken wings, burgers, sweet potato fries, beer and ginger ale, we started.
Joe's history of attending Yankee games goes a little deeper than mine does. He estimates he's been to somewhere between 350 to 400 games; of those, we've been to about 250-300 together.
I needed to know something from Joe before we got to the Stadium talk; I asked him for the Top Five Yankee games that's he's attended.
He told me it was impossible to pick the top five, but he did give me five memorable games, just not necessarily his top five attended games of all time.
In no particular order, he's what he told me...
Joe remembered his first-ever visit to Yankee Stadium, on June 9, 1956, when he was 8-year-old Joey Potente. Don Larsen pitched that game, and the great Number 7, Mickey Mantle, was in the lineup. The Yankees blew an early lead and lost 15-8. But what Joe remembers most is how huge and stark the Stadium appeared to an 8-year-old. Also, there were so many support poles throughout the Stadium.
Here's a picture from 1957. It'll give you a good idea what Joe was talking about:
Joe noticed something that was missing on his first visit to Yankee Stadium: the TV and radio announcers' voices. Aside from Bob Shepard announcing each player's name as he strode to the plate, Joey P had to follow the action of the game without the play-by-play.
As I mentioned, Joe saw Mickey Mantle play at his first-ever in-person game. I couldn't forgive myself if I didn't share this picture with you of the Mick and me in 1989 (I think I'm still shaking from my nervousness of being so close to the Mick...):
Joe was also at the Chris Chambliss home run game in 1976. The Yankees vs. the Royals, American League Championship. Bottom of the ninth. Game Five. Tie game. The winner goes to the World Series against the Dodgers. Chambliss sent Mark Littell's first pitch over the right center field wall to win the game.
Joe sat with fellow Yankee maniac, Professor Al Bayley, in the first row, field level, right field foul pole!
You can imagine the hysteria that ensued. I asked Joe if he or Al were among the delirious fans who stormed the field as Chambliss struggled to circle the bases. He said they took one look at the way fans were being knocked over and slugged by fellow fans, and decided they'd stay right where they were to take it all in.
There are Joe and Al...See 'em? See 'em?
A cool sidelight to the story is how Joe got the tickets to the game. In those days, fans had to mail in their playoff ticket requests via traditional mail. Payment in an envelope had to be postmarked before 12 noon on a specified date. So Joe did just what a Yankee fan had to do: he took a personal day from work, and posted his envelope at the Grand Concourse office, the post office closest to Yankee Stadium. It worked...
July 1, 2004. Yankees - Red Sox... Derek Jeter's catch of Trot Nixon's pop up in fair territory. Jeter's momentum carried him into the third-base seats.
Sitting one level above on the third base side, almost directly even with Jeter's dive was...you guessed it, our favorite Yankee fan, Joe Potente. Not only was the play a memorable one for Joe, but the game itself stands among Joe's favorites that he attended. The Yankees went on to win the game in 13 innings on John Flaherty's game-winning hit.
Yankee fans of a certain age will remember the 1978 World Series vs. the Dodgers as the series in which Graig Nettles made some of the most spectacular, acrobatic plays ever made by a major league third baseman. Not one, not two, but play after play after play, Nettles would kill Dodger rallies with his glove.
Joe was at two of those games, so he wanted to count the overall play of Nettles as a fourth choice of his.
Game 4 (one of the two Joe attended) also featured the play in which Reggie Jackson stuck out his hip to prevent the Dodgers from turning a double play. But according to eyewitness Potente, Jackson's hip paled in comparison to Nettles's hands.
Up until now, these memorable games all took place at the old Yankee Stadium. Well, that stands to reason. Joe's old Yankee Stadium career began in 1956 and ended on September 21, 2008.
For his fifth memorable game (and, again, Joe made it clear to me that there's no way) he can limit the memories he's accumulated in the nearly 400 Yankee games he's attended can be encapsulated in a mere five), Joe takes us to the new Yankee Stadium (with yours truly in tow).
June 12, 2009...The first Subway Series in the new Stadium. Joe and I sat in our excellent seats: center field in the Batter's Eye seat (right above the Mohegan Sun sports bar, for those of you who know the new Stadium's setup).
Sorry Met fans, but here goes...
Bottom of the 9th, 2 outs, Yanks down 8-7 to the hated Mets. Jeter on second, Teixera on first (representing the winning run). A-Rod at the plate; K-Rod on the mound. Francisco Rodriguez pitches and gets Alex Rodriguez to lift a lazy pop to second baseman Luis Castillo. A collective moan from the Yankee fans, followed by some expletives hurled A-Rod's way. Joe's and my shoulders slumped as A-Rod blows it. Met fans are already cheering their certain victory...Castillo circles under the ball, Joe and I shake our heads disgustedly, and...
He drops the ball!! Jeter scores! Teixera scores from first! The Yankees win!
Joe and I COULD...NOT...BELIEVE...WHAT...WE...SAW...
The range of emotions in those few seconds when the ball left A-Rod's bat to when it left Castillo's glove is what going to Yankee games is all about.
With the combination of Yankee fans' groans to unadulterated delirium and Met fans' unadulterated delirium to groans, Joe and I both feel it could be the loudest we've ever heard the crowd in the new Yankee Stadium.
If you get a minute (1:23, to be exact) do a YouTube search for "Mets fan celebrates too early in Yankee Stadium EPIC FAIL "put it in the books".
It's a fan-made video from the stands at the moment Castillo drops the ball. It'll give you an excellent feel for what it was like.
(Or copy and paste below:)
So there you have five memorable games attended by Yankee Fan Supreme,
Dr. / Professor Joseph Potente. After talking about these five games, our attention returned to the task at hand...
OK, what was the result of our discussion of which is better, the old Stadium or the new Stadium?
I guess you noticed at the top of the blog it reads "Part One."
Joe and I will offer our answers to which is better in Part Two, coming very soon.
Until then, we'd love to hear your comments on memorable games that you've laid witness to, in either the old or the new.
(And oh, yeah, join me in my movement to convince Joe Potente to start his own blog!)
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