Memories of Yankee Stadium will live on

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

Some things you expect to last forever.

Like your mother or your father.

Like Yankee Stadium.

The clock is officially ticking on the big ball park in the Bronx as they broke ground for a new yard yesterday.

Previous plans to move Yankee Stadium to Manhattan or New Jersey, which first surfaced 12 years ago, were always left on the drawing board.

But this time it looks like The House That Ruth Built will be no more when the new place opens as scheduled for opening day 2009.

Work begins today. That's $1.2 billion US worth of work on the new monument.

Yankee Stadium has been baseball's most hallowed ground -- well, aside from the Horace Clarke and Stump Merrill eras -- for most of its 83 years. The place opened in 1923 and Ruth homered in a 4-1 win over -- who else? --the Boston Red Sox before 74,200 fans. The Yanks won the first of their 23 World Series titles that year.

Who'll count my Yankee Stadium memories?

Walking into the place for the first time in 1976 for a game against the Baltimore Orioles and seeing the greenest grass ever, the largest Marlboro Man ad -- three storeys high -- in deep left field, the white picket facade ringing the outfield and a two-hour rain delay as a ball fan. We thought some day we'd get there early and visit monument park in left.

Sitting in the upper deck behind home plate with a New York cab driver friend of mine on chilly Oct. 18, 1977 as Reggie Jackson hit three home runs to win Game 6 of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Jackson swung the bat three times -- so we read in Newsday the next day -- and homered off Burt Hooton in the fourth, Elias Sosa in the fifth and Charlie Hough in the eighth, after walking in his first at-bat.

Sitting in the upper deck in right with pal Mike Goodridge Oct. 20, 1981 for the first game of the Series as Bob Watson hit a three-run homer in the first. In truth, we don't remember a whole lot after about the fifth inning, but we were told that the Yankees won 5-3.

The first time working at the Stadium was when the Blue Jays visited the Yankees Sept. 12, 1985 for a four-game series. The Jays led the division by 2 1/2 games when the four-game series began, but a Tony Fernandez error in the seventh opened the door for six unearned runs. The Jays rebounded to win the final three games. Either the Canadian anthem or saloon singer Mary O'Dowd were booed by Yankees fans.

The same series featured Ernie Whitt blasting umpire Joe Brinkman for ruling a ground-rule single on a ball Whitt hit inside the first-base bag which was field by fans. That led to a 10-year battle between the manager Cito Gaston and Brinkman, long after Whitt had been dealt to the Atlanta Braves.

Going to a crowded washroom down the third base line during the 1996 AL Championship Series against the Orioles. There was a faster moving line into the broom closet where Yankees fans were urinating.

Jimmy Key pitched 5 1/3 innings, Mariano Rivera worked the seventh and eighth and John Wetteland the ninth as the Yankees edged the Braves 3-2 to rebound after losing the first two games at home to win the Series in Game 6 on Oct. 26, 1996. We did notice the new shortstop, a kid named Derek Jeter, who took over for Fernandez at short.

The Yankees edged the Jays 4-3 in 11 innings on April 25, 1999, but that wasn't the story of the day as a monument to honour Joe DiMaggio, who passed away the month before, was unveiled before the game.

On the emotional night of Oct. 30, 2001, before Game 3 of the Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, U.S. President George Bush threw a strike while wearing a bullet-proof vest. This was seven weeks after the terrorist attacks took down the World Trade Center towers.

Standing at the back of the press box we heard Bob Sheppard announce that an American flag recovered from the WTC found with 12 stars missing and covered in ash was being flown in centre field.

We saw NYPD and New York firemen crying like it was a funeral during the anthem.

You have the rest of this season and then all of 2007-08 to catch a game before the big cathedral in the Bronx is torn down. Visit monument park. We still haven't made it.

Who knows, with a new park and the added revenue, the Yankees, winless in October since 2000, might win again.


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