'Cathedral' gets big sendoff

BOB ELLIOTT -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:36 AM ET

NEW YORK -- Construction on the new yard beyond the left field fence continues.

Yet, the ghosts have not budged from Yankee Stadium, which hosts the 79th all-star game tonight in this the final year of the grand cathedral.

Call it a cathedral because the Yanks have won a record 26 World Series, because of the Hall of Famers who have played here or the fact three Popes have celebrated Mass here.

Milwaukee Brewers general manager Doug Melvin was a minor-league right-hander at double-A West Haven in 1977 the previous time the all-star game was played here.

MEMORIES

"We managed to buy a standing-room ticket down the right-field line," Melvin said. "Pre-game from the right fielders was amazing. They threw to third and home, what a show! Dave Parker. Ellis Valentine. Dave Winfield. Reggie Smith. They could all throw."

The Chatham, Ont., native paused for a second, as many of the 57,000 will tonight, thinking of Yankee Stadium memories and the three previous all-star games.

"You know, it's a shame how the arm strength of outfielders' arms has decreased over the years," Melvin said.

Construction of memories continues tonight when Cliff Lee throws the first pitch for the American League to National League leadoff hitter Hanley Ramirez.

"It is a huge historic venue, it should host the all-star game in its final year," Boston Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek said. "My best and worst memory? Easy. Losing in '03. Winning in '04."

The Red Sox lost when Aaron Boone homered off Tim Wakefield in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series in 2003 and won ALCS the next year, overcoming a 3-0 deficit.

"My favourite memory was my first time at Yankee Stadium as a wide-eyed rookie, we faced Ted Lilly," said Texas Rangers shortstop Michael Young, an ex-Jay. "I'd love to see us up in the ninth. The bullpen door opens, Metallica comes over the sound system, the place go nuts and in comes Marino Rivera to close it.

"I don't have any bad memories. Well, there was this six-run lead we blew here a couple of years ago."

AL manager Terry Francona was forthcoming about his lineup and his starter but refused to stay whether his closer, Jonathan Papelbon, or Rivera would work the ninth. If he wants to get out of the Big Apple, he had best use Rivera.

"My favourite Yankee Stadium memory was my first time, seeing Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte pitch against us," Roy Halladay said.

RUTH'S HOUSE

Aramas Ramirez, the Chicago Cubs third baseman, summed up what a lot of players said yesterday: "Everybody wants to play where Babe Ruth played."

The Bronx Bombers have had sluggers such as Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey, Roger Maris, Elston Howard and Reggie Jackson go deep over the years.

And in last night's home run derby? Nary a Yankee. Jason Giambi, not elected to the team, was invited but declined. Alex Rodriguez also declined.

But Derek Jeter, Rodriguez and Rivera will be there for the Yankees fans tonight.


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