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The sun sets on the Great Cathedral

The lights will go out tonight on my Cathedral. It is not the last event at the historic 85-year old Stadium in the Bronx. However, barring one of those magical comebacks that the New York Yankees are known for, it will be the last time that baseball is played at the corner of 161st Street and River Avenue – in that building.

A new one rises, visible off in left field. It looks similar to the one that closes tonight and the Bronx County Courthouse is said to still be visible over its right field walls, but the echoes of Bob Shepard’s voice haven’t yet filled it and a visual trigger of my childhood memories and dreams will disappear into the pages of this site and the recesses of my mind, only to be called upon when needed.

My memories include my first game in 1990 against the Royals. I saw my childhood idol, Don Mattingly, hit a home run into those right field seats and saw him win the game with a double in the 11th. Not too often you get bonus baseball for your first game.

I remember the baseball that I still have that Ken Griffey, Jr. hit into the upper deck during batting practice one evening in 1991 (I went to the Stadium after school so I could watch batting practice with a bunch of friends). I remember the first and only time that my grandmother and I went to watch a baseball game, sitting through a 3-hour rain delay just so we could say that we watched a game together  (I believe it was against the Tigers – the team wasn’t as important as the memories). And the game I got free tickets to when Rickey Henderson first signed with the Blue Jays and made his first trip back to The Bronx.

There’s the trip home I made for the first ever home and home day-night doubleheader played between the Yankees and Mets. I skipped the day half at Shea (turns out it would have been the only time I’d have been at Shea, as many have forgotten that it will see it’s last game this season as well). I ventured down to the Stadium and ended up getting to see the Clemens/Piazza from the upper deck for free thanks to the generosity of a lawyer from Jackson, MS. I’m looking forward to paying it forward one day.

I didn’t go home for more than 3 years and was lucky to watch the battle between Matsui and Ichiro. I called my friend every time the Yankees hit a home run (they did it twice). I called him one more time at the top of the ninth – he asked why, and then heard the roar of the crowd and the first notes of Enter Sandman and it was suddenly understood.

I made my last pilgrimage to the House that Ruth Built in September 2006, the last time I was able to see both my grandmother and my team’s long time home alive. Despite the end result, I would never trade that experience for anything in the world.

My memories will always include sitting in the bleachers during the summer when I just felt like going to a game and the tickets were $6. Freddie would lead us in cheers beating the pan and the cow bell would get us all started. The fact that I got off the train on the way home from my friend Kelly’s wedding just so I could hear the roar of the crowd during Game 1 of the The only regret I have is that I wasn’t in NY in ’95 for Mattingly’s last regular season at bat.

The Yankees will play the the team that replaced them in Baltimore to close out the Stadium. They begin life in the new home against the Indians in April. Now I’ve just got to figure out how I’m getting there.

The grass will always be the brightest green that I’ve ever seen and the joy and memories will be with me forever. I’ll thank the good Lord for making me a Yankees fan and enjoy the night no matter what (though hearing “Yankees win! Yankees win!” with Rivera on the mound…

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