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Saturday, September 24, 2022

The Best Game I Ever Saw Live: My last steps in the cathedral

Editor's note: this article is part of alligatorSports' "Best Game I Ever..." series. To find the rest of our articles, visit this page.

It’s one of life’s rarest opportunities — the chance to understand that you’re experiencing something of significance for the last time. 

More often than not, your final interaction with significant people, places and moments will be completely mundane, robbing you of that opportunity to reflect and to bid farewell. 

So what made this September 17, 2008 game between two mediocre teams notable was that I understood that it would be my last time entering the old Yankee Stadium. 

It is a significant venue, even to those with no affiliation to the Bronx Bombers. The amount of memorable moments that the stadium has played host to, in the context of baseball and beyond, is vast.

But to a Yankee fanatic, the kid who wore 44 in little league to pay homage to Derek Jeter’s number 2 and Mariano Rivera’s number 42, and who watched the team just about 162 times a year, I understood the importance of that moment more than anything else at that stage in my life.

There are multitudes of beautiful and historic baseball stadiums across the country, but there is only one cathedral.

Recognizing these moments allows for a greater recall, not just of the events that transpired but the sensations that accompanied them. 

The game was a low-scoring affair, with the teams combining for just one run through the sixth inning. I remember a tense Yankee Stadium waiting for an offensive outburst, a tension which seemed misplaced given the team’s elimination from playoff contention. 

There was a collective sense however, that for many this would be their last chance to see the pinstripes play on this hallowed ground. Fans wanted to end their journey hearing “New York, New York” -- the Yankees’ victory anthem -- play one last time.

I remember my seat, 30 rows up the first base line on a nearly vertical grandstand, one that wouldn’t pass any post-war fire codes but one that contributed immensely to the ear-piercing allure of The House that Ruth Built. 

I recall looking up at the white frieze circling the stadium, laden with rustic pennant banners that memorialized the great players and moments that had transpired on that field.

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Lou Gehrig’s tearful address to the Yankee’s faithful, Yogi Berra leaping into the arms of Don Larsen after his perfect game, Unitas leading the Colts in the greatest game ever played, Reggie Jackson corking out three home runs in the ‘77 World Series, and Aaron Boone’s home run against the Red Sox; all of these iconic moments took place on that field and echo through the soul of the building. 

Ultimately, the Yankees pulled away from the White Sox with a strong eighth inning. A palpable sense of relief washed over the crowd as Alex Rodriguez hit a game-sealing home run and a young Joba Chamberlain came on to close out the game.

It was a game that was fairly memorable in itself, especially for a kid that didn’t attend a ton of live sporting events, but the opportunity to see the old Yankee Stadium under those circumstances is one I will cherish for a lifetime.

Follow Declan on Twitter @dawalsh_UF. Contact him at dwalsh@alligator.org.

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