Yankee greats -- and not-so-greats -- pay final respects to Stadium
There are only 21 more regular season games left at Yankee Stadium and each is being treated like standing room only for a smash Broadway show -- it's the hottest ticket in town. That late summer game against Tampa Bay? It's going to cost you. Seats for the regular season finale are already going for more than a thousand bucks a pop.
On damp, overcast Saturday afternoon, the Yankees held the final Old-Timer's Day at the Stadium, bringing back a record 72 players, from A-List legends like
It is a season of curtain calls at Yankee Stadium, a series of farewells, marked by the recent passing of former Yankee player and broadcaster,
Yogi, along with the more private
"Baseball's most constant constant over the last sixty-some years has been Yogi Berra," writes
But if Yogi is the last link to the iconic Yankees, Jackson, another Hall of Famer, is waiting in the wings. But the legends are only part of the event which is really about the tradition of winning.
"It's the Yankee lore," said Baylor. "It's what father's tell their kids."
"Unless you are a franchise with something to celebrate an old timer's day is a reminder of the team's ineptitude," historian
Still, the Yankees aren't the only team to hold the event. In 1921, the 1905 Giants played some other 1905 vets at a benefit for
In the 1980s, Equitable Insurance sponsored old timer's days for every team in the majors, but the fad didn't last. When the insurance company pulled the financing, teams balked at paying to fly players in and put them up. That's never been a problem for the Yankees, who once held the event to boost attendance. "They treat their players' first class," says Chass.
"We see each other all the time, we do plenty of fantasy camps" said Oscar Gamble in the locker room before the game, motioning to former teammates
The first unofficial Old Timer's Day was Lou Gehrig Day in 1939, which featured the most famous speech in sports history. The entire 1927 World Champions returned for the affair. Less than 10 years later, the event began in earnest. DiMaggio hit home runs the '55 and '62 exhibitions. In '73, the final year of the original Yankee Stadium, every living member from the Yankees first championship team (1923) was invited,
The following year, says former bat boy
Yet the most memorable Yankee Old Timer's Day was in 1978.
A fan favorite, Martin had the support of the Yankee faithful, who jammed the Yankees phone lines in protest. Old Timer's Day was less than a week later and Steinbrenner had Martin smuggled into town. His instructions to his employees were simple: "Keep him out of sight, quiet, and out of trouble." At the end of the opening ceremony, M.C.
"Before he could say the name,"
"In terms of dramatic theater," says author
Old Timer's Day is one of the things the Yankees do well.
And despite the fact that the Yankees boast more legends and championships than any other team, the players who often get the biggest cheers are lesser, or more recent, stars -- Murcer,
"It is sad without Bobby," said
The most conspicuously absent Yankee was
"When they tear it down, the Gods will go with it," said Wells.
But the legends will continue to gather, regardless.
"Everything comes to an end," said