My First Time in the Cathedral
On Saturday, July 17th 1982 I went to my cousins’ house. When we were about to leave, the phone rang and my cousins – who were older than me – were offered 4 tickets to that evening’s Yankee game. They asked me if I wanted to go with them. I had never been to Yankee Stadium before, even though I had been a Yankee fan for years. I looked at my father, and he told me that I could go. I can’t remember many things in my childhood that I was ever more excited about.
I can remember seeing The Stadium as we drove up to it. The first sight of it took my breath away. It still does.
As we walked through the tunnel, I took my first look at the field. It was perfect. There is no other word to describe it. Every blade of grass was just perfect. Then I saw the frieze across the outfield. It was majestic, looking as though The Stadium was wearing a crown, being dubbed the king of all stadiums.
We made our way to our seats, and I was thrilled to find out where we were sitting – down the right field line, where the wall starts to angle upward, in the first row! We watched the Yankees warm up and I looked over at right field thinking, “Babe Ruth played there!” Then I looked at 1st base and think about how Lou Gehrig played there. Then I looked at center field and thought: “MICKEY MANTLE AND JOE DIMAGGIO PLAYED THERE!” I looked across at the retired numbers and Monument Park. It was all so beautiful.
Ken Griffey, Sr. was warming up right in font of us when a stray ball landed near him. We all screamed for him to throw the ball into the stands to us. He just picked it up, looked at us dismissively, and rolled it into the dugout. What a jerk.
Shane Rawley threw his first pitch to Davey Lopes and my first live baseball game was underway. I looked over at third base where Graig Nettles, my favorite player, was stationed. I was hoping that I would get to see him make one of his great diving stops. I continued looking around at the different positions and thinking about the great players who played there: Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey, Roger Maris. I must have looked back at right field and thought about Babe Ruth a dozen times.
In the bottom of the first someone hit a foul ball that the ball boy fielded right in front of me. He tossed the ball right to me since I was the only kid in the area. As I reached out for it what seemed like a million adult arms reached out in front of me. Someone tipped the ball up in the air. There was a scuffle, and my cousin ended up with the ball. That was the closest I would ever get to getting a foul ball in that stadium. At least I got to hold it for a minute.
Jerry Mumphrey provided some excitement in the 3rd inning when he hit a two-run homer, driving in Griffey, who I’m still mad at (it’s been 26 years, you would think I could let it go by now). Not much else happened until the 8th inning.
In the 8th as I saw Bobby Murcer walking up to the plate, I had a premonition. I watched Murcer step into the left-handed batters box, and I tapped my cousin on the shoulder. When he turned to look at me, I pointed out to right field and said, “Bobby’s going to hit the ball right there.” Bobby deposited the ball two rows above the very seat that I pointed to, driving in Mumphrey. It was his 150th HR as a Yankee. The Yankees won 4-1.
This year I was lucky enough to attend the All-Star Game. It was the first game played at Yankee Stadium after Bobby Murcer passed away. In between innings they put a picture of Bobby on the scoreboard to honor his memory. I haven’t been back for a game since, nor do I want to. I think it’s really cool that my last game at Yankee Stadium will be forever tied to my first.
I went back a week and a half ago to say goodbye. I took the tour of The Stadium. I got to walk on the field (just the dirt, we weren’t allowed to touch the grass), I sat in the dugout, and I went into the locker room (to see Thurman Munson’s locker). They may be knocking it down, but I’ll always have my memories of the perfection of the grass, the honor of Monument Park, the majestic nature of the frieze…and Bobby Murcer.