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Good Bye Old Friend

So that's it, the last regular season home game (and let's face it with the way the Yanks have played this year, the last game ever) at Yankee Stadium was played yesterday. Rain and I have been season ticket holders since 1999 we figure, so this was our 10th season there together. In all that time, we realized we've never taken pictures. Nothing from the times we freezed our butts off at home openers, to the times we sweated out in left field. No pictures of the time we saw GW throw out the first pitch at the 2001 World Series or when Paul Simon sang out in Center Field to honor Joe DiMaggio. Nothing from our amazing and not so amazing tailgates. No pictures of our favorite security guard, or some of the crazy fans who have sat next to and around us. None of Freddy clanging his cow bell. No pictures of Cotton Eye Joe, or the grounds crew dancing to YMCA. Nothing but memories.

So this past Friday night (we tried for tickets for Sunday's game but couldn't get them), we decided to bring our cameras and shoot away.

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View from the GW Bridge

Years ago, we used to meet at Rain's house or office and drive in together, or meet in the city and subway it up but when Rain got married and moved to podunk NJ, 90 minutes away from me, we had to find an alternative meeting place. This ended up working out well as we now meet at the Teaneck Marriot, leave one car there, and drive in together. We used to take turns driving but I hate driving and I hate bridges so Rain humors me; she drives and I pay for parking. That's the deal. So I took the above shot through her car window as we meandered across the George Washington bridge.

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View of Stadium from Parking Lot

Up until this year, we parked behind the old Bronx Terminal Market. But they've since torn that down to make room for the stores/restaurants/convention centers they intend to build as part of Yankee stadium, so we moved up the road bit to another lot. For some reason though, not being in our usual lot, threw us and we didn't tailgate this year, preferring instead to get sandwiches ahead of time and head into the stadium early for visiting team batting practice and dinner in our seats.

But for our last game in the old stadium we decided to tailgate.

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Setting up Tailgate

Now our tailgates have run the gambit from extravagant breakfast stratas (for Sunday games) or bagels and lox to different deli sandwiches or healthful salads. We've never grilled though. For this last game, we enjoyed sandwiches from the new Italian deli near me.

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Our Tailgate

When I buy the sandwiches (or make the meal), Rain treats me later to a, well, treat. For the last game she went with her favorite Caravel hot fudge Sunday while I stuck with the more traditional Cracker Jack.

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Sign that Lets us Know Time and Temp

While we tailgate, we usually see plenty of aircraft, traffic copters, planes taking off from the local airports, in 2001, the military copters escorting GW. Friday, we got to see the Metlife blimp.

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Blimp


After we tailgate, it's time to head over to the stadium. Our lot is on the other side of the train tracks (Metronorth) from the stadium. As a matter of fact, much of the area is under construction as they're building a new Metronorth stop/station here. We also must walk under the Major Degan Expressway (I87) which can get kind of gross at times.

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View from Under the Degan through Chain Link Fence

Because we must cross the tracks, we go through what we refer to as a human habitrail or habitrail for short (you know, similar to those contraptions we have for gerbels and hamsters). The habitrail is like three flights up, so you better be prepared for some stair climbing if you park where we park.

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Habitrail

Within the habitrail, there's always, and I mean always, sweet music. A man, I do not know his name, has been there every time we've been there playing a flute or recorder or some sort of wind instrument (sometimes though after the game he switches to some sort of horn instrument). It's always the same songs, Meet the Flinstones, Take me Out to the Ball Game ... I can't remember all but I don't think I've heard more than five or six tunes come from him. But he's always there, with his little tip case next to him. Oh, and if you call out a tune, as you go by, he may play it for you.

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Flute (?) Player

This is one of the things that make me sad. Next year, we'll be over at the new stadium. We do not as yet know where the parking will be and if the habitrail will remain (we don't think so though b/c they've already demolished the cement stairs and erected temporary wooden ones for this season). So where will our music man be?

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In the Distance - New Yankee Stadium

Another concern, the giant bat that stands in front of the Stadium - what will happen to it? Will they move it to stand guard over the new stadium or knock it down like they're so easily knocking down this monumental bit of history.

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The Bat

Not to mention the championship banner hanging over the Entrance. Will ib be moved or will it be history?

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Championship Banner (well half of it)


There are several entrances to the stadium, and though others might be closer to our seats, we always seem to go in through good old gate 4. Years ago, pre 9-11, you simply walked up to the ticket takers. Now you must go through "security" first. Showing your ticket, letting them search your bags (only small handbags and briefcases allowed), displaying that your cell phone really is a cell phone (it must be opened if it is a flip and on if it is a bar), and removing your hat. If you bring food, and it's in a shopping bag (plastic or otherwise), you must transfer the contents to the see-through bags they will give you.

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Entry Gate 4

Throughout the stadium there are ramps that go up between each level (Field, Main, Lodge and Tier) in addition to the escalators. These are also places where people sneak cigarettes, and they get horribly crowded at the end of the game. So much so, that back in the day when we used to sit in the upper tier, we would leave our seats early, and go downstairs, sneaking glimpses of the game from entry tunnels (until security shooed us away) or even sneakier, hopping into empty seats. This maneuver would easily save us 30 - 40 minutes on the commute home because it got us out of the stadium that much quicker and to our cars.

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The Ramps

Although our seats were up in the Loge on Friday night (first time this season), we opted to brave the seething masses to walk along the main level for some glimpses and shots of the field.

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Seething Mass of Humanity

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When we finally get to our seats, we're graced with some Yankees practicing (i.e., stretching and running), in right field, just below us. And one of them is the infamous (aka heart throb), Derek Jeter. While Rain has actually met the man (and not just in her dreams), this is probably the closest I've ever come to him.

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Derek Jeter

I took some video of the game Friday night too. Nothing great, taken with my old digital but here's the first one of the Yankees taking the field. Jeter's the captain, and note, that he is always the first one to run out the field, leading the rest of the team.

And one of the first 30 seconds of the National Anthem.

As usual, we left the game early. Yell all you want that we're not "true fans" but long ago, after sitting in the parking lot for over 60 minutes trying to leave a game, we made the decision to not stay to the very end unless certain circumstances happened (i.e., no hitter, perfect game). We usually leave after the 7th inning stretch, but it just seemed like this season, with game time increasing (a quick Yankee game can take upwards of three hours), we rarely made it that long, instead opting for departure after YMCA (which used to be in the 5th inning but now can occur any time between the 6th and 7th).

So this past Friday night, filled with a sense of sadness, we kept our usual plan and departed early.

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Rain Leaving w/ Her Usual Sundae

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Me Leaving

So with one last look back, we said good-bye to our old friend, not the Yankees, who will continue to play, but to the stadium that became the home to many special memories.

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Other Thinks (7)

Kim, I thought of you when I watched the game yesterday. I even got a little choked up at the end of the game and a few tears welled up when I saw the photos you you and Rain waving goodbye. It must have been pretty emotional after all those years.

That is the first I have ever heard of the YMCA thing. I have watched tons of Yankees-Red Sox games and never saw that before. When did they start that. I cracked up watching the video. Thanks for posting it! Great photos and a great tribute.

Wow Kim. That was a wonderful post. Brought tears to my eyes.
Glad you finally took some pictures!

Kim [TypeKey Profile Page]:

Thanks ladies. Girasoli, they've been doing YMCA for as long as I can remember (so at least since 96) but actually, was it 96 or 97 that the Makarena came out and they did that for one season.

Oh, and something I should have had found too was Frank Sinatra singing New York, New York which they play at the end of each game. Oh, and after they return from a road trip, they play The Boys Are Back in Town. Rain used to make sure we'd get into the stadium early enough to hear that too.

This is a wonderful post - really enjoyed reading it and seeing the photos!

I've seen the YMCA thing at Camden Yards in Baltimore and also here at the Durham Bulls minor league games.

What do they do at Yankee Stadium during the 7th inning stretch? Does everyone stand up and sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame?"

Wonderful story and photos, Kim! I loved Yankee Stadium - so much history! It had such great character, I'm happy I had the opportunity to see a game there. This was back in the pre-Jeter days, unfortunately. ;)
I'm glad you and Rain got to enjoy one last game there together, and I'll be looking forward to reading your thoughts about the new stadium. (Still can hardly believe they're tearing down this one!)

Lisa:

What a great write-up. Although I have only been there for a Billy Joel concert, I had a chance to enjoy it through your eyes.

Brad'll Do It:

Your post is so eloquent, Kim. You capture how just like the athletes, we develop rituals that make the experience our own, and comfortably familiar, not unlike a friend. I got the feeling that you'll be missing those rituals mightily. Hopefully, the new stadium will bring opportunities to establish new ones, and maybe even incorporate some old.

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