My Last Visit to The House That Ruth Built?

// October 9th, 2007

Last night, I had the great misfortune or fortune of being in attendance at the Yankees’ ALDS Game 4 loss to the Cleveland Indians. It was the end of the series, and possibly the end of the Yankees dynasty of the last 12 years. It was also quite likely my last game at The House That Ruth Built.

I am moving to LA very soon & had to go to one more Yankees game up at The Stadium. I was hoping I might get to go to more, like another Yankees-BoSox ALCS, but alas, thanks to insect swarms, a lack of clutch hitting & weak pitching from the Yanks (Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes, a bit of Joba & Mariano being the exceptions) & strong pitching from the Tribe, it was not meant to be. Hopefully, I’ll be back in NYC next summer to at least catch a game in Yankee Stadium before the new one opens in 2009, but if not, it was a symbolic send-off for me. It wasn’t the victorious send-off that I imagined, but it was significant nonetheless. This very well might have been the last game for some of our heroes over these years: Joe Torre, Roger Clemens, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, A-Rod even?

More than anyone, the axe hangs over Joe Torre - our calm leader, a former All-Star, the only player with 2,000 hits & 2,000 wins as manager, and the 8th winningest manager in MLB history. The Boss has said that Torre would pretty much be fired if the Yanks didn’t win the championship this year - as he does almost every year - but this time, it looks like it will happen. Despite all my criticisms of Torre this post-season - his not pushing for a delay of game while Joba was being swarmed by bugs, his not playing small ball & bunting to advance runners (ahem, Jeter) & his seeming lack of fire when the team needed a good jolt - I consider myself extremely fortunate to have bore witness to this man’s amazingly successful work over the years in leading this Yankees dynasty, which ended an 18 year championship drought & rivaled the Yankees of the ’50s in its dominance.

If Mr. T does indeed lose his job, I was honored to be in attendance to pay my respect for our manager during his 2 visits to the mound in the 8th inning, chanting “Joe-oh Tor-ee, Joe-oh Tor-ee” with the Yankee faithful, just as I did for our warrior Paul O’Neill back in Game 5 of the 2001 World Series (perhaps my greatest baseball experience).

As always, Torre showed nothing but class in the post-game press conference:

I’m not going there. You know, this has been a great 12 years. Whatever the hell happens from here on out, I mean, I’ll look back on these 12 years with, you know, great, great pleasure based on the fact that, you know, I’m a kid that had never been to the World Series other than watching my brother play in the 50s and paying for tickets otherwise, and to have been in six World Series and going to post-season - I can tell you one thing, it never gets old.
The 12 years just felt like they were 10 minutes long, to be honest with you. You know, I bury myself in my players, and I just finished telling them how proud I am of what they did. I mean they dug themselves out of a hole. They learned how to be a team.

You certainly can’t ignore it. These fans are very special. They’re certainly very special. I mean, you can feel their heartbeat. Not hear it. You can feel their heartbeat. They know their stuff and they never quit on you.

Jorge Posada, who is a free agent after this season (don’t let him go!), had this to say:

Joe Torre is the best manager in baseball. It’s not his fault. He used the same lineup from April till now, the same guys. He doesn’t throw or hit or do anything on the field. He does everything possible to keep us positive and get us to win.

Potential names for new managers being thrown about are former Yankees Don Mattingly aka Donnie Baseball, Joe Girardi, former Yanks’ manager Buck Showalter, Bobby Valentine (really?), and even Tony LaRussa. I’d love to see Jorge as a player/manager, but that’s a bit of a stretch. It’s looking like Donnie or Girardi will get the ball.

Whoever the new manager is, the Yanks need to return to what won them those 4 championships starting in 1996 - small ball, advancing runners, skilled home-grown talent & role players & a scrappy team unit. I’m so glad that hey held on to young talent like Robinson Cano, Melky Cabrera, Joba Chamberlain & Phil Hughes this year & resisted the urge to pay more mid-30s veterans millions of dollars to contribute not much to the cause. If we’ve got to rebuild, so be it, but at least it’s for the future & not living through our past.

As always, I’ll be eagerly watching, though from the west coast (do they have YES out there?), and no longer from the Bronx. Like Joe Torre, I’m ready to leave NY, albeit with a heavy heart. I will miss real Yankees fans. I will miss the real Yankee Stadium. I’ve had many great memories there (some not so much), met many fine people (some not so much), been thrown out of it & assorted other hijinks. I can’t think of a better place to be for a game (well, maybe Wrigley Field).

Thanks for the memories, House That Ruth Built, and thanks for the memories, Joe.

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