Monday, September 22, 2008

Reflections on an era from a legend in my life (Part Two)

Here are Big Daddy's reflections from yesterday; the day that the final game was played in the original Yankee Stadium. Of course, the Yankees left the stadium as they came in; with a win! I know that my pop would love to hear from you about what he has written so please jump right in and leave a comment. If you have never commented before, it would be a wonderful time to begin.

Thank you,

Lori (proud daughter to Big Daddy :)

As I am sitting in my living room on this Sunday afternoon, September 21 2008;, as a 74 year old Yankee fan, my mind races back to April 1939. My Mom and Dad were taking me to my first Yankee game for my birthday. I had read the newspaper every day about the Yankees and listened to the radio broadcasts since I was four years of age. The great voices of Mel Allen and Graham Macnmee describing every pitch, and hit and home runs with Allen’s "going, going....that ball is gone!". How my heart flew with those calls. I tried to imagine what the scene of the game looked like as I could hear the sound of the crowd and I had a picture in my head that day in April. The three of us got on the elevated train at 176 Street, going early to see batting and fielding practice. My heart was racing as we got off at 161 Street - Yankee Stadium. There it was, this enormous concrete structure. I remember feeling like I could not catch my breath. My dad approached the ticket booth with me in tow. He than pushed a $5.00 bill towards the ticket seller and said "this is for you, let me have three in section 14 as it’s my little boy’s first game and it’s his birthday." The ticket agent's hand and arm went up and came down with those three special tickets. As we entered the stadium there was this smell that I never will forget. The air was cool and damp and an odor of roasting peanuts and hot dogs was everywhere. We went up the ramp and stepped off at the second level. There it was; the most beautiful sight I had ever seen. The colors were breathtaking and there was this great expanse of emerald green grass with a perfect manicured infield diamond and three levels of seats. It was huge; nothing I had pictured could have prepared me for this. I felt in love, and that love has never left me. We found our seats right behind the Yankee dugout, between third base and home plate. There, in front of me was Number 5, Joe DiMaggio in the batting cage. I could not take my eyes off of him. My Dad pointed out Number 4, Lou Gehrig. No one at that time knew how sick he was. I shall never forget that day. I cannot say how many more times I have gone to a game in Yankee Stadium. It is in the hundreds but I have been quite lucky to have seen games that are now legendary.

My first World Series game was in 1941, against the Brooklyn Dodgers. My dad and I sat with Bill Coroum the sports editor of the New York Journal American, in their company box. The Stadium was decked out in American Flags and banners of previous Yankee world championships and every one was dressed to the nines. The Yankees won (of course) and Joe D had a homer and a double. My heroes had not let me down!

My second world series game was in 1942. The second world war was on and many great players were now in the service. President Roosevelt had implored baseball to keep playing as it was too important for Americans not to have it. The Yankees lost this series to the St Louis Cardinals. I was shocked that they could lose but more important was what I learned. There were Two brothers on the Cardinals, Mort and Walker Cooper. Their Dad had died the day before and they stayed with their team. Mort who was the Pitcher, pitched a wonderful game that was nearly perfect while consumed with his grief. I learned about dedication that day.

The next game I Remember was the first game of the 1947 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers. I wanted to get on the bleacher line the night before the game. My dad said "I can get you into the Journal American box with Mr. Coroum." I said, "No." I wanted to sit with the real fans in the bleachers.(what a pain in the butt I was, not to mention stupid) So I packed a dozen bacon and tomato sandwiches on white bread with lots of mayo. Yes, they were cold and delicious. I got on line at 10pm with more than a hundred fans ahead of me. It was a blast talking baseball all night long. Incidentally, that was Jackie Robinson's first World Series and what a great player he was. Ho Hum, the Yankees won.

A game in 1948 was sad. My dad and I went to a Sunday game in the spring, for it was Babe Ruth day. The Babe stood in the middle of the infield with Mel Allen. His uniform has hanging on him and he was most likely half the size he had been when he played. The babe stood at the mic and in a hoarse and raspy voice; wracked with throat cancer, he uttered the words "the kids, don’t forget the kids." I looked at my dad and he was crying. I had never seen my dad even close to crying before. After all this was his hero.

In 1949, there was a heart stopping one. The Yankees were one game behind the hated Red Sox on Saturday Sept 29th. I was playing football that day for Milford Prep in Connecticut. After my game, I learned the Yankees had won on a ninth inning home run by Johnny Lindell and there would be a one game playoff on Sunday the 30th of September. I had eighteen dollars total. I caught the bus into New Haven and got on a New York, New haven and Hartford train to Grand Central Station. It was a $4.50 round trip ticket and I got to New York at about 7PM, then took the subway to 161st street(a nickle)and was on line for the bleachers, $7.50. We were let in at 9AM and found out that the great singer, Buddy Clarke, had died in a plane crash. Buddy made the song "Linda" famous. Actually,it was called "Once in love with Linda always in love with Linda." Eleven years later I married Linda. At that Game, Joe DiMaggio had just gotten out of the hospital with pneumonia. In the 4th inning, he hit a double which started the rally that led to the Yankees winning the game. They had to hold up the game while Joe D caught his breath. About 40 years later I met Joe D at Manero's restaurant in Hallandale Florida. I asked him about what happened. He asked me to sit down and he told me an incredible story. The Yankees won the game and again beat the Dodgers in the World series. My parents did not find out about my short escapade until I left for college in the summer of 1950.

In 1956 I got out of the service. My dad passed away in December of 1955. I became a Stockbroker in January of 1956 and went to many games during those years. However, I won’t forget the world series of 1956 Yankees against the Dodgers. Working on Wall Street, I was able to get two tickets to the fifth game, if there was a fifth game. I took my brother, Justin, we sat very high in the third tier over right field. This was the perfect game pitched by Don Larsen. It may never happen again and the game was a nail biter. I kept my ticket stub and in the early 1990's I met Don Larsen and he signed the stub. It is hanging in my den.

Of course, I have been to the stadium many times since but there was one more very special game. That was the end of October 2001, about a month and a half after 9/11. I took my oldest grandson, Justin to the World Series Yankees vs Arizona. We had a really special time. It was truly a great game with wonderful clutch home runs. The Yankees won in the Ninth. This was a very precious moment in time for me we walked out happy and as the voice of Frank Sinatra was singing "New York, New York" in our ears.

With memories like these for the past 69 years, from a little boy to a grandfather; the loss of the shrine of sports has really given me pause to reflect on those past Seven decades. I will miss it but all things must come to an end. One must go on and continue to grow.


Michelle said...

Oh, I am all teary eyed sitting here. I don't know what to write. I am simply moved by your dad's we need to add hm to my list of people I want to meet. You are so lucky to have him. What a gem! Now my grandfather who died 19 years ago today was a HUGE Reds fan and could tell story after story about the Reds...and my dad included...I have a few stories as well. Baseball is a connection.

Kim :) said...

I am a faithful reader of your blog (and although I want your mom to get well I have really enjoyed the daily posts!!!!) Reading your dad's post was wonderful... The Yankees are lucky to have such a special fan!

Marc Weinstock (DH) said...

I have heard you stories many times before, but today I could almost see the field and smell the peanuts as you gave such feeling and detail to this special ocassion. I do look forward to hearing all your stories and am so proud to have such as warm hearted and caring man to call my father in-law. Please stop by and tell us more stories on this fantasic journey. I know that all your grandchildren and their parents will enjoy them.
We love you Big Daddy!

Tammie said...

I am sitting here crying. Lori, I now know from where your eloquence comes - your dad.

Thank you for sharing such wonderful memories with us. Thank you for taking me back in time & showing me how it really was. My grandfather was a huge Yankees fan also even though he never had the opportunity to go to a game. I can remember sitting in his house & trying to talk with him. Ah! The innocense of a a 6 year old who didn't know who the Yankees were. I soon learned. Till the day my grandfather passed away in 2004, he was a devoted fan such as yourself. Thanks for bringing back my own special memory.

JO said...

I have been a part of the history, as my papa has brought me to an opening day and to a world series at the stadium. My memory is a little different as the most memorable part of Yankee Stadium; is watching the president throw out the first pitch, walking out of the stadium while hearing Frank Sinatra, sitting with my Papa who is my absolute inspiration for being a history major, and finally celebrating my 17th birthday in the subway on the way home from game three with my Papa. I love you Pop, and I will always remember the memories.

We5Chois said...

Wow Harry! That was awesome. I can see where Lori gets many of her best qualities from ;-)

Your love and pride for the Yankees is amazing. As someone who has no clue what all the fuss is about (those Brits - huh?) I was hooked by your eloquence and the wonderful descriptions of the sights and smells of the stadium. Now you know you are going to have quite the fan base yourself. I don't expect this is to be the last post from you. The fans want more. You have a wealth of stories that I know we would all enjoy sharing.
One of the things I love most about your beautiful daughter Lori, is her heart. She has one of the biggest and giving hearts. From seeing you guys together as a family I can see why. It is an honor and a pleasure to know you all. Thank you so much for sharing and please don't wait too long before your next guest blog appearance.

BTW: Have you thought of writing one yourself. It would be a best seller and such a gift to your grandchildren ;-) No pressure!
Big hugs from We5Chois in Shanghai.

Candy said...

Harry, what a fantastic memory you have. I could picture myself sitting at these games right next to you. Your detailed descriptions are like you are living those moments all over again. Fantastic! Just loved reading this post, not that I don't enjoy Lori's. You are both such wonderful writers.

Vivian M said...

I got lost in the story, and think Harry should consider writing a book! Thank you for sharing your wonderful memories with us all. I felt like I was right there with you.

tumbleintodreams said...

What a wonderful history lesson! Your dad is a great writer, Lori. Is that where you get your talent? I hope he will post more often on your blog! sherri

kira said...

I've always been in awe of your wonderful story-telling abilities, but this one takes the cake! It was extremely moving... I felt I was there with you all along. It's funny because I had a quite moving experience as I sat at Marlins Stadium last weekend (oh, and I know there is no comparison!) and was just mesmerized by the beauty of the green grass and the fans and my thoughts went to my grandfather, who lives in Guatemala. I just sat there wishing I could share this with him... there's nothing like a baseball game. So, I could imagine how Yankee Stadium must've felt like! Thanks for sharing. Harry should start his own blogs... I know he has numerous more stories to share and his fans shouldn't be denied!

Sam said...

Big Daddy - I always loved the baseball stories, although as a kid I think I may have been a bit jealous of the Yankees, your affection for them was so deep, as an adult I now understand and share your passion for the game and the Love of the Yankee Blue Pinstripe. I think maybe even Sam is catching the fever now, and I will do my best to share the stories, history and love of the sport that truly builds young people and teaches teamwork, leadership, respect and perseverance. Much love and loads of kisses, Jane

Minouche said...

Wow, Lori! :o) Now I know where your eloquence comes from! :o) It is beautiful to see the love pouring from your blog when you write about your family, and now seeing your father writing about something he cherishes so much..:O) and the comments from Marc and Justin just shows us all the love in your beautiful family. That is why you are such a loving and caring person! :o) Surrounded by all this loving energy, this is what you project to others around you. Just beautiful! :o)

MaLeah said...

Hello, I've never been to a Yankees game but have been up in NYC while games were going on. You could just feel the energy in the air and everyone was all decked out in team colors. The Yankees seem to make everyone in New York smile and have something fun to talk about. I am sad for you that your beloved stadium is closing but I'm sure you'll make many new memories watching games in the new one! I wish you and your family all the best and I hope you cherish those Yankee memories forever! You also have 2 new Yankee fans in training with Katie and Ethan so that in itself is something to celebrate!

PIPO said...

What a beautifully written post. Truly, an absolutely moving piece to read.