Last night, I walked into Yankee Stadium for the fifth time this season and the umpteenth time in my life. It's always an event when the Red Sox are in town, but this three-game series was more special than any other meeting in the regular season between the two rivals.
After 85 years, it was the last time that the Red Sox would come into the old Yankee Stadium for a series.
As I watched the two teams take batting practice, I started to think back about the number of games they have played in that building since 1923. Some of those games displayed many of the greatest players in baseball history.
Ted Williams matched up against Joe DiMaggio, Carlton Fisk and Thurman Munson battled for the title of best catcher in the AL East for much of the '70s, Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens seemed to start more games against each other in the regular season, as well as the playoffs, and put together some of the best-pitched games in the past 10 years.
Not to mention that the matchups between Boston and New York have spurned some of the biggest moments in the history of sports. Roger Maris hit his 61st home run of the 1961 season at Yankee Stadium off Red Sox rookie pitcher Tracy Stallard, passing Babe Ruth as the single-season, home-run leader.
On July 4, 1981, Dave Righetti pitched a no-hitter against the Red Sox, which was the first time a Yankee had pitched a no-hitter since Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series. My own Yankee Stadium memories don't fully come into focus until the late '90s, and my most vivid memory isn't until 2003.
I was a freshman in college, and I can remember sitting on the edge of my bed watching Game Seven of the ALCS. It took 11 innings, and the least-likeliest hero in Aaron Boone (who hit that monster home run off of Wakefield) to send the Yankees back to the World Series. I could feel the stadium shaking through the TV.
Not even a year later, I watched as Derek Jeter caught a ball in foul territory, flew into the stands, and emerged bruised and bloody to prevent the Red Sox from scoring. The Yankees went on to win that game in 13 innings, and I remember thinking that was one of the greatest games I had seen in my life.
Along with the triumphs, I can recall the heartbreaks that have occurred at the stadium at the hands of the Red Sox as well. Most notably, when the Sox came back to defeat the Yankees in Game Seven of the 2004 ALCS, after the Yankees blew a three-game lead. I watched as they celebrated on the field, and cried like a little kid after it was all over.
During the game last night, I couldn't help but wonder if any of the players ever thought about all of the things that I mentioned above. Maybe it didn't matter to them because they had played so many games, or maybe they were more concerned with the pennant race they were both trying to stay in; I'm not really sure.
What I do know is that, as I stood with the rest of the 55,000 people there, I felt like I was a part of something really special. The stadium shook every inning, there was electricity in the air, and the cheers and boos seemed louder than ever before.
It was the first game of the last series ever to be played between Boston and New York at 161st Street and River Avenue.
In addition, despite the tough loss the Yankees suffered, there was a lot more to that game than winning and losing. It was the beginning of the end of so many great things, and hopefully the building next door is the continuation of more great moments between the greatest rivals in all of sports.