There was something magical for Yankee fans in those perfect October days of the nineties. Even after the calendar turned and the championships trickle slowed, it was still there when you walked into the old stadium. The history, the magic, the goosebumps. The hallowed ground.
When I was in college, my dad and I bought a partial plan for seats in right field. That was back when the bleachers were a secret society, inaccessible from the rest of the stadium, when it was a privilege to sit among their ranks. Mets fans were persecuted mercilessly and the unsuspecting tourist in the upper deck who stood too close to the railing above the faithful were encouraged to “Jump, jump!”. For a good girl like myself, it was all terribly thrilling. I dreamed of standing up after the particularly politically incorrect version of the YMCA that was performed in those rough rows, of volunteering to be the one who the police escorted from the stadium as the sacrificial scapegoat for the misbehavior of the crowd as a whole.
This was in the old stadium, the one that rocked and rolled and vibrated with the big moments. Back then, you felt like your own screams added something to the glory of the chorus. You were one warrior among many, as much a part of the team as you were a fan. It was a living, breathing thing, that stadium. And if you loved the Yankees like I did, it was a part of your existence, those nights under the lights...it fed a special place inside you.
I was a deeply committed fan. That meant that, as a girl, I could never pick Derek Jeter as my favorite player. That’s what the amateur, non-fan girls did. It simply was not to be done. If I was going for looks, I went for Ricky Ledee, a lesser known but honestly cuter stand-in for the Jeter choice. Then there was Paul O’Neil because he threw stuff and I loved that. Scott Brosius to balance out O’Neil. By the time I was in high school, I was scrapbooking Ted Lilly’s line scores. That wasn’t really much of a morale booster, but what can I say. Then came college and the ticket package, and I fell more in love with the team I thought I already loved to capacity.
When the old stadium was put out of commission, I felt like something from my life had died. An important piece of my growing up years, the last sign that I was to be an adult now. I remember that last game, the players gathered on the mound, the tears, the people shoving souvenirs into their pockets and purses (being a good girl absolutely stinks in those moments, for the record...I got a whole lot of nothing). I remember stopping with my dad to look back through the exit, to the sliver of vibrant green that I knew I would never see again and the deep sense of loss. It was like someone telling you they were selling your home against your will, and this was the last time you would see it.
I kind of thought, after those heady years in the nineties, and then after the stadium was reduced to gravel, that I would never have “that feeling” again. I assumed that it had gone the way of Santa at Christmas, something never regained once it’s gone. But I was wrong.
Because, see, this year, some guys showed up to play in the Bronx. They came with a spark that whispered of days long ago. They laughed and joked and gave each other the thumbs down. But they got serious too. Performing like they were born to do this, here, on this stage. They created moments that would have felt perfect in the old stadium and that somehow seem to finally be breaking in the new one. Their moments say “My name is Judge, Sanchez, Gregorius. I’m here to stay.” Others, Frazier, Gardner, they have something to say too. “I’m not done yet. There’s something I haven’t finished, and it happens here, now.” These guys came together and created something that felt familiar, that felt like home.
And it was back. The magic. All of it.