Eight years ago, I had the pleasure of bringing my son and daughter to NYC for all 3 games of the 2001 World Series. I had been to hundreds of games at Yankee Stadium in my life. Saw Roger and Mickey and Whitey and Thurman and was lucky enough to be in the upper deck of the Stadium with 10+ college buddies when Chris Chambliss propelled the Yankees into the 1976 World Series at the expense of Mark Littell and the Royals.
But no Yankee Stadium or baseball experience compared to the 3 days of the 2001 World Series. The emotional specter of returning to New York for an event like the World Series mere weeks after 9/11 was overwhelming. Emotions that included excitement, anticipation, curiosity, anger and even fear gripped me for the entire 5 days that we were there.
And the one memory I shall always hold near and dear til my grave was when Tino Martinez cracked that game tying home run in Game 4. For the 1st time in my life of spectating games at that old venerable gray mecca, I felt the structure move when the ball landed in the stands.
Ghosts? Release of volcanic like emotions of a local population harboring pain and angst over the events of the previous month? An old structure showing it's age under the burden of 50,000+ exuberant fans? All of the above? Whatever, it was easily the most unique experience of my life.
All summed up in the following essay my son wrote for a College English class two years ago.
I am reprinting it here without his permission. Cuz I couldn't have said it any better. He gets mad at me when I share it, but I don't care. I'm proud of it and proud of him for writing it. I'm proud of the Yankees and proud of New Yorkers. And I think he captures the essence of what it is to be a fan of the Yankees and a fan of New York. And on this Halloween anniversary of that seminal event in our lives, I am proud to publish it again.
Most people in the world can only dream of seeing baseball's greatest team, the Yankees, partaking in the single most important series of the whole season, the World Series, at the single greatest sports complex in the world, Yankee Stadium. Some dreams do come true, and my World Series dream did just that and at a very significant time in my life, and history.
New York was in mourning, the nation was in a shock, and I, too young and ignorant to comprehend much of anything, was the happiest kid in the world. Though I could comprehend what was going on after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, my head was too filled with Social Studies, my evil 7th grade English teacher Ms. Pappas, and of course baseball. The world was too far away to touch me, and politics was just what the parents talked about during 6 o' clock dinner. How could I be bothered with such things when I was going to the World Series in New York City? Apparently it bothered my mother who feared for our safety while travelling at such a time.
If I could describe the relationship I have had with my Father in my short eighteen years of life it would be one word, Yankees. Any significant experience or sentiment I have held with the 6' 3" 220 pound Long Island, New York native and Manhattan College alum can be attributed to the "Evil Empire," and anything associated with it, including New York. I felt safe and comfortable traversing New York with him, I had done it before; he had done it too many times.
The Marriott on Times Square, my father always did big trips well. All the travelling had put my mind in a daze and the reason as to why we travelled from our home in Albuquerque to here was prevalent in my mind again. With the first game hours away there was hardly time for relaxation and so we travelled again, subways, cabs, and subways again. The train was fun, we rumbled and bumbled along and soon it was filled with people like us travelling to the stadium. These people represented a character quite unlike the morose Times Square I had seen earlier. They laughed loudly and talked louder, typical of the New York form, I couldn't be happier. I sat there soaking up the finest spirits of the city, feeling enlightened and ecstatic I watched these people who looked as if nothing was wrong in their lives. Even at my young age I recognized how this thing called baseball could bring people together in such a dreadful time. I felt like I was a part of a very great thing and almost forgot where I was going until the train emerged at a station with bright blue lights gleaming YANKEE STADIUM over it.
They won the first game; I can hardly recall anything from the filing cabinets of my mind. It was loud, the Yankees won putting them behind in the series 2-1, and then we headed back to our hotel through a sleeping city somewhere around 2:30 in the morning. The next day we slept, ate, and did it again. Game Two of the World Series in New York was almost as necessary for the Yankees to win as the first one and the fear of losing game one was shown in our fingernails which were half gone from the anticipation during the game the previous night. Back to the streets and back to the trains we went, Yankee Stadium was gleaming down on us yet again.
The Stadium is everything a young man could dream and more. A bright light blasted my eyes upon entrance, below us was a perfectly lit field, perfectly lined, and perfectly kept. Vendors selling everything were everywhere. Crowds of people made their way through crowds of people and everyone was wearing Yankees somewhere on their bodies. It was sheer beauty in and of itself, everyone who was there shared an excitement unexplainable by words.
It was a blessing to be following the "big man" as he parted crowds much easier than I could have and I was sure to stay close. Our seats, the same as the night prior, were more likely to see a hawk than a baseball so we arrived early to catch some up close batting practice. I was enlightened by it, so sure I would be the next shortstop for the Yankees and so enthralled by what was going on that I hardly remember feeling appreciative at all. He was right there too, the man who made it all possible, who instilled all he could into me. He loved baseball with a passion, appreciated education, and was understanding. So I loved baseball, worked towards college, and understood as much as I could. None of this crossed my mind as I sat next to him though. I thought this was the way life was supposed to be, I couldn't be anywhere but where I was. Youth and ignorance generally go hand in hand of course and rather than turning to him right there and saying "thank you" I continued watching enraptured.
The players looked like dots on the field, but it didn't matter. The game was just as intense and magical as the night before. We cheer for the Yankees, and boo for the Diamondbacks; every fan was as raucous as a high school student. The bottom of ninth inning rolled around and the mood was a solemn one. The Yanks were down by three with only three outs left to their name.
We did it again the next day, the same magic, the same excitement nothing was daunting or drawling about our lives. Finally, we boarded our plane and were left with a good six hours to recall our past three days. I had a new found love for the New York Yankees, a sentiment greater than one for sport or franchise. It was the bringing together of people in which I found my profound respect for the team. During a time of dismal situations especially for the city of New York it seemed almost magical for Tino Martinez to hit bottom of the ninth homeruns in New York. During a time of such a spongy youth it was the Yankees which brought me unconditional respect for my father. All he had done, sacrificed, and shared with me is culminated in our trip to New York. It must have been a good three years later until I realized most of this but it always brings me back to the World Series, 2001.