The New York Yankees are without dispute the most successful franchise in baseball history. They have captured 33 American League pennants and 22 World Series Championships, which is far more than any other franchise in baseball. Baseballís greatest players have played proudly wearing the pinstripes.
But those facts alone are not what the Yankees are about. The Yankees are so much more than just a team that wins championships. It is the players (past and present) and the stories about these players that make the Yankees the team that they are. These stories are passed down from generation to generation. Stories of Yankee legends such as Babe Ruth bolting his 60th home run in 1927. Babe Ruth would go on to become the most influential player the sport would ever know. Another unforgetable Yankee memorie is when Roger Maris broke Ruthís single season homerun record when he hit 61 homeruns in 1961. Every year as the World Series approaches, fans always reminisce about the time Reggie Jackson hit three homeruns on three consecutive pitches to win the World Series in 1977. It is the dream of most American youths to have been able to see those golden times first hand. Although many didnít see the history of the Yankees, they experienced history in the making as the 1998 Yankees won the World Series while having the best record of any team in a single season. History and baseball greatness is overwhelmingly displayed in the Yankee symbol. The Yankees are so much more than just a baseball team, they are a symbol of teamwork, great talent, and unity. It has been seen throughout the years and it is seen with the team of 1998. They took the symbol into the 1990ís and have further burned the Yankee symbol of greatness into the minds of all that watch them.
Yankee Stadium is, to many, the centerpiece of baseball history. It is the heart and soul of the Yankee tradition and it is a symbol of the greatness of baseball in general. Being one of the oldest stadiums in the game, Yankee stadium is not about modern amenities, it is about tradition. While other stadiums have changed the playing field to artificial turf, Yankee Stadium still has a natural grass playing field. The Stadium has changed little over the years. The white faÁade above the bleachers in centerfield still glistens in the summer sunlight. The fans still have the same ritual of rejecting caught balls from the bat of opposing players by throwing the balls back out on the field. Players sign autographs before the game just as their heroes did for them when they were children. Yankee Stadium is a place where the fans can revel in the history of Americaís pastime. A place where records have been broken, legends have been made, and moments have transcended time.
Visiting Yankee Stadium is a must-experience for any baseball fan. As a fan passes through the metal turnstile, the loud, deep voice of a vendor resonates in the fanís ear as he announces, "Programs! Scorecards! Get your programs here!" Looking around reveals to each fan that Yankee Stadium is packed like Grand Central Station during the holidays. Excited fans frantically rush by as though they are running late for a train. Upon taking oneís very first step into the stadium, emotions of awe, anticipation, and excitement drastically heighten, taking over oneís body.
Over the years fans have adopted different pre-game rituals. The sweet smells of roasted peanuts, buttered popcorn, and hotdogs lure some fans to the food stand. The great variety of food and beverages leaves many unsure exactly what to order. Hotdogs always seem to be the bestseller and fans never hesitate to pile on the mustard, relish, ketchup, and sauerkraut. Fans attempt to quench their thirst by consuming beers as if threats of prohibition loom in the air. Others patiently stand in line at the restrooms, waiting for a chance to relieve themselves of several pre-game beers. Some fans jump at the chance to expand their wardrobe of Yankee paraphernalia. Everything from Yankee hats to Yankee tablecloths hold large price tags, but are nevertheless sold by pushy vendors. All fans do share one common ritual--making it to their seat before the start of the National Anthem.
The first glimpse of the inside of the stadium leaves you completely paralyzed by the pure beauty of it. It is like facing death and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. At this moment the fan realizes that television doesnít do justice to the stadium. The first thing that grasps your attention is the field with its freshly cut grass, which is a perfect shade of green. You are enthralled by the way the darkness of the night contrasted with the brightness of the lights makes the stadium glow. The experience can only last a few moments because you must join in the hunt to find your seat. As you walk towards your seat, great Yankee moments are displayed on the big screen reminding fans of the events that have taken place at the stadium.
As fans rise for the singing of the national anthem, a silence blankets over the stadium. Attention is turned to the American flag blowing gracefully in the cool wind. The national anthemís words give chills down the spines of fans and fill their hearts with pride, not only for their country, but also for their team. The ritual is not even complete when the fans show their appreciation with whistles, cheers, and claps. As soon as the national anthem ends the thunderous chants begin. "Letís Go, Yankees, clap, clap, clap-clap-clap."
The PA announcerís voice sounds like it is coming from the heavens. It echoes across the stadium as he introduces the players. The players jog onto the field and tip their hats in appreciation to the warm welcoming by the fans. Fans greet the players just as the Pope is welcomed at the Vatican. The playerís statistics flash up on the scoreboard to reveal impressive game records and a fuzzy digital picture of the individual. The great presence of the players only adds fuel to the fanís energy. Pride is displayed in the pinstripes of the playerís uniforms.
As the fans wait for the opening pitch the anticipation level in the stadium is at its peak. This is a chance for the fans to sit and observe the surroundings. Looking around, fans notice large billboards with advertisements that appear randomly throughout the stadium. The red and white Budweiser sign in dead-a-way centerfield can put anyone in the mood for a "cold one". The walls in left and right field can make a hitter salivate, while the fans can only dream about their chance of knocking one over. Centerfield seems like no mans land, and one can only imagine what it would be like out there in front of 50,000 people. Comments about the lineup and predictions about the game are not unlikely to be heard inside the stadium. It is as though everyone is an expert and thinks that he or she should be the manager.
The first pitch is thrown and it just makes the outside corner of the plate for a called strike. The fans show their appreciation towards the umpireís generosity by cheering. The game is under way and the fans can sit back and enjoy what lies ahead. Some fans watch intensely, keeping careful record of every detail on their scorecards, while others canít help but to imagine having their moment in the spotlight. Dreaming of going up against a big league pitcher in front of thousands of fans, proudly wearing the white and navy pinstriped uniform. A once in a lifetime opportunity; an unending dream that young boys carry with them throughout life, even when they have young boys of their own.
With a swift swing, the long, slender wooden bat makes contact with the small round stitched ball, creating a cracking sound which sparks great excitement among the crowd and causes everyone to rise to their feet. Everyone carefully watches the ball sail through the air and waits to see where itís final destination will be. The ball clears the fence for a home run and the fans go wild. It begins to rain beer for a few seconds; the ladies try to dodge the downpour while the men welcome the alcoholic sprinkle. Heaven has shone down on Yankee Stadium, the Yanks are up and the game is rejuvenated.
A Yankee fan may not remember the many details of each game, but that fan will never forget the intense emotions felt while standing amongst a large crowd before the field. The game brought people together to share in Americaís great pastime. Young and old, rich and poor, groups of friends, fathers and sons all coming together as allies in the battle against the opposing team. Priceless memories that all of these people have shared will stay with them long after the game is over. As Yankee fans walk to their car, they know that it wonít be too long before they purchase tickets to the next game, and when they do return, they will once again feel the excitement and be welcomed with open arms.