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The American Coliseum

Baseball fans are a nostalgic bunch. Often is the case when moments in our own lives are not defined in real world terms, but rather in regard to the games that we’ve watched, and our experiences surrounding them. Mike Scott’s no hitter. Craig Biggio’s first AB as an Astro. Jeff Bagwell and Mike Hampton embracing after clinching the 1997 Central Division Championship, the team’s first since 1986. All are tremendous moments in the history of our Astros. While those moments mean so much, and always will, a timepiece of even greater magnitude will be laid to rest tomorrow, as venerable Yankee Stadium will host it's last game. Doesn’t it almost seem like we’ve been hidden from the goings on in the Bronx? As much pomp and circumstance as was laid out for the All Star game, the culmination of the greatest sports landmark in American sports history will occur with far less fanfare.

 

 

When Yankee Stadium was built in 1923, it was the largest, most impressive baseball edifice to date. Three tiers of grandstands complete with its now classic white fence façade. A cavernous outfield replete with plush green grass, where a fly ball would have to travel over 490 feet to center field in order to reach the stands. For New Yorkers anything less than the best would not do, especially for their beloved Yankees.

The history of The Stadium is endowed with names that have been etched in baseball lore, as well as awards, plaques and championship memorabilia: Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Berra, Maris, Jackson, Jeter, Rivera…ad infinitum. Putting on those pinstripes and walking onto that field made you a star; often times, actual credentials did not matter. Sports columnists criticize Alex Rodriguez for not coming through for the Yanks when the chips are down. How much better it would be, they opine, if he were more like Scott Brosius. The same Scott Brosius who has a career batting average of .257. How could one possibly compare a legend in our own time to Scott Brosius? A .314 World Series batting average and a 3-1 record in four Fall Classics add gaudy accomplishments to one’s resume. That is one aspect of Yankee Stadium that will stand out most to me- how it was a showcase for true stars of the game, but made momentary stars of players that would have toiled in anonymity had their home address read Kansas City instead of New York City.

Texans, perhaps as much as anyone outside of Gotham, can appreciate what Yankee Stadium means in the grand scheme of things. It is in our blood to gravitate towards the biggest, the best, the most spectacular. The Alamo embodies bravery, selflessness and honor like few other landmarks can.  Austin’s state capitol building is larger than the nation’s capitol. Our own Astrodome- a concrete and steel descendant of the House that Ruth Built- stands as a trendsetter of its own. Luxury suites, a scoreboard that seemed to be on loan from Las Vegas, and amenities that were never seen before at a ballpark are just a sample of the innovations that Houston put into its new stadium in order to set it apart from the others.

Ironically, many of those aforementioned innovations that the Astrodome gave birth to make up a great deal of the impetus behind the Yankees’ move to a new ballpark. George Steinbrenner is a competitive individual, and when he realized that he was at a disadvantage (monetarily) playing his home games in Yankee Stadium, he pushed for new playhouse. King George got what King George wanted, and now all of us must say farewell. I don’t write this with disdain, however. No matter what your opinions are about George, corporate America, or the Yankees themselves, Mr. Steinbrenner has done everything in his power to build up the image of America’s premiere professional sports franchise since he purchased the team in 1973. Ultimately it was his decision to leave Yankee Stadium, and tomorrow afternoon his decision will be final.

 

What does this mean for those of us who don’t profess an undying love for the Pinstripers? Perhaps not much. The Juice Box still stands tall, and if I was given the choice between saving one or the other, Yankee Stadium would tumble like the walls of Jericho before a wrecking ball would knock over the home of the Astros.

Still- take into account everything that Yankee Stadium means to our National Pastime, and I cannot, even for a moment, believe the game we love will ever be the same again. Maybe it’s my unwavering belief in all things Americana. Or could it be that I’m just attracted to all things mighty? In the past, people held disdain for the Caesars of Rome and the Kings of the British Empire. Some though, no matter how much they cursed their rulers, did so with a twinge of admiration. Admittedly, these men could be oppressive and ruthless, but they wielded their power in a manner that was undoubtedly magnetic in some regards. People were drawn to them, fascinated by them. Volumes have been written about these men, just as volumes have been and will be written about a now outdated ball-yard in the Bronx.

We may view the Yankees as modern day kings, and their current home park as a castle, but it doesn’t mean the accomplishments and events that occurred there shouldn’t be appreciated and remembered with a certain amount of reverence. I’ll always be proud of what the Houston Astros have achieved, but I also understand what the Yankees have meant to the history of not only baseball, but this country as a whole. The most identifiable part of that history will play host to its last exhibition tomorrow, closing it’s doors to more drama, folklore and history than any building could hope to have been the home for.