Fond Memories Of Yankee Stadium
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
Humor aside, Wall Street's problems have created a gloomy atmosphere in New York City. Thousands of workers in the financial industry have lost their jobs, thousands more may see pink slips soon. And if that weren't enough, Yankee Stadium is no more. Last night, the New York Yankees played their final game in the arena that has been their home since 1923. Next season, they'll move to a new facility. Like millions of Americans, former sports reporter turned comedy writer Peter Mehlman has fond memories of Yankee Stadium, except his may be a little more fanciful.
Mr. PETER MEHLMAN: I can still recall how, after my family lost everything in the Great Depression, we lived the entire winter of 1931 in the visitor's dugout. It was paradise. In April, when the Yankees returned, I'll never forget being awakened by Babe Ruth, who pulled out an eight by ten glossy of himself and signed it, to Peter, get your crap out of my locker. Best wishes, Babe Ruth. I kept that autograph on my person for upwards of three days, until I sold it for a Hershey's bar and a candy to be named later. A few years later I got a job at Yankee Stadium washing the public address system. I performed my duties flawlessly, except for one time when I momentarily unplugged the microphone, just as the legendary Lou Gehrig was saying that he considered himself the unluckiest man on the face of the Earth.
In 1941, I got to see Joe DiMaggio embark on his legendary 97-game hitting streak, as opposed to the 56-game hitting streak he had in reality. One day, outside the great ballpark, I saw DiMaggio and told him his grace was such that he'd make a great pitch man for coffee makers. The Yankee Clipper smiled sadly and said, coffee makes me antsy. And get your crap out of Babe Ruth's locker. It was a magic moment I kept close to my heart, until World War II broke out, when I relocated to Montreal and somehow lost it in the move.
In 1952 when I changed my name and moved back to New York, the first thing I did was go to Yankee Stadium. It was a beautiful sun-drenched day in mid-July, and by God the hallowed diamond was even more magnificent than I'd remembered. Unfortunately the Yankees were playing in Detroit that day and I was arrested for trespassing, and sentenced to a term not to end until the final day of the baseball season.
In the 1960s my dad, brother and I went to the first Bat Day at Yankee Stadium, a sold-out event that bankrupted the entire logging industry of Oregon. Just after Bat Day, the Vietnam War intensified. I went back to Canada, then returned to the States in time to have Reggie Jackson promise me he hit three homers. Derek Jeter promised me that he'd win four World Series, and Alex Rodriguez promised me lots of stuff and never delivered. Oh, the memories.
Recently, on my 50th birthday, I realized that Yankee Stadium had been a part of my life for 77 years. And now they're tearing it down. And even though I live in Los Angeles, I'm left to wonder, what the hell am I going to do now?
BRAND: Peter Mehlman worked a sports beat for the Washington Post until he gave it all up to write for a little sitcom called "Seinfeld."
Day to Day is a production of NPR News with contributions from Slate.com. Alex Chadwick is back tomorrow. I'm Madeleine Brand.
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