An All-Star Farewell To Yankee Stadium Sometimes the man and the moment seem to come around again. So it is with 89-year-old Hall of Famer Bob Feller and this year's All-Star Game, which will be played Tuesday in Yankee Stadium, in this last season before they tear down The House That Ruth Built.
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An All-Star Farewell To Yankee Stadium

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An All-Star Farewell To Yankee Stadium

An All-Star Farewell To Yankee Stadium

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And as the All-Star Game approaches, commentator Frank Deford has been thinking about an All Star from a different era.

FRANK DEFORD: Sometimes the man and the moment seem to come around again. So it is with Bob Feller and this year's All-Star Game, which will be played Tuesday in Yankee Stadium, in this last season before they tear down that sublime American monument, The House that Ruth Built.

Feller is not older than dirt, but he is older than Yankee Stadium. He was born during World War I, to grow up out by the Raccoon River in Iowa in a farmhouse that lacked indoor plumbing. He is almost 90, still hale and as crusty as ever. He is the last notable living link to our sports past.

Good grief. Feller has been in the Hall of Fame for 46 years. He has his own museum out by the Raccoon River. I dropped in there a while ago to visit the repository of those glory days when the fabled Rapid Robert could throw a baseball harder than any other human being.

He was only 17 when he came directly off the farm to start for the Cleveland Indians. Feller was the first real - what we call a phenom. There had never been anybody like Feller, so maybe we shouldn't be surprised that he is the last of his era, still alive and kicking.

Yankee Stadium opened in 1923 after the New York Giants told the Yankees they wouldn't share their home, the Polo Grounds, anymore. The Giants intemperate little manager John McGraw had grown jealous of the new Yankee slugger, the glamorous Mr. Ruth. When McGraw learned that the Yankees would have to build their new abode outside of Manhattan, he chortled that the Yankees were going to Goatville, and before long, they will be lost sight of.

This was something of a miscalculation. The Yankees, reincarnated as the Bronx Bombers, became, of course, the golden franchise. Their Yankee Stadium was huge and a marvel. Now the national pastime had a certified stadium, its own great lighthouse to shine baseball upon all the land.

In 1939, the stadium hosted its first All-Star Game. Bob Feller, still only 20, pitched three and two-third innings, shutting out the best of the National League on one hit, validating his preeminence before a national audience.

And now in his 90th summer, the All-Star Game is back in the Bronx, a valedictory for the old stadium. A new and improved Yankee Stadium will open next year, of course, and although Bob Feller never wore pinstripes, it would best honor the continuity of the whole game if the ancient phenom was chosen to throw out the first ball when the son of The House that Ruth Built opens next April.

After all, the stadium may hold pews for Yankee fans, but it is the cathedral for the whole sport.

INSKEEP: The comments of Frank Deford, who joins us each Wednesday from member station WSHU in Fairfield, Connecticut.

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