Some of you, men and women much more level-headed and eloquent than me, have eulogized Yankee Stadium in words more measured and flowery than I can muster. I have only two words for the site of the Jeffrey Maier game and numerous other pinstriped horrors:
I choose to remember one sterling image from Yankee Stadium, a glorious sight that materialized in the midst of a violent bench-clearing brawl between the home team and my own Orioles on May 18, 1998. Meathead closer Armando Benitez had proven how manly he was by surrendering a game-breaking three-run home run and immediately plunking Tino Martinez with a pitch. Not satisfied, he proceeded to drop his glove and gesture to the entire Yankee dugout, calling them out. Professional screwup Darryl Strawberry answered the challenge, sucker-punching the temperamental O's pitcher. Straw's momentum carried him into the dugout. But Alan Mills was ready for him, and jumped down into the dugout himself, decking the New York outfielder in one fluid motion. It was a symbolic gesture, a final salvo fired in a rivalry that would lose its luster in the ensuing decade. More than that, it was an obnoxious Yankee player and borderline criminal getting what he had coming to him.
Sure, there have been plenty of truly great Orioles moments in the Bronx, from Frank Robinson's game-saving catch that sent him sprawling into the bleachers to the 12-2 win this past May, punctuated by Mike Mussina's first-inning exit. But there are also plenty of demons to be exorcised when the lights go out for the final time this evening. There are few places that are tougher on visitors than Yankee Stadium with 46,000 overbearing New Yorkers in full throat. When the brand-new, taxpayer-subsidized, needlessly opulent edifice opens for business across the way next April, many of the more vociferous fans may be priced out.
It couldn't happen to a nicer bunch. Don't come back any time soon, Yankee Stadium.