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I’ve had so many memories of Yankee Stadium over the years. The fact that because of corporate greed and the idiocy of an uncaring group of politicians and ownership it’s being replaced is mind boggling to me. It’s a shrine, a monument to the game, the Notre Dame, Taj Mahal, Colesium, Abu Simbel, etc of sports. Ruth and Gehrig, and Mantle and Dimaggio and Ford, and Cobb, and Simmons and Speaker, and Johnson, and Grove, and Mack, and so many other greats and for that matter the plain Toilers of the Sun (the Fenton Mole’s, and Miranda’s, and Zarilla’s and Monbouquettes, and Curt Bleffary’s and countless others, all walked these hallowed grounds, imprinted their legends and deeds here. They and the Stadium are part of my life and it’s being torn away to be forgotten by future generations.

Ah but my personal memories are still with me and will be with me until I’m no longer around.

Here are some of them:

I would go to the old Stadium and seeing the games were great but there would be other pleasures as well. In the old Stadium the bullpen would be right next to the bleachers (where I usually sat) and you could look down and talk to the players. And they would answer back and give you autographs if you asked for them. I talked to so may of the pitchers there including, Reynolds, Ford, Fred Sanford, Tom Gorman, Stubby Overmire, Bob Kuzava, Joe Page, Louis Arroyo, Art Schallock, Tom Morgan, Bobby Schantz, Paul Mirabella, Hal Reniff, Bud Daly, and others. The friendliest was Hal Reniff who got to know me by name and autographed two balls for me. He also got me the autographs of Gil Coan, Ferris Fain, Norm Cash, and Dave Philly at one time or another. Was saddened to hear last year that he passed away.  Tom Morgan met me outside the players entrance once, recognized me and gave me a ride to the Subway station. A few days later he saw me in the bleachers, asked if I got home OK and wanted to know if I could use another ride to the subway. For a twelve year old that was a real thrill. Everyone next to me wanted to know if Morgan was my friend and of course I said we were like this.

The bleachers were my turf….most of all because an Uncle of mine was a security guard there and got me in for nothing. Must have seen over two hundred games over the years while he worked there. It was a sad day for me when he passed away after four years of free games.

In those days you were allowed to go onto the field after the game to get to the IRT. What a thrill it was for me to walk across the field and know I was trodding the same ground as Ruth and Gehrig  and standing on the mound where Gomez, and Pennock, and Hoyt had pitched. Every once in a while I would run in the outfield a bit until a security guard would head my way. I would also make sure nobody was watching, bend down quickly, pull some grass off the ground, and stuff it into my pocket. There was one period where I had filled up four large orange juice jars with grass. One day I came home and my precious jars were gone. My mom admitted that she threw them out because she was sure it was attracting ants. I never filled up another jar again.

Was at Yankee Stadium when Tom Seaver won his 300th game. On the same day it was Phil Rizzuto day and one of his presents (“A Holy Cow”) stepped on his foot.

Last season, after probably a couple thousand games, got to see a one hitter by Daniel Cabrera that was a no hitter up until one out in the ninth inning.

And then there was Cliff Mapes. Cliff played with the Yankees from 1948-1951. While in the bleachers I would get to speak to Mapes quite often and he was always cordial and accommodating. He had an incredible arm , could thow to homeplate from the furthest part of rightfield without bouncing the ball and once tossed me an autographed ball from the outfield. He became my hero. One day he mentioned to me that a fabulous rookie was coming up to New York, somebody named Mantle and his days were probably numbered. He was right. Before he got traded to St. Louis he mentioned that the Yankees wanted him to give Mantle his number seven because Mantle wore that in the Minors. He said he would give it up and shortly after that he went to the Browns. An interesting note is that when Cliff first came up he wore number three. When New York decided to retire that number in honor of the Babe he gave it up and was given number seven. So in his career Cliff had the honor of being the last person in Yankee history to wear two of their most famous numbers. As a side note Cliff knew Mickey and his father “Mutt” Mantle. He and Mutt would work the coal mines together and Mickey would join them every once in a while.  About 50 years after all this when I started publishing One More Inning I wrote to Cliff, asked him if we could do an interview together. He remembered me and over the years we did several interviews together and became friendly. He would come into New York for Old Timers day and usually meet for lunch or supper. Those were good times because a lot of the Yankees would join us at well.  He passed away recently and is missed.

   One of my fondest memories now of the Stadium was bittersweet at the time. Over the passage of time I look back at it fondly and wish it would happen to me again. My father would take me to the games every once in a while and as was the case when I went alone we would sit in the bleachers. In those years it seemed to be easier to catch balls hit in there and I would say I caught close to about eight of them over a five year period. My last time ever was a doozy. My father took me to see New York play Cleveland and in batting practice I caught two balls hit into the stands. Instant hero. The best was yet to come. In the course of the game Yankee pitcher Fred Sanford got up and proceeded to hit a home run into the bleachers with a man on. Guess who caught it? Believe me I caught it, a clean catch. An old man sitting next to me (and fifty years after the fact I still remember his face) started screaming that I grabbed it out of his hand. It was a lie, he was nowhere near it and at that point my father said that I should give him the ball. I couldn’t believe what my father was saying and shouted out, “No way. He didn’t even have his hands next to it, he wasn’t close, I’m not giving it to him!!” My father then reached out, grabbed the ball away from me and gave it to the little bastard. I was stunned, the crowd around us was stunned, everybody saying I had caught it cleanly and that he should give it back to me. The old man looked at me and with a twisted smile on his face (and to this day I still remember that smile) said, “That will teach you to steal things from people.”  He then walked away and sat elsewhere. If  there really is a God he should have struck him dead that very instant

   For two weeks after that I stopped talking to my dad.

   I know they don’t keep records of things like that but I think catching thee balls at one game should be in the Guinness Book of Records.

   There are many more memories………….maybe some other time.

   Goodbye old pal. 

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