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One Photo: One Story; always the Yankees (except for Dad)

“I never went for the Yankees”. I’ve heard Dad say that a few times over the years. He’s from the Bronx, the nerve of him to utter such nonsense.

He is the one most responsible for my love of the New York Yankees. He took me to Yankee Stadium when I was seven years old. I can still hear Bob Sheppard deep in memory announcing, “At first base, number seven, Mickey Mantle, number seven”. I get chills. Hey, I was seven when I heard it and it was The Mick’s last season in the Bronx.

Had I not heard the echo of Mr. Sheppard’s voice bouncing around every part of Yankee Stadium, I would have been a Mets fan. Dad also took me to Shea Stadium during the 1969 Amazing Mets season. Tom Seaver had a fast ball that could knock a man down, too late I was tattooed in pinstripes.

I spent many summer afternoons riding the bus with the Cub Scouts and the Boy Scouts to Yankee Stadium to sit in the bleachers. The Yankees made it easy for youth groups to afford to see the games with group discounts and donations. It may have been easier for the Yankees to be generous during the Horace Clarke years, not much for Yankee glory, we did however see the future with Bobby Murcer and Thurman Munson.

Dad loved the New York Giants baseball team. He was raised in the Bronx but born in Manhattan, he spent his early years on the lower east side. I can see it, on hot summer afternoons Mel Allen’s voice blaring from tenement radios describing the action at the Polo Grounds. His heroes were Mel Ott, Carl Hubbell, Buddy Kerr and Johnny Mize, Dads favorite. He had no use for DiMaggio, Rizzuto, Gomez or Dickey. Years later he moved to the Bronx eventually settling 24 blocks from Yankee Stadium. It was too late; Joe McCarthy and Casey Stengel be damned.

On a visit to Yogi Berra’s museum in Montclair, New Jersey, Dad and I studied a large poster of a tandem view of Yankee Stadium and The Polo Grounds. Dad pointed out spots where you could catch some of the games by standing on the 9th Avenue El that ran along the edge of the Polo Grounds. He also told of the time he climbed the fence to see the 1951 fight between Randy Turpin and Sugar Ray Robinson.

Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds were a mile apart. If you timed it right, you could see the end of the Giants game and run over to catch a few innings of the Yankees.

Then the Giants left New York and Dad lost interest in baseball. The Yankees captured the imagination of his son and grandson.

On October 6, 1978, my friends and I cut school and went see game 3 of the American League Championship Series. The Kansas City Royals and The New York Yankees were trying to get to the World Series. We had seats in the left center field bleachers. George Brett had three homers in the game leading up to the 8th inning. In the next half inning Thurman Munson homered to the section right next to us to give the Yanks the lead and the win. Yanks 6- Royals 5. I was elated and it’s a moment I’ll remember for the rest of my life. I was heartbroken the next summer when he died. He is still my all-time favorite Yankee.

My son Devin was born in Natick, Massachusetts. He was raised in Northern New Jersey, 19 miles from Yankee Stadium. I joke with him sometimes that if had been raised in Natick. He would have to root for the Red Sox.

He’s a Yankee Fan. On his ninth birthday in January of 2003, we took his birthday party to Yankee Stadium.

We walked on the field, in the press box and we could feel the spirts of Yankee greats. Devin wanted to see Derek Jeter’s locker, I wanted to see Thurman Munson’s which hasn’t been touched since the day he died.

We have a strong bond with baseball. My son and I played varsity baseball in the same town for different high schools. We talk about baseball often. Baseball unites us in a way most sports do not. We miss it.

On his grandson’s birthday in 2003, Dad sat in New York Yankee dugout with his grandchildren, his smile wide and bright, for a moment loved the Yankees.

Like my Dad’s beloved Polo Grounds, the Yankee Stadium of my youth no longer exists. The third-generation stadium

was built directly across the street. In 2009, they won the World Series during the first year of operation, inspiring a new generation of fans.

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