Editor’s Note: Dan Borsey is a collector, and baseball is his passion. In Farewell to Yankee Stadium, he writes about his most precious collectibles—memories.
I, like millions and millions of other Yankee and baseball fans, tuned in to watch the final regular-season game ever to be played at “the Sports Cathedral,” Yankee Stadium. I have been a Yankee fan my whole life, ever since that first trip to the hallowed grounds of Yankee Stadium with my Nana in 1981 at the ripe age of 6.
Venerable Yankee Stadium
I will never forget the feeling that came over me after walking through that gate and seeing the brilliant green grass and white gate façade. Was it the thrill of being at a big-league game? Was it knowing who played ball on this field? Was it the smell in the air? Was it 50,000-plus people worshiping the most famous sports franchise in history? I am now 33 and have attended more than 150 games at Yankee Stadium and still cannot answer the question. That is until now!
I was hooked after that first Yankee game. I was fortunate enough to have grown up in southern Connecticut, and the “Stadium” was a mere 45-minute drive. I was even more fortunate that my Nana’s company had season tickets, and we got to attend 10 to 20 games a year. Those were the days. Don Mattingly became my hero. Al Leiter signed a rookie card for me on my 13th birthday. And most important, the Yankees became a way of life for me.
Don “The Hit Man” Mattingly
I have followed the team daily since and will continue to do so for the rest of my existence. As all true Yankee fans do, I learned to bleed pinstripes. It was frustrating watching all those great Yankees teams always fall short for 13 years. I remember a different feeling in 1994 with the squad the Yankees assembled, this was our year. The Yanks took off that season, running away with the division, hands-on favorites to win the World Series, then the strike came, SEASON OVER!
Many fans and I were cheesed. What would have happened with our beloved Yankees if that magical season hadn’t been shortened? I was more upset at the fact that I might never see my hero, Don Mattingly, play in a postseason game. Mattingly was a New York legend. He did everything all the greats did except play on a winning team.
Yankees make playoffs—finally
I got my wish the following season. The Yankees made the playoffs for the first time since the year I saw my inaugural game. The Yankees were beat in the last game of a best-of-five series with the Seattle Mariners. It was Mattingly’s last season. It was my most disappointing moment as a Yankee fan. That is until now!
My first season without Don Mattingly was a very memorable and historic one for me. It was the first time I ever cried for my ballclub. It was a new era in Yankees history. Joe Torre was manager, and we had a crop of youngsters by the names of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and a cast of quality veterans and pitching that would carry us to our first championship in eighteen years and the first trip to the dance since ’81.
One of the greats of an earlier era, Mickey Mantle
I was working as a chef and had a TV on the line with the game on. I will never forget shedding tears that it was over, my team had done what I waited my whole life to see. My boss was a lifetime Red Sox fan, and I can vividly remember him saying “Congratulations, Dan. I may never get to feel what you just did.” That is the only time in my career has a Red Sox fan shown class to me as a Yankee fan.
We lost the following season in the playoffs to the Cleveland Indians, who went on to lose the World Series. That would be the last of losing for a while as my Yankees were officially at juggernaut status and would appear in the next four World Series, winning three in a row from 1998 to 2000, beating the Padres, Braves and Mets respectively. We lost the 2001 series to Arizona.
This was a very emotional time as a Yankee fan. It was right after 9/11, and the city relied on the Yankees to make them feel a little better and take their minds off things for a little bit. Mayor Rudy Giuliani and members of the NYPD and NYFD were all regulars at the games. Who can ever forget George W. Bush running out to the mound to throw the first pitch in the World Series. His appearance made everyone feel as if it was all going to be OK, we would get through these hard times. As a Yankee fan, I never felt so proud. That is until now!
Tough, sad season
In May 2003, I lost my grandmother. It was the hardest season of baseball I ever tried to focus on in my whole life. I missed Nana’s calls during the games. I missed her. We lost the World Series to the Marlins, but I would have to say the real World Series that year was the American League Championship Series played between the Yankees and Red Sox.
Who cared about the Marlins after this action-packed baseball rivalry and all its emotional ups and downs for both teams? It brought us one of the stadium’s greatest highlights. We will always remember Aaron Boone for his historic walk-off home run that sent us to the series and gave us bragging rights over the archenemy Sox.
Curses! The Red Sox break the curse
In 2004, the Red Sox broke their curse of 80-plus years without a championship, and I have to say with class. They beat us fair and square en route to that title.
In 2005, I had a daughter. Every night, Abby sees mom and dad watch the Yankees game on television. On June 6, 2006, I did what Nana did with me. I brought my almost-9-month-old daughter and wife to Yankee Stadium to see their first game against who else? The Boston Red Sox! It was the first time I had been to the Stadium since 2001, and I cried when I walked through the gates and saw it with my baby girl in my arms and wife by my side.
Dan Borsey with a new Yankees fan, daughter Abby
My life had come full circle for a few hours. I was able to pass along a tradition that has meant so much to me in the same fashion I experienced it. We even ended up catching a ball together during batting practice. Yankees outfielder Melky Cabrera threw a stray ball into the stands, and I caught it while holding my daughter in my arms! I inscribed the ball with all the details in blue ballpoint pen and saved the tickets. They are among my most cherished possessions and will be until I die and leave them to Abby.
Abby’s baseball (left) and her first ticket (right)
In July of this year, I had the extreme pleasure of attending DHL All-Star Fan Fest in New York City on a media pass for WorthPoint. I was very excited by this assignment. What Yankee fan wouldn’t want to bump elbows with Yankees brass with a press pass in the final season and especially during the All-Star festivities?
I was blown away when I was graced with the company of Diana and Michael Munson for an exclusive interview concerning the sale of her late Yankee great husband Thurman’s collection.
I was in complete and total awe to meet Michael Kay. I listen to his Yankee commentary on the YES Network almost daily. I was like a kid interviewing Bernie Williams, who was also a favorite player of mine growing up, and I was honored to be able to see Derek Jeter, my modern Yankee hero, so up close and personal. I am still buzzing from that experience, but the night of the last game at Yankee Stadium gave it all new meaning.
I watched the pregame ceremony live on ESPN and shed some tears. I watched the Yanks beat the Orioles 7-3. I shed a few more tears. I heard Yankee captain Derek Jeter make an off-the-cuff speech after the game and cried even more. When I thought of never seeing those hallowed grounds again, I cried more. With every word Jeter spoke, it all came to me at once. All my questions were answered.
The great Yankees captains with Derek Jeter in the middle
Jeter said, “Now the great thing about memories is you’re able to pass it along from generation to generation. Although things are going to change next year . . . there are a few things [about the] New York Yankees that never change. That’s pride, tradition, and most of all, we have the greatest fans in the world.”
I love the Yankees so much because I was exposed to the tradition. That’s why I felt the way I did in 1981 and was able to pass it along to another generation. (Thank you, Nana!) I will miss my Stadium, but I always have my memories and all that goes with them.
We have a new stadium to christen with memories. I suspect even with a new stadium, I will get that special feeling when I walk through the gate. Is it our year in 2009? Will the Yanks make me cry again?
Goodbye and farewell to a historic landmark. The Yankee Stadium legacy will live forever, at least in this fan’s heart.
When Dan Borsey isn’t attending Yankees games, he’s tooling around to antiques and collectibles shows in his other identity as Dan the Man in the WorthPoint Van.
Other stories by Dan Borsey
Thurman Munson, a Yankees legend remembered
Videos with Dan Borsey
Thurman Munson, a Yankees Legend
Dan Borsey Buys the Boss a Bat
Baseball Collectibles & Great Fun: DHL All-Star FanFest
DHL All-Star FanFest—Jeter, Yankee Stadium Loss & More
DHL All-Star FanFest—Something for Everyone
WorthPoint—the premier Web site for art, antiques and collectibles