|Jason Bay, a newcomer to Yankee Stadium, was an immediate hit with a run-scoring single in the third inning last night. (Ray Stubblebine/Reuters)|
On this stage, the plays were the thing
NEW YORK - The Red Sox last night beat the moribund Yankees in their terminal ballpark, 7-3.
These are sorry times here in Yankee Stadium. It feels like the final days of the Nixon White House. Fifteen games remain at the iconic stadium, and it looks as though the curtain will drop for good Sept. 21 when the Yankees play host to the awful Baltimore Orioles.
No soup for you this year, New York. No October baseball. No famous final scene for the most celebrated sports theater in North America.
No more Red Sox, either. The Sox and Yanks play here tonight and tomorrow afternoon, and there's an outside chance they will meet again in the American League Championship Series, but right now that seems about as likely as Clark Rockefeller passing a polygraph. So this is it for the Boston Red Sox in the House That Ruth Built.
And that matters. Not because of Monument Park, the glorious ancient facade, or the tinhorn sound system. That's not why we care about the final innings of the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. We care because of all the stuff that happened when the Sox played here.
This is where John Philip Sousa led the pregame procession on April 18, 1923, moments before Babe Ruth hit the stadium's first home run in New York's 4-1 victory. It's where Boston slugger Jimmie Foxx hit a towering home run off Lefty Gomez in 1937.
This is where Theodore Samuel Williams played in his first big league game, striking out in his first two at-bats against Red Ruffing. In his third at-bat, Williams doubled off the wall in right-center. Teddy Ballgame would have ended his career in Yankee Stadium if he had played the final games of the 1960 season, but he did not accompany the Sox to New York after homering in his last time up at Fenway.
This is where Rosalie DiMaggio, mother of Joe and Dominic, was given a car and buckets of ice cream before the pennant-deciding, two-game series at the end of the 1949 season. Naturally, the Yanks won both games. Jerry Coleman hit a shallow three-run double out of the reach of Al Zarilla to beat the Red Sox in the finale. A lot of Sox fans thought Zarilla was playing too deep.
This is where Tracy Stallard surrendered Roger Maris's 61st home run at the end of the 1961 season.
This is where Gene Conley had too many beers after an early hook, then bolted the team bus with Pumpsie Green and wound up buying a plane ticket to Tel Aviv (alas, Conley did not have a passport on his person and was grounded by authorities).
This is where Carl Yastrzemski snared Tom Tresh's deep liner to left in the ninth inning of Billy Rohr's near no-hitter at the beginning of the magical 1967 season. Ken Coleman immortalized the moment with his call of a "tre-MEN-dous" catch. John F. Kennedy Jr. watched with his mom in box seats and stuck around for autographs after the game.
This is where the Sox and Yankees famously brawled later that summer when Thad Tillotson and Jim Lonborg got into a beanball war. Rico Petrocelli's brother, a New York cop, found himself on the field trying to restore order.
This is where Lou Piniella crashed into Carlton Fisk, triggering a brawl that helped derail the Sox' pennant defense in 1976. Bill Lee wound up with a separated shoulder and ripped into Billy Martin, making references to "neo-Nazis" and "Yankee brownshirts."
This is where Dave Righetti whiffed Wade Boggs to finish a Fourth of July no-hitter in 1983.
This is where a fan fell out of the upper deck during a weeknight game in the late 1980s. The fan landed on the screen behind home plate, and Sox players worried about the safety of their wives who were seated below.
This is where the Sox had a win taken away from them because a fan ran on the field, nullifying a fly out that would have ended the game.
This is where Jim Rice went into the stands to retrieve his cap after a fan swiped it while Rice was trying to make a play down the left-field line. It's where Ed Romero tossed Gatorade in the dugout and announced he wanted to be traded when Joe Morgan sent Rich Gedman up to hit for him.
This is where Pedro Martinez pitched the greatest game these eyes have seen. On Sept. 10, 1999, Pedro beat the world champion Yankees, 3-1, allowing one hit and fanning 17. He struck out 12 of the final 15 batters, including five straight at the finish. His final pitch was a 96-mile-per-hour fastball past Chuck Knoblauch. Andy Pettitte was the losing pitcher. Just like last night.
This is where the Sox lost a couple of one-run games in the 1999 playoffs.
This is where the Yankees inflicted one of the three worst losses in Sox history - Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. By any measurement, the Aaron Boone Game ranks somewhere on the dubious medal platform with the Bucky Dent Game and the Bill Buckner Game.
This is where Nomar sat in the dugout while Jeter performed a box-seat face plant in a successful quest for a pop fly. That was in 2004 when the winds of change blew the Curse away and altered everything about the Red Sox-Yankee dynamic.
This is where Curt Schilling bled into his white sanitary hose, forever changing the identity of the Red Sox. It's where Johnny Damon hit a grand slam in a Game 7 rout that completed the greatest comeback in baseball history.
Said Terry Francona, "What makes this place so special is not the building - it's what happened here."
The Sox and Yankees no doubt will battle for another 100 years and there will be new moments in the new park across the street. But it'll never be Yankee Stadium.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.