So, you may have heard, they just finished playing the last game ever at Yankee Stadium — once the home to the greatest organization in sports, a symbol of American excellence. Back then, there was nothing preening about calling it The House That Ruth Built, because baseball was the sport that Ruth built into national obsession, and Ruth was a True Yankee back when that phrase might have really meant something — back when it didn't induce nausea, back when it wasn't coming out of the mouth of some disgusting, loathsome, self-entitled pig of a pathetic excuse for a sports fan.
It's painful to acknowledge a hated enemy, but in fact, it truly was an achievement for the Indians to take just two pennants away from those Yankees in 1948 and 1954, considering the Yankees won all ten of the other AL pennants from 1947 to 1959 — even the vanquished 1948 and 1954 Yankees went 103-51 and 94-60, respectively. As the sixties wore on, the Yankees continued their dominance while the Indians descended into the beginnings of an epic 35-year slump, and in the decades since, the Yankees have become something awful: the most corrupt, cowardly, and even un-American force in sports. They are now, in fact, the antithesis of legitimate, competitive sports.
Free agency changed the game, and by the end of 1976, George Steinbrenner had bought his first superstar, Reggie Jackson, and his first pennant, the first of three straight. The owner's monomania, his confusion of himself for a Baseball Man, doomed the team to mediocrity for a dozen years after that, but once he was banished for a few years, pros like Gene Michael and Buck Showalter stepped in and laid the foundation again for a great club, developing a core of gifted players like Rivera, Jeter and Williams, and surrounding them with gritty supporting cast of veterans.
But it wasn't enough for their braying pig of an owner, a man who knew almost as little about baseball as the average seven-year-old, and cared quite a bit less about the integrity of the game. In 1998, when one of the all-time great clubs won 111 games and eventually a World Series, the Yankees had the largest payroll at $67 million, but that was only ten percent higher than the next club on the list, the Indians. In the aftermath of that historic season, the Yankees pushed payroll up 30 percent to $86 million. Then $92 million, then $112 million, then $126 million, then $152 million, then $184 million, then $208 million.
In just seven years, the Yankees took the highest payroll in the sport and tripled it, shattering any illusions of a level playing field and turning the sport into a competitive joke. Once a hated but worthy adversary, the Yankees were transformed from a symbol of American excellence to a symbol of American arrogance, of wretched excess, of unfair advantage, of winning by cheating rather than competing, of performance enhancing drugs and cosmetic surgery, of buying it rather than competing to win. On the field, they were a club that started every inning on third base, and in the stands, their fans thought they'd hit a triple. They attracted fewer fans who were in love with the sport, and more freakishly obsessive front-runners who oozed entitlement like a toxic pus. The overspending Yankees begot the overspending Red Sox, and the putrid Yankees fans begot the incomprehensibly obnoxious Red Sox Nation. You could spend the rest of your life smacking these people, really hard, and it wouldn't be nearly enough.
The House That Ruth Built became The Cesspool Of Entitlement, and it doesn't really matter that they're tearing it down. Soon the building will be gone, but the awful stench is just moving across the street.
And now, the highlight reel — which starts with the end of an All-Star Game, and ends with the start of one.
July 11, 1939 — Bob Feller was just 20 years old when he was named to the AL squad in 1939 for the first All-Star Game in Yankee Stadium, but he was already 14-3 on the year, and he had led the league in strikeouts the year before. The AL led 3-1 when pitcher Tommy Bridges allowed the NL to load the bases with one out in the top of the sixth. Feller was brought in to face Arky Vaughn — a guy who, although almost totally unknown to today's fans, is probably one of the best 30 or so guys ever to play the game — and Feller got him to ground into an inning-ending double-play. Feller stayed in to pitch the game's final three frames, allowing just one walk and one single, striking out Johnny Mize and Stan Hack to close out one of the all-time great All-Star performances.
April 30, 1946 — Feller missed all of the 1942, 1943 and 1944 seasons after enlisting in the Navy, and he didn't return until late August, 1945. Even after one-hitting the Tigers to end the 1945 season, many still speculated that Feller's fastball didn't have the same zip that it had before the war. In Yankee Stadium, however, Feller silences any doubts by tossing his second career no-hitter — the first one ever against the Yankees, and in his own estimation, his best. He went on that season to set career highs in strikeouts (348), innings (371), starts (42), complete games (36) and shutouts (10) — leading the league in each, of course.
(Okay, I don't have all night to write this, so I'm going to skip ahead 50 years ... feel free to fill in your own highlights.)
August 10, 1995 — In the first game of a twin bill, the Yankees lead the Indians 9-5 going into the 9th inning. Manny and Sorrento kick off the inning with line drive singles, at which point the Yankees pull setup man Bob Wickman in favor of closer John Wetteland. Alomar doubles in Manny, Lofton triples in Sorrento and Alomar — the score is now 9-8, and Vizquel pops up for the first out. Baerga singles in Lofton to tie the score, Belle doubles to move Baerga up to third, prompting a free pass for Eddie Murray. Thome sends a deep liner to RF to sacrifice in Baerga for the go-ahead run. Mesa strikes out Bernie Williams to start the 9th and gets Mattingly to ground into a double-play to end it — Indians win, 10-9. In the night game, the Indians peck away to turn a 2-1 Yankee lead into a 5-2 victory — Winfield doubles, Herb Perry doubles in Winfield, Tony Peña singles in Perry — this was just not the Yankees' day. Mesa strikes out Wiliams (again) and Wade Boggs to end the game and notch his 31st consecutive save of the season. At the end of the day, the Indians are 65-30.
October 2, 1997 — ALDS Game Two. Staked to a three-run lead in the first inning, Andy "Big Game" Pettitte coughs up seven runs to the Tribe in the fifth and sixth. Justice, Alomar and Thome get things going with consecutive RBI singles for the first three runs, then Tony Fernandez punches a two-run double. An inning later, Matt Williams finishes Pettitte off with a two-run homer. The Indians win Game Two to even the series and (of course) go on to win it in Cleveland in five.
September 15, 2000 — There's nothing really historic about this game except that I was there with my brothers and father. Burba pitched eight shutout innings while the Indians offense brutalized David Cone and two long relievers for 15 hits and 11 runs, capped off by a grand slam by David Segui off Jason Grimsley. At that point, we heard Bob Shepherd utter these words over the PA — "Number 56, Ted, Lilly. Lilly." — words which in my mind will always be synonymous with, "The Yankees are losing by eleven runs."
August 31, 2004 — In front of a sellout Yankees Stadium crowd, the Indians serve up the worst defeat in the history of the Yankees franchise, led by Vizquel's six hits, tying an AL record, and home runs from new guys Victor, Coco and Jody. In the bottom half, the Yankees manage only five baserunners, three singles and two doubles, against their former farmhand Jake Westbrook, and they go meekly in the final two frames, getting only a walk off Jeremy Guthrie in his second big-league appearance. Note the totally gratuitous running up of the score in the 9th — and by "gratuitous," I really mean "awesome and totally appropriate." Perhaps not coincidentally, the Yankees went on to commit the worst choke-job in the history of sports just seven weeks later.
October 8, 2007 — ALDS Game Four. In the final postseason game in Yankees Stadium, the Indians do all the celebrating while a packed house of Yankees fans can only watch in stunned silence. Grady opens the game with a home run, and Yankees ace Chien-Ming Wang goes on to allow six more baserunners while retiring only two batters. He's removed with the bases loaded and no outs in the second inning, and by the time Mussina can get out of Wang's jam, the Tribe is up 4-0. The Yankees, meanwhile, can't seem to solve Indians non-ace Paul Byrd, who allows just one run in the first five innings on a seeing-eye grounder through the 5.5 hole.
The Yankees become first-round losers for the fourth straight year, and they end the Yankee Stadium era having lost seven of their last eight postseason series. They subsequently fire their immensely successful and well respected manager Joe Torre, for no real reason other than that the Yankees have become an organization of douchebags, by doucehbags, and for douchebags. Relive the magic:
- Game Thread
- Game Thread Part 2
- Part 3 and Postgame
- "... In their house. With Paul Byrd. With Joe Borowski. With Rudy Giuliani in his precious little VIP box. With Rocket pouting ..." And then he finishes it with a gross insult that he got from mauichuck. A special moment.
- ALDS Roundup
May 6, 2008 — It's May Baseball. Dave Dellucci introduces Justin Chamberlain to the Blown Save by way of a three-run homer. This is the only time Chamberlain has ever allowed more than one run in a relief appearance — his career ERA as a reliever is 4.66 against the Indians, 0.88 against every other team.
July 15, 2008 — Already a forbidding Cy Young favorite with a 12-2 record and league-leading 2.31 ERA, Cliff Lee gets the call to start the last All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium. Lee had pitched seven scoreless innings in Yankee Stadium for his sixth win two months earlier. On this night, he starts the game with two more scoreless frames, yielding only a single while striking out three NL starters and inducing weak grounders the two most recent MVP's. The AL goes on to win 4-3.