I went to at least 75 games during the dreaded 80s. This is when I started to understand, appreciate and grow to love not just the game, but the Yankees. In the early-to-mid 80s my love for this team knew no bounds. I had thousands of baseball cards and kept statistics on every piece of paper within reach. My early favorites were journeymen such as Toby Harrah, Mike Pagliarulo, Roy Smalley, Shane Rawley and Butch Wynegar. And then came Don Mattingly. Despite this being an absolutely horrific decade for the greatest team in sports history, winning and losing didn't particularly matter to me. I was learning the game and I found its complexities, intelligence and pace to be my addiction.
In the 90s everything changed. I recall the strike season of 1994 and the Yankees' unreal season being erased. In 1995, the Yankees finally made the playoffs again, but my hopes were dashed in the form of Ken Griffey Jr. rounding those bases. In 1996, I sat beside the left field foul pole the night the Yankees won the World Series. Almost everyone around me was in tears. I never wanted to leave the stadium, and it wasn't until close to two hours after the game that we actually did.
My greatest moment at Yankee Stadium was Tino Martinez's ninth-inning home run against the Diamondbacks in Game 4 of the 2001 World Series. With two outs, the Yanks down by two and facing a 3-1 series deficit, Martinez hit a shot and I have never, and will never, see a Stadium react the way those 55,000-plus did that night.
There have been so many other memories: Tom Seaver's 300th, David Wells' perfect game and many Old-Timers Games. I often feel as if I grew up in Yankee Stadium. I saw the good and bad of my father inside those walls. I saw a lot of bad on the drives home. But despite that all, every single time I shuttle through those turnstiles, my stomach seizes up a bit. Maybe it's the mixed emotions of my love for the game and the family ups-and-downs that are somehow tied to that park. But just like a tumultuous relationship, in the end, I love the place. And with only half a season remaining, I'm just not ready to let go.