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|| News Item: Posted 2008-10-03

Baseball Fans Journey to the home of Ruth, DiMaggio and Gehrig
Four southern California photographers made a pilgrimage to New York and Yankee Stadium.

By Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News

Photo by

From left to right: Keith Birmingham, Alex Gallardo, Juan Ocampo and Mike Zito at Yankee Stadium.
Yankee Stadium. The Bronx, New York.

If you’re a baseball fan, a real honest-to-goodness baseball fan, Yankee Stadium is where you want to be.

Fenway Park, Tiger Stadium, Old Comiskey Park, and Wrigley Field are all great in there own right, but Yankee Stadium: that’s really all you have to say.

Now don't get me wrong, I am a Dodgers fan through and through. There is no place I would rather be then Dodger Stadium. The old Dodger Stadium, after all, was where I saw my first game, in 1974. I’ve been shooting there since 1989.

But walking through Yankee Stadium with three of my best friends, thinking of all the greats that have played there: Sandy Koufax, Bill Dickey, Duke Snider, Lou Gehrig, Jackie Robinson, Babe Ruth, Gil Hodges, Ty Cobb, Jimmie Foxx and more. Thinking of those great moments like Sandy Amoros’ catch in left field to rob Yogi Berra of extra bases, Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series, and Koufax striking out 15 Yankees in the 1963 World Series.

Then there are the 1927 Yankees, Ruth’s 60-home run season, and Reggie Jackson’s three home runs against three different Dodgers’ pitchers in the sixth game of the 1977 World Series. The Dodgers and Yankees entertained thousands and thousands of baseball fans with their epic World Series battles.

For me, it’s not just about the Yankees as much as it is about baseball. That’s it. Just plain baseball. But very little is plain about the game of baseball when you’re talking about Yankee Stadium.

It was awe-inspiring to see the "short porch" where Ruth, Mickey Mantle and others sent baseballs to their deaths. There were pictures of the ‘27 and ‘28 Yankees hanging in one of the tunnels. For a moment that will be preserved in my mind for years to come, it was also about four buddies watching Derek Jeter break Lou Gehrig’s record of most career hits at Yankee Stadium.

As I walked through the stadium, I could feel the history and almost hear the echoes as the crowds that witnessed those moments cheered with approval. Taking a look through Monument Park was in experience in itself. Seats were sun-bleached. Paint was peeling. A "'26 World Champions" banner was faded. The treasures throughout the stadium added a touch of mystique to a stadium that wasn’t old, but aged.

Photo by Juan Ocampo

Photo by Juan Ocampo

From left to right: Keith Birmingham, Alex Gallardo and Mike Zito at Gallagher's Steak House in New York City.
The foul pole in right field was marked by the signatures of fans (one of which is my own) who watched history unfold, or simply came to see the outfield grass where Ruth and DiMaggio once roamed. We looked at the upper reaches of the stadium, searching for the bruise that was left by Mantle’s blast off the facade in 1956. This was the setting for four friends, who share a common bond for the love of baseball, were able to look back in time. Unless you played the game and developed a deep passion for it, you wouldn't understand why it meant so much.

A modern version of Yankee Stadium will soon be home to the Bronx Bombers. New? Yes. Improved? It’ll have a long way to go. I am sure the new stadium will be beautiful with the suites, martini bars, restaurants, and stacks of souvenirs for sale. None of it will match the point in time when you and your dad would grab the transistor radio, a two-bagger of peanuts and hot dog and just watch a ball game. That was the time when the only distraction was the seventh-inning stretch. The sound of Phil Rizzuto, or Vin Scully resonated through the stadium as if 20,000 other radios were competing to get the words out first.

It was easy to see how this moment in time was affecting myself and my friends. Juan Ocampo ran around the entire stadium with a smile that lasted all nine innings. Mike Zito was giddy with excitement after getting his hands on a commemorative baseball. They were just two former ball players thinking, not what might have been, but what actually was. It didn't matter that the Yankees lost the game that day, or that it was the opponent was the White Sox instead of the hated Red Sox.

It was baseball.

It was four glorious days in one of the great cities of the world.

It was a stadium full of history, surrounded by a city with a life of its own. A stop at the Carnegie Deli, a trip to the Statue of Liberty, a time to reflect at the 9-11 Memorial and the heart of capitalism on Wall Street were just the finishing touches. It didn’t matter that we had to walk 30 blocks a day. We didn’t notice that our feet were sore. We ate great food, had a few drinks, and laughed until our sides hurt. The memories we created on that trip were due to our desire to visit baseball's past. Though Yankee Stadium now sits in darkness, it continues to create memories for those of us fortunate enough to have walked through its turnstiles.

(Keith Birmingham is a staff photographer with Pasadena Star-News)

Related Links:
Keith's member page
Mike's member page
Alex's member page

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