Saturday, September 27, 2008

Saying Goodbye to Yankee Stadium

For many die-hard Yankee fans, saying goodbye to Yankee Stadium this past Sunday was special, but at the same time it was very sad. Why you say, because there will be no postseason baseball as the Yankees will miss the playoffs for the first time in the last 14 years and all the great memories that came with it.

Unlike a lot of sports stadiums and arenas, Yankee Stadium is a place that stands by itself.

This was the place that not only has a team that has won 26 World Series titles, but it is also where some of the greatest sports spectacles took place.

In 1958, the New York Football Giants, who played in Yankee Stadium from 1956-1973, played in what was called, “The Greatest Game Ever Played” when they faced the Baltimore Colts for the NFL Championship on Dec. 22, 1958. The Giants unfortunately lost the game in overtime when fullback Alan Ameche scored a 1-yard touchdown after 8 minutes and 15 seconds to give the Colts a 23-17 win and the NFL title. What made this game special is that it help launch the popularity of the NFL and brought into the spotlight individuals like Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas, Giants running back Frank Gifford, Giants assistant coaches Tom Landry and Vince Lombardi, Giants owner Tim Mara and Vice President and Secretary Wellington Mara who brought the NFL into the spotlight who would later on become synonymous with the game and be etched in its history forever in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.   

Along with football in its early days, “The Stadium” was also the host three notable boxing matches. It was here where Benny Leonard retained his heavyweight title defeating Lou Tendler in a 15-round decision on July 24, 1923. Jack Dempsey knocked out Jack Sharkey in the first $1 million non-title fight on July 7, 1927. The boxing match though that is most remembered at Yankee Stadium was between the bought between Joe Louis and Germany’s Max Schmeling on June 22, 1938. The fight took place as the world was on the verge of World War II. Adolf Hitler called Schmeling before his fight and urged him to defeat Louis for the Nazi Party. Louis knocked out Schmeling less than a minute into the fight and won the World Heavyweight Championship of the World. He also in the process sent a message that went beyond the walls of the Bronx Bombers ballpark.

This was also a place of some other significant moments in American history took place. This was the place where Nelson Mandela appeared four months after his 27-year stint in prison on Robben Island off the coast of Cape Town bay in South Africa. In his speech to more than 50,000 people, he encouraged them to unite in peace.

Yankee stadium was also the place that hosted the Papal Visits. The first took place when Pope Paul VI visited on Oct. 4, 1965. Pope john Paul II made his visit to the stadium on Oct. 2, 1979. The most recent visit came on Apr. 20, 2008 when Pope Benedict XVI visited New York and held his service at Yankee Stadium.

“The Stadium” is also the place where some of the greatest music artist of our era entertained crowds with the sounds that have made them the best at what they do. Billy Joel had his concert on June 22, 1990. The group U2 rocked their sounds for the New York faithful on August 8, 1992. English rock band Pink Floyd performed at Yankee stadium on June 10, 1994. The most memorable performance took place on April 25, 1999 when Rock and Roll musician Paul Simon, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame sung his most popular song in centerfield on the day when Joe DiMaggio’s Monument dedication.

Yankee Stadium with all those great achievements in professional athletics, music and human kind will always be remembered for the baseball greatness that fans got a chance witness.

It is almost fitting that the first hit in this monumental ballpark happened was by Red Sox first baseman George Burns. The first home run though was by Babe Ruth. The Yanks beat their arch rivals on that day of Apr. 18, 1923 by the score of 4-1.

From that day forward, the Bronx bombers gave New York fans moments to cherish. From nine clinching World Series titles on their field; 10 regular-season no-hitters performed by the likes of Monte Pearson, Jim Abbott, Dwight Gooden, David Wells and David Cone; 10 walk-off postseason home runs, with former Yankee greats Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter and Aaron Boone to name a few.

To really understand the true meaning of what Yankee Stadium has meant to New York, just go back to Sept. 11, 2001 when our nation changed forever. It was “The Stadium” that played a major part in bringing some normalcy back to many New Yorkers. On Sept. 23, 2001, Yankee Stadium was where a memorial service was held for those who were victim of the terrorist attacks.

Two months later, the Yankees made it to the World Series and in Game 3 President George W. Bush threw out the ceremonial first pitch to back up catcher Todd Greene.

What followed were three consecutive wins by the Yankees in dramatic fashion. in Former third baseman Scott Brosius broke a 6th inning tie with an RBI single that gave the Yanks a 3-2 victory and cut the D-Backs lead in the series 2-1.

The heroics of Game 4 belonged to first baseman Tino Martinez who hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning to tie the score 3-3. Then Derek Jeter added another page to his resume of greatness with a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 10th inning that gave the Yankees a 4-3 victory and tied the series at two. Jeter’s game clinching dinger made him the first player in Major League Baseball history to hit a homer in November and earned him the nickname “Mr. November.”

The come from behind heroics by the Yankees continued in Game 5 when catcher Jorge Posada hit a double to begin things in the bottom of the ninth. Brosius who was the hero in Game 3 helped the Yanks draw even with a two-out blast over the left field wall that tied the contest 2-2.  Former Yankee outfielder Alfonso Soriano won it for the Yankees with a base hit that scored Chuck Knoblauch in the bottom of the 12th inning and the Yankees won 3-2 and were ahead in the series 3-2.

Unfortunately those great come from behind victories went for naught as the Diamondbacks won both Game 6 (15-2) and Game 7 (3-2) back in Arizona and would win their first World Series in franchise history. While the dream at the end was denied for the Yankees, they still gave the faithful of New York and those who watched across North America something to be very proud of, especially those that watched at the stadium.

Yankee stadium became more than just a place that housed 26 World Series titles. It stemmed beyond the record of 4,132-2,430. This stadium was a place that allowed fans to see and appreciate greatness from the likes of Reggie Jackson, Henry Louis Gehrig and many of the former and current Yanks. It was the home of Monument Park where you can see the 24 players, managers, broadcasters and events that made “The Stadium,” what is. This was home of an organization that while it had great players and managers, it always came back to the two most important things, the team and the fans.

While there will be no more baseball in the old Yankee Stadium, there will always be the memories that it bought to so many of us and we can only hope that another 85 years of greatness lie ahead at the new Yankee Stadium.

Friday, September 5, 2008

It’s Back To School: A New Year; New Opportunity, but the Same Goal

This past week was the beginning of another year that brings both joy, opportunity, challenges and another step in the process of growth, education and maturity for children. It is that time of year where children can make strides in their development as a person. It is that time to go back to school. It is also the chance for teachers, administrators and those that are involved with the school, whether it is with SLCD or any other school to take another step forward in making their place of learning better than it ever was before.

This is the time of the year where all of those involved in school that brings a great amount of joy. For kids, they get a chance to see their friends that they may have not seen all summer. They get a chance when they are not improving their minds through school work to interact and learn more about each other. Above all else they take that next step in the process of their friendship.

When you move up a grade with your friends, you go another step in the process of maturity. You conversations may be different. One day you may be talking about what you saw on television last night. The next day, there might be a discussion on what you think is cool about other classmates. The conversation may also include what you did over the summer and the cool things that you learned, a particular place that you visited or a new friendship that you may have established with someone in your neighborhood park, summer camp or on your street.

For teachers and administrators, they also get joy out of the beginning of a new school year. Teachers have a new group of students that they have a chance to make better through education in subjects like mathematics, spelling, reading and writing. Students more than anything get to learn from that leader of education what they feel is important that they walk out of that classroom with at the end of the year besides what they learn from a textbook or a lesson on the blackboard. In each grade, especially in the early years of school, you learn from your teacher some of the most important lessons of life.

For me, especially in my elementary school years, I learned from each teacher I had the importance of focus. You see in order to perform at your maximum potential, you have to bring a high level of concentration where you will not be distracted and unable to grasp the message your teacher is trying to get across to you. Along with that, I learned that the classroom setting is like a family.

While you may only be around each other for a maximum of 10 months, those ten months are of great value. You learn beyond the subject matter how to interact with one another and how important it is for you individual to improve everyday, but how important it is for the class in general to improve as well.

A new school year along with the joy and excitement it brings, it is also accompanied by some challenges. For students, one particular challenge a new year brings is new classmates in school.

One of the hardest things, especially for today’s students to deal with is establishing friendships with new students. That person does not know you and you may not know them. The things that you may like and feel about life may be different from that other individual. That person may enjoy standing out and making their presence felt in the classroom by raising their hand first to answer a question.

To overcome this challenge, it comes down to you as a classmate or a student in the school, just extending your hand and just saying hello as a start. Ask that person who they are? What makes them happy or sad? What do they find fun about life? What makes the school they are a part of special? In order to break that barrier of not knowing someone, you have to take the initiative.

Maybe the greatest challenge that each student faces in the beginning of the school year is evolving. When you move a grade up, you have to establish a certain level of maturity that will allow you to become better as a person. As you get older in your educational life, you take on more things. For example when you were in maybe kindergarten, most of your day may consist of story time and playing with block and games. When you enter your primary years, that being 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade, you have to deal with actual school work like math, spelling, reading and much more. You also get tested in those areas where you get graded. Probably the biggest thing that changes when you move up a grade level is your expectations.

Even as a young kid in school, I always had high expectations for myself. I felt that whenever, I came to school, I had to perform. Just doing my best did not cut it for me. Being involved in a lesson from answering questions to asking some was my way of saying that I am here in the class both physically and emotionally. It show above all else that you are not content of just getting by.

Like students, teachers also face challenges in the beginning of the new school year. They have to establish lessons plans for each day from what they will teach in their subject matter to organizing activities to bring both fun and education to the children. They also have to learn each student’s name. Establish classroom rules and regulations. Tell the students who he or she is and the standards that he or she expects each student to live up to.

For each teacher and student, the new school year brings an energy, excitement, joy and devotion that can empower each person involved in that school to new heights of greatness. It also brings challenges that test a student and teacher’s will and fortitude to push through the tough days and embrace those days enlightenment.

While each year brings along something different, the goal is to take another step forward in achieving success into building a foundation for a better future.