09/22/08 1:20 AM ET
Orioles fall in Yankee Stadium finale
Players, coaches in visiting dugout recognize place in history
By Spencer Fordin / MLB.com
The Orioles and Yankees sat through a ceremony celebrating the life of Yankee Stadium on Sunday night, and then both teams went to work on crafting a memorable finale. There was no pennant race and no late rally involved in the venerable stadium's final game, and the Yankees went on to earn a 7-3 win long on intrigue and short on drama.
"It was kind of like the seventh game of the World Series, the Super Bowl, Mardi Gras -- a little bit of everything," said Baltimore manager Dave Trembley. "It's about the great players they've had here, and the fans. The fans are all behind this team. I think that was pretty self-evident with a lot of these guys of recent times who came back. They love their players here."
The day's events started seven hours before gametime, as the Yankees opened their stadium to visitors around four hours ahead of schedule. Fans were allowed to visit Monument Park and to walk on the field for perhaps the first time in their lives, and the game didn't begin until after an elaborate ceremony that paid homage to the building's rich history.
"We saw young kids and old people," said Trembley. "Everybody had to be understanding the magnitude of what was going on today. I think everybody knew the focus of the baseball world was here today. That was pretty cut-and-dry."
That ceremony, which lasted an hour and featured baseball immortals Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra and many others, was enough to compel the Orioles to behave like fans themselves. The players lined up along the visitors' dugout to watch the proceedings, caught up in the moment as much as anybody in the capacity crowd surrounding them.
"It was pretty neat," said first baseman and former Red Sox Kevin Millar, who became perhaps the final player to be booed in Yankee Stadium. "It was an honor to be a part of -- it really is. The Yankees don't make the playoffs for [the first time in] 13 [or] 15 years and it becomes the last game at Yankee Stadium. It was an honor to be out there. There were a lot of great players, a lot of old-timers. They did a lot of work here. As a baseball fan, a tremendous, tremendous honor."
"As a player, you want to get the game started," said designated hitter Aubrey Huff. "Obviously, you knew it was going to be a big production today, with all the history this place has, you knew it was going to be a pretty long one."
And then, with nothing left to do but play baseball, the Orioles (67-86) took an early lead. Center fielder Adam Jones tripled in the second inning and scored on a groundout, and Brian Roberts reached on an error and scored on a single in the third. Baltimore starter Chris Waters couldn't make it stand up, though, and the Yankees began to take control.
New York (85-71) got two straight singles to open up the bottom of the third, and center fielder Johnny Damon gave them their first lead with a three-run home run to right field. Catcher Jose Molina supported the cause with a two-run homer over the left-field fence in the fourth, and Waters (3-4) watched as his teammates struggled to respond.
"I actually wanted to walk with it off the field," said Waters, speaking of a souvenir ball he took as he left the mound. "But I had to take it. It's history. Now I have time to sit back and think about it. Before, I just wanted to think about the hitters."
"I thought he did fine," Trembley said. "I thought he was very similar to what I saw the last time he pitched. For the most part, he was down. But when he got behind, you could see after the second inning what they did. They started working the count, getting deep in the count. They got his pitch count up. That's what the Yankees do.
"And if you don't get outs early in the count, that's what happens. That's what they do. They're very good at it."
Veteran Andy Pettitte started for the Yankees and settled down as the game progressed. The southpaw gave up a third run in the fourth inning, allowing the Orioles to briefly tie the game. Pettitte (14-14) was pulled in the sixth inning and left to a rousing ovation from the home crowd, an eruption that didn't subside until he came out for a curtain call.
Baltimore shortstop Brandon Fahey misplayed two balls in the seventh inning that led to New York's final two runs, and the endgame became a subtle wait to see who would make the final milestones. New York's Derek Jeter was the final Yankee to bat in the stadium, and closer Mariano Rivera retired Roberts for the final out in the vaunted venue.
"I remember the first time I walked in here," said Roberts, a two-time All-Star. "Wow, it just blows your mind to think of all the guys who ever played here. Usually, you're pretty young in your career at the time and it's hard to fathom that you're actually playing a game at Yankee Stadium. I have memories. I got hurt here pretty badly.
"Now, I have tonight. Those will probably be my three biggest memories: first game, injury, last game."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.