Monday, September 22, 2008

Goodbye, Yankee Stadium...Hello Autumn

I'm going to start this post with a quote from one of my favorite songs - Don Henley's "Boys of Summer."

Nobody on the road
Nobody on the beach
I feel it in the air
The summer’s out of reach*

(*I admit that the first time I heard this song was the Ataris version of it, which came out in 2003. I remember this because it first reminded me of the 2003 Red Sox a.k.a. the Cowboy Up Sox.)

Yes, summer has expired. I made it to the Narragansett Town Beach only thrice, undertook six credits of summer classes, took many a trip to Fox Point to watch the Guatemalan and Mexican soccer leagues, and finally saw the Revolution beat Houston with hardware on the line. It was a busy season indeed.

While I was buried in coursework, the Revs kicked summer off with a 2-1 loss at Real Salt Lake on June 21st, and finished up with a 1-1 draw to Colorado on Saturday. In between, they got tired. Their defense of the U.S. Open Cup Championship evaporated when they lost 3-1 to D.C. United, this year's eventual champs. They were throttled by Joe Public FC 6-1 on aggregate in CONCACAF Champions League.

It was a tough three months, jam-packed with fixtures for the Revs. Kenny Mansally, Kheli Dube, Matt Reis, Taylor Twellman and Steve Ralston got hurt. Doug Warren made his first start in three years. Shalrie Joseph started a blog.

It's hard to imagine any other MLS club more thrilled than the Revs that summer is finally over.


I watched the Final Game at Yankee Stadium last night with a surprising deal of sadness. As a Red Sox fan, I never thought I'd care that Yankee Stadium, the place where many of my baseball dreams wasted away, would soon be taken behind the barn and shot. But in recent years, I experienced a growing appreciation for the Stadium, especially once I learned that soccer was played there going back to the 1930s.

Anywho, this week's issue of Sports Illustrated featured a fantastic piece on Yankee Stadium by Tom Verducci, who eloquently opened it with the following:

I am dying.

It's O.K. You need not feel sorry for me. I have lived a full life. I was born in 1923, the same year as Maria Callas, Charlton Heston, Roy Lichtenstein and Norman Mailer. All are gone now. They did well in the time with which they were graced to strut about the stage. I'd like to think I have done likewise.

Besides, I really haven't been myself since 1973, when they cut me clean open and for two years rearranged most of my vital organs (even the one that nimble-fingered Eddie Layton used to play), removed some of them and put me back together in such a way that I looked nothing like I did before. Picture Jocelyn Wildenstein at 85 and you get the idea.

See, we're just like you, only without the bother of the respiratory and circulatory apparatus. We buildings have a life span too. Time is the undefeated antagonist that takes on all comers. We age and crack and wrinkle and, yes, ultimately die.*

(*Wow. That is some writing.)

Many, many, MANY people forget that Yankee Stadium hosted soccer back in the day. In the 1931, the "other" New York Yankees (American Soccer League) hosted the Glasgow Celtics, and lost 4-1. Pele and Eusebio squared off when Santos and Benfica, respectively, played to a 3-3 draw on September 1, 1968. The New York Cosmos, perhaps the most recognizable American soccer club ever, played the final soccer game at Yankee Stadium on August 10, 1976 against the Miami Toros. It was one for the ages: Giorgio Chinaglia scored five goals - yes, five - and Pele added a pair, including one of the rare bicycle kick variety en route to the Cosmos 8-2 goal-scoring extravaganza.

In August, I traveled to the Stadium so that I could get a first-hand glimpse of The House that Ruth built. It was breathtaking. While I easily imagined the Babe, Joltin' Joe, Yogi, and The Ironman all running along the basepaths, I also stepped back to ascertain the configuration of the soccer pitch.

Ah, there it was.

I could see the Black Pearl, dribbling the ball somewhere in the outfield grass, and cracking a shot from distance. I could imagine Shep Messing, with his wild mane, sprawling to make a save. I could see people who loved soccer thrilled to see it at the same place their baseball and football heroes played.

This was all before my time - but it must have been an exciting time. Pele attracted the crowds like no other soccer player had in American history. People - alot of people - were excited about the sport for the first time when the Cosmos played in Yankee Stadium. Sure, the club wasn't there for long. They would move on to the Meadowlands in 1977 to accomodate the insanely large 70,000+ capacity crowds.

Soccer at Yankee Stadium must have been something extraordinary. The World's Game being played in what many dub "the greatest sports venue in the western hemisphere."

What a sight. I only wish I could have seen it.

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