Yankee Stadium's gone. Billy Martin's dead, and now, too, is George Steinbrenner, the central figure in the tumultuous George-Billy-Reggie three-ring baseball spectacle of the late '70s.It's said nothing is ever quite as appealing as it is seen through the eyes of a 12-year-old, and my Yankee memories are not of Jeter, Rivera or even David Cone's no-hitter, but of the Bronx Zoo-era New York teams. Funny, but my yearning to visit the new, billion-dollar Yankee Stadium pales compared to the urge I felt to see the old Stadium one last time two years ago.
You see, it was in that building where I watched games as a youngster the year I forget, but I once recall seeing Ron Guidry matching up against the Kansas City Royals' Paul Splittorff and where my idols Jackson and Thurman Munson and Graig Nettles toiled.
So while the new ball park, apparently, is the Buckingham Palace of baseball stadiums, it is not where Mickey Rivers and Bucky Dent stole bases and gobbled up grounders.
Not to mention where Babe, Gehrig, Joe D and The Mick once roamed.
Steinbrenner is gone now, and while he may be remembered as perhaps the greatest of sports owners
certainly the most prominent
he falls far short of Hall of Famecalibre character.
Truth is, most of our heroes whiffed on the decency level. The Babe's indiscretions are legendary. Mantle blew off fans routinely. Martin was, well, Martin. Sometimes drunk, always willing to scrap with someone.
Even the elegant DiMaggio revealed something of himself years later when he'd insist on being introduced as the greatest living Yankee.
But we didn't care because we were kids. And kids only care about a ball player's batting average.
In New York in 2008, I met my childhood hero, Jackson. The timing was perfect, in the tunnel leading from the Yankees' clubhouse to the dugout, to ask to have him pose for a picture (a definite no-no if you're a reporter).
There are very, very few athletes I'd wish to have a photo taken with. Jackson being one. Guy Lafleur the other.
Both heroes to a 12-year-old.
Jackson couldn't stop for a photo. Had to meet people upstairs. But why not come with me, he said. True story.
Together we walked through the bowels of the old Stadium, stopping at one point. I told Jackson it was a thrill to meet him, if only because it reminded me of my youth, of baseball cards, The Sporting News and This Week in Baseball.
Jeter, Rodriguez and Posada mean nothing to me. Wouldn't care if they played in my backyard. Meeting Mr. October and Goose Gossage? Different story.
Jackson understood my reasoning. At the all-star game a month before in New York, Jackson stood between Henry Aaron and Willie Mays, two black superstars and heroes to a young, half-black, half-Latino Reggie Jackson.
Jackson said he had goosebumps recounting the story.
Message in all this?
There isn't one, really, other than baseball and hockey will never be quite as good as it was when Gary Carter caught for the Expos, Tiger Stadium was home to Detroit's baseball team and George Brett flirted with .400.
Back when we were kids.
Robin Short is The Telegram Sports Editor. He can be reached by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org