Salutations to Smackcaster for remembering that Billy Crystal’s first-person (first-building?) guest NY TImes editorial in-the-voice of Yankee Stadium was far inferior to a similar concept executed last Autumn by Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci. That Crystal (above) might not have seen Verducci’s earlier effort is somewhat believable — after all, who reads Sports Illustrated anymore? That Crystal’s editors at the Times couldn’t be bothered to research something as simple as “has anyone tried this yet?” is kind of staggering. Had they known, it’s doubtful they’d want to expose a guest contributor to so much ridicule.
I don’t like to blow smoke, but my death is unlike any loss seen before in America. I am tangible Americana, like Independence Hall, the Alamo or Graceland. I have been about more than baseball. The first papal mass ever celebrated in the Western Hemisphere? That was me. The first overtime game in NFL history? Me. The birthplace of the “DEE-fense! DEE-fense!” chant? Of the Bronx cheer? Of the triple-decker ballpark in this country? The electronic scoreboard, the replay video board, the “Win one for the Gipper” aphorism, what it means to get Wally Pipped, the standing applause on two-strike counts, the running leap onto home plate to punctuate a walk-off homer? Me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me and me.
It’s not only the Babe and the Mick and Derek Jeter who played inside my walls. It’s Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali, John Philip Sousa and Pink Floyd, Knute Rockne and Vince Lombardi, Billy Graham and Nelson Mandela, John F. Kennedy and George W. Bush. – Tom Verducci, Sports Illustrated, September 18, 2008
People used to pay to walk through me, just to see what it felt like. They wanted to see where the Babe played, where Lou cried, where Thurman dressed, where we won, where we lost, the black. They stood in the middle of me, just like the Coliseum in Rome, and silently imagined what it was like.
I had a good life, not just in baseball. How about my Giants and the greatest football game ever played? Joe Louis beat up Schmeling here; we packed it for the popes, and it wasn™t even bobblehead day. Nelson Mandela became a Yankee here. When the Towers fell, the city came to me to mourn.
So what did I do to deserve this? It™s no fun getting old. You start losing your friends. No Eddie at the organ, no Phil, no Mel, the Red Head, no Bobby. I hear Shea is gone. Too bad. I mean, it™s not a real loss, but too bad. Long history, short memory. Aw, maybe it™s time. New, bigger, better. That™s what people want, they say. Sometimes, that ain™t the answer. – Billy Crystal, New York Times, April 19, 2009
Indeed, the demoliton of Shea Stadium was no great loss, but neither would be never hearing again from a Steinbrenner-suckup whose artistic achievements plateaued when playing the part of Jodie Dallas 32 years ago.