Somehow, someway, I managed to have a ticket to the Yankees game on June 8th, 1969. This was no ordinary game; it was Mickey Mantle Day at Yankee Stadium. I was going to the game in which his iconic number 7 would be retired.
I was 16-years-old and my first love had been the Yankees (all due respect to Adele, my 6th grade girlfriend). By 1969, my baseball affections were split between the Yankees and the Amazin’ Mets, who captivated the nation by winning the World Series. But this day, nothing mattered more than being there to honor my first hero, the only sports hero I have ever had.
Sitting in the upper deck down the left field line, I along with 300,000 fans (you know what they say, far more people witness every major baseball event than the stadiums could hold), sat in anxious anticipation. What would the festivities entail? Which Yankee greats (all of them, as it turned out) would be there to participate?
My memories of this day are faint although research has helped. I don’t know who I was with; it must have been my dad. I don’t remember the Yankees opponent, or who won (Yankees swept the White Sox in a doubleheader). I remember a 13 ½ minute ovation; other accounts range from 6 to 20 minutes. I was even wrong about what I was certain I accurately remembered, his golf cart drive around the park to kick off the festivities. That ride occurred AFTER the ceremonies. Incidentally, he passed by my section about 1 1/2 minutes into a 2 1/2 minute ride. None of these details are important, really. All that is important is that I WAS THERE and I know my eyes were quite moist.
My favorite game of all-time? Perhaps when I took my kids to their first game. Maybe the great Giants’ World Series victories, or Tim Lincecum’s no-hitter. I guess I am not prepared to make that call. I do know that along with the 61,000-plus fans who really were there that day, I think of that day often, still with moist eyes.