On a Long Night, No Shortage of Memories

(Nick Laham - Getty Images)
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By George Solomon
Sunday, July 20, 2008

John O'Shea is a New Yorker through and through. When he was 8, his father took him to Yankee Stadium -- the "House that Ruth Built" 85 years ago on 161st Street and River Avenue in the Bronx.

This past Tuesday afternoon, four hours before the fourth all-star game at Yankee Stadium, as the Yankees prepare to move into their new $1.3 billion stadium one block away next season, John O'Shea stood with his 11-year-old son, Garrett, on River Avenue, staring at the baseball shops across the street.

"I came here for the first time with my father when I was 8," O'Shea said. "Stood in the same spot as we're standing now. A long time ago. My father and I said we'd come here for an all-star game some day. It was on our checklist, but we never made it.

"But now I'm here with my son and I'm thinking about my father."

What is it about baseball parks, parents and children that stir so many memories and emotions?

Why does someone who hasn't lived in the Bronx in 60 years want go up a hill to check out the old Grand Concourse neighborhood, the Concourse Plaza Hotel where Joe DiMaggio and many of his teammates lived, the old apartment house and a park where his grandfather sat on a bench and read a Yiddish newspaper called the Daily Forward?

Or walk down the same hill to the stadium where the Yankees turned on their lights for me and everyone else the first time for a game against the Washington Senators in 1946; or check out where I sat with my father in June 1948, when a cancer-stricken Babe Ruth said farewell. Or remind two of my sons that in the upper deck that season -- not far from where they were sitting -- when the man in front of me, whom I was playfully kicking, asked me sternly to stop, my father told him to shut up and shoved him. The poor guy -- off balance -- tumbled down four steep rows, got up and left.

So we toasted Sidney Solomon, whom had he lived would have been 109 next month, and turned our attention to the field. There, the Yankees and Major League Baseball were creating new memories, introducing some 40 Hall of Famers with the starters for this year's All-Star Game.

A memorable moment, if there ever was one, watching Derek Jeter and Cal Ripken hug, Manny Ramírez and Willie Mays shake hands, Geovany Soto look closely at Yogi Berra and perhaps wonder: "He was a Hall of Fame catcher?"

Yankees fans can be cruel (are the Red Sox so evil?), but they appreciate the game and their cheers and chants for Earl Weaver, Frank Robinson, Don Sutton and the other Hall of Famers would not be soon forgotten. "The most exciting event I've ever been part of," Sutton told me.

A 4-hour 50-minute, 15-inning game won by the American League, 4-3, was, in the words of Mike Rodgers, a fan from Dallas, "not long enough."

Readying for Redskins

Aside from reported 9,000 viewers who watch the Nationals, most of the remaining 5 million or so Washington area residents can breathe easy this weekend: The Redskins are back.

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