Opinion

With the closing of the "House That Ruth Built," many of us have memories that made the stadium famous. In particular, I remember Yogi Berra playing right field. In 1948, before I could speak English, my father took me to Yankee Stadium on a Sunday afternoon. He always sat in the bleachers at a cost of about $5, compared to $385 as it was reported in today's Newsday. It was a 20-minute subway ride from Kingsbridge Road where we lived, to the stadium on the Jerome Avenue line.

The first most impressive memory is that life was beautiful, peaceful and the air was clean. On Saturday and Sunday mornings the local schoolyard was full of kids playing choose-up ball. You were picked based on ability, no little league teams and no parents. Those days are long gone, yet seem like it was yesterday. The professional baseball players were happy to be playing ball and the fans respected and followed them. Yoga Berra at right, DiMaggio at center and the other team was Ted Williams, Dom DiMaggio and the rest of the Boston Sox players.

The fans used to tease Yogi, as we sat behind him, but he was a professional and remained focused on the game. A year later, in 1949, my English was better and I began to hang out with friends who went to the stadium to collect autographs. The players were very willing to sign our index cards. We also carried pre-addressed penny postcards in case the players didn't have time to stop. Sometimes they would sign picture postcards and mail them to us.

Yoga Berra, at the time, would sign "Larry" Berra because he was not originally happy being "Yogi." Sometimes we would trade comic books with him. He was extremely friendly and was very willing to talk to us. Most other players were always in a hurry and would sign our index cards and move on. We recognized them as baseball players because they had a tan from spring training.

We soon found out that we could walk a few blocks and take the shuttle that would go to the Polo Grounds; there, too, we would collect autographs. Trading cards was another means of getting autographs of players we didn't catch. To this day, I still have a book of autographs which I collected between 1948 and 1950. It took a while to find the book and looking at the autographs, some of whom we called "Old Timers," were Honus Wagner, Cy Young, Ty Cobb, Grover Cleveland, Tris Speaker, Satchel Paige, Ed Walsh, Mel Ott and Casey Stengel. As the saying goes, "Those were the Days!"

Leo Cimini


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