The festivities for the first game at Yankee Stadium began in such perfect fashion — the recorded voice of Bob Sheppard welcoming fans to the new park; George Steinbrenner weeping tears of joy as his dream stadium/money-making machine finally opened its gates/cash registers; and the best weather you could possibly hope for — that it’s hard to believe that, some five hours later, the day would end with the stadium virtually empty, occupied only by either the most die-hard of die-hard fans, or those with absolutely nothing better to do on a Thursday afternoon.
Part of this was unavoidable: As nice as the pregame ceremony was, it was a bit anticlimactic. Yankee “greats” were introduced, but were done so alphabetically, meaning Yogi Berra came out just moments after the immortal Jesse Barfield. (The act was also a little tired: Pretty much the same thing happened on Old Timers’ Day in August, and also at the last game at the old stadium in September, and for the true legends like Berra and Whitey Ford, also at the All-Star Game in July.) When the 2009 Yankees were introduced, it was John Sterling and Michael Kay who handled the introductions, not a recording of Sheppard, as was done for the final game at the old stadium. (The name Alex Rodriguez, by the way, was not mentioned.)
Once the game started, the Yankees provided the answer to some trivia questions, like who would get the first hit (Johnny Damon), who would hit the first home run (Jorge Posada), and who would be responsible for the first bullpen implosion (Jose Veras and Damaso Marte, who gave up nine runs in the top of the seventh to blow the game open). It also marked the first sarcastic chant at the new park: Sing-songy calls of “We want Swisher,” referencing the right-fielder’s solid inning of pitching from Monday night.
You’ll be happy to know that a lot of familiar things — besides the shaky middle relief corps — made the trip across the street: Carl Pavano, now with Cleveland, is still loudly booed anytime he sets foot on the field; the between-innings subway race looks great on the giant HD scoreboard (though the H&R Block tax tip of the day — the day being April 16 — seemed ill-timed); and the Bleacher Creatures still end their first-inning roll call with chants of “box seats suck.” (To mark the occasion of alcohol now being allowed in the bleachers, they even added a chant of “We’ve got beer!”)
In some ways, the game (a 10–2 Indians victory) didn’t matter too much, because it won’t stop anyone from bouncing their grandkid on their knee one day and telling them about how they were at the first game at the new Yankee Stadium. Most upset, we’d guess, is the person responsible for the inevitable $59 hardcover retrospective on the inaugural season, who was deprived of the perfect ending to the book’s first chapter.