Boss stays home from Cathedral
Closing night is bittersweet for Steinbrenner family
NEW YORK -- George Steinbrenner was the centerpiece of Major League Baseball's pregame festivities for the All-Star Game on July 15, circling the warning track at Yankee Stadium and looking into the stands with wet, appreciative eyes.
On Sunday, as the Yankees bid farewell to their home for the last 85 seasons -- the Yankee Stadium that Babe Ruth may have built, but George owned -- Steinbrenner remained home in Florida, viewing on television and entrusting the transition to his children.
Co-chairman Hal Steinbrenner spoke on behalf of the club's ownership following the stirring pregame ceremony, which included appearances by many former Yankees greats, as well as representation of legends who have passed on.
"It's mixed emotions. Tonight is about this facility and 85 wonderful years," the younger Steinbrenner said. "I've got a lot of memories, over 30-plus years of it. As excited as I am to go into the new facility, there's a little bit of mixed emotion."
Venerable public address announcer Bob Sheppard appeared via recording, but there was no acknowledgment of Steinbrenner, who has been the Yankees' owner since purchasing the club in 1973. Hal Steinbrenner and Jennifer Steinbrenner-Swindal represented club ownership on Sunday.
"As could be expected, he's been very emotional," Steinbrenner said of his father. "It's been 35 years. He was a big part of getting the renovation done, and when it was done, of course, we were in the World Series and won two of them [in 1977 and 1978], and numerous ones since. He was very emotional about it, without a doubt. I think we all are. That was an amazing night and I don't think anyone can argue it."
The $1.3 billion building rising quickly across 161st Street is, largely, a major piece of Steinbrenner's vision and stewardship at the helm of the franchise.
Steinbrenner was instrumental in ordering the 1974-75 overhaul that provided the Stadium with the current layout and structure that has become synonymous with the club's recent era of success.
But he pushed repeatedly for the type of world-class new stadium that the Yankees will soon enjoy, and Hal Steinbrenner spoke optimistically that fans will embrace the new stadium's amenities come the opening of next season.
"It's phenomenal," he said. "It's going to give our fans so many memories, so much nostalgia of this particular ballpark, but at the same time it's going to be a better fan experience in many, many ways. It's a great monument.
"It's exactly what this city and their fans deserve. If you're going to move into a facility and leave this one, that's the one. There's going to be very, very much [of] this team's history there."
Steinbrenner, who lists Mike Torrez catching the popup to end the 1977 World Series as his favorite Yankee Stadium memory, said that heavy consideration went into the proper way to execute Sunday's festivities.
One major decision was permitting fans to enter the stadium early and visit Monument Park for three hours in the early afternoon, ringing the warning track around the field and having the opportunity to slowly say goodbye to the facility.
"These are things we've been thinking of for months," Steinbrenner said. "You can imagine, after 85 years, trying to figure out how to do a proper sendoff to this great facility and the millions of fans over the years that have seen it.
"A lot of thoughts came in, a lot of good ideas came in. We just wanted the fans to be a part of it, to take some part of it with them, even more so than on a normal game or season. Letting them walk on the field and feel the Stadium, we knew that would be special."
The festivities were tinged with the reality that the Yankees, provided one more loss or Red Sox victory, will not qualify for postseason play for the first time since the strike-shortened 1994 season.
Steinbrenner said that decisions would begin within the next couple of weeks on a variety of major personnel issues for 2009, including the status of general manager Brian Cashman, who has served in that position for the franchise since 1998.
"We've got a lot of decisions to make and we know that," Steinbrenner said. "We've got numerous areas to improve in, we know that, and we're going to do everything we can. That much, I promise the fans. We will do each and everything we can to make this team even better than it already is. That's our promise to you."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.