April 21, 2001

Yankee Stadium Tribute

We got there early, around 10:30 - the stadium was empty inside. Outside, people were already gathering - vendors opening their stands, filled with bobble heads, T-shirts, balls, banners and Yankee teddy bears.

We first saw Jesse, my dad's cousin, standing tall against the fence on the other side of the Yankees offices. We pushed through the expecting crowd and met him face to face. Something in him reminded me of dad. He had that sparkle in his eyes.

We went to the gate - officials wanting to know why we were there. A man asked who we were there to see. Sonny Hight I said - and Suni disappear to go get him. He returned and told us to follow him. We followed through the bowels of the stadium, around the 3rd base side - towards monument park. We waited for a second - and then Sunil pointed us towards the left field bleachers and told us to leave up the ram and our to our seats when we were done.

We headed down to the field, dad's ashes in a brown bag, enclosed in a silver paint can - ready to be spread among Yankee greats. The first part of monument part in the white placards facing the field. Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, Munson and Mattingly - they were all there. We turned the corner - as if we were headed to the visitors bullpen. Some Red Sox players were throwing and running - unaware of how special this day was to become.

We turned the corner - onto a red brick pathway. We were there! It was quiet and I felt in awe of the legends around us. The Mantle monument is around to the left - he's all alone and we stopped in our tracks - holding our collective breaths.

I opened the ash can and spread the plastic bag wide open.

The next few minutes were a blur - we all spread some ashes - some alone, some together over everything. It was the most poignant moment of my life. I felt free, happy and contented in that brief moment in time.

There was some much ashes it was noticeable on the ground - spread all around in contrast to the dark dirt, green stems and yellow and purple tulips.

I hugged everyone. I held my wife.

I stepped up to the Mick just before we left and I said a final "I miss you and good-bye" to my dad. I looked at the sky through teary eyes and smiled. I felt him there with us - laughing at the moment. It was magic.

On the way out - we lingered at the left field wall. Sam picked up some warning track dirt and a huge purple tulip. We watched Hideo Nomo run sprints, his huge calves bulging out of their skin. We headed up - and out towards the bleachers.

Karen stopped in her tracks and said "listen." The words I heard proved for all time that not only did we do the right thing - but that he was there with us.

"When I die and you lay me to rest..."

Dad must have left the building right around the 4th inning. That's when the Yanks blew the lead and the game. However, Paul O'Neill hit a first inning home run and Mike Mussina struck out the side to start the game.