2018-06-14 / Sports

BASEBALL’S BEST

My only visit to ‘The House That Ruth Built’
By LAMAR GARRARD
baseball historian

“Baseball was, is, and always will be to me the best game in the world” – Babe Ruth

A few days ago I celebrated another birthday for which I am very grateful. As time moves forward I find myself having “memory lane” reflections and recollections about some of the good times in the past.

One of my most memorable birthdays was spent on June 5, 2004, in Bronx, New York at a baseball game, where else. A friend of my family, Barbara Rush, who is originally from New Jersey, is an extreme over-the-top Yankees fan. She graciously arranged a trip for my wife and me and was our guide on a trip to Yankee Stadium on my birthday that year.

Here’s some background on my own journey to becoming a Yankees fan.

Those of you in my generation know that when we were growing up, baseball games were on the radio and there was very little television. Most of the games in those days were from the bigger cities like New York, Boston, and Chicago. So many times the games were the Yankees. Of course it was easy to love a team with players like Mantle, Berra, Ford, DiMaggio, Rizzuto, and scads of other all-star players and future hall of famers. So there we had it.

I was tuned in to WGAC radio out of Augusta or WRDW or whatever station carried the Yankees, and I was eagerly listening to the old time broadcasters. Later, when TV came on the scene at my house when I was around 12 years old, the same Yankees dominated the play on television coming mostly from the northeast including Boston and sometimes Philadelphia. So I have always been a big fan of the Yankees and grew up going to Jennings Stadium in Augusta to see the Augusta Yankees play in ’62 and ’63.

On my only visit ever to Yankee Stadium in 2004 there was much excitement and fanfare that accompanied that event. First I was in “Baseball Heaven,” so to speak. Walking into the stadium, now torn down and replaced, I really was awestruck by the history and the folklore that was just coming at me. It was a beautiful structure and when we walked through the monument park it was neat to snap my wife’s photo as she stood next to the Babe Ruth plaque.

I remembered as we looked out onto the beautiful green grass field that my good friend from Augusta, Bill Johnson, had starred at third base in the 1940s and 1950s for the Yanks.

Two grand things stood out in my mind about that day. First, Babe Ruth’s daughter, Julia Ruth Stevens, was there to present the Babe Ruth Award to a deserving Yankee player. That year it was Alex Rodriquez. She stood at home plate right in front of our incredible seats and made the presentation. Wow, I was at Yankee Stadium with the Bambino’s daughter.

The second thing that totally surprised me was that during one of the between-inning breaks I look out on the gigantic screen scoreboard and see my name and the words “Happy Birthday.” That was a moment I will never forget. Our friend Barbara had arranged to put my name in lights for just a second for the whole world to know that this lad from the south had finally made it to experience one of his boyhood dreams.

Thanks Barbara and thank you Mr. Ruth!

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