9-19-08: End of an Era & DFTU

Hello again everybody...

I'm writing the column today from The Sports Take's home offices. I know you're all terribly concerned about how my vacation time is going. Well so far it's been fairly unproductive, and that's just how I like it. Not all vacations are about getting "other" things done. Some are just about rest and relaxation. That's mine, so far.

Outside of one little incident this morning that is...

I awoke this morning to a strange sound which seemed to be coming from my living room. In a "I'm kind of awake, but not really awake" style fog, I managed to convince myself that it was the neighbors getting something out of their storage closet in the hallway and promptly fell back asleep. That is, until I heard another sound. And this one was definitely coming from my living room.

Now understand that I live on the 5th floor of my building. The odds that a prowler is going to climb up the decks to break into *my* apartment are slim. So I usually leave my windows, including the sliding glass door which leads to my deck, open except for the screens. Especially when we're having such lovely weather. So I wasn't afraid I was going to find someone trying to steal my TV.

The concerns I did have were confirmed however, when I rounded the corner and saw a bushy tail go scampering into the kitchen. That's right, the squirrel (whom I've nicknamed Rocky) who up until now has been content with occasionally hanging out on my deck, decided I needed a roommate and had clawed his way through my screen door and taken up residence in my living room. The noises that I'd heard were him checking out the various furniture. Joy.

So I tried to herd him back towards the door while explaining to him that if he couldn't help with the rent, he didn't get to stay. But while Rocky seemed more than willing to leave, he'd apparently forgotten how he got in originally. He just sat by the door and sort of stared at it. So I backed off and let him start to wander again, went and got a broom, just in case Rocky decided to take a stand, and skirted my way around him to throw open the screen door. Then I circled back around and started trying to shoo Rocky towards the door. This time he got the message and scampered out, after which, I shut and locked the sliding glass door.

Sorry Rocky, but I don't' need a roommate.

So that was my morning cup of coffee. How are y'all doin?

With that, I suppose I should get to today's actual column. Sunday marks the end of an era as the final game will be played at venerable Yankee Stadium. I have a few thoughts. Then it's this week's version of the DFTU. I call it the "Never Say Die" edition. So let's get to it!

"I didn't really say everything I said."
- Yogi Berra (1925 - ), former Major League Baseball player and manager

The quintessential Yogism. Which leads to the first topic...

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Yankee Stadium. The House that Ruth built. Home of the Bronx Bombers. The curtain closes on Sunday. The New York Yankees, proud owners of 26 World Championships and 39 American League Pennants will move to their new facility, the new "Yankee Stadium", beginning next season. So Sunday's final home game is also the final game for the original facility.

The move is rather metaphorical I think. Change is inevitable. Progress must be made. But what makes baseball such an attractive sport I think is that even in the process of change, great efforts are made to pay homage to the past. And the history of the sport, it's players, and it's edifices are lovingly preserved.

Yankee Stadium opened in April of 1923. And in the intervening 85 years, has seen more significant moments in baseball than any other piece of architecture in the world.

It saw Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs. It saw Roger Maris hit 61.

It saw Lou Gehrig give his famous retirement speech. And it saw Reggie Jackson and Billy Martin trade words of a more infamous nature.

It saw Joe DiMaggio hit in 56-straight games. And it saw Mickey Mantle get his 500th hit.

It saw perfect pitching from Don Larsen, David Cone and David Wells (against the Twins dammit). And it saw Roger Clemens throw a bat-shard at Mike Piazza.

But it wasn't just Yankees that created memorable moments at the Stadium. The Dodgers' Sandy Koufax set the strikeout record there. The Royals' George Brett had a mild disagreement with an umpire over the correct placement of pine-tar on a bat there. And the Red Sox (whom I hate) had a pitcher named Curt Schilling who ruined a perfectly good sock by bleeding on it there.

And those just scratch the surface. There are hundreds more memories that have been and will continue to be written about, discussed and argued over for the rest of time.

I never got to go to Yankee Stadium. But I know folks who have. And their descriptions of Monument Park, the bleachers in right, and the roar of the Bronx faithful are as vivid to me as if I'd walked the grounds myself.

So if you have a chance Sunday evening, flip on ESPN. Take a look around the old ballpark. Picture Mantle and DiMaggio in center field, Maris and Jackson in right, Gehrig and Mattingly at first base. Picture Yogi Berra behind the plate and Phil Rizzuto at short. Picture Whitey Ford on the mound, handing the ball to Goose Gossage or Mariano Rivera to seal the win.

Take it all in. Because it's the last time you'll ever see a game played there.

The new Yankee Stadium is said to be a baseball palace. And given the Yankees owners penchant for spending money, I have no doubt it's exactly that. I also don't doubt that great care will be taken to honor as much of the history you've just read about as humanly possible.

But it's not the House that Ruth built. And it won't ever be. Life goes on.

Finally this week, it's time for everybody's favorite segment: Dan's Favorite Teams Update!

Minnesota Twins: The Twins are 83-70, in second place in the AL Central and 1.5 games behind the Chicago White Sox.

I mentioned to a friend the other day, "The Twins' playoff chances are on life-support, but Chicago refuses to pull the plug". Which is a pretty apt description if you ask me.

I can't imagine how a team that's in the playoff hunt can go into Cleveland, get swept, and somehow manage to stay in the race. That just shouldn't be possible. But there you have it.

The Twins got broomed by the Tribe to start the week, but the Whities couldn't take advantage as they dropped 3 of 4 to the Yankees (thank you Bombers). Combined with the Twins' comeback victory over the Rays last night, Minnesota remains where they started the trip: 1.5 games back.

Why is that such a critical number? Because if the Twins can get it down to a half-game before the White Sox come to town next week, then winning 2 out of 3 in that series gives them the division lead. Putting themselves in a position to not have to sweep Chicago is huge. And the task continues this weekend as the Twins take on the AL East leading Rays.

The White Sox on the other hand are spending the weekend in Kansas City. On paper that would seem to be a huge advantage for Chicago. But so far this year, White Sox pitching has surrendered 52 runs to the Royals in 6 games at Kaufmann Stadium. Hopefully it remains a House of Horrors for the Sox this weekend.

As I said, the Twins continue their 4-game set with the Rays this weekend. Then they're back home on Tuesday for 3 critical games with Chicago. Damn baseball's fun, ain't it?

Arizona Diamondbacks: The D'backs are 76-76, in second place in the NL West and 3.5 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The boys are trying Snakes fans. They've won 4 in a row and have managed to claw their way back to .500. Too little, too late? Perhaps. But as I keep saying, the Dodgers aren't running away and hiding. And until they're mathematically eliminated, the D'backs are gonna give it a go.

Witness the gritty effort by Randy Johnson last night as the D'backs beat Cy Young candidate Tim Lincecum and the San Francisco Giants. That's not a game most pundits would chalk up as a win for Arizona, but they gutted it out, made the most of their opportunities and got the win.

It's going to take several more of those types of efforts, as well as some help from the Dodgers to get the D'backs into the playoffs. But it's still possible!

If the Rockies could do it last year, why not the D'backs this year? Am I right people?

The D'backs travel to Colorado over the weekend and then to St. Louis on Monday. Maybe Albert Pujols will rest his elbow or something. C'mon Al. Help us out here!

Wisconsin Badgers: The Badgers are 3-0 (0-0) after defeating Fresno State on the road, 13-10.

It wasn't a pretty game by any means. And there weren't a lot of highlights that will be destined for the archives. But it was a win. And sometimes that's all that really matters.

This was a game that Wisconsin was supposed to win, yet many of the pundits out there picked Fresno to upset the Badgers. Wisconsin certainly doesn't have overwhelming talent, and the Bulldogs are a good team. Plus they had the home-field advantage.

But in the end, Wisconsin's defense got the job done, stopping Fresno on their final drive of the game and securing the 13-10 victory.

The game wasn't without controversy however. In the 3rd quarter, a Fresno tight end made a catch and was stripped of the ball by Wisconsin LB Jonathan Casillas. The Badgers recovered the fumble and were still celebrating when Fresno State head coach Pat Hill threw his challenge flag and asked that the play be reviewed. The review officials decided that the Bulldog player never really had full possession of the ball and overturned the call on the field.

The only problem was, the call on the field was correct. That's been confirmed by far more unbiased eyes than mine. The receiver clearly controlled the football, "made a football move" as they say, and then was stripped of the ball. Wisconsin should've had the ball deep in Fresno territory and had the opportunity to salt the game away.

Thankfully the blown call didn't cost them the game.

The Badgers have their bye week this week, giving them two weeks to prepare for their trip to Ann Arbor, Michigan to take on the "transitioning" (copyright Hammer) Wolverines. It's another game the Badgers should be favored in, and another game they ought to win. More on that next week.

That's all for this week folks. Hope you've had a good one, and hope you have a fantastic weekend. I'm off to watch some High School football tonight (go Crimson!). I'll be back on Monday with the Week 4 Post-Mortem and a special double-Mailbag! Until then, thanks for reading!

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