ARod in Stripes
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This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.
Let's start with the all-Sunday-long farewell to Yankee Stadium. From Paul Simon to Henry Kissinger to Babe Ruth's 92-year old daughter, fans and players of both today and yesterday, and cultural heavyweights spoke poetry about their lifelong memories of this special place. I admit I cried several times on Sunday as the televised tributes ran one after the other. Whitey Ford and Don Larsen took the pitcher's mound they commanded so deftly some 50 years ago and knelt down to gather some of the dirt for their own keepsake boxes. The tears started to well then but when the camera widened and revealed another old-timer, his own number 8 regal on his back, standing at home plate, casting his warm eyes toward his two old World Series mates across that familiar, seemingly intimate 60-foot stretch, then the tears spilled over. Seeing Yogi Berra, obviously awed by his memories, looking toward his old comrades, all three once again in their beloved pinstripes, was an image that tugged at the heartstrings.
The pinstripes were a metaphor for valued treasure the whole day long. Young guns just recently called up from the minors spoke the same words that have emanated out of the famous Yankee locker room for 85 years. They said it's always a relief, a thrill, a moment for a lump in the throat, to arrive at a Major League ballpark, after toiling in the poor, small parks of Anywhere, USA, and be assigned your Big League uniform. But to be issued a New York Yankees pinstriped uniform, that is a reverential moment of goose bumps and near disbelief. Old-timer Yankee icons and stand-in relatives of others all referred to the magical pinstripes.
But I was taken by surprise and cried yet again to hear some tape from Alex Rodriguez when he broke the record for the youngest to reach 500 home runs in Yankee Stadium. ARod was talking about the fact that his daughter was too young when he hit the 500th to understand its significance. Then he choked up and paid both the game he loves and the deep, rich history of the Yankees homage when he said that one day his little girl would know how special it had been that he "did it at home...and did it in stripes." OK, I was a pile of blubbering mush at that point.
Yankee Stadium. It's impossible to overstate its meaning. It was more, much, much more than a geographic place. It was a magnet for mythical, spiritual people and events...and I can foresee how frustrating it's going to be to try bring its significance to life for generations not yet born.
As the Yankees and their hallowed cathedral took center stage Sunday, another sports story appeared in a small paragraph but, mark my words, the protagonist of that bare mention is going to roar into the headlines come July, 2009.
Spaniard Alberto Contador this weekend won the Vuelta, Spain's version of the Tour de France. Contador, who had won this year's Giro d'Italia as well as 2007's Tour de France, meaning he has now been crowned king of cycling's three most prestigious endurance races, is widely recognized as the best cyclist in the world at the moment. The rub lies in the fact that Contador is the star of Team Astana, the very team Lance Armstrong will most likely join as his unretirement unfolds. Trust me, the plot will thicken plenty as the decision comes to be made. Will Contador, a 25-year old current world-beater, ride as devoted domestique to the legendary Armstrong? Or will the 37-year old, seven-time Tour de France champion work those mountain passes in service of the young Spaniard? I quite doubt either of those egos is going to take a back saddle to the other.
This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and that's The Score.
Alex Rodriguez signs autographs for fans after winning the last regular season game at Yankee Stadium 7-3 against the Baltimore Orioles on September 21, 2008 (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)