Archive for Thursday, September 25, 2008

Farewell to Bronx’s national landmark

Off the Rim column

September 25, 2008

On Sunday night, we lost a longtime US resident who connected with millions of Americans.

Thousands of friends came out to see her in her final days, while millions more watched on television. Her impact on her hometown will never be forgotten for generations to come.

She was 85 years old. She was born in New York City and remained a resident there for her entire life. On April 18, 1923, she was born and she died Sunday night.

From the moment she was born, her legacy began. Fame quickly arose thanks to friends like George Herman Ruth Jr. and Henry Louis Gehrig by her side. During her first year of life, she was already a world champion.

She was an instant celebrity and had close friends who were also celebrities. Some of her closest companions include Mickey Mantle, Reggie Jackson, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra and Bob Sheppard.

It was Jackson and Berra who were present Sunday to witness her in the final stage of her life. They were there to sing Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York," in her waning moments.

During her life, she hosted 37 World Series, four All-Star games, dozens of prize boxing matches, college and professional football games, soccer contests, concerts and three Papal masses.

In 1977, Jackson hit a trio of home runs on three pitches in a World Series game - a record that still stands to this day. Only six years later, came the infamous "pine tar incident" involving Kansas City Royal's star George Brett.

Perhaps the most memorable moment in her history came on July 4, 1939. On that day, Gehrig delivererd his "Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth" speech as he was dying.

Her family was loved and hated by followers around the country, yet she stood tall for 85 years in the heart of the Bronx. Many people turned to her for comfort only days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York City.

On Sunday night, her friends and family stood for hours, cheering and screaming to keep her alive for as long as possible. They didn't want to see her fade away with the night. Her family did end her career as it began - with a victory.

An official ceremony to say goodbye is planned for November.

Loved or hated, she left a mark on America's history. She won't be forgotten, even by those who weren't close friends or even family.

Goodbye, Yankee Stadium. Your legend will live on forever.

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