DVDs display Cathedral memories

DVDs display Cathedral memories

A cathedral is a sacred place; a house of worship. These spaces help us to continue the traditions of past generations that form the foundation of our present and future.

If such a special place exists in sports, it is Yankee Stadium: "The Cathedral of Baseball."

Major League Baseball Productions has just released a very special two-DVD set, "Yankee Stadium: Baseball's Cathedral," which captures the spiritual essence of Yankee Stadium by offering almost three hours of incredible film and video footage, as well as pictures dating back to the early 1900s.

These treasured images are enhanced by the recollections of those who were there when history was being made. These stories will rekindle special memories in the minds of many Yankees fans and baseball fans alike, and they fill their hearts with joy and excitement.

This journey will take you from Opening Day 1923 to Opening Day 2008, and it can only be described as a "spiritual experience."

On Opening Day 1923, Babe Ruth christened Yankee Stadium by hitting its first home run. The Stadium always will be known as "The House That Ruth Built," but really it was "The House Built For Ruth." The DVD features early pictures of the Stadium being constructed in just 284 days. It was designed with the short right-field porch to accommodate The Babe's legendary left-handed power.

Ruth's star was the greatest to shine brightly in the 85-year sporting history of the ballpark. He set the standard of greatness, and started the Yankees' awesome tradition.

Other than baseball, boxing was probably the next biggest sport to host major events at the Stadium, as there were 30 championship bouts held there.

Bert Sugar, the boxing historian, tells a story early in the DVD about a fight in 1927 that gives us a sense of how special moments happen at Yankee Stadium. In the middle of the fight, the announcer asks the Stadium crowd to pray for a safe transatlantic flight for Charles Lindbergh, who was in the air at that very moment. After the prayer, the whole Stadium crowd, in unison, said, "Amen." Sugar remarked, "Now that's a cathedral."

The DVD's narrator, Chazz Palminteri, leads us on a journey that tells the story of the great history and tradition of the Yankees and their Stadium.

We hear players like Derek Jeter, Dr. Bobby Brown, Don Mattingly, Joba Chamberlain, Yogi Berra and Jorge Posada talk about the first time that they entered Yankee Stadium.

Opening Day, and the special connection the fans and players have to the features of the Stadium, such as the facade and the big Louisville Slugger bat outside, both feature prominently.

The journey continues on the road to "The Heroes Immortalized," bringing tears of joy and sorrow, as we see and hear the farewell speeches of legends Lou Gehrig, Ruth and Mickey Mantle, and relive the memorials for Joe DiMaggio and Thurman Munson and the tribute to the victims of 9/11.

There have been so many historic moments at Yankee Stadium, and the DVDs treat us to film clips of Ruth hitting homer No. 60, Roger Maris hitting homer No. 61, Mantle's 500th homer, and also clips of Gehrig and DiMaggio.

Pitching has also been a big part of the Yankees' tradition, and the DVD shows highlights of three Yankee Stadium no-hitters, as well as the special, mystical connection of the three perfect games in Yankees history: Don Larsen, David Wells and David Cone.

And, there are many of the big classic home runs highlighted, including Chris Chambliss' 1976 walk-off, Reggie Jackson's three-homer game in the 1977 World Series and Aaron Boone's dramatic American League Championship Series winner in 2003.

Special moments also can be sad moments, as was the case watching Bobby Murcer play the hero "on the day the Yankees buried their captain, Thurman Munson," as was so eloquently stated by Howard Cosell at the end of that very emotional game.

Yankee Stadium also served as a world stage, as Rev. Billy Graham preached there and three Popes -- Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI -- celebrated masses at the Stadium.

Another special moment took place before Game 3 of the 2001 World Series, when President George W. Bush threw out the first pitch. On the DVD, Bush talks about the words of encouragement he received from Jeter, the Yankees' captain.

Other events highlighted on the DVD include the New York Giants' 1956 and 1958 NFL Championship Games, and the All-Star Games that were held at the Stadium.

There are so many great reasons to purchase this two-DVD set, and the section on the great voices of the Yankees alone is worth the price. Mel Allen, Red Barber and especially the section on Phil Rizzuto bring back so many memories.

Any great cathedral wouldn't be complete without an organist and a "voice from above." Well, Yankees fans will appreciate the sections on Eddie Layton and the longtime "Voice of the Yankees," Bob Sheppard.

Finally, the special ingredient that truly brings life to Yankee Stadium is the fans. The cheering of the crowd is in every highlight clip, and this a big part of all the great moments at the Stadium. Also, the section on the "Bleacher Creatures" is a must-see.

James J. Curran III is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.