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Bidding farewell will be all-day affair

Fans can tour Cathedral Sunday

NEW YORK -- The stadium that opened with a Babe Ruth home run will close with Andy Pettitte as its starting pitcher and Mariano Rivera working the final inning.

But hours before the final Yankee Stadium game is played on Sunday, the playing field will belong to the fans -- the same ones who have filled its grandstands and passed through its turnstiles for 85 historical and memorable years.

Gates are scheduled to open at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday, allowing fans to visit Monument Park for a final time before it is relocated in its entirety to the new Stadium for 2009.

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Fans will also be allowed to exit Monument Park onto the field, where they will be permitted to walk along the warning track around the outfield and behind home plate.

"I think you'll see some people get here early so they don't rush through, and they'll have some time to soak up the last day," Yankees captain Derek Jeter said. "I think it's a great idea."

Across the street from where 12-foot blue letters spelling out "YANKEE STADIUM" were hoisted above the club's new home this week, a pregame ceremony at the current Stadium is scheduled to begin at 7:05 p.m. and will encompass the chronology of Yankees greats who have played in the field's expanses.

Among the distinguished alumni scheduled to take part in the festivities will be Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Goose Gossage, Ron Guidry, Graig Nettles and Bobby Richardson. Longtime Yankees Bernie Williams and Willie Randolph have also said they will attend.

"It's going to be awesome," Pettitte said. "It's going to be Bernie's first time back, so that's going to be pretty special, for sure. I'm looking forward to seeing him. I'm sure he's going to get a wonderful ovation."

The ceremony is also expected feature representatives from the families of deceased Yankees greats Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Thurman Munson and Phil Rizzuto, among numerous others.

Two longtime icons of the Yankees organization, George Steinbrenner and public-address announcer Bob Sheppard, are not expected to attend, though the club's ownership will be represented by Steinbrenner's sons, Hank and Hal, and daughters Jennifer and Jessica.

The game is to be televised nationally on ESPN, with first pitch scheduled for approximately 8:15 p.m., and coverage of all Yankee Stadium-related ceremonies can be viewed on the YES Network.

"A historic artifact from the Yankees' past will also be unveiled," the team said, and the Yankees are urging fans to be in their seats by 6:50 p.m.

Farewell Yankee Stadium

"I can't even imagine what Sunday is going to be like," manager Joe Girardi said. "You think of a seventh game of a World Series. You can just imagine the attention that's going to be brought to this historic building. I'm really looking forward to it. There's going to be a lot of emotions for me."

Access to Monument Park is via the staircase at the end of the aisle between the field and main level seats in Section 36. Wheelchair access is via the elevator in Section 24. Field exit from Monument Park will close at approximately 4 p.m., prior to pregame batting practice for each team. Monument Park will remain open until 6:45 p.m.

For the events of the game, Girardi said that he has made some of his choices with sentimentality in mind. Pettitte will start for New York against the Orioles -- since the building was remodeled for the 1976 season, Pettitte's 94 victories at home are the most of any Yankees pitcher since Guidry (99).

It is likely that Pettitte will be removed mid-inning so the Yankee Stadium crowd is able to offer him a similar ovation to the one Mike Mussina received on Friday.

Win or lose, Girardi intends to ensure the last Yankees pitcher throwing a ninth inning at the Stadium will be Mariano Rivera.

"Rightfully, in the ninth inning, there's only one guy to have on the mound," Girardi said.

Jeter and Alex Rodriguez are likely to play all nine innings, and Girardi said he would start Hideki Matsui at designated hitter.

"I think there's a lot of thought that goes into it, because you want to feel that you did it the right way and the way that honors the organization and the Stadium the most," Girardi said.

Those intending to obtain souvenirs of Yankee Stadium on their own are strongly urged to reconsider. Damage to or theft of Stadium property is a crime, and the New York Police Department, Major League Baseball and several federal and state agencies have joined in the effort to safeguard against any and all unlawful activity.

"Numerous law-enforcement agencies will be on hand for the final game to ensure a safe and enjoyable fan experience," the team said. "Violators will be prosecuted by the Bronx District Attorney's Office to the fullest extent of the law."

Only fans with valid ticket(s) for Sunday's game will be admitted, and there will be no re-entry. Bleacher ticket holders who would like to visit Monument Park should enter the Stadium through Gates 2, 4 or 6.

The Yankees confirmed that Sunday's game will not be the final event at Yankee Stadium. It was reported earlier this week that a Nov. 9 ceremony and concert will be held to celebrate the Stadium, though the club has not confirmed that date or accompanying details.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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