Fans stirred by chance to walk Stadium

Fans stirred by chance to walk Stadium

NEW YORK -- Before his time as a Yankees fan, Queens, N.Y., native Howard Skeete heard about an era when fans could walk across the infield at Yankee Stadium -- through the outfield, through the dugouts and into the streets.

He tried to imagine the chill that would follow after crossing the ghosts of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio on the grass. Moreover, Skeete doesn't even understand how current Yankees players can hold themselves together as they go to work in such historic grounds.

"You can't help but think about who played here," Skeete said. "I don't know how the players go through their lockers every day being next to Thurman Munson's. I get goose bumps just thinking about."

Skeete -- along with other fans who will be allowed to walk along Yankee Stadium's warning track starting at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday -- has a chance to experience the view from field level before the stadium's finale. For a diehard Yankees fan like Skeete, who during the 1980s would drive straight from work to each home game, this last chance to behold Monument Park in its first location will be unforgettable.

Skeete had his camera around his neck on Saturday, filling his memory card with photos. Staring off at the new Yankee Stadium from a ramp at the original, Skeete and a Red Sox fan joined in conversation. It seemed that in the park's final hours -- the apparent last seconds to come on Sunday -- even the fiercest of rivals could lay down their verbal arms and agree that former Yankees center fielder Bernie Williams had a bat.

"He wrecked the Red Sox," Skeete said, "but he wrecked a lot of people."

Skeete vividly remembers Game 1 of the 1996 American League Championship Series, or what would be remembered as "The Jeffrey Maier Game." While Skeete couldn't quite make out the fan-interference call that gave the tying home run to the Yankees, he can still feel the shaking of the outfield bleachers following Williams' walk-off homer in extra innings.

"Guys who would have killed me for a parking spot a couple hours earlier were like, 'Hey, man, we won.'"

Steve Freeman, an Orioles fan, was on the other side of 1996 ALCS, but he will be in attendance on Sunday at Yankee Stadium. Even though he is from Baltimore, Freeman couldn't help but gaze across the road to the new venue as he recalled his favorite memories in the Cathedral.

Freeman, 54, said he just wants to "soak it all in." Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter will watch from a distance before having his chance to say goodbye during the game.

"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," Jeter said of the fans' walk around the warning track. "I think it's a great idea."

Jon Blau is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.