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Generations merge in Stadium sendoff

Generations merge in Stadium sendoff

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NEW YORK -- Capping a ceremony honoring the 85 years of Yankee Stadium's place as one of America's most prestigious addresses, Bernie Williams tipped a hat in center field to chants of "Bernie! Bernie!," ending his personal absence of nearly two years at Yankee Stadium.

Williams crossed his heart and raised both hands in the sky as he shook hands with family members of Mickey Mantle and Bobby Murcer, reclaiming his rightful place among the Yankees' top center fielders of all time.

It was Williams' first appearance at Yankee Stadium since his final day as an active player in October 2006, though the four-time World Series champion has not officially retired from baseball.

The ceremonial first pitch was thrown by Julia Ruth Stevens, the daughter of the slugger who christened the stadium with a home run in its first game on April 18, 1923. Ruth Stevens threw the first pitch of Yankee Stadium's final game to Yankees catcher Jorge Posada.

The ceremonies opened with the clear, concise and correct speech patterns of venerable public-address announcer Bob Sheppard, who recorded his portion of the ceremony from his home in Baldwin, N.Y., unable to attend games in the Bronx this season as he recovers from a respiratory illness.

"I've missed being at the Stadium this season, but I hope to see everyone next year in the new Yankee Stadium," Sheppard said. "And now, it's time to sit back, as the Yankees pay homage to The House that Ruth Built. So, friends, I'll see you next season."

Turning over the microphone to masters of ceremonies John Sterling and Michael Kay, the duo watched as a historic memento from the Yankees' past was unveiled.

Workers pulled a black tarpaulin from the black beyond the center-field wall, revealing the first flag in history to fly at Yankee Stadium: the club's original 1922 American League Championship pennant, outlined in red and proclaiming in blue text upon yellowed white: "NEW YORK YANKEES LEAGUE CHAMPIONS 1922."

With that, the club rolled Yankee Stadium's clock back to Opening Day 1923, with a cast representing the Yankees' lineup from that day exiting from a runway behind the right-field wall, plus club mainstays like manager Joe McCarthy, Bill Dickey, Red Ruffing, Lefty Gomez and, of course, the Iron Horse, Lou Gehrig.

The Yankees found more than 700 living alumni as they scoured their archives. Those who were not able to attend were acknowledged on the DiamondVision screen in right-center field, as the club rolled back the annals of its best at each position since Yankee Stadium opened its doors for the first time.

In a celebratory scene similar to the festivities that preceded the July 15 All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium, most garnered loud, passionate reactions as fans treated them as though they were taking the field for a game.

The Yankees paid tribute to great alumni who have passed away by inviting family members to don their uniforms.

Cora Rizzuto, the devoted wife whom Phil Rizzuto rushed across the George Washington Bridge to on so many occasions, walked to shortstop escorted by Yankees closer Mariano Rivera. Helen Hunter, the wife of Jim "Catfish" Hunter, went to the mound.

Farewell Yankee Stadium

The children of Roger Maris, Elston Howard and Thurman Munson also took their fathers' positions across the diamond. Mickey Mantle's son Danny, bearing a striking resemblance to his father, tipped his cap in center field, and Kay Murcer -- the wife of Bobby, who passed away this year -- walked to center field holding hands with their two children.

The requisite chants of "Reggie! Reggie! Reggie!" made the building sound like 1977 all over again, and the introductions of Scott Brosius and Tino Martinez flashed memories back to the club's most recent championship years.

The cheers grew louder and louder as Yogi Berra's eyes moistened, the former catcher trotting a few steps before walking the rest of the way to take his position behind a home plate that he joked would make a great souvenir to bring back to New Jersey.

Berra's batterymate of perfection from the 1956 World Series, Don Larsen, couldn't wait that long -- Larsen bent over and took dirt from the Yankee Stadium mound during the ceremonies.

Some showcased the flair from their playing days: Willie Randolph ran onto the field and, instead of joining Billy Martin Jr. and Bobby Richardson at his former position, made a tight left turn and slid into second base, grinning and waving to the roaring crowd.

Players from both clubs lined the railings of each dugout, some holding cameras to preserve the moment for themselves. Each base for Sunday's game showcases the circular Yankee Stadium logo, which has been worn on the club's uniform sleeves all season.

Following the introduction of the Yankees' greats, Sheppard announced the Yankees' starting lineup for the first time this season and the last time in this Stadium, sending each player out to his position. The United States Army Field Band performed the national anthem.

Derek Jeter was honored before the game for being the all-time hits leader at Yankee Stadium, a feat he accomplished on Tuesday night, when he eclipsed Gehrig's stadium total with his 2,170th hit.

Below is a list of players represented at their respective positions prior to Sunday's Yankee Stadium finale:

LEFT FIELDERS
Roy White, Dave Winfield

SHORTSTOPS
Cora Rizzuto (escorted by Mariano Rivera), Gene Michael

THIRD BASE
Graig Nettles, Wade Boggs, Scott Brosius

RIGHT FIELD
Randy Maris, son of Roger Maris; Reggie Jackson; Paul O'Neill

SECOND BASE
Billy Martin Jr.; Bobby Richardson; Willie Randolph

FIRST BASE
Moose Skowron; Chris Chambliss; Tino Martinez

CATCHER
Yogi Berra; Cheryl Howard (daughter of Elston Howard); Michael Munson (son representing Thurman Munson); Joe Girardi

PITCHERS
Whitey Ford; Don Larsen; Helen Hunter (wife of Catfish Hunter), Goose Gossage; Ron Guidry; David Wells; David Cone

CENTER FIELD
David Mantle (representing Mickey Mantle); wife Kay Murcer and their two children; Bernie Williams

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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