Book recalls Cathedral's last season

Yankee Stadium's 'Final Season'

When the last farewell had been offered to Yankee Stadium and the storied cathedral's gates closed forever, each and every fan brought home individual memories of the 2008 season that will remain.

They may be of specific moments, watching the Yankees dash on to the field for the home opener or walking the last bittersweet lap in the lush grass. Summer days in the bleachers, chilly nights at the concession stands, the rumbling of the subway -- and time -- passing by.

From the first morning of spring to Mariano Rivera's last pitch, "The Final Season: The Official Retrospective" by Alfred Santasiere III and Mark Vancil promises to capture the Stadium's sendoff from the inside out, featuring more than 150 never-before-published photographs.

"I want them to feel what they felt when they were in the ballpark," Santasiere said. "Whatever those emotions were, I want them to feel that.

"The pictures will take them back, and the way that we describe some of those monumental moments in such detail strike a chord and bring you back to those specific days that were really special for the fans and the New York Yankees."

Over the course of 192 pages, "The Final Season" -- published March 30 by Rare Air Media -- will take readers on a photographic and literary journey through Yankee Stadium's swan song.

Yankees photographers chronicled every moment from every angle, offering lush, full-color images that depict the Stadium's secret areas and special moments. On an everyday basis throughout 2008, lenses were focused in places where no one else had access.

"I really think it will capture the essence of what Yankee Stadium means to people, because there's such a wide range of places in the Stadium that are photographed," Santasiere said. "No matter where you've sat at a game, behind the plate or in the bleachers or the upper deck, there are beautiful photos of those areas.

"That's what makes people sentimental -- when they see a photo of the bleachers after sitting in the bleachers their whole lives. It's the concession stands, areas outside the ballpark. There's a great picture of the Bat, where so many people met. We really wanted to capture all of those images."

Those scenes are accompanied by first-person reflections gathered not only from Yankees players but also from Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter, as well as national celebrities and all-time baseball legends.

For example, the book's introduction features the words of Yogi Berra, shown looping his thumbs into the back pockets of a pair of yellowed vintage uniform pants during introductions for the Stadium's final evening.

Other striking scenes include Henry Aaron posing with Babe Ruth's monument and Cal Ripken Jr. with Lou Gehrig's, images of significance for any fan. There are moments of on-field triumph, a look back at the All-Star Game and the final Old-Timers Day.

But Yankee Stadium's story was not just about baseball, and neither was its final year. The building hosted several memorable events, including Military Appreciation Day, a NYU graduation ceremony and even a video shoot for NBC's "Saturday Night Live."

But no event compares with what Santasiere calls "the crown jewel of the season at Yankee Stadium." On April 15, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass on an altar built over second base, the third time Yankee Stadium hosted a Pope. The author had unprecedented access.

"It was more than just baseball -- it was a historic event," Santasiere said. "I was able to be with the Pope from the time he arrived in our loading dock area for the official greeting with some of our executives, the Mayor and the Governor.

"Other than the time he was in the Popemobile or at the altar, I was within a couple of feet of him and actually was able to shake his hand and speak with him. It was just an amazing day, and it's my favorite section of the book. It's such history."

About a month after the Yankees closed the building with a victory over the Orioles on Sept. 21, Derek Jeter's voice echoing throughout the walls and saluting "the greatest fans in the world," another member of the Yankees' dynasty passed through the gates one final time.

Bernie Williams was the last player to walk through Yankee Stadium's center field grass, shooting a music video in the waning days of October and playing 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame' on his guitar.

The moment, frozen in time on pages 190 and 191, show Williams leaving the field in street clothes, shadows creeping over the infield and two words were appropriately displayed on the left-field scoreboard: "Moving Forward."

Santasiere, Yankees' director of publications, is in his seventh season working for the club. He said he has been attending games at the Stadium since age 7. While saying goodbye to his home, Santasiere said that he cannot imagine a more exciting time to work for the Yankees.

"I knew from a fan's standpoint what would make people pick this book up 15 years from now and read the whole thing again," Santasiere said. "Yankee Stadium isn't going to be there in the future, and they're never going to go there again. But with these books, the history and the memories really can live on."

Co-authors Santasiere and Vancil are scheduled to appear for a book signing at Mickey Mantle's NYC restaurant on the evening of April 16, following the new Yankee Stadium opener.

"The Final Season: The Official Retrospective" will be released on March 30. Copies can be obtained by visiting http://www.yankees.com/publications or calling (800) GO-YANKS.

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