Jeter Walks Off With Prized Stadium Artifact

When the Yankees closed down Yankee Stadium in September, there was a lot of talk about how they'd be bringing the memories that were made there across the street with them. One look at the YES Network this winter was enough to know that they haven't stopped using the team's aura as a selling point. That's fine, if a bit tiresome, but only if you treat that history with respect.

The Yankees didn't do that when they allowed Derek Jeter to walk out of the old Stadium with one of its most prized momentos. A sign reading "I want to thank the Good Lord for making me a Yankee" greeted every player making his way from the Yankee clubhouse to the playing field. As they looked at that sign, the players got placed into a straight line back to Joe DiMaggio, who uttered those famous words. DiMmaggio played with Lou Gehrig who played with Babe Ruth and so on and so on until every Yankee is linked.

The sentiment expressed in that sign is what make the Yankees able to sell themselves as something more than a baseball team. Being a Yankee has a meaning beyond being a Brewer, Cub and Cardinal and that meaning existed whether you were Mariano Rivera or Mike Pagliarulo or Horace Clarke. That's why the team should have never allowed Jeter to take it from the stadium.

If the idea is that the tradition and mystique and memories are all the same, regardless of the building, the sign should have gone to the exact same spot in the new stadium. Or to a museum or some other sort of place in the new stadium devoted to showing off the treasures of Yankee history. Or to Yogi Berra's museum in New Jersey or the Baseball Hall of Fame. Or anywhere, really, where it could exist as an artifact for all to enjoy instead of over Jeter's fireplace.

By now you're probably saying "Who cares? It's just a sign."

If it's just a sign than the Yankees are just a team. That's a perfectly reasonable point of view, probably the correct point of view. But it isn't the Yankee point of view, certainly not this week when they're acting like Joe Torre's committed treason by writing a book. If history and tradition actually mattered to the team, instead of just a way to milk more dollars out of fans, the sign would matter too.

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