I lumbered toward Yankee Stadium’s traffic chocked streets swamped with snarling car engines.
I covered my ears with my hands blocking the blare of determined fire engines
racing toward the Aaron Judge home run spectacle.
Strolling along the fan choked avenue, mouth agape,
I saw giant photos of Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle and other Yankee greats
blanketing the stadium’s outer wall of fame wrapped around the ballpark.
My daughter clutched my arm with her elite gymnast’s uneven bar grip.
An adult now she said, “Dad, look that’s Mickey Mantle.”
We stared, frozen in place and examined the giant photo of the Oklahoma Comet clinging to the wall.
She said, “I was four and a poster of Mickey Mantle covered my closet door.
It seemed like whenever I awakened, you pointed to that poster and greeted me with,
‘Say good morning to the Mick.'”
We paused and looked eye-to-eye.
I sensed an emotional meltdown and the resounding Bronx rumblings silenced.
Revisiting that memory trickled moisture from the shorelines of my eyes.
I’d shared a history with Yankee Stadium starting with the House that Ruth built.
Poor city kids attended ballgames paid for by our leagues.
I seamlessly climbed two steps at a time until I reached the rafter seats.
The scent of hot dogs oozed up to our stratospheric section.
Our gang pooled its quarters to buy what we called “dirty dogs.”
Now, more than a score of years after the Millennium, I visited the new Yankee Stadium,
probably built by DiMaggio, Mantle, Maris and Jeter.
My ticket was a passport to the Home Run coronation of the Twenty- First Century Ruth: Aaron Judge.
Unlike my fuzzy faced days we sat in club seats under a canopy.
I sat back relaxed in soft seats, and devoured free hot dogs while sipping the soda pop scattered all ’round.
Partially confined by Father Time, now I climbed one step at a time.
My children took turns supporting my arms.
Judge and other stars appeared on a seemingly never- ending expansive scoreboard.
The glittering board captivated me despite a thick mist, rumble of thunder and sea of umbrellas.
Aaron Judge’s face blanketed the scoreboard.
He looked like an escapee from the pages of a Superman Comic Book.
A chant of “Here comes the judge” spontaneously encircled me.
Moments later a new message replaced the graceful giant.
A shout stunned me and my kids pointed toward center field.
Someone shouted,” Look up dad! My eyes widened,
The scoreboard proclaimed:
Happy 80 th Birthday Anthony Ton Loc D’Alessandro.
For a moment, I’d shared a stage with a future Hall of Fame resident.
My kids said that I was experiencing my surprise 80 Th birthday party.
They added Ton Loc ‘s name since they’d likened me to that musical legend.
Throughout the battleship grey night, my two sons and daughter took turns escorting me arm-in-arm thru stands thick with the hum of countless conversations, continual cheers, and breathless fans waiting for Judge’s journey thru the record book.
After the game, while sidestepping puddles caused by torrential rains,
long faced fans disappointed the end the night’s historic quest stomped past us.
I smugly said, “Thanks, redemption at 80.”
“Redemption!” my kids shouted with the voice of one.
I reminded them that during the last century we all attended the same game
On that day my wrinkled brow suddenly appeared on a smaller yet equally seasoned, Yankee scoreboard.
It posted a more hirsute me juggling, and then dropping a routine pop- up in the stands,
just like a slippery soap bar in my bathtub.
The crowd all stared at me on the scoreboard and flaunted choking gestures.
That packed stadium littered with sarcasm, serenaded me with boos.
I saw my own children sporting wide grinned faces giving me a Bronx Cheer.
The great Aaron Judge may not have homered tonight we hit a homer as a family.
I said, “Thanks for my birthday present and the opportunity to redeem myself for my past error.
Let’s share a family healing hug.”
I added, “Seriously, that misplay clawed at my heart for years! “
I loved the opportunity to receive absolution from last century’s embarrassing error.”