(Courtesy of Scott Pitoniak)

September 21, 2008: The final game at Yankee Stadium

This article was written by Alan Raylesberg

(Courtesy of Scott Pitoniak)

It was a night like no other. A night to say farewell to an old friend. A night full of memories. A night that would go down in history. And so it was, on September 21, 2008, that more than 54,000 people showed up for the final game to be played at the old ballpark in the Bronx. Yankee Stadium, where so much of baseball history was written, would be torn down, and across the street a new, modern edifice would replace it in time for the 2009 season. But first, one last game, one final night to remember what made the place so special.

The Baltimore Orioles were in town to play the Yankees, but this night was about the Stadium. It was built in the third decade of the twentieth century, and captain Derek Jeter often spoke about the ghosts that inhabited the catacombs during the twenty-first century. The ghosts that came out to give the Yankees magical moments such as their two comeback wins in the 2001 World Series and their extra-inning win in Game Seven of the 2003 American League Championship Series. It was only fitting that, on this very special night, the Yankees would bring those ghosts to life in a pregame ceremony that combined the elements of an All-Star Game with Old-Timers Day and the Field of Dreams.

The festivities started with the recorded voice of Bob Sheppard, the Yankees longtime public- address announcer, welcoming everyone to The Final Game.1 The Yankees then unveiled, in the center-field bleachers, the original 1922 American League pennant that was raised on the day the Stadium opened on April 18, 1923. To connect the present to the past, the 1923 Opening Day lineup was announced, with actors wearing vintage uniforms running onto the field from behind the outfield fence and lining up in center field. 2

Longtime Yankees broadcasters Michael Kay and John Sterling3 took over as emcees, evoking memories that had the sellout crowd roaring from start to finish. Attention was directed to the giant video screen on the center-field scoreboard as clips of the greatest players in Yankees history were shown, one position at a time.4 With dramatic music playing, the fans were treated to a video montage of some of the many memorable moments that had occurred at the Stadium over its 85-year history. There was Lou Gehrig’s “Luckiest Man” speech in 1939; Babe Ruth’s home-run trot; Mickey Mantle hitting his 500th home run into the right-field stands; Roger Maris hitting number 61 in 1961; Chris Chambliss hitting a walk-off home run to win the 1976 American League pennant; Reggie Jackson hitting three home runs in Game Six of the 1977 World Series; Ron Guidry setting the Yankees’ single-season strikeout record in 1978;5 Tino Martinez hitting a grand slam in the 1998 World Series; Scott Brosius hitting a game-tying home run in Game Five of the 2001 World Series;6 the fans chanting Paul O’Neill’s name as he stood in right field in his final game at the Stadium in the 2001 World Series; Don Larsen pitching the only perfect game in World Series history; and David Wells and David Cone pitching the only other perfect games in Yankees history.7

The video clips brought back memories, yet it was the introduction of those former players in attendance that made one feel chills on this historic night. As Kay and Sterling announced them, the former greats came out of the Yankees dugout one by one and took their place at their position on the very ground that had been their home for so many years. Perhaps the most popular Yankee of them all, 83-year-old Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra, was introduced to a thunderous ovation as he walked slowly to his familiar spot behind home plate. Introduced as the greatest Yankees pitcher ever, 79-year-old Edward Charles “Whitey” Ford strolled to the pitcher’s mound. From the great Yankees teams of the 1950s and early 1960s, on to the field came Bill “Moose” Skowron, along with Bobby Richardson and Gil McDougald. From the most recent Yankees dynasty came Martinez, Brosius, O’Neill, Jorge Posada, and Mariano Rivera. Jackson, Larsen, Cone, Wells, and Goose Gossage were there;8 Mantle’s look-alike son, David, took his place in center field, joined in right field by Randy Maris, the son of the man who broke Ruth’s single-season home-run record in 1961.9

There was an outpouring of love when the family of Bobby Murcer was introduced. The heir apparent to Mantle, and a longtime popular Yankees broadcaster, Murcer had died two months earlier at the age of 62.10 The late Thurman Munson’s son, Michael, bearing a striking physical resemblance to his father, took his position behind the plate.11 He was joined there by the daughter of another catcher, Elston Howard.12 The widow of Catfish Hunter joined the other former pitching stars. The noise level in the Stadium got louder and louder as the parade of Yankees greats and relatives continued.13 When Michel Kay introduced “the final guest,” the Stadium rocked as Bernie Williams ran out to center field to stand next to the families of Mantle and Murcer and the ghosts of Earle Combs and Joe DiMaggio.

As the fans settled down to watch a game that seemed like an afterthought, the Yankees had another surprise in store. Kay announced that, since Babe Ruth had opened the Stadium with a home run, it was only fitting that the Stadium “close with a Ruth,” as 92-year-old Julia Ruth Stevens, the daughter of The Babe, walked out to the area in front of the pitcher’s mound to throw out the first pitch.14 She threw a strike to Posada and it was time to play the Final Game at the old ballpark in the Bronx.

Throughout the ceremonies, the present-day Yankees and Orioles stood at the top of the dugout steps,15 enthralled at what they were witnessing. They watched as Don Larsen scooped up dirt from the pitcher’s mound with assistance from Whitey Ford, as Willie Randolph ran out of the dugout and slid into second base16 and as the voice of Yogi Berra declared, “Only this time when it’s over, it’s over.”17

The drama of the evening continued with a unique introduction of the Yankees starting lineup. The voice of Bob Sheppard announced the lineup as each player, one by one, ran on to the field to their position and joined the former Yankees greats already standing there.18 With the Yankees one loss away from being eliminated from the postseason, the game itself, against the last-place Orioles, was not significant.19 Yet, as Orioles manager Dave Trembley said, the atmosphere “was kind of like the seventh game of the World Series, the Super Bowl, the Mardi Gras … everything rolled into one.”20

Staving off elimination, the Yankees won the game, 7-3. Andy Pettitte started and pitched five innings for the victory.21 Chris Waters started for the Orioles and took the loss. Johnny Damon and José Molina homered for the Yankees. Molina’s fourth-inning home run was the last one hit in Yankee Stadium.22 In the ninth inning, the fans got to see what they anticipated and hoped for, when Rivera came in to pitch for the final time at the Stadium.23 After Rivera retired the first two batters, Jeter was called in off the field to a tremendous ovation, before coming out for a curtain call.24 Rivera then completed a one-two-three inning and the game was over.25

The celebration was not. As the game ended, and the fans said goodbye to The Cathedral of Baseball, the entire Yankees team came on to the field and gathered at the pitcher’s mound. Jeter had a microphone and the fans sensed they were about to witness one of those great moments in Yankee Stadium history.26 Jeter, poised as usual, remarked that the Stadium had been home for 85 years and that there was a lot of tradition and memories. He told the fans that “we are relying on you to take the memories from this Stadium, add them to the new memories to come at the new Yankee Stadium and continue to pass them on from generation to generation.”27 He closed by saluting “the greatest fans in the world,” before the entire Yankees team took a lap around the field, waving their caps to their adoring fans. Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” played for one last time as the crowd roared in a final goodbye to the House that Ruth Built.


Author’s Note

The author, a lifelong Yankees fan, sat with his son in an Upper Tier Box near third base that night. The evening brought back many memories and created a new one that will last a lifetime.



 In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author also viewed the broadcast of the ceremonies on YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTIT7WCv3qU and consulted Baseball-Reference.com.


Photo credit: Courtesy of Scott Pitoniak.



1 Known as “The Voice of God,” Sheppard started as the public-address announcer for the Yankees during the 1951 season. A speech teacher with impeccable diction and a voice to match, Sheppard remained as the PA announcer for an incredible 57 seasons, through 2007. Illness prevented him, at the age of 97, from announcing during 2008. Still too ill to attend the Final Game, but hoping to return as PA announcer in 2009, Sheppard recorded the announcements played at the Stadium for the Final Game. Sheppard died in 2010, three months shy of his 100th birthday. Even after his passing, his recorded announcement of Jeter coming to bat (“now batting for the Yankees, number two, Derek Jeter, number two”) was played when Jeter came to bat for many years afterward. Sheppard is honored with a plaque in Monument Park.

2 The Opening Day lineup was Whitey Witt in center field, Joe Dugan at third base, Ruth in right field, Wally Pipp at first base, Bob Meusel in left field, Wally Schang at catcher, Aaron Ward at second base, Everett Scott at shortstop, and Bob Shawkey pitching. Also announced was the manager, Miller Huggins. Some of the players who are in Monument Park were then recognized, with actors running onto the field in vintage uniforms to represent them. Those players included Gehrig, Lefty Gomez, Red Ruffing, Bill Dickey, DiMaggio, Allie Reynolds, and managers Joe McCarthy and Casey Stengel.

3 Kay, a former sportswriter, began announcing Yankees games in 1992, initially partnering with Sterling on radio. Beginning in 2002, Kay became the Yankees’ primary television announcer and still had that role as of October 2022. Sterling has been a Yankees radio broadcaster since 1989 and, at age 84, was still their primary radio voice as of October 2022.

4 Left fielders were shown first, followed by shortstops, third basemen, right fielders, second basemen, first basemen, catchers, pitchers, and finally center fielders.

5 Guidry struck out 248 batters in 1978. He won the Cy Young Award with a record of 25-3 and an ERA of 1.74. In October 2022, Gerrit Cole broke Guidry’s strikeout record, doing so on the same night that Aaron Judge hit his 62nd home run of the season to break Roger Maris’s Yankees and American League single-season home-run record.

6 The video also showed Martinez’s dramatic game-tying home run the night before, in Game Four of the 2001 World Series, a home run that Kay said made the Stadium “shake.”

7 Other moments shown on the screen included Jeter’s “Mr. November” game-winning home run in Game Four of the 2001 World Series; Alex Rodriguez’s 500th home run; Bucky Dent’s pennant-winning home run against the Red Sox in 1978 (which took place at Fenway Park); Mantle celebrating his 1956 Triple Crown; Dave Righetti’s no-hitter; and Jim Abbott’s no-hitter. Phil Rizzuto was seen speaking about what it meant to be a Yankee.

8 When O’Neill went out to right field, the fans serenaded him with the same “PAUL O’NEILL” chants that shook the Stadium in the 2001 World Series. When Jackson went to right field, the fans chanted “REGGIE-REGGIE-REGGIE” just as they had done during the 1977 World Series when Jackson hit three home runs in one game, a feat that at the time had been accomplished by only one other player in baseball history – Babe Ruth (twice).

9 Randy Maris wore his father’s number 9 uniform. Roger Maris’s 61 home runs in 1961 were the American League single-season record until 2022, when another Yankees right fielder, Aaron Judge, broke the record, with 62.

10 Murcer was represented by his wife, Kay, and his children, Tori and Todd.

11  Munson was 32 years old, and the Yankees captain, when he was killed in the crash of his private plane during the 1979 season.

12 Howard died in 1980, at the age of 51. He played in 13 seasons with the Yankees and later was their first-base coach for 11 years.

13 In addition to the players mentioned in the text, others who were introduced to the crowd and took their positions on the field included left fielders Roy White and Dave Winfield (left field was his original position as a Yankee); shortstop Rizzuto, represented by his widow, Cora; third basemen Graig Nettles and Wade Boggs; second baseman and Yankees manager Billy Martin, represented by his son Billy Martin Jr.; and catcher and then Yankees manager Joe Girardi. Many former greats who were not there in person, as well as some current Yankees, were highlighted during the position-by-position video presentation. They included outfielders Ruth, DiMaggio, Combs, Tommy Henrich, Hank Bauer, Lou Piniella, Bobby Abreu, Rickey Henderson, Johnny Damon, and Hideki Matsui. The infielders included Dugan, Clete Boyer, Mike Pagliarulo, Rodriguez, Randolph, Joe Gordon, Snuffy Stirnweiss, Jerry Coleman, Chuck Knoblauch, Dent, Alfonso Soriano, Robinson Cano, and Jeter. First basemen included Gehrig, Hal Chase, Pipp, Joe Pepitone, Don Mattingly, and Jason Giambi. Catchers included Dickey. Pitchers included Herb Pennock, Ruffing, Gomez, Joe Page, Reynolds, Eddie Lopat, Bob Turley, Luis Arroyo, Al Downing, Mel Stottlemyre, Sparky Lyle, Ed Figueroa, Tommy John, Righetti, Abbott, Jimmy Key, Andy Pettitte, Dwight Gooden, John Wetteland, Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez, Mike Mussina, and Chien-Ming Wang. Conspicuous by their omission were pitcher Roger Clemens and manager Joe Torre. Clemens was in the midst of a scandal involving performance-enhancing drugs, a fact that may have explained his lack of mention. Torre’s omission was more puzzling. Jason Zillo, a Yankees spokesman, later said, “A lot of great Yankees weren’t mentioned. There was no slight intended. Perhaps in hindsight, they should have been mentioned.” Richard Sandomir, “Finale Had Too Much Familiar and Too Much Missing,” New York Times, September 23, 2008: D4.

14 Stevens wore a Yankees jacket and waved to the crowd as she walked slowly to the mound accompanied by her son, Tom.

15 The dugout was so full that some of the Yankees sat on the dugout roof to watch the ceremonies. Rookie pitcher Phil Coke said after the game, “Totally and completely blows my mind. I turn around and look and see Goose Gossage walking around our clubhouse. Wow.” Tyler Kepner, “A Long Goodbye to an 85-Year Run,” New York Times, September 21, 2008: SP8.

16 Randolph grew up in Brooklyn and played 13 seasons at second base for his hometown Yankees before becoming a Yankees coach and then manager of the crosstown Mets. After the game, Randoph described his slide, saying, “I just wanted to get my uniform dirty one more time. That’s how I played.” Michael S. Schmidt and Joshua Robinson, “Night of Reflection for Sons of Two Yankees Greats,” New York Times, September 22, 2008: D2.

17 Berra was emotional about the Stadium’s closing. “It will always be in my heart, it will,” he said, “I’m sorry to see it over. I tell you that.” Kepner, ”A Long Goodbye to an 85-Year Run.”

18 The starting lineup was Damon in center field, Jeter at shortstop, Abreu in right field, Rodriguez at third base, Giambi at first base, Xavier Nady in left field, Cano at second base, Matsui at designated hitter, Jose Molina at catcher, and Pettitte pitching.

19 The Yankees had not been eliminated from the postseason since 1993. They came into the game in third place in the AL East, with a record of 84-71, nine games behind Tampa Bay. Baltimore was last in the division, 25 games out of first. The Yankees were eliminated from the postseason two days later when the eventual wild-card team, Boston, beat Cleveland, while the Yankees were winning their sixth straight against Toronto. Before being eliminated in 2008, the Yankees had made the playoffs every season from 1995 through 2007. They also finished first in 1994 when the season ended due to the players strike. The Yankees opened the new Yankee Stadium, in 2009, by finishing first in the AL East and winning the World Series. They made the playoffs each season after that through 2012, finishing first in the division in all but one of those years.

20 Associated Press, “For Final Game at Yankee Stadium, Yanks Win to Prevent Playoff Elimination,” ESPN Gamecast Recap, https://www.espn.com/mlb/recap/_/gameId/280921110. Yankees manager Joe Girardi also compared the atmosphere to the seventh game of the World Series. Kepner, “A Long Goodbye to an 85-Year Run.”       

21 After the game, Pettitte said, “The way I feel emotionally right now, and just physically so drained, it feels like a huge postseason win for us. I kind of feel embarrassed saying that, because unless a miracle happens, we’re not going to the postseason. But it was special.” Kepner, “A Long Goodbye to an 85-Year Run.”

22 Molina, a career backup and the brother of Cardinals great Yadier Molina, played 15 seasons in the majors. Molina started more games at catcher that year than any other Yankee. A lifetime .233 hitter with only 39 home runs in 2,795 plate appearances, Molina will always be the answer to the trivia question of who hit the last home run in the old Yankee Stadium. When asked about where his home run stood among his career highlights, Molina said, “Right at the top. It can’t be better than this.” He added, “You have a lot of players, great players, Hall of Famers, a lot of catchers that came through here. Just to be a part of that, knowing that your name is written right by theirs, it’s amazing.” Tyler Kepner, “In the Afterglow, Yankees Cling to Hope,” New York Times, September 23, 2008: D4.

23 Rivera is generally considered the greatest closer of all time. Inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2019, he pitched 19 seasons for the Yankees (from 1995 through 2013). He saved 652 games in the regular season and 42 in the postseason. 

24 Pettitte had a curtain call earlier, when he was removed from the game during the sixth inning.

25 Rivera held on to the final ball and told reporters that he would give it to 78-year-old Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who watched the game from his home in Florida. “Mr. George, he gave me the opportunity and he gave me the chance,” Rivera said. “The least I can do is give the ball to him.” Kepner, “A Long Goodbye to an 85-Year Run.”

26 Yankee Stadium was the site of memorable speeches before the one that Jeter gave that night. Among them was Lou Gehrig’s “Luckiest Man” speech on Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day in 1939; Babe Ruth saying goodbye to his fans in his final visit to the Stadium in 1948, when his number 3 was retired; and Mickey Mantle addressing the crowd on Mickey Mantle Day in 1969, when his number 7 was retired. After the game, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said, “What I was thinking as Derek was speaking was that it was going to be one of those moments that will play over and over for the next 100 years, like Lou Gehrig.” Harvey Araton, “A Quiet Captain’s Stirring Epilogue,” New York Times, September 23, 2008: D1. Jeter’s speech can be viewed on YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJrlTpQm0to.

27 Jeter had said that the ghosts from the old Stadium would simply move across the street but some of the fans had other ideas. One fan told the New York Times, “I don’t know if the ghosts are going to be there. You can feel that, standing here – Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio. It’s not going to be the same.” Kepner, “A Long Goodbye to an 85-Year Run.”

Additional Stats

New York Yankees 7
Baltimore Orioles 3

Yankee Stadium
New York, NY


Box Score + PBP:

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