This is a work of historical fiction. Courant Staff Writer Dom Amore has created a fictional, fairly well-to-do Hartford family of 1923, lucky enough to secure four great tickets to the first game at Yankee Stadium. The characters reflect some of the typical opinions of the time, during which Babe Ruth and Yankee Stadium radically changed the way baseball was played and viewed. The real characters in the story, including the Babe himself, their words and actions are surmised and re-created based on various published sources, including The Courant's sports sections, Ruth's own syndicated column, which appeared regularly in The Hartford Times, and conversations with Linda Ruth Tosetti, his granddaughter. The event, of course, is real and presented as it actually unfolded on April 18, 1923.
Trudy reached out with her left hand and grabbed her young son by the back of his coat. "Bundle up," she said, adjusting his scarf. "It's cold and windy. Make sure your neck is completely protected, Timmy. You, too, Johnny. Make sure your brother is warm."
Timmy, 8, blushed and shrugged his shoulders, loosening his scarf just a little as his mom glared.
"Yes, Mom," Johnny said.
"And you," Trudy shouted to her husband, Patrick, "make sure they're warm."
It was a cold, blustery Wednesday morning, April 18, 1923. Not the best day for a long trip in a drafty, rickety automobile, Trudy had told them, not when Brown Thomson was running a big sale on linens, and the family needed some.
But the boys were wrapped in heavy wool, right up to their identical newsboy caps, and already hot with excitement. It began two months earlier, when Patrick, 37, an up-and-coming executive at the insurance company, was handed a bonus: four tickets to the Yankees- Red Sox game on the 18th of April, the first game of the season, the first game to be played at the new stadium, which no one seemed sure what to call.
These weren't $1.15 general admission tickets, either. Top of the line, $3.50 reserved seats, right behind the first base dugout.
Patrick took the tickets and began arranging for his young sons to miss a day of school but make up the work. Johnny, 12, was writing a paper on the whole journey for Miss Ross' English class.
That left one ticket. Trudy had no interest. So who would join Patrick and the boys?
"... Well, let's go," said the old man sitting in Patrick's Packard sedan as they pulled out of Hartford. "Don't know why we couldn't take the train. All the way to New York in this rattle trap?"
Grampa, nearly 80, served in the Grand Army at the tail end of the Civil War, first played ball to pass the time during the long Siege of Petersburg and worked most of his life on the railroads between Springfield and New Haven. Still worked occasionally when they needed him. He didn't much like automobiles, didn't much like the Charleston, jazz, had no use for President Harding.
But his No. 1 irritation now, the one man he disliked above all others, was the man they were going to see amid all this hubbub. "Sounds like a baboon with asthma," he snorted, as Patrick got the Model T started with a vigorous crank, then adjusted his vest. "And speaking of baboons, just why are we traipsing all the way to New York?"
"To see Babe Ruth!" the boys shouted in unison. They did that a lot, because when it came to Babe Ruth they were of one mind.
"Do you think he'll hit one today, Johnny?" Timmy asked his older brother. "I bet he does," Johnny said. "First game in the new park, he has to."
Such change Ruth had wrought, Grampa thought. It wasn't the same game he used to watch when Candy Cummings threw his famous curveball in Hartford, not anymore, no longer the rough-and-tumble exercise in teamwork, but a one-man circus.
And this he reminded his precocious, misguided grandsons every chance he got. They never tired of Grampa's story about the day President Lincoln visited camp, or the day Robert E. Lee's soldiers stacked their weapons. His attacks on the Babe, they could do without.
Patrick thought this was the perfect time for everyone to get closer, a motor trip through Connecticut and into New York. What an adventure. Sure, the train would have been easier, maybe cheaper, with gas up to 16 cents a gallon and maybe 20 gallons necessary for this 108-mile trip through every city and town.
"We're off to a good start," Patrick said as the car eased onto the Berlin Turnpike at 10 a.m. and headed south. "Don't know how long it'll take."
Send Up Some Java, Sis
The phone rang loudly enough to jingle all the jewelry on the nightstand, but only after three rings did the big man stir.
"Good morning, Mr. Ruth," said the cheery voice on the other end. "I have a call for you."
"Who is it, Sis?" said Babe Ruth. "And what time is it?"
"The call is from Mr. Slocum, and it's 9 a.m."
"OK, put him through. And send up some java, will ya, Sis? ... Thanks."
Ruth swung his legs around and sat himself up, then reached for one of the cigars on the nightstand and began looking for a light.
"Babe, sorry to bother you so early, but I'm working on your column for the afternoon papers," Bill Slocum said.
"Aw, Sloke, you know how I think," Ruth said, rummaging for his lighter. "You write more like me than I do. Just go ahead."
"I know, Babe. But this is a special day and I want to make sure I capture your true feelings. Say, anything unusual happen the last day or so we could work in?"
The Babe stroked his chin. He'd become a pro at this ghost-writing game, knew what worked, nearly as much as his ghost, the veteran writer for the New York American.
"I had lunch with that author, Van Looneytune, or whatever, you know, Christy Walsh's friend," Ruth said.
"You mean Hendrik van Loon?"
"Yeah, yeah," Ruth said, lighting his cigar. "He gave me a new silver dollar, said it was lucky. You can use that."
Slocum paused to jot down the note.
"How do you feel, Babe?"
"I'm a little nervous, Sloke," he said. "Anxious, maybe. You seen that place? Gigantic, and it's going to be full, maybe 75,000 people, old man Barrow was saying. So everybody's going to be riding me to hit one, and I just have to do it. Write that. Say I'm excited, nerved up like it's the World Series, and want to hit a homer today real bad."
The scratch of Slocum's pencil was audible as he took notes; this was good stuff. "I can make 300 words of that, I think," he finally said. "Listen, Babe, they say the crowds are already forming out there, cars lined up for miles. Can't get near the Bronx, so you'd better get an early start. You may need the cops to get you there."
Babe just laughed.
"Don't worry, Sloke, they won't start without me."
Can We Stop, Dad?
The tobacco smoke was everywhere as the Model T was bobbing and weaving through the streets of New Haven, past the F.D. Grave cigar factory. This would not be the Babe's brand, incidentally. Five-cent cigars.
"Lost?" the old man said.
"Nah, we're fine," Patrick said. "Just look for a sign that says Route 1 ... There we go."
Onto the famous road they bounced, past Union Station and on up through the Hill section and into Allingtown.
"We there yet?" Timmy called from the back seat.
"Maybe halfway," answered the boy's father. "Now we're on the Boston Post Road, should have a pretty straight route for a while."
"Would've been there by now if we took the train," carped the boys' grandfather.
Tired of explaining his reasoning, Patrick didn't answer. It was an interesting day. A former player for the Hartford Senators, Ralph Head, was pitching for the Phillies in their game at Brooklyn. Another former Senator, Lou Gehrig, was pitching for Columbia University that day — and striking out 17. Even the front page of The Courant had baseball news. The state House of Representatives shot down a proposal that would have relaxed the blue laws and allowed professional baseball, the Senators and their Eastern League rivals, to be played on Sundays.
"Not supposed to play on Sundays," Grampa said.
Johnny was finished with one newspaper and ready for another. It was almost noon, maybe the afternoon papers were out, with Babe Ruth's column.
"Can we stop for one, Dad?" Johnny said.
The grandfather turned and scowled.
"The Big Baboon can't even read and we're supposed to believe he writes a column? I believe in ghosts, like in ghost writers."
"I'm sure he gets help," Patrick said as he looked for a place to stop on the Boston Post Road. "But they couldn't write it unless it's what he really thinks."
"Now you're suggesting he has a brain?" the old man said, letting out a nasty laugh.
Johnny and Timmy looked at each other, but said nothing. Johnny began reading the list of important people expected. The governor, the mayor, John Philip Sousa and his band.
"What about that pretty boy president of ours?" the old man said.
Warren Harding wouldn't be on hand today, Patrick had read somewhere, but was planning to come up and see the new stadium next week.
"Just like him," Grampa said. "See which way the wind's blowing before showing up. Damn newspaperman in the White House. What's next, movie stars?"
There was corruption in Washington, and elsewhere. The crooks were making a fortune in sugar speculation; it was all over the papers. "Harding," Grandpa said, dripping contempt. And his generation thought General Grant was unfit for the White House.
"You boys should keep up with these things, too," he admonished. "Don't just read the damn box scores."
Hey Kids, Hop Right In
It was 1 p.m., two hours from the first pitch, and the scene around the stadium was like nothing anyone had ever seen. The ticket booths and windows, with their stash of 50,000 precious passes, opened and the line surged forward.
"OK, folks, plenty for everybody. Stop pushing," Officer O'Leary said.
They should have sold more tickets beforehand, some of the people were murmuring.
"Send a letter to Ruppert, my friend," the policeman said. "For now, stop pushing. You'll get one."
Back at the Ansonia, the Big Man had dressed, put on his raccoon coat and stuck his head out the door.
"Cold," he said to himself. "Not a good day to hit one. Bat's going to feel like bumblebees."
The shiny Pierce-Arrow, with the letters GHR painted on the fender, was already waiting. Another of New York's finest approached.
"Mr. Ruth, it's crazy in the Bronx. Mr. Ruppert called, thinks we should lead you there."
"OK, boys. Let's go."
Then Ruth turned and spotted a couple of young kids on the sidewalk, noting the holes in the knees of their trousers as they approached sheepishly.
"I suppose you want me to sign those?" Ruth said, pointing to the brownish baseballs in their hands. They nodded.
The police outside the Ansonia had seen this many times. They had a pen ready, and Ruth signed. "Thank you, Mr. Ruth," the kids said in unison.
Then Ruth brightened. "Hey, you boys want to come out to the game?"
"Do we?" they screamed.
"Hop in," Ruth said. "Just make sure the seat of your pants is clean."
Ruth's car started up, the policemen hopped onto their cycles and into the sidecars, and the race began.
"We're taking you up the East Side, along the Harlem River," they said.
"Lead the way," Ruth said.
What's This All-Or-Nothing?
'Hey Dad, Babe says he's nervous," Johnny said, reading the latest Slocum-Ruth collaboration in the paper. "Says he'd give anything to hit one out today."
"I'd give anything to see him hit one!" Timmy shouted.
Patrick smiled, seeing clear road ahead through Black Rock.
The old man next to him frowned. "See, that's what's wrong with you kids," Grampa said. "He wants to hit a homer so bad, you want to see a home run. That's not baseball. Baseball is waiting to see Tyrus Raymond Cobb get on base. Remember when I took you to Boston to see him, son?"
Patrick nodded, as he usually did when his father talked.
"You couldn't wait to see what happened next. Would he steal? Would the batter bunt? Maybe he'd take off and the batter would chop one right off home plate and high in the air, and it'd be like a fire drill on the bases. That's baseball, boys. Takes speed, skill and the efforts of more than one batter to produce a single run, and that may be the only one scored that day.
"Now what? You go to the game and sit on your hands until this big ape gets up there and swings from his heels. Most of the time he misses, or hits one straight up in the air. Maybe one out of 10 he happens to catch just right and it goes over the fence, maybe one out of 10. And if the pitcher has anything on the ball at all, he's helpless. That's not baseball, that's a sideshow at the carnival. He needs a sledgehammer, not a bat."
Patrick understood. The boys in the back seat did not. Their hero was being assaulted, but they didn't dare talk back to their grandfather.
"Whatever you say, Grampa," Johnny said. "Yeah, whatever you say, Gramps," Timmy said.
Then Timmy waited a second and shouted. "But I still hope he hits one!"
Two Dogs And The Safe
The pushing, shoving and pandemonium along River Avenue was barely contained by the police. "He's here," people began to shout. "The Babe's here." The sirens stopped screeching as the phalanx of cycles finally separated the crowd near the main entrance. "Ruppert said this door, here, Babe," the lead cop said.
"OK, Sarge," Ruth said. "You got the list?" Dutifully, he handed Ruth a list of the officers who took part in the escort. All would be getting tickets soon. "I'll hand this right in," Ruth said.
Ruth then reached into his pocket for a calling card, scribbled a note on it and signed it. "Go take this over there," he said, giving it to the boys who'd hitched the ride, "and they'll let you right in. Tell 'em you want to be near third base. Wave to me."
Still stunned by all that had happened, the boys nodded, took the note and ran, shouting "Thank you, Mr. Ruth" as an afterthought, as if their mom had suddenly appeared and told them to.
Ruth then began the walk through the side door that led directly into the Yankees clubhouse. Well-wishers were reaching out to pat him on the back, shake his hand. "Gonna hit one today, Babe?" someone shouted.
"Sure want to," he said as the door swung open.
"Hey, Jidge, nice of you to join us," yelled Joe Dugan, the wisenheimer third baseman, as Ruth walked into the clubhouse.
"Plenty of time, plenty of time," Ruth said. "Where's Doc? I need a rubdown."
Ruth hung up his coat and hat in the shiny new maroon locker and eased out of his custom-made suit. The clubhouse boy brought two hot dogs and Ruth handed him his gold watch, his chain and his World Series ring from 1918. "Put these in the safe," he said.
One of the few remnants to follow the Yankees from Hilltop Park to the Polo Grounds and now to the new Yankee Stadium was the "the safe." Must've weighed 1,000 pounds and it had pigeon holes marked for each of the original Highlanders of 1903. Ruth's valuables went in the one marked "Chesbro," for Jack Chesbro was the biggest star of that day.
Ruth finished the second hot dog.
"C'mon in, Babe," said Doc White, who had prepared the table for Ruth's customary pregame massage.
First Ruth took a swig of the bicarbonate of soda, "his milk," he called it. Then he belched softly and plopped down.
We're Finally Here. Wow
The Model T had made it through Westchester and was still sticking to Route 1, now on Webster Avenue in the Bronx. "It's going to be a big, wide street," Patrick said. "Wider than anything we've even driven on in Connecticut. ... This must be it."
His hands began to turn the wheel to the left. They'd reached the Grand Concourse. "Wow," Johnny said. "Look at all these buildings. Fancy."
Grampa was catching a nap. "I'm hungry," Timmy said. "Me, too," Johnny said.
Patrick was eyeing all the little stores and shops and carts. "Let's get a hot dog." They pulled over — Patrick didn't dare shut the car off — and bought four hot dogs from a grateful push-cart operator. "We're going to the game," Timmy yelled.
"Settle down," the old man said as he shook himself awake. "They don't need to know everything."
"You better hurry," the man said as he handed over the last of the hot dogs. "It's a madhouse down there. You have tickets already? People have been by here saying they were turned away."
Patrick gave the man a shiny silver dollar and waited for his change.
"We have tickets. Where should we park?"
The man thought a moment.
"I'd park right here and start walking. The roads are jammed with people trying to get closer. It's about a mile that way."
Remembering their mother's admonishment, Johnny and Timmy made sure their scarves were high and tight as they began the long walk.
It's Your House, Right?
The Red Sox had walked a mile themselves. Couldn't get closer than Harlem and had to trek over the McCombs Dam Bridge, carrying their equipment, to the new stadium.
"Now, Howard, let's not let the big ape have a field day at our expense," manager Frank Chance said as he placed the game ball in Howard Ehmke's locker. "Keep Witt and Dugan off the bases. Get them out. Then you can just walk Ruth."
Ehmke nodded, but didn't fully agree. He'd gotten Ruth out before with his super-slow ball and thought he could do it again.
Chance's best days as a manager were long behind. This wasn't much of a club, hardly the old Chicago nine of Tinker, Evers and, well, himself. The Red Sox sold everybody to the Yankees before he got there.
Chance put on his sweater and headed out to the third base line. Photographers were set up for a picture with the two managers and the Yankees owner around a big horseshoe wreath.
Across the way, Ruth was in uniform. He saw several players approaching with their gray and blue sweaters. Ruth reached for his.
"We're heading out there, Jidge," Dugan said. "You lead the way. This is your house, right?" That's what Fred Lieb wrote in the paper the day before. "The House that Ruth Built," but Babe wasn't entirely comfortable with that. He was trying to prove to everyone that his bad behavior of 1922 was over, and he wasn't a selfish kid anymore.
"Yeah, my house," he said as the group emerged onto the field and the applause swelled. "Jake should name it after himself. He built the damn place. I'll tell you what, Joe, it was easier to hit 'em in the Polo Grounds."
Ruth was right. The porch in right field across the river was only 251 feet. Here it was nearly 300. Center field was impossible in both places — it was 490 feet in the new park. Ruth looked out to the distant bleachers in right-center, the misty day making them barely visible. "Don't know if I can ever hit 60 in here," he thought.
Could That Be Him?
'Excuse me, excuse me," Patrick and the boys kept saying as the foursome from Connecticut made its way through the crowds.
"We already have our tickets, Bub," Grampa said when someone shot a dirty look. "We're not cutting in front of you. Step aside."
It was 2:30 p.m. It had taken nearly five hours to traverse the 108 miles from Hartford and walk the last mile, but the tickets were being ripped, and into the new stadium they went, heading for the grandstand. First pitch was 3:30.
"What a place!" Johnny screamed as they saw the field for the first time.
"It's like a big church," Grampa scowled. "Two-and-a-half million for a baseball field, for Pete's sake. Looks more like that big circus in Rome where the lions were well-fed. ... And speaking of well-fed, where's Ruth? Probably late. That's why the Red Sox dumped him, you know."
The boys took their seats, 15 rows behind first base, and began craning their necks, picturing the man they'd seen in the papers many times.
"Is that him?" Timmy said.
"No, that guy has blond hair," Johnny answered. "There's Pipp at first base, Everett Scott at shortstop. Babe must be in that crowd in front of the dugout."
Flashbulbs Start Popping
Ruth was called from the gaggle of reporters. He'd finally found the phrase. "I'd give a year off my life to hit one today, boys," he said as they jotted it down verbatim. That was a good one.
With great ceremony, a group of beaming men in mohair coats came with a wooden box. "Your bat, sir," one of them said. The box, with a glass front, housed a 53-ounce bat made to Ruth's specifications. As per his agreement with the Los Angeles paper, he would use it in the game, then ship it to L.A. to be awarded in a home run hitting contest for youngsters.
"Feels just right, fellas," Ruth said, lifting the bat for photographers.
The popping of flashbulbs intensified as another distinguished-looking man approached. "Hi ya, Babe," said the white-haired man in the great coat. "You remember me?"
Gov. Al Smith, unabashed Ruth fan, extended his hand. Then came Mayor Nylan, who had succeeded Ruth's friend, Jimmy Walker. The dapper Walker had delivered a strong lecture at a banquet the previous November, but shortly after telling Ruth to clean up his act, Walker himself was bounced from office for malfeasance. Ruth didn't know this guy at all.
"Babe, you behaving yourself?" asked another of the dignitaries.
"Yes, Judge, no more trouble from me."
Kenesaw Mountain Landis never smiled. He nodded and smirked. That was enough.
"Root, Root," hollered the most distinguished-looking man of the bunch. "You hafta hit one today, Root. That's why I'm paying you, Root."
"Yes, Jake," said Ruth, the only player who could get away with addressing Col. Jacob Ruppert that way. "And then I want a raise."
Everbody laughed. Everybody except Col. Ruppert. And Landis.
By now, the great band, with enough coronets and trombones to be heard from the highest tier to the far-away bleachers, had assembled beyond second base and Major Sousa raised his hand to begin "The Stars and Stripes Forever." Everyone applauded.
Well, Not This Time
Bob Shawkey finished his tosses in front of the Yankees dugout and took the mound. Tom Connolly, the home plate umpire, was handed his megaphone and announced the batteries, Ehmke and DeVormer for Boston, Shawkey and Schang for New York. Here was a custom that had seen better days. In a stadium this size, what good was a megaphone?
"What's he saying?" Grampa asked. "We're supposed to hear him?"
And by 3:15 p.m. the noise was not only deafening, it was steady. None of the players had ever heard such a sound. A roar when something happened, yes, but not such a relentless din.
Then again, they'd never played before this many people, and never in a bowl-shaped stadium with three tiers, keeping much of the sound within.
Every seat was filled now, and the aisles were packed with standees, as if the whole world had been shoehorned into one grand boxcar. "Old man Barrow must be flipping over all this dough," Ruth said, surveying the scene with perpetual sidekick Dugan.
Indeed, penurious GM Ed Barrow was upstairs going through receipts. A few fans up in the top shelf had binoculars. The rest learned they'd need them next time they couldn't sit "downstairs."
The first big roar came at 3:30. Shawkey got the side out easily and Ruth was coming to bat in the bottom of the first inning, two out and nobody on base.
"C'mon, Babe, hit one!" Johnny yelled from section 15.
"Yeah, Babe, come on," Timmy said, following big brother's lead as always. Only louder.
Not this time. Ruth flied to right.
"Inning over, boys," the old man said. "It's all or nothing with this fellow. And that time it was nothing."
And There It Goes
In the third inning, Ehmke's plan went awry. Two runners on and then Joe Dugan, "the lousy jumper" who had forced the Red Sox to sell him to New York, hit a little blooper into center for a hit, Scott scoring. Now Ruth was up and had to be dealt with, or else the bases would be loaded for Bob Meusel, a .330 hitter who always seemed to find the gaps.
"Two runners on," manager Miller Huggins called from the dugout, the first words he'd spoken since posting the lineup. "Be smart, George."
As Ruth was beginning to understand, when Hug called him "George," he meant business. He took a couple of pitches, the count was 1-and-1. Ehmke went into his big, exaggerated windup and then threw his trick pitch, the super-slow one. Ruth knew it was coming, he sensed it, and he was ready. He twirled his bat as if coiling a spring, and took two quick steps forward, then the loud crack reverberated throughout the stadium and the roar was overwhelming.
Patrick and the boys shot up and looked out to right, trying to find the ball. The old man got to his feet, too. "There it goes," he said. He could no longer help himself.
Ruth lost sight of the ball against the white shirts and the gleaming white frieze adorning the upper deck, but he knew. Could always tell by the way his hands felt when he got a hold of one, and he'd really gotten a hold of this one. He put his head down and began trotting, and when he heard the crowd get louder still, he knew the ball landed in the seats and he could really take his time.
A couple of hats flew onto the field, but not like in warm weather. Summer straw hats can be tossed away, but this was a cold April day and felt hats were expensive. The crowd had to settle for cheering.
Daddy Hit A Home Run
'Put my girl on the phone, Sis," Ruth was saying, which the Yankees operator knew meant she was to call the farm in Sudbury."Hi, Dorothy," Ruth said when he finally heard his 2-year-old daughter. "Daddy hit a home run for you. Did Mommy tell you?""Home run!" she shouted. They were among the first words she'd learned."Take care of her, hon, I'll be up there next day off," Ruth told his young wife, Helen, who wanted to know just what he planned to do that evening in New York. He hung up, knowing Helen wouldn't be thrilled to hear he'd have a night on the town. The Babe had passes for the Ziegfeld Follies.There were already telegrams waiting in his locker when Ruth got there, but they'd have to wait a day. "Well, boys, I really wanted one today for all those people. What a gorilla off my back.""You are a gorilla, Jidge," Dugan said. Everybody hooted. Shawkey finished the game and won, 4-1. The writers were buzzing about the crowd, over 74,000 Barrow told them, though it was really about 60,000. "Hey, fellas," Ruth said to the writers. "Who else hit homers today?" They read from a ticker tape: Williams clouted one for St. Louis, Heilman for Detroit, Grimm for the Cubs, Wheat for Brooklyn ..."I wonder if mine was earlier," said Ruth, still smarting over the Browns' Ken Williams leading the league in 1922. "Maybe I hit the first home run of nineteen hundred and twenty-three. Beat 'em all to the punch. ... Sloke, write that tomorrow. And give Van Gooney Bird credit, he gave me the coin. He called it." Ruth took one last look at his bat, then handed it back to the men who would ship it out to California. He put on his raccoon coat, fixed his cap at a rakish angle, checking the mirror, adjusted his watch and called to Witt and Dugan. "I gave you bobos a free ride around the bases, but if you want another free one downtown, you better hurry up."They put on their hats and coats and followed the Babe out the side door, where the Pierce-Arrow was purring.Things Don't Stay The Same'Well, you boys happy? All this way to see the big buffoon hit a home run and he hits one," the old man said. "Yes, Grampa," they said in unison. "Are you happy?" "My team lost," he said. "But if you boys had a good time, I'm happy. Now how we going to get home?"Patrick, brimming with confidence from the trip down, had his driving gloves on as they found the Model T. It was past 6 now, getting dark and raw. The 10-gallon tank was near empty, but there were filling stations along the way, and he remembered a couple of inns along the Boston Post Road."Same way we came," he said. "The car has lights. We'll just take it slow and steady." Johnny was saying Ruth would hit 60 homers before the end of the season, break his own record. Timmy, always trying to out-Johnny his older brother, was saying 70. "Greatest ballplayer in the world," Johnny said, adding up the numbers on his scorecard."Greatest ever," Timmy said, still waving his flannel souvenir pennant.Grampa smiled and shook his head. "How many hits for Boston, Johnny?" Three was the answer.By the time the Ford turned off the Concourse and back onto Route 1, the boys were talked out and sound asleep. The old man and the daylight were fading fast, too. Patrick would have to stay awake, and slow, sure and steady he drove back to Connecticut, out of one world, one era, and into the next."Fine boys we got there, son," the old man said, peering back and tossing an old blanket on the snoozing pair. "Hard to imagine, isn't it? They played baseball with bare hands and sticks when I was their age. Lucky to make a hit. Now they play it in palaces as big as Versaille, and if you can't hit the ball to the next township, you're nothing."What in the world will this all be like when they're my age?" Patrick's role in this family was to provide the common sense, and he delivered once more. "Who knows, Dad? Who knows? We just know this: always something new. Things just don't stay the same."Contact Dom Amore at firstname.lastname@example.org.The Courant periodically will write stories about the final year of Yankee Stadium.For photos and video and to leave your memories of the stadium, go to www.courant.com/yankeestadiumCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times