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A trip down memory lane with mixed emotions

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NEW YORK - Eighteen years ago, on a trip to Pennsylvania, my dad and I took a day to go into New York City to catch a Yankees game.

He had grown up in New Jersey, just across from the big city, and idolized Mickey Mantle and the rest of the Bronx Bombers. He would often tell stories of walking down the street near where he lived to see Yogi Berra getting his hair cut and loved to talk about the time his own father met Babe Ruth one afternoon outside Comiskey Park in Chicago.

We walked up to the ticket counter just 30 minutes before the first pitch and bought box seats along the first base line. And the Yankees, in the midst of another losing season, beat the Royals 5-3.

I made my second trip to Yankee Stadium just a few days ago. This time, tickets had been sold out for months and even the top rows of the upper deck were selling for well over $100 a ticket online.

But it's still worth every penny. Especially now - now that the stadium will host fewer than 20 more games in its history.

I had to go back this year. While diehard fans of football, basketball or hockey can say that the game is a religion to them, there is something more transcendent about the game of baseball. And Yankee Stadium is nothing short of a cathedral.

It's almost impossible to explain until you get your first glance of the field and can let the experience wash over you. The stadium doesn't have a retractable roof, the seats aren't particularly comfortable and, quite frankly, it smells a bit. But it has history which is something baseball values more than any other sport.

And it has an aura.

It's unmistakable, and I'm not sure that can be moved across the street so easily. It hasn't been easy being a baseball fan over the past two decades.

While stories on the use of performance enhancing drugs and unbalanced payrolls have been beaten into the ground, the destruction of Yankee Stadium saddens me more than anything else.

Even though the new park neighbors its predecessor and will be, aesthetically, nearly identical, the fact that moving the team from the most beloved and special stadium in the world was even considered, let alone approved, is maddening. And I'm glad my dad isn't here to see it happen.

My dad, a former teacher at West Linn High School, was never very outspoken or emotional. But, of the few times I would see him get worked up over something, most of them revolved around sporting events. Whether it was yelling at the TV when Chuck Knoublach launched a simple throw from second base into the dug out or crying when my little brother qualified for state in the 3,000 meters during his senior year, sports could touch him.

And he passed that on to me as well.

I loved watching sports with my dad, possibly never more than I did during a meaningless regular season game in the Bronx back in 1990. My dad passed away in 2004 and, less than a year later, it was made official that the new Yankee Stadium was to be built. But, with its opening next April, a little bit of baseball is dying.

Baseball has survived a fixed World Series, two world wars, labor strikes, earthquakes and the designated hitter. It will survive this too. When I attended the game last week, the Yankees played the Royals again. This time they lost 4-3.

I walked down to the left field fence and scattered some of my dad's ashes onto the red dirt and, as I walked away, I couldn't help but feel badly for the next generation of fans that will never have the chance to walk through the majestic concourse of the Real Yankee Stadium.

Matthew Sherman is the Lake Oswego Review and West Linn Tidings sports editor.