Yankee Stadium tour a source of pride

Yankee Stadium tour a source of pride

Yankee Stadium tour a source of pride
Every photo on the wall of the Yankee Stadium SAP Suite Level inspires a story from Tony Morante. Many of those tales feature a personal touch, suggesting Morante's deep connection to the team and its ballpark, first as an usher and eventually as director of stadium tours.

As Morante leads a tour of the new Yankee Stadium, he offers up anecdotes galore about memorable events that took place at the building's predecessor. The photos -- now preserved and framed -- are the "cream of the crop," Morante said, out of more than 60,000 archived shots from the New York Daily News, and they suggest the franchise's rich history, of which Morante is unabashedly proud.

In one photo, Babe Ruth sits with Johnny Sylvester years after the two were connected by a famous story. Sylvester was 11 years old in 1926, when he was kicked in the head by a horse and in bad shape. The Cardinals and Yankees, who played each other in that year's World Series, both sent the ailing boy a signed ball.

"Babe Ruth went one step above that and he promised Johnny Sylvester he was going to hit a home run," Morante said. "He actually hit three."

That was before Morante's time, but many of the photos bring thoughts about his own experiences. A shot of Elston Howard, the Yankees' first African-American player in 1955, prompted Morante to call the catcher "one of the greatest guys I got to know on the team through the years" and a "great catcher" -- so good that the Yankees eventually moved Hall of Famer Yogi Berra to the outfield.

A sequence of three side-by-side photos displaying the delivery of left-hander Ron Guidry or "Gator" takes Morante back to the season tickets he held back in 1978, located near the dugout. Guidry went 25-3 that year, and on June 17, he was going for his 11th straight win when he struck out 18 Angels.

It sticks in Morante's mind, partly because it was the day Yankees fans began a "two strike" chant. Every time Guidry got that far in the count, the crowd would chant to urge him on.

Guidry also is one of the numerous Yankees legends immortalized at Monument Park, another stop on the tour and a feature Morante calls, "the most exclusive part of not only Yankee Stadium but any sports arena."

This special area contains plaques honoring Yankees greats, as well as monuments for its most distinguished stars, who received, "the ultimate expression of appreciation."

The tour ends with Morante standing in the seats down the right-field line, his back to the field that holds so much history, despite its young age. He brings up a passage from the preface of Donald Honig's book, "The New York Yankees: An Illustrated History."

"Year by year and player by player, the Yankees have risen to heights of supremacy unmatched by any other team in our national pastime," Morante recites, "and they had the good dramatic sense to perform their rituals in the world's most majestic stadium and the most conspicuous city, right here in the Bronx, New York."

Andrew Simon is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.