Yankee Stadium is gone, but I still have a key to it, at least to the little room in Section 13 with open-air windows to the field, along the first-base line. It hangs on my key chain, next to my house key. They look identical -- sometimes I shove the Yankee Stadium key into my door when I come home.
It's just a regular key, and it's not like I can, or would, sell it on Ebay, because it's just a regular key with no intrinsic value and nothing to suggest it unlocked a door in that now-gone stadium. But I'd be upset if I lost it; somehow it represents to me the first part of my career as a sports photographer, before the bottom fell out of photojournalism and the large wire services and digital photography -- a blessing and a curse -- changed everything.
There are a few of us who still have that key, I bet. They weren't given to every photographer, and if you had one, you were in. By the same measure, if you didn't have one, you were out. One time after a game I locked myself out of that little room, left the key inside, attached to my car keys. The stadium was empty except for a few custodians cleaning up the stands, shouting to each other across the field. It was late at night, and I was worried about perhaps never finding my keys and having to sleep in some parking lot litter.
If you have ever worked at Yankee Stadium, you know these moments, the ones that steal up on you as you're walking the underbelly corridors and passing Jeter or Williams or Posada, or sitting next to Yogi Berra in the dugout on Old Timers' Day, or just alone in that stadium, with only the tsk tsk tsk of the sprinklers in the grass. I hoisted myself up and through the open-air windows to the photographer's room and fetched my keys, and I remember how for a moment I looked out on that night field and let myself feel special. Here I was: just me -- maybe the ghost of old Babe, or a cranky Ty Cobb -- and silence. Love the Yankees or hate them, or (where I fall) somewhere in between, it is a special place, this spot in sports history to which I still have a key.
Not that you care, but I have a new monocle! And here it is: