Longtime fan bears witness to finale
Lang in Cathedral with husband, Seeing Eye dog Laramie
NEW YORK -- As Jane Lang stepped on the warning track at Yankee Stadium on Sunday morning, she bent down to touch the dirt beneath her before she walked any further. She reached for the blue outfield wall.
And when she walked through Monument Park, she put her hands on the plaques and monuments for the last time in their original home.
"Before I leave the Stadium I want to touch these walls, I want to feel everything," she said.
While fans started lining up early Sunday morning for one last glimpse of baseball's Cathedral, Lang waited for a final touch. A touch, because Lang has never seen Yankee Stadium. Not in the traditional sense.
Lang is blind, but she has been a witness to countless moments in the Stadium.
She started coming to games with her Seeing Eye dog, Laramie, eight years ago, and before that, she came with friends and family who guided her through the ballpark. Lang has built friendships with numerous fans, ushers and other Stadium regulars throughout the years, and has gathered a collection of addresses to keep in touch.
"I write to people all year, and they're really friends because we have the Yankees in common, and we have a lot of other things in common," she said.
Sunday, she made her final visit to Yankee Stadium with her husband, Pete, and Laramie, who wore his own miniature Yankees cap. It also marked Laramie's final day of work, as Lang will retire him Monday, but keep him as a pet. Lang wore a matching hat, but hers was filled with pins displaying the pictures of Yankees and one in the shape of a jersey with No. 62 on the back. It was a gift from pitcher Joba Chamberlain. Lang's seats in the handicapped section behind home plate have given her the opportunity to get to know the 22-year-old standout.
Monument Park inhabitants
|Miller Huggins 5/30/32|
|Lou Gehrig 7/4/41|
|Babe Ruth 4/19/49|
|Mickey Mantle 8/25/96|
|Joe DiMaggio 4/25/99|
|9/11 tribute 9/11/02|
|MONUMENT PARK PLAQUES|
|(in order of dedication)|
|Pope Paul VI|
|Pope John Paul II|
Lang, 61, makes the trip from her home in Morris Plains, N.J., about 25 times a year, and in recognition of her loyalty, she took part in the MetLife countdown on Aug. 30, pulling the lever to help bring the Yankees one step closer to their final day in the historic ballpark.
But her favorite game at Yankee Stadium remains one that took place eight years ago. It was the first time Lang came to the park by herself. She took a train from Morris Plains to Penn Station, then walked to 34th Street to catch the D Train and stepped from the platform to hear the familiar sounds of 161st Street and River Avenue.
As Lang sat in her seat during the game, she began to cry.
"What are you crying for?" an usher asked her. "We haven't even lost yet."
But the tears came from pure happiness.
"I never thought I'd be able to learn the way to Yankee Stadium, I thought it would be too hard," Lang said. "But it's really not. And since then, I can come any time I want."
Lang and her husband will celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary next week, and Pete said for the past few years when he's asked his wife what she wants for a gift, the response has not wavered -- "Take me to Yankee Stadium."
During her final visit, Lang took the time to soak everything in. She smiled and laughed as she walked through Monument Park with other fans, exclaiming, "Isn't this great?"
"I saw some of the monuments, I got to touch them, but sometimes my hand just itches like, 'Let me see,'" she said. "But I'm grateful just to be here and walk around the field. It just means so much."
Lang donned a Bernie Williams jersey Sunday and said she couldn't wait to yell and cheer for her favorite player as he returned to the field as part of the celebration of the Cathedral. If she could have entered the Stadium at 6 a.m., she would have. For Lang, the last visit was bittersweet, and she wanted as much time as she could get to take it all in one final time.
"It's sad because I love this place, and I know my way around, I feel at home," she said. "I really love this place, and I don't know what the new stadium's going to be like, but as long as it has the Yankees in it, I think I'll get used to it."
Samantha Newman is an associate reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.