Field Band Sounds Final Anthem in Yankee Stadium

By SSG Phillip Johnson
The United States Army Field Band

News story photo
Photo credit: SFC Rob McIver
The U.S. Army Field Band performs the "Star Spangled Banner" at the final game in Yankee Stadium
If there’s one thing the New York Yankees know about, it’s tradition.

To anyone who has ever attended a game at Yankee Stadium, that goes without saying. The stadium’s Monument Park memorializes the names and retired numbers of such Yankee legends as Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Reggie Jackson. Gehrig gave his timeless “luckiest man on the face of the earth” speech there in 1939. The stadium’s nickname, “The House That Ruth Built,” refers to its earliest days, when Babe Ruth’s unmatched ability to draw crowds helped ensure the stadium’s construction. It’s no wonder that a place with such a rich history is so closely associated with the concept of tradition.

On Sunday, September 21st, 2008, The United States Army Field Band was honored to take part in that tradition, as we performed for the final game at Yankee Stadium.

When Yankee Stadium hosted its first game in 1923, music was performed by the Seventh Regiment Band of the New York National Guard, under the direction of John Philip Sousa. For the stadium’s last game, the Yankees called on the Field Band to represent the Armed Forces once again. We were given the unique honor of paying our respects both to the Cathedral of Baseball and to the Seventh Regiment Band and its famous conductor, which played there so long ago.

The band arrived at the stadium that afternoon, and as we waited to rehearse, we were surrounded by the endless lines of Yankees fans that already filled the stadium, from the nosebleeds to the field level. After a brief rehearsal, we were led through the catacombs to our staging area. Each time we set foot in the corridor, we bumped into such iconic athletes as Dave Winfield, Goose Gossage, Yogi Berra, Don Larsen, Whitey Ford, and others, all of them wearing their old pinstripes. Hours later, we watched as these legends were honored on the field for their past accomplishments.

That night, when we marched onto the field in uniform, we were greeted by the riotous applause of 55,000 enthusiastic Yankees fans. Before we had played a note, the fans were clapping along with our cadence, cheering on their Army. Entering the stadium to such a reception, and then performing the Star-Spangled Banner for a vast crowd of captivated Americans, would be a highlight of almost any career.

For SPC Lauren Veronie, the Yankee Stadium final game was only her second performance with The Field Band. “It was fantastic,” she remembers. “When I was standing on the field, knowing that Sousa was there when the park opened, that we were there in his footsteps honoring him as well as the Yankees, for me as a musician, that was really special.”

For SSG Phil Kiamie, a Yankees fan who comes from a long line of Yankees fans, the experience was literally once in a lifetime. “The stadium has such history: such great players, such great personal accomplishments. I’m honored to be a part of it, not only as a performer in the opening ceremonies, but to get to sit down afterwards and watch nine innings of baseball, the last nine innings of baseball ever at old Yankee Stadium.”

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