90-year-old fan remembers first Stadium opener in 1923

NEW YORK -- Standing in front of the Yankees dugout during batting practice, Joe Mignogna remembered Opening Day as if it were yesterday -- Opening Day 1923, that is.

Now 90 years old, Mignogna went to the very first game at Yankee Stadium with his grandfather,

"You want highlights?" he said. "I remember all the people -- the fans and the dignitaries. The dignitaries wore fedoras, top coats. None of the fans here would have been let in."

He remembered John Philip Sousa conducting a band that April 18 before the Yankees beat the Boston Red Sox 4-1. He remembered eating peanuts and Cracker Jack. He remembered Babe Ruth hitting the first home run at the ballpark, a three-run, third-inning drive into the right-field bleachers.

"All the people were on their tip toes waiting for Babe Ruth to hit that home run," Mignogna said.

He doesn't remember where he sat, only that the tickets were given to his family by the Yankees owner.

"My grandfather was in construction and he was one of the foremen of the gang there," he said. "Jacob Ruppert wanted all the people that had anything to do with the construction of Yankee Stadium there."

A native of Manhattan, Mignogna lived for many years in Astoria, Queens, before moving to Wilmington, Del., about four years ago. He said his son had owned a Yankees partial season-ticket plan for many years and surprised him in June by getting seats to celebrate his 90th birthday. The team's YES Network found out about his recollections of the 1923 opener and was recording him Tuesday, when Mignogna got to speak with manager Joe Girardi and Alex Rodriguez.

Mignogna hopes to be at Sunday night's Yankee Stadium finale.

"Every time I come in, I get that feeling of exhilaration," he said. "I used to come here and sit in the rain, and a couple of times in the snow. When I was going to high school, my favorite place was out in the bleachers. I've still got splinters. They used to call it the lumber yard."