Longtime fan Vogel part of Old-Timers' Day
NEW YORK -- David Vogel sat in a folding chair behind home plate with a disposable camera glued to his hand.
No matter how many times the son of his best friend and the Yankees employees assured him they'd send him some professional pictures of Old-Timers' Day on Saturday, Vogel wanted to be sure he snapped his own.
This was the day the 91-year-old had been anticipating for six months, when he and the Yankees first developed a relationship over a letter he wrote to assistant director of media relations Michael Margolis inquiring as to why Joe Gordon's number wasn't retired. The two struck up a friendship and Margolis invited him to participate in Old-Timers' Day on Saturday at the ballpark.
This was the day Vogel, a diehard Yankees fan since 1936, would never forget.
"When I was 13 years old, my brother took me to a Yankees game," Vogel said. "I was sitting in the box seats behind third base and it was unbelievable.
"The Yankees won the World Series four years in a row, and that was it for me. I was hooked."
Through the years Vogel cherished watching all the big names in action -- Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Roger Maris. When Maris tied Babe Ruth's single-season record for home runs in 1961 with a blast to the upper right-field deck, Vogel watched from the lower right-field deck. When Maris passed it the next week with a long ball to the lower right-field deck for home run No. 61, Vogel chuckled from the upper right-field deck.
He remembers tuning into the games on a radio from Guam when he fought in World War II. He remembers his favorite day of his 79-year fandom fondly: Lou Gehrig Day. And he remembers the first night game in Yankee Stadium like it was yesterday.
"Did I tell you about Bill Dickey?" he said. "First night game in the old ballpark, I caught a baseball, a foul ball hit by Bill Dickey and I brought it home. I lived on the Lower East Side of New York. I brought it into a candy store, and that's the last I saw of the baseball.
"But I used to live in the old Yankee Stadium. I saw so many games."
Vogel arrived at the new stadium for the celebrations for the first time Saturday. He met and took pictures with Bobby Brown, Paul O'Neill and Ron Blomberg, among others. He's still been a Yankees fan all this time, but now he lives three hours away in Connecticut and never made it to the current stadium until Saturday.
"I never dreamt I would be here," he said.
Vogel was accompanied by Cary Spickler -- the son of his lifelong best friend, Fred Spickler -- Cary's wife, and the couple's friend Anthony Natalie.
The only thing missing from his day was Fred himself, a man he met on a basketball court when the two were 14 years old. Fred is currently in the hospital, but Vogel makes sure to call him three to four times a day to check in.
On Saturday, the group had to make that call early. Vogel had a big day ahead of him.
"This is like a twilight episode," Natalie said. "That's all I can say."
Then Vogel snapped another picture on his disposable camera.
"I remember the old days like it was yesterday, but I don't remember yesterday," he laughed.
Perhaps that won't be the case tomorrow.