|BABE RUTH, 1948|
Although he was desperately ill with cancer, the Babe showed up. The 49,641 fans knew that they would be seeing him for the last time. It was a dreary day, which was strangely fitting. Ruth donned the Yankee pinstripes and waited in the visitors’ dugout for his name to be called.
When Ruth was introduced, he grabbed a bat (which belonged to future Hall of Famer Bob Feller) and, as W.C. Heinz wrote unforgettably, "walked out into the cauldron of sound he must have known better than any other man." As Ruth ambled haltingly to the third-base foul line, using the bat for a cane, he received the longest and loudest ovation of his life. It was also the last. He died two months later.
|MICHAEL JORDAN, 2011|
Like Ruth, Jordan is the greatest player in the history of his sport. (Unlike Ruth in 1948, Jordan is still hale and hearty.) When Jordan was introduced, he walked into a cauldron of sound that must have been much like the one which greeted Ruth. The crowd’s response was so effusive that even Jordan, no stranger to ovations, seemed a bit startled.
He smiled broadly, waving to the crowd and soaking it all in, as he stepped up to say a few words. Having already proclaimed Derrick Rose the NBA’s Most Valuable Player for this season, Jordan gave his assessment of the Bulls as a team. "You guys," he announced to the fans, "are in store for a lot more championships." That remark brought the house down.
Bulls center Joakim Noah appreciated the significance of what he had seen and heard. "The energy in the building from the beginning was great," Noah said. "Hearing the reception Scottie [Pippen] and M.J. got, that’s deep stuff, man. It was special to see that. Twenty years later, [Jordan] can’t even get two words across without the crowd going crazy. To see those guys together, it shows what winning a championship is all about. That’s a beautiful thing."