Memories of the Viaduct and Joe Torre

While no one will exactly be shedding tears that the old Alaskan Way Viaduct in downtown Seattle will be removed in the coming months, the structure does hold some fond memories in my heart.

As much as a freeway can hold memories.

The two-level, raised freeway running along Seattle’s waterfront is a true blight on the area. Underneath it is some parking, lots of homeless people, grime and the possibility of death when the big earthquake hits.

After a Yankees-Mariners game on May 25, 1996 when the immortal Ramiro Mendoza shut down Seattle, my mom, dad, sister and I waited outside for autographs from the Yankees players leaving the Kingdome.

My dad, as he is apt to do, struck up a conversation with a man who was standing there. Rather than get the man’s life story as he generally does from strangers, he noticed the man was frantic.

My dad asked if there was anything he could help with.

The New York Yankees traveling secretary (not George Costanza) replied that he had to get Joe Torre and Don Zimmer to a very important meeting at a steakhouse downtown, but that there were no taxis in sight.

My dad said that our family’s minivan was parked nearby and we could give you a ride.

Initially, the man declined, but eventually was left with no choice.

Now, my dad is a Nazarene pastor and lying is not in his nature, but he may have fibbed a bit about just how far away we parked.

Soon enough, though, we found ourselves walking along Occidental Avenue toward the Viaduct where our van was parked.

The traveling secretary was beginning to look a tad nervous about exactly where we were taking his Very Important People.

Torre and Zimmer didn’t seem to mind, though. They were just chatting away with us.

Eventually we reached our Chrysler Town & Country minivan.

My sister and I hopped in the back and my mom attempted to get in with us. Zimmer insisted he’d get in the back with “the girls.”

Dangit, Don. I was 15. There is no way my voice was so high-pitched you didn’t know I was a boy.

At any rate, Torre sat up front with my dad and we took the group to the Metropolitan Grill where they were meeting someone – they never told us who, but we were convinced it was George Steinbrenner.

The traveling secretary offered us front row seats for the next day’s game, but it was a day game and my dad is a pastor. So, we turned them down because we had church. Needless to say, I was a tad chagrined.

He then took our address and promised us a bunch of autographed memorabilia. He never sent anything to us, but we always have that story to cherish.

– Craig Craker

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