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Hall of shame

A few weeks ago, they packed up the famous monuments at old Yankee Stadium, loaded them into a large truck, and moved them to the new Yankee Stadium across the street.

We’re not sure why it was necessary to use a truck to carry the monuments a few yards to their new resting place in the outfield of the new $1-billion ballpark. Perhaps the Steinbrenner dynasty was concerned that some evildoers might attempt to steal the crown jewels of the Yankee legacy. Well, they can rest easy, the monuments are safe.

Unfortunately for them—and the rest of us—it’s two outs in the bottom of the ninth for everything these monuments ever stood for. And not just in the Bronx.

The belated admission from the Yankees’ $275-million third baseman that yes, in fact, he partook in the festival of artificial enhancement that has plagued our national pastime for more than a decade is sickening but not shocking. Perhaps it is sickening because it is no longer shocking.

In this winter of our discontent, it seems we have all but exhausted the supply of outrage in America.

Let’s face it, it’s hard to get worked up about a juiced ballplayer when you have seen an entire economic system collapse in an orgy of uninhibited greed and then watched the perpetrators reward themselves with obscene bonuses financed by the taxpayers who bailed them out.

The damage to baseball’s century-old record book can be repaired with a few dollops of whiteout. Fixing the banking system? Well, that will probably take trillions. Timmy Geithner will let us know as soon as he finishes correcting his latest income tax filing.

A-Rod’s brainless decision a few years ago to risk a sure place in the pantheon of baseball greats for an extra 10 feet on his home-run swing and a bundle of cash also seems rather trivial compared to the amoral calculations of those who chose to throw out four hundred years of civilized law and torture individuals deemed to be enemy combatants in a borderless war without rules.

Now batting clean-up in the good old U.S.A., shame, shame and more shame.

There’s been a lot of talk about character lately, and a few minor adjustments have been made in the national moral compass to try to nudge things in the right direction.

The bank frauds have been told to limit themselves to a measly $500,000 in compensation if they want billions more in federal largesse.

The torturers have been told to stop torturing people while we figure out how to make the really bad guys who were tortured disappear without giving them a trial at which the evidence would be thrown out because they were tortured.

A-Rod has helpfully suggested that anyone fretting about whether he should be admitted to baseball’s shrine at Cooperstown should simply subtract the three years he jacked himself up on steroids and consider the rest of his body of work.

Feel better?

A long time ago, when there was only one Yankee Stadium, somebody told us something important about character.

When Lou Gehrig summoned the strength to walk to a microphone at Yankee Stadium on July 4, 1939, he knew he would soon lose his fight for life. He told us not to feel sorry for him.

Gehrig understood that when the final score is tallied, it doesn’t really matter whether you’ve won or lost, or how many runs you’ve scored, or how much you were paid, or how many cheers you heard along the way.

The only thing any of us takes with them is what we carry inside, and whether we are comfortable with the choices we have made. If, in the end, you have managed to hold on to what is real and true and good, then you can say you are ”the luckiest person on the face of the Earth.”

The Pride of the Yankees knew that character is not something you can pack up in a box and ship to your next venue, like a bag full of bats and balls, or a slab of granite. It is not something you can fix with a lame mea culpa and a promise to do better next time.

You either have it or you don’t. And when you toss it away, it is going, going, gone.

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