House Built by Ruth

Los Angeles Angels @ New York Yankees.

A visit to the Old Yankee Stadium in 2008, before it was shut down. I missed seeing Crosley Field, Connie Mack Stadium, and Forbes Field. They were before my time. Also, I regret never seeing Tiger Stadium. Growing up in Chicago, I had a few opportunities to go visit and never went. Having a chance to see Yankee Stadium reminded me of the last days of Old Comiskey Park in 1989, the “Baseball Palace of the World,” the epicenter of the Negro Leagues, where Babe Ruth played in the first All Star Game of 1933. I did get to see that old park and appreciated being there those last days before Old Comiskey would close forever. But, seeing this one was priceless, “The House That Ruth Built.”

The Babe and that early Yankee team played here after literally being evicted from the Polo Grounds at the recommendation by the legendary and contentious John McGraw of the New York Giants. Yes, the same John McGraw who refused to play The Boston Americans in 1904, the winners of the American League, a league John McGraw did not accept as formidable opponents. This is the reason there was no World Series that year. In an article written by Don Jensen for Society of Baseball Studies, he explains that Babe Ruth was changing the game in dramatic ways with the Home Run and, at first, John McGraw was not a fan. “The team’s attendance soared as Ruth began hitting home runs out of the Polo Grounds, prompting an enraged McGraw to instruct Stoneham to evict their upstart tenants,” wrote Dan Jensen.

In today’s technology, its hard to fathom the importance of this Stadium in 1923. It was the first of its kind. Before then, baseball was played on fields or in ball barks, no where near the 58,000 seat capacity of Yankee Stadium. Baseball during the 1950’s marked the “Golden Age” in the baseball world, a time when New York City had three Major League Baseball Teams; the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds, the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field, and the New York Yankees here. They were World Champions from 1949 to 1953, a “five peat.” With its decay in the 1970’s, Yankee Stadium became more of a stark contrast to the new cookie-cutter stadiums in nearby cities. The Steinbrenner Group bought the Yankees in 1973 and ushered in renovations for the Stadium and renewal of the Yankee Tradition.

Early baseball history gives us the urban legend of Abner Doubleday in Cooperstown, New York. Then there were the Knickerbocker Clubs of the 1840’s playing those games at Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey. But, the “Cathedral of Baseball” was eventually found in The Bronx, New York. It hosted 37 World Series and Yankees won 26 of them here, a stadium that represents the most post season baseball games ever played in one place, an astounding total of 161. From the trials of the 1920’s, to the Golden Era of the 1950’s, to the rebirth of Championships at the close the 20th Century, any baseball fan can appreciate how many special moments took place here. That’s baseball.