2009 Regular Season at the New Yankee Stadium for the inaugural season to see the Yankees take on the Philadelphia Phillies in an interleague game. Ironically enough they would face each other again this same year in the 2009 World Series. It’s late spring and the 2008 World Champion Philadelphia Phillies were looking to repeat as the New York Yankees were looking for World Championship #27 to commemorate their new home across East 161st Street. Needless to say, there was a post-season atmosphere. Saying the wrong thing could get you punched in the mouth; when in the Bronx. The city of brotherly love is only 95 miles away; lots of fans with active “Phillies” gear on hand.
I had the opportunity to see “Old Yankee Stadium” in its final year. Here, I had yet another chance to see the New Yankee Stadium in its first year; two gracious invitations that I’ve appreciated as a baseball fan with every year since. I was amazed to see how much of the “Yankee Tradition” was seamlessly transplanted in the new park. It helps that, in both parks, the No. 4 train & D train is still beyond right field; running back and forth over River Ave.
Memorial Park was not quick done but it didn’t take away from the experience. This, in contrast to the Chicago White Sox and their move to the New Comiskey Park across the street. It was sterile; going from “Baseball Palace of the World” to the last of the cookie-cutter stadiums. As we all know from experience, there is no such thing as a small move. And, it’s especially true here. Think of all the hardware, the championships, and the baseball history that was systematically transported. Nothing was lost; familiar elements of the Old Yankee Stadium with all the state-of-the-art technology. Construction cost came in at $2.3 Billion. The old one still stood across the way, boarded up, as if it were a giant storage unit.
The iconic Architectural frieze across the roofline was new and improve, brighter than ever. Placement of signage, banners, and video compilations reminds you of how many Trophies are housed here. As the game started, the Bleacher Creatures roll call made their way around the starting nine as they’ve always done. The ground crew took a break from dragging the field to perform the YMCA dance. God Bless America was played in the seventh inning, as opposed to “Take me Out to the Ballgame. And, every time Derek Jeter came to bat, a voice from the past would silenced the crowd. “Now batting for the American League, from the New York Yankees, the short stop, number two, Derek Jeter, number two.” – said Bob Shepard. The Sandman (Mariano River) did not enter. After a combined 23 hits, the Philadelphia Phillies held their lead and won 4-3.
The New York Yankees ultimately went on to win World Championship #27 in 2009. In turn, Manager Joe Girardi would change his uniform number from #27 to #28 the next year, setting the new milestone. The New York Yankees accomplished the same feat of winning in the inaugural year of their new home, just as they did in 1923 when they first opened “Old Yankee Stadium.”
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.