Yankee Stadium
The House that Ruth Built
The Big Ballpark in the Bronx
The Stadium
"The Cathedral of Baseball"
Yankee Stadium aerial from Blackhawk.jpg
Yankee Stadium aerial shot
Location East 161st Street and River Avenue, The Bronx, New York, NY 10451
Opened April 18, 1923
April 15, 1976 (re-opening)
Closed September 30, 1973 (renovations)
September 21, 2008 (final game)
November 9, 2008 (final tour)
Demolished September 22, 2008 – May 13, 2010
Owner City of New York
Operator New York Yankees
Surface Grass
Construction cost $2.4 million (1923)
$167 million (1976)
Architect Osborn Engineering Corporation (1923)
Praeger-Kavanaugh-Waterbury (1976)
Tenants New York Yankees (MLB) (1923–1973, 1976–2008)
New York Yankees (AFL I) (1926)
New York Yankees (NFL) (1927–1928)
New York Yankees (AFL II) (1936–1937)
New York Yankees (AFL III) (1940)
New York Americans (AFL III) (1941)
New York Yankees (AAFC) (1946–1949)
New York Yanks (NFL) (1950–1951)
New York Giants (NFL) (1956–1973)
New York Generals (USA / NASL) (1967–1968)
New York Cosmos (NASL) (1971, 1976)
Capacity 58,000 (1923) • 82,000 (1927) •
62,000 (1929) • 71,699 (1937) •
70,000 (1942) • 67,000 (1948) •
67,205 (1958) • 67,337 (1961) •
67,000 (1965) • 65,010 (1971) •
54,028 (1976) • 57,145 (1977) •
57,545 (1980) • 56,936 (2008)

This article is about the former Yankee Stadium. For the current stadium, go to Yankee Stadium (2009).

Yankee Stadium was a stadium located in The Bronx in New York City. It was the home baseball park of the New York Yankees, the city's Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise, from 1923 to 1973 and from 1976 to 2008. The stadium hosted 6,581 Yankees regular season home games during its 85-year history. It was also the former home of the New York Giants football team. The stadium's nickname, "The House That Ruth Built", is derived from Babe Ruth, the iconic baseball superstar whose prime years coincided with the stadium's opening and the beginning of the Yankees' winning history.

The venue was constructed for $2.4 million between 1922–1923 specifically for the Yankees, who had been sharing the Polo Grounds with the New York Giants baseball team for 10 years. Yankee Stadium opened in 1923, and at the time, it was hailed as a one-of-a-kind facility in the country for its size. Over the course of its history, it became one of the most famous venues in the United States, having hosted a variety of events and historic moments during its existence. While many of these moments were baseball-related—including World Series games, no-hitters, and historic home runs—the stadium also hosted football games, boxing matches, concerts, and three Papal Masses. The stadium went through many alterations and playing surface configurations over the years. The condition of the facility worsened in the 1960s and 1970s, prompting its closing for renovation from 1974–1975. The renovation significantly altered the appearance of the venue and reduced the distance of the outfield fences.

In 2006, the Yankees began building a new $2.3 billion stadium in public parkland adjacent to the stadium. Many of the iconic features of the original stadium, such as the frieze and Monument Park, were incorporated into the design of the new venue. Yankee Stadium closed following the 2008 baseball season, and the new stadium opened in 2009, adopting the "Yankee Stadium" moniker. The original facility was not demolished until 2010, nearly two years after it closed. It is being converted into parkland. The name of the park will be Heritage Field.[1]

History[edit | edit source]

Planning and construction[edit | edit source]

The Yankees had played at the Polo Grounds in northern Manhattan since 1913, sharing the venue with the New York Giants. However, relations between the two teams were rocky, with the Giants harboring resentment towards the Yankees. For the 1920 season, the Yankees acquired star slugger Babe Ruth and in his first year with his new team, the Yankees drew 1.3 million fans to the Polo Grounds, outdrawing the Giants. In 1921, the Yankees won their first American League pennant (but lost the then-best-of-nine 1921 World Series to the Giants in eight games, all played at the Polo Grounds). This exacerbated Giants owner Charles Stoneham's resentment of the Yankees and precipitated his insistence that the Yankees find another place to play their home games. The Giants derisively suggested that the Yankees relocate "to Queens or some other out-of-the-way place."

Main entrance during the 1920s

Tillinghast L'Hommedieu Huston and Jacob Ruppert, the Yankees' owners since January 1915, decided to proceed with building their team its own stadium. They did so at considerable financial risk and speculation. Baseball teams typically played in 30,000-seat facilities, but Huston and Ruppert invoked Ruth's name when asked how the Yankees could justify a ballpark with 60,000 seats. The doubt over the Yankees' lasting power was amplified by baseball's sagging popularity after the 1919 Black Sox Scandal, in which eight Chicago White Sox players were expelled for conspiring with gamblers to fix that year's World Series. Many people also felt three baseball teams could not prosper in New York, but Huston and Ruppert were confident the Yankees could outlast the more established Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants of the National League (which proved true, as both would eventually relocate to California following the 1957 season). Huston and Ruppert would end up footing the bill for construction of the $2.5 million stadium.

Huston and Ruppert explored many areas for Yankee Stadium. Of the other sites being considered, the Hebrew Orphan Asylum, at Amsterdam Avenue between 136th and 138th streets in Manhattan, nearly became reality. Consideration was also given to building atop railroad tracks on the West Side of Manhattan (an idea revived in 1998) and to Long Island City, in Queens. The area Huston and Ruppert settled on was a 10 acre (4-hectare) lumberyard in the Bronx within walking distance from, and in sight of, Coogan's Bluff. The Polo Grounds was located on the Manhattan side of the Harlem River, at 155th Street and Eighth Avenue. Huston and Ruppert purchased the lumberyard from William Waldorf Astor for $600,000. Construction began May 5, 1922, and Yankee Stadium opened to the public less than a year later. The stadium's walls were built of "an extremely hard and durable concrete that was developed by Thomas Edison",[2] with total of 20,000 cubic yards (26,000 cubic meters) of concrete used in the original structure.[3]

1923-1973[edit | edit source]

The raising of the American flag on Opening Day in 1923

Yankee Stadium officially opened on Wednesday, April 18, 1923, with the Yankees' first home game. According to the New York Evening Telegram, "everything smelled of ... fresh paint, fresh plaster and fresh grass." At 3 p.m., the composer-conductor John Philip Sousa led the Seventh ("Silk-Stocking") Regiment Band in playing The Star-Spangled Banner. After a parade of the players and dignitaries, Babe Ruth was presented with a case containing a symbolically big bat. New York Governor Al Smith (who would become the Democratic Party's candidate for president in 1928) then threw out the first pitch directly into the glove of catcher Wally Schang rather than the customary couple of feet wide. The Yankees went on to defeat Ruth's former team, the Boston Red Sox, by a score of 4–1, with Ruth hitting a three-run home run into the right-field stands. Asked later for his opinion of the stadium, he replied, "Some ball yard."[4]

Aerial view of Yankee Stadium as it looked from 1928-1936, before nighttime baseball

The Stadium was the first facility in North America with three tiers, although the triple deck originally extended only to the left and right field corners. The concrete lower deck extended well into left field, with the obvious intention of extending the upper deck over it, which was accomplished during the 1926–1927 off-season. As originally built, the stadium seated 58,000. For the stadium's first game, the announced attendance was 74,217 (with another 25,000 turned away); however, Yankees business manager Ed Barrow later admitted that this number was likely heavily overestimated. Regardless of what the figure was, it was undoubtedly more than the 42,000 fans who attended game five of the 1916 World Series at Braves Field, baseball's previous attendance record. However, during the 1920s and 1930s, the Yankees' popularity was such that crowds in excess of 80,000 were not uncommon. It was referred to as "the Yankee stadium" (with the "s" in "stadium" sometimes lowercase) until the 1950s.

Yankee Stadium underwent more extensive renovations from 1936 through 1938. The wooden bleachers were replaced with concrete, shrinking the "death valley" area of left and center substantially, although the area was still much deeper than in most ballparks; and the second and third decks were extended to short right center. Runways were left between the bleachers and the triple-deck on each end, serving as bullpens. By 1938, the Stadium had assumed the "classic" shape that it would retain for the next 35 years. In April 1945, Yankees president Larry MacPhail announced that after the War, the Yankees would install an additional tier of bleachers to increase stadium capacity to 100,000. In addition to the bleachers, he also planned to add 2,000 additional box-seats by lowering the field and shortening the distance from the backstop to home-plate from 82ft to 60ft.[5] However, the plans were tabled and the expansion did not take place.

File:Yankee Stadium Color 1959.jpg

Batting practice at Yankee Stadium, September 1959

Prior to the 1955 season, the Yankees modernized and sold the 50ft-tall Ballantine Beer electronic scoreboard for $175,000 to the Phillies. It was placed in right-center field at Connie Mack Stadium and was used through the final year at the ballpark in 1970.[6]

In 1962, Rice University Alumnus John Cox '27 gave Yankee Stadium to Rice University. In 1971 the city of New York forced (via eminent domain) Rice to sell the stadium for a mere $2.5 million. In the 1966–1967 offseason, during the period in which Rice owned the stadium, the concrete exterior was painted white, and the interior was painted blue.[7] The metal frieze circling the upper deck was painted white.

By the late 1960s, Yankee Stadium's condition had badly deteriorated, and the surrounding neighborhood had gone downhill as well. In 1971, CBS, which owned the Yankees at the time, proposed extensive renovations to Yankee Stadium. However, this would have required the Yankees to play their home games at Shea Stadium in Queens, the regular home of the New York Mets. The Mets, as Shea's primary tenants, resisted the proposal, effectively delaying renovation. CBS then gave serious thought to building a stadium in the New Jersey Meadowlands before selling the Yankees to George Steinbrenner in 1972 for $10 million.

Finally, in mid-1972, Mayor John Lindsay stepped in and announced the city would buy Yankee Stadium for $24 million and lease it back to the Yankees. As the city already owned Shea Stadium, the Mets were ultimately unable to prevent the Yankees from sharing their venue. Yankee Stadium closed on September 30, 1973 for the two-year facelift.

1974–75 renovations and beyond[edit | edit source]

File:Yankee Stadium view from upper deck 2007.jpg

The post-renovation interior of the stadium, pictured in 2007.

While Yankee Stadium was being renovated, the Yankees played the 1974 and 1975 seasons in Shea Stadium, sharing the venue with the New York Mets.

Since the renovation significantly altered the appearance of the ballpark, some consider the rebuilt Yankee Stadium a different facility from the pre-renovation stadium. For example, the ESPN Sports Almanac considers the renovated stadium to be "Yankee Stadium II," and the pre-renovated facility to be "Yankee Stadium I". Other books, such as Green Cathedrals, make no such distinction. Among the more noticeable differences resulting from the renovation was the removal of the 118 columns reinforcing each tier of the Stadium's grandstand. The Stadium's roof, including its distinctive 15-foot (5 m) metal frieze, was replaced by the new upper shell and new lights were added. A white painted concrete replica of the frieze was added atop the wall encircling the bleachers. The playing field was lowered by about seven feet and moved outward slightly.

The original wooden stadium seats were replaced with wider plastic ones, and the upper deck expanded upward nine rows, excluding the walkway. A new upper concourse was built above the old and original concourse exits were closed in by new seating. A new loge middle tier was built featuring a larger press box and 16 luxury boxes at the expense of general seating. Roughly 1/3 of the bleacher seats were eliminated, their middle section converted to a blacked-out batter's eye. A wall was built behind the bleachers blocking the views from Gerard Avenue and the elevated subway platform above River Avenue. On this wall, the Yankees erected the first instant replay display in baseball, referred to in literature as a "telescreen". All told, the Stadium was reduced to a listed capacity of 57,545.

The post-renovation exterior of the stadium, as it appeared in 2006.

The Stadium's playing field was substantially shortened, with monuments once in play relegated to a newly created Monument Park and deep center reduced by over 40ft. The cost of the 1970s renovations, $160 million, was originally borne by New York City and is now being paid off by New York State.

The Stadium reopened on April 15, 1976.[8] More than 54,000 fans saw the Yankees beat the Minnesota Twins, 11–4, and the "new Stadium" hosted its first playoff and World Series games that October. In 1985, the left field fence was moved in, and the stadium assumed its final dimensions in 1988.

In April 1998, during the stadium's 75th anniversary season, a 500lb. piece of concrete beam spalled and destroyed one seat along the third-base line, resulting in the scheduled game being moved to Shea Stadium. A two-week inspection followed before the park was certified safe to reopen.

Replacement, closing, and demolition[edit | edit source]


Logo to commemorate the stadium's final season.

After years of speculation that the Yankees would build a new ballpark to replace Yankee Stadium, construction on a new facility began on August 16, 2006 with a groundbreaking ceremony across the street in Macombs Dam Park, the site of the new stadium. This all but sealed the fate of Yankee Stadium, and the Yankees played their final two seasons in the stadium in 2007 and 2008 while the new venue was being built.

After the final game in the Stadium's history was played on September 21, 2008, public tours of Yankee Stadium continued until November 23, 2008. November 9, 2008 was the last day the public tours included Monument Park and the retired number area. On November 12, 2008 construction workers began removing memorials from Monument Park for relocation to the new facility.[9] On November 8, 2008 former Yankees Scott Brosius, Paul O'Neill, David Cone and Jeff Nelson, all members of the 1998 World Series championship team, joined 60 children from two Bronx based youth groups Youth Force 2020 and the ACE Mentor Program in ceremoniously digging up home plate, the pitcher's mound pitching plate (rubber) and the surrounding dirt of both areas and transporting them to comparable areas of new Yankee Stadium.[10]

Template:Multiple image An official closing ceremony was reportedly discussed to occur in November 2008, but was scrapped when the organization decided the final event should be a baseball game.[11] Yankee officials said that while the team had contemplated a final ceremony (with any proceeds going to charity), talk of a concert was just media speculation.[12]

The front office staff vacated the premises on January 23, 2009.[13] Demolition began in March 2009 with the removal of the playing field.[14] On May 13, 2009, the process of removing seats began and was completed on June 8.[15][16] On September 3 and 4, the iconic white facade was dismantled.[17][18]

On November 4, 2009, construction workers began tearing down the outfield bleachers, marking the first major structural demolition of the old ballpark.[19] On November 12, demolition work began on the field level grandstand.[20] By the end of November, most of the grandstand and bleachers at field level were gone.[21] By the first week of December, demolition of the midlevel loge seats had begun.[22][23] By January 2010, the loge level was gone and demolition began on the left field escalator bank adjacent to Gate 2. In February 2010, demolition work began on the upper deck and the outfield wall; the final part of the outfield wall (the Continental Airlines ad, the out-of-town scoreboard, and the remaining part of the advertising panel to its right) was taken down February 24, 2010.[24] By March 25, the entire upper deck was taken down.

Following an unsuccessful attempt to save Gate 2 (the only portion of the original Yankee Stadium that mostly remained unaltered after the venue's renovation), demolition of the outer walls of the stadium began on March 29.[25]

File:Yankee Stadium Site.jpg

Site of Yankee Stadium being constructed into Heritage Field, March 2011.

Demolition of the original Yankee Stadium was completed on May 13, 2010.[26] A Template:Convert/acre park complex called Heritage Field will be constructed on the old stadium site, accounting for 40 percent of the original parkland that is now occupied by the new Stadium.[1] The groundbreaking ceremony for Heritage Field took place on June 29, 2010.[27]

Features[edit | edit source]

Design[edit | edit source]

File:Yankee Stadium satellite view.png

An aerial view of Yankee Stadium shows the asymmetrical shape of the venue.

Yankee Stadium was the first three-tiered sports facility in the United States and one of the first baseball parks to be given the lasting title of stadium. Baseball teams typically played in a park or a field. The word stadium deliberately evoked ancient Greece, where a stade was a unit of measure—the length of a footrace; the buildings that housed these footraces were called stadia. Yankee Stadium was one of the first to be deliberately designed as a multi-purpose facility. The field was initially surrounded by a (misshapen) quarter-mile (0.4 km) running track, which effectively also served as a warning track for outfielders, a feature now standard on all major league fields. The left and right field bleacher sections were laid out roughly at a right angle, and to the third base stands, to be properly positioned for both track-and-field events and football. The large electronic scoreboard in right-center field, featuring both teams' lineups and scores of other baseball games, was the first of its kind.

As Yankee Stadium owed its creation largely to Ruth, its design partially accommodated the game's left-handed-hitting slugger. Initially the fence was 295ft from home plate down the right-field line, referred to as the "short porch", and 350ft to near right field, compared with 490ft to the deepest part of center field, nicknamed Death Valley. The right-field bleachers were appropriately nicknamed "Ruthville." Although the right field fences were eventually pushed back after the 1974-1975 renovations, they were still relatively close to home plate and retained the "short porch" moniker. A little-known fact about the stadium; the field level was actually several feet below sea level.

Monument Park[edit | edit source]

File:Yankee Stadium Monument Park 2008.jpg

Monument Park featured monuments and plaques dedicated to Yankee greats.

Monument Park was an open-air museum that contained the Yankees' retired numbers, as well as a collection of monuments and plaques honoring distinguished members of the New York Yankees. It was located beyond the left-center field fences, near the bullpens.

The origins of Monument Park can be traced to the original three monuments of Lou Gehrig, Miller Huggins, and Babe Ruth that once used to stand in-play in center field. Over the years, the Yankees continued to honor players and personnel with additional monuments and plaques. After the 1974–1975 renovations of Yankee Stadium, the monuments and plaques were moved behind the outfield fences to "Monument Park." A visual collection of retired numbers was soon added to this location. Monument Park remained there until the stadium's closing in 2008; after the new Yankee Stadium opened, the retired numbers, plaques, and monuments were moved into a new Monument Park in the new ballpark.

The Facade[edit | edit source]


The facade over the wall behind the bleachers

One of the most distinguishing characteristics of Yankee Stadium was the "facade", a white frieze that ran along the bleacher billboards and scoreboard.

The facade was an addition made by Osborn Engineering, when the owners of the Yankees asked that the stadium be given "an air of dignity."Template:Blockquote It originally ran around the roof of the grandstand's upper deck. This original facade was made of copper, and over the course of time, developed a patina (just like the Statue of Liberty). It was painted white in the mid-1960s.

When the stadium was renovated in the 1970s, 10 rows were added to the top of upper deck, and the support columns were removed. The original roof had to be removed; the facade was removed and sold as scrap. A smaller, concrete version was erected above the scoreboards and billboards behind the bleachers. In the new stadium, the facade was replicated in its original position along the roof of the upper deck, although now constructed of steel painted white. It does not cantilever out over the upper deck as much as the original did.

The iconic facade is employed in graphics for the YES Network and was incorporated into the logo for the 2008 All-Star Game held at the Stadium.

The term "facade" is actually a misnomer. The scalloped arches are actually a frieze, and it was originally known as such. It is unknown when or where the term "facade" came into use, but it has become the more common name, used by fans, broadcasters, and personnel. With the move to the new stadium, the organization has made a move to return to the term "frieze", exclusively using it in public statements and literature.

Outfield dimensions[edit | edit source]

In its existence, Yankee Stadium changed its dimensions several times. Many photographs taken throughout the stadium's history are used as references, as the Yankees were among the first to post distance markers on the outfield walls.

The 415 sign, and its 367 counterpart in right field, were both covered by auxiliary scoreboards during the 1949 season. Those boards displayed the current game inning-by-inning along with runs-hits-errors. When the stadium reopened in 1976, the distance in straight-away center field was 417ft. The deepest part of the outfield was in left center at 430ft. The most recent field dimensions were reached primarily by moving the Yankee bullpen to left-center from right and making a few other changes so as to bring the left-center field wall in. The 1973-era left-center field wall locations could still be seen in 1976, as this is where the outfield bleacher seats began.

Traditions and mainstays[edit | edit source]

Bob Sheppard[edit | edit source]

From 1951 through 2007, Bob Sheppard was the public address announcer at Yankee Stadium. His distinctive voice (Yankee legend Reggie Jackson has called him "the Voice of God"), and the way he announced players for over half a century made him a part of the lore of the stadium and the team. Before a player's first at-bat of the game, Sheppard announced his position, his uniform number, his name, and his number again. Example: "Now batting for the Yankees, the shortstop, number 2, Derek Jeter, Number 2." For each following at-bat, Sheppard announced just the position and name: "The shortstop, Derek Jeter." Due to health reasons, the 97-year-old Sheppard announced his last game on September 5, 2007.[28] He did sign a new two-year contract with the Yankees in March 2008 but lacked the strength necessary to do the job and missed the entire 2008 season,[29] including the 2008 All-Star Game,[30] which was played at Yankee Stadium. He could not announce the final game at the old stadium in September 2008, but recorded a video address that was played during the pregame ceremonies and also recorded the lineups for the game. He officially announced his retirement before the 2009 season.[31] Sheppard died in July 2010.[29]

Hammond Organ[edit | edit source]

The Hammond Organ was installed at Yankee Stadium in 1967, and was primarily played by Eddie Layton from its introduction until his retirement after the 2003 season. The playing of the organ has added to the character of the stadium for many years, playing before games, introducing players, during the national anthem and the rendition of "Take me out to the ball game" during the seventh inning stretch. After Layton's retirement, he got to pick his replacement, Paul Cartier.[32] In recent years, the use of the organ has been decreased in place of recorded music between innings and introducing players. Since the 2004 season, the national anthem has rarely been performed by the organists, opting for military recordings of the Star Spangled Banner. In 2005, a new Hammond Elegante was installed replacing the original Hammond Colonnade.

Roll call[edit | edit source]

Beginning in the 1990s, and after the first pitch was thrown at the top of the first inning, the "Bleacher Creatures" in Section 39, usually led by a man nicknamed Bald Vinny, began chanting the names of every player in the defensive lineup (except the pitcher and catcher, with some rare exceptions), starting with the center fielder. They did not stop chanting the player's name until he acknowledged the Creatures (usually with a wave or a point), who then moved on to the next player. Other names called out during roll call from time to time have included Yankee broadcasters John Sterling and Michael Kay, or Aaron Boone, Bucky Dent, and Babe Ruth when the Yankees hosted the rival Boston Red Sox. Sometimes, after a long rain delay, the Creatures started another Roll Call for comedic effect. Often when a player was replaced in the field, their replacement was also welcomed with a chant. In 2008, center fielder Melky Cabrera booted a routine grounder while attempting to wave to the fans.

Baseball[edit | edit source]

In its 86 years of existence, Yankee Stadium hosted 6,581 regular season home games for the Yankees. Only Fenway Park (Boston), Wrigley Field (Chicago), Sportsman's Park (St. Louis) and Tiger Stadium (Detroit) have hosted more games. Due to the Yankees' frequent appearances in the World Series, Yankee Stadium played host to 161 postseason games, more than any other stadium in baseball history. The Stadium hosted 37 of the 83 possible World Series during its existence (not counting 1974-75, and the 1994 strike), with the Yankees winning 26 of them. In total, the venue hosted 100 World Series games.

Sixteen of the seventeen World Series won in the Bronx were clinched at the 1923 Yankee Stadium, nine by the Yankees and seven by their opponents:

  • Yankees, in 1927, 1938, 1947, 1950, 1951, 1953, 1977, 1996, and 1999
  • St. Louis Cardinals, in 1926, 1942
  • Brooklyn Dodgers, in 1955, the only World Championship won by the Dodgers before moving to Los Angeles.
  • Milwaukee Braves, in 1957, the only World Series won by a Milwaukee team.
  • Cincinnati Reds, in 1976
  • Los Angeles Dodgers, in 1981
  • Florida Marlins, in 2003

Perhaps the most memorable moment in the venue's history came on July 4, 1939, designated as "Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day". Gehrig, forced out of action permanently by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and facing his impending death, gave a legendary farewell speech thanking his fans and colleagues for making him "the luckiest man on the face of the earth."[33]

Many memorable and historic games have been played at Yankee Stadium. All three perfect games thrown by Yankee pitchers have occurred at the Stadium. Don Larsen threw a perfect game on October 8, 1956, in the fifth game of the World Series, while David Wells and David Cone threw theirs on May 17, 1998, and July 18, 1999, respectively. No-hitters were thrown by Monte Pearson, Bob Feller, Allie Reynolds, Virgil Trucks, Dave Righetti, Jim Abbott, Dwight Gooden, and a combination of six Houston Astros pitchers in one game.[34]

The Stadium was the site of a nationally-televised game on August 6, 1979, the same day as the funeral for departed Yankees captain Thurman Munson. The team attended the funeral in Canton, Ohio earlier in the day and flew to New York for an emotional game. Bobby Murcer drove in all five runs for the Yankees, including a "walk-off" two-run single that defeated the Baltimore Orioles 5–4.

Many historic home runs have been hit at Yankee Stadium. Babe Ruth hit the ballpark's first home run on its Opening Day in 1923. Ruth also set the then-league record for most home runs in a single season by hitting his 60th home run in 1927. Roger Maris would later break this record in 1961 at Yankee Stadium on the final day of the season by hitting his 61st home run. In 1967, Mickey Mantle slugged his 500th career home run. Chris Chambliss won the 1976 American League Championship Series by hitting a "walk-off" home run in which thousands of fans ran onto the field as Chambliss circled the bases. A year later, in the 1977 World Series, Reggie Jackson hit three home runs on three consecutive pitches in the championship-clinching Game 6. In 1983, the Pine Tar Incident involving George Brett occurred; Brett's home run in the ninth inning of the game was initially overturned for his bat having too much pine tar, resulting in him furiously charging out of the dugout. In Game 1 of the 1996 American League Championship Series, Derek Jeter hit a fly ball to right-field that was interfered with by fan Jeffrey Maier but ruled a home run. In Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series, Aaron Boone hit an extra-inning "walk-off" home run to send the Yankees to the World Series. On August 6, 2007, Alex Rodriguez hit his 500th home run against the Kansas City Royals at the Stadium.

Boxing[edit | edit source]

When Yankee Stadium opened in 1923, the Polo Grounds continued to host boxing matches; however, Yankee Stadium was home to prizefighting beginning in its first few months. Benny Leonard retained the lightweight championship in a 15-round decision over Lew Tendler on July 24, 1923, in front of more than 58,000 fans. It was the first of 30 championship bouts to be held at the Stadium. (This excludes dozens of non-title fights.) The boxing ring was placed over second base; a 15 foot vault contained electrical, telegraph, and telephone connections. In July 1927, the aging former heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey came from behind to defeat heavily favored Jack Sharkey by delivering several questionable punches that were deemed illegal. Sharkey had similarly bad luck in a July 1930 heavyweight championship bout at Yankee Stadium, when his knockout punch to Max Schmeling was ruled illegal; Schmeling won by default. In July 1928, Gene Tunney upheld the heavyweight title against Tom Heeney at Yankee Stadium, and then retired as champion.

Perhaps the most famous boxing match ever held at Yankee Stadium was on June 22, 1938, when Joe Louis, an African-American, squared off against Schmeling, a German. Adolf Hitler followed the rematch carefully, imploring Schmeling to defeat Louis, whom Hitler publicly berated. This left some with what they perceived as a moral predicament: root for the black fighter, or for the Nazi. Schmeling had defeated Louis in 1936, but in defense of his title, Louis knocked out Schmeling in the first round. This was one of eight championship fights the "Brown Bomber" fought at Yankee Stadium.

On July 1, 1939, Max Baer defeated Lou Nova at Yankee Stadium, in the first televised boxing match in the United States. The event was broadcast by television station W2XBS, forerunner of WNBC-TV. (The World Series was not televised until 1947.) On September 27, 1946, Tony Zale knocked out New York native Rocky Graziano for the middleweight crown; it was the first of three bouts between Zale and Graziano.

On June 25, 1952, middleweight champion Sugar Ray Robinson sought his third title against light-heavyweight champ Joey Maxim at Yankee Stadium. More than 47,000 saw Robinson outfight Maxim but lose due to heat exhaustion in round 14 (due to the weather that topped 104-degrees Fahrenheit). The referee who declared Maxim the winner was the second that night; the first had left the fight due to heat exhaustion.

After its 1970s renovation, Yankee Stadium hosted only one championship fight. On September 28, 1976, a declining Muhammad Ali defended his heavyweight crown against Ken Norton. To that point, Norton was one of only two boxers who had beaten Ali (in 1973); this was their third, and final, meeting. Norton led for most of the fight, but Ali improved in the later rounds to win by unanimous decision.

College football[edit | edit source]

When an ill Ruth could not lead the Yankees to the World Series in 1925, college football took center stage at Yankee Stadium that fall. The fiercely competitive Notre DameArmy game moved to Yankee Stadium, where it remained until 1947. In the 1928 game, with the score 0–0 at halftime, legendary Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne gave his "win one for the Gipper" speech (with reference to All-American halfback George Gipp, who died in 1920); Notre Dame went on to defeat Army, 12–6. The 1929 game between the two teams had the highest attendance in the series at 79,408.[35] The 1946 Army vs. Notre Dame football game at Yankee stadium is regarded as one of the 20th century college football Games of the Century.[36]

Notre Dame played 24 games at Yankee Stadium, going 15-6-3. Army played 38, compiling a 17–17–4 record (including the best-attended game, on December 1, 1928 when Army lost to Stanford 26–0 before 86,000 fans). New York University played more games there than any other school, 96, using it as a secondary home field from 1923 to 1948, with a record of 52–40–4. Nearby Fordham University played 19 games there, going 13–5–1.

Eight college football games were played at Yankee Stadium on Thanksgiving Day, the first seven by New York University. Perhaps, the most famous Thanksgiving Day game was the first. Oregon State Agricultural College (now Oregon State University) was the first West Coast team to travel across the country and play an East Coast team. 8–1 NYU was a 3–1 favorite to beat 5–3 OSAC, but Oregon State upset the hometown favorites 25–13. Will Rogers lamented what the "Oregon apple knockers" had done to his "city slickers" in a column after the game. After the 1928 game, NYU beat Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon University) in 1931 and 1932, defeated Fordham in 1936, lost to Carnegie Tech in 1929, and lost to Fordham in 1934 and 1935. In the eighth game, in 1963, Syracuse University beat Notre Dame, 14–7. This was a rematch following the teams' controversial 1961 game won by Notre Dame, 17–15.

The Gotham Bowl was scheduled to premiere at Yankee Stadium in 1960, but was canceled when no opponent could be found for Oregon State University. The 1961 game was moved to the Polo Grounds, and when just 6,166 people came to Yankee Stadium for the 1962 game, in which the University of Nebraska defeated the University of Miami, 36–34, the Gotham Bowl was never played again. The Miami-Nebraska game remains the only college bowl ever played at the stadium.

In 1969, Notre Dame and Army reprised their long series at the Stadium (1925–1946 except 1930) with one final game.

Starting in 1971, the Stadium hosted the Whitney M. Young Urban League Classic, a game between historically black colleges, often featuring Grambling State University of Louisiana, coached by Eddie Robinson, the first college coach to win 400 games. The Classic helped to spread the fame of Grambling and other similar schools. Yankee Stadium hosted its final Classic during the 1987 season, also the last time a football game was played there. Grambling lost to Central State University of Ohio, 37-21.[37]

The Classic has been held at Giants Stadium in New Jersey's Meadowlands Sports Complex ever since, though the Yankees remain a supporter of the event.

Professional football[edit | edit source]

In 1926, after negotiations failed with the fledgling NFL and the Chicago Bears, Red Grange and his agent C.C. Pyle formed the first American Football League and fielded a team called the New York Yankees based in Yankee Stadium. The league failed after only one year, but the team continued as a member of the NFL for two seasons before ceasing operations. A second New York Yankees football team, not related to the first, split its home games between Yankee Stadium and Downing Stadium as it competed in the second AFL in 1936 and 1937. A third AFL New York Yankees took the field in 1940 and became the New York Americans in 1941.

The New York Yankees of the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) played their home games at Yankee Stadium from 1946 to 1949. Following the 1949 season, the NFL New York Bulldogs acquired many of the players from the 1949 Yankees. Using the name the New York Yanks they played two seasons at Yankee Stadium, 1950 and 1951.

The New York Giants of the NFL played their home games at Yankee Stadium from 1956 to 1973. On December 28, 1958, Yankee Stadium hosted the NFL championship game, frequently called "The Greatest Game Ever Played". The Baltimore Colts tied the Giants, 17–17, on a field goal with seven seconds left. Led by quarterback Johnny Unitas, the Colts won in overtime, 23–17. The game's dramatic ending is often cited as elevating professional football to one of the United States' major sports. Additionally, one of the most notable plays in NFL history occurred at Yankee Stadium on November 20, 1960 when the Philadelphia Eagles' Chuck Bednarik forcefully tackled the Giants' Frank Gifford in the last minute of a close game, forcing a fumble recovered by the Eagles that clinched the victory for Philadelphia and ultimately helped the Eagles dethrone the 2-time defending champion Giants as NFL Eastern Division champions. The hit left Gifford with a concussion and forced his temporary retirement from football for the reminder of the 1960 season and all of the 1961 season.[38]

The Giants played their first two home games at Yankee Stadium in 1973, concluding their tenancy on September 23 with a 23–23 tie against the Philadelphia Eagles. In October, they moved to the Yale Bowl in New Haven, Connecticut, for the rest of the season.

Soccer[edit | edit source]

Celtic F.C. defeated New York Yankees in the first major soccer game to be played at the Stadium on June 28, 1931. In the coming three decades, a number of games between Jewish Palestinian teams and American all-stars were played. European club exhibitions first came in 1952, when on June 14, Liverpool drew 1-1 with Grasshopper-Club Zürich. The next day, Tottenham Hotspur thrashed Manchester United 7-1, just a year after United had taken over for Spurs as champions of England. The following year, on June 8, the English national team defeated the U.S. national team 6-3, in a rematch of the Miracle on Grass match at the 1950 World Cup.[39]

Major international clubs returned to the Stadium in 1966, with Pele's Santos of Brazil beating Inter Milan 4-1 on June 5. Beginning around 1967, C.A. Cerro of Uruguay played in the United Soccer Association during the summer months under the title "New York Skyliners". They played major games against Hibernian F.C. of Scotland, renamed "Toronto City", Cagliari F.C. of Italy, renamed "Chicago Mustangs", and Bangu Atlético Clube of Brazil, renamed "Houston Stars". Eventually, the Skyliners gave way as the team calling Yankee Stadium home to the less foreign-influenced New York Generals of the National Professional Soccer League, which soon became the North American Soccer League, or NASL. In 1968, in addition to league competition, the Generals took on Santos, winning 5-3, and Real Madrid, losing 4-1. That year, Santos also played and beat S.S.C. Napoli of Italy 4-2 at the Stadium, along with S.L. Benfica of Portugal, with whom they drew 3-3. The next year, four major international club games were played at the Stadium: Barcelona beat Juventus 3-2 on May 30, Inter Milan beat Sparta Prague 4-0 on June 27, and A.C. Milan defeated Panathinaikos 4-0 also on June 27. Finally, on June 29, Yankee Stadium hosted its own version of the Derby della Madonnina, with A.C. Milan defeating Inter 6–4. The latter three games that year were all part of a three-day "United States Cup of Champions."[40]

On September 15, 1968, the U.S. national soccer team played an international friendly against the Israel national team at the Stadium. It was the first game for the U.S. in fifteen months and 10,118 saw Israel and the U.S. draw 3 to 3.[41]

In 1971 and 1976, the New York Cosmos of the NASL played their home games at Yankee Stadium. During the 1971 season, they also hosted Hearts Of Midlothian from Scotland, and Apollon Kalamarias of Greece. In 1976 the team's star attraction was Pelé. The Brazil native, known as "The King of Football," was considered the best player in the world. Also that year, in Yankee Stadium's final international match on May 28, England defeated Italy 3–2 as part of the Bicentennial Cup Tournament. Finally, on August 10, 1976, the last ever soccer game was played at Yankee Stadium, with the Cosmos thrashing the Miami Toros 8-2. The Cosmos moved to Giants Stadium for the 1977 season.[42]

Other events[edit | edit source]

Beginning in 1950, the stadium began holding religious conventions of the Jehovah's Witnesses. The first convention attracted 253,922 people, more in a single day than any other stadium event up to that time.[43] These conventions would continue on until the late 1980s. When room ran out in the stands, the ladies were asked to remove their heels, and people were brought in to sit in the outfield. There was also a makeshift camp nearby where the program was broadcast for hundreds others to listen to.

On July 20, 1957, evangelist Billy Graham attracted a crowd of 100,000 to a televised "crusade" at Yankee Stadium. A New York Times article of the following day described the turnout as "the largest crowd in stadium history" to that time.[44]

Cardinal Francis Spellman (1957), Pope Paul VI (1965), Pope John Paul II (1969 as a cardinal, 1979 as pope), and Pope Benedict XVI (2008) all celebrated Mass at the ballpark, along with numerous clergy and lay Catholics. On June 21, 1990, a rally was held at Yankee Stadium for Nelson Mandela upon his release from prison. On September 23, 2001, Yankee Stadium hosted a memorial service for victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York City.

The first concert ever held there was an ensemble R&B show on June 21, 1969, put together by the Isley Brothers; the first pop concert held at the stadium was on June 22, 1990, by Billy Joel. It was also the site of two dates of U2's Zoo TV Tour in 1992. During one song, Bono paid tribute to the show's setting with the line "I dreamed I saw Joe DiMaggio/Dancing with Marilyn Monroe". Pink Floyd also performed two sold-out shows at this venue on their final North American tour in 1994 in support of their album The Division Bell.

On March 10, 2006, Yankee Stadium saw its first and only wedding at home plate. Blind sportswriter Ed Lucas, who has been a member of the Yankee family for over 40 years, got special permission from the Yankees, the City of New York, and Major League Baseball to exchange vows with his fiancée, Allison Pfieffle, on the same spot where Lou Gehrig made his famous farewell speech, among the many notable events. Over 400 people, including present and former members of the Yankee family were in attendance to see the happy couple united, and the ceremony was broadcast on ESPN, the YES Network, NBC's Today Show and other national media outlets.

National Hockey League (NHL) executives inquired about the possibility of using Yankee Stadium for an outdoor ice hockey match featuring the New York Rangers in the 2008-2009 season after the successful reception of both the 2003 Heritage Classic and the 2008 NHL Winter Classic outdoor games. If approved, it would have been the final sporting event at the current stadium.[45] The NHL, however, decided to hold the second Winter Classic in Chicago, at Wrigley Field.[46]

Photo gallery[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

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  2. Verducci, Tom. "Yankee Stadium, it's gone! Goodbye!", September 18, 2008. Retrieved on 2008-09-22. 
  3. Durso, Joseph (1972). Yankee Stadium: Fifty Years of Drama. Houghton Mifflin. p. 40. 
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  17. Kaminski, Tom. "Photo Gallery: Yankee Stadium Facade Removal", WCBS Newsradio 880, September 3, 2009. Retrieved on 2010-05-16. 
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  25. Gate2-Home
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  35. Notre Dame football media guide (PDF copy available at und.cstv.com)
  36. Whittingham, Richard (2001). "6". Rites of autumn: the story of college football. New York: The Free Press. pp. 148–183. Template:Citation/identifier. "It was surely the game of the year, and many have said it was the college football game of the century" 
  37. Football Games at Yankee Stadium (College and amateur, High School games omitted)
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  46. Blackhawks to host next season's Winter Classic. TSN (May 29, 2008). Retrieved on 2008-05-29.
  47. Yahoo.com



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