December 1, 2021

A “Sporting” Look At The Beginnings of Yankee Stadium

September 20, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

The end of a legacy is near.  After Sunday, Chicago’s Wrigley Field and Boston’s Fenway Park will have less company in the discussion of the truly historic stadiums of baseball when Yankee Stadium closes its doors in truly manufactured style — complete with a pre-game announcement of Mariano Rivera the anointed ninth inning pitcher of their final tilt.  With two games remaining at the “House That Ruth Built”, it’s time to look back at what was said about Yankee Stadium in The Sporting News from the first story the paper did on the then-future home of the Yankees to the article about the first game in what became the home of the most successful franchise in baseball history.

— February 10, 1921 —

From “Yankee Owners Pick Site For Their New Home In Bronx” by Joe Vila:

“In providing room for 75,000 spectators the owners of the Yankees evidently believe that Sunday baseball is a fixture in New York State, that Babe Ruth will continue to be the most powerful magnet in the profession and that the team, led by Miller Huggins or somebody else, will be a winning factor in the American League race for an indefinite period of time.  But all things considered, it seems too bad that the Yankees must leave the Polo Grounds, the best known ball park in the United States.”

Were the owners of the Yankees right?  Sunday baseball a fixture in New York… check!  Babe Ruth will continue to be the most powerful magnet in the profession… check!  The team will be a winning factor in the American League race for an indefinite period of time… CHECK!  If Vila were given a shot to revise his article, it’s doubtful the comment about the Polo Grounds makes the final cut.

— February 17, 1921 —

From “Yankees’ Decision To Build Marks New Baseball Epoch” by Hayes:

“Undoubtedly this shift in location [from Manhattan to the Bronx] will bring the Yankees a new nickname.  While they were playing on the Hilltop Grounds they drew the name of the Highlanders, a name that passed as soon as they became tenants of the Polo Grounds.  Inevitably, after the move, the Yanks will acquire the sub-title of ‘the team from the Bronx.’  This, of course, will draw some faithful fans from the Bronx.”

The Yankees picked up the sub-title of the “Bronx Bombers” amongst others but Yankees stuck, too.  And while the team did indeed draw faithful fans from the Bronx, the Yankees never lost their support from the rest of New York and with their success became a national phenomenon to this day.

— September 28, 1922 —

From “Casual Comment” by Francis C. Richter:

“Next year, however, there will be an exception to the early closing rule as a favor to the New York clubs, which will require additional time — the National League club to complete reconstruction of the Polo Grounds to increase the seating capacity to 58,000 and the American League club to prepare for the opening of its new stadium just across the Harlem River.

For this purpose the major league club owners are said to have agreed to open April 17 instead of April 10.  This additional week of grace for New York means of course, throwing the season a week later into October.”

Baseball making special accommodations to meet the needs of New York ball clubs?  No way!  The article went on to detail how the move would force baseball’s postseason past the middle of October.  Now, we have seasons that start in March and end close to November.  And when is the last time the Yankees were referred to in such simple terms as New York’s “American League club?”

— November 2, 1922 —

From Front Page:

“Already Carl Mays has been passed on and the auctioneer shouts:  ‘Who wants Witt?  What’s the offer for Babe Ruth?  And what’s the bid for Meusel or Schang?’

And there is no rush of buyers!  The ‘all star’ Yankees may not be broken up for the simple reason that nobody will take the bric-a-brac off the hands of the Colonels who collected it at such great expense, but something must be done — the opening of the three-million-dollar Yankee stadium in Harlem will only be a razz party if Babe Ruth and some of his kind are allowed to appear on the field, judging from present sentiment of the fans.”

Frustration set in for the American League New York fans who saw their Yankees downed by the neighboring New York Giants who captured their second title in as many years over the Yankees.  Worse yet, the second World Series victory came in a sweep and an awful World Series by the Babe himself who hit 2-for-17.  This all became moot as the Yanks captured four titles with the Babe as the team’s centerpiece including in 1923 when they finally knocked off their neighbors.

— November 16, 1922 —

From “Ruth Finds that Even In The Tank Towns He’s A Bust” by Joe Vila:

“Ruth, therefore, must begin all over again.  He must put himself in first class physical condition this winter and then go to training camp eager and willing to give his best efforts.  If he falls down, after what has happened, the former Home Run King will not be a card at the New Yankee stadium and will finally disappear from public view.”

Unless the record books are burned, there’s no chance of Ruth’s disappearance.  Ruth led the Yankees to a World Series victory in ’23 and captured the MVP.  You think A-Rod will ever get over the hump and capture a World Series title in pinstripes like the Babe finally did?  Ruth did not lead the Yankees to a World Series title until his fifth season and ’09 will be A-Rod’s sixth in the Bronx.

— April 19, 1923 —

From “Yankee Stadium Show Place of Baseball” by Joe Vila:

“The biggest happening in the history of the American League is close at hand.  On Wednesday the magnificent Yankee Stadium, costing $2,000,000, will be thrown open to the baseball public.”

At the time, I’m sure some who read this were skeptical but the quote is now an understatement.  What the Yankees accomplished since the opening of their stadium in ’23 is easily the greatest team success story in sports history.  And the estimated $2,000,000 cost — sometimes estimated at $3,000,000 — was definitely money well spent… especially considering the franchise is currently estimated to be worth over $1.2 billion.

— April 26, 1923 —

The headlines read:

“Everything Combines To Make Yankees’ Opening Glorious”
“Ruth Gives Occasion Climax By Hitting Homer That Rouses 74,000 to Frenzy of Enthusiasm”

The headlines said it all about the first game at what was to become one of baseball’s great cathedrals.  Let’s just hope that Sunday’s closing is as poetic as its’ opening.  Whether you love or hate the Yankees, how can anyone resist another great moment in baseball history?

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