Wednesday, June 3

Old Yankee Stadium

Behind us is the original Yankee stadium in The Bronx and home to the Yankees from '23 to 2008. It has / had a capacity of 57,545 and hosted 6,581 Yankees regular season home games during its 85-year history (wikipedia). It was also the home of the New York Giants, as well as the host of twenty of boxing's most famous fights and three Papal Masses. The stadium's nickname is "The House That Ruth Built" whose prime years coincided with the beginning of the Yankees' winning history.

This was the first three-tiered sports facility in the US and one of the first baseball parks to be given the lasting title of stadium as baseball teams usually played in a park or a field. The field was initially surrounded by a (misshapen) quarter-mile running track, which served as a warning track for outfielders, a feature now standard on all major league parks. The left and right field bleacher sections were laid out at right angles to each other, 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.

Strangely enough, the stadium's design partially accommodated the left-handed Babe Ruth. Initially the fence was 295 feet from home plate down the right-field line, referred to as the "short porch", and 350 feet to near right field, compared with 490 feet to the deepest part of center field, nicknamed Death Valley. The right-field bleachers were 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. Here are the stadium's changing dimensions (from Wikipedea):

Year Left Field
Left Field
Left Center Straightaway
Center Field
Right Center Straightaway
Right Field
Right Field
1923 285 ft. 395 ft. 460 ft. 490 ft. 425 ft. 350 ft. 295 ft. 82 ft.
1937 301 ft. 402 ft/
415 ft.
457 ft. 461 ft. 407 ft. 367 ft/
344 ft.
296 ft. 82 ft.
1976 312 ft. 387 ft. 430 ft. 417 ft. 385 ft. 353 ft. 310 ft. 84 ft.
1985 312 ft. 379 ft. 411 ft. 410 ft. 385 ft. 353 ft. 310 ft. 84 ft.
1988 318 ft. 379 ft. 399 ft. 408 ft. 385 ft. 353 ft. 314 ft. 82 ft.

My first Yankee in '77 when Marcia got us tickets behind home plate. I remember quite clearly the green grass and the heavy smoke back when people puffed away. The action on the field barely above the chatter of the crowd, which was like another player somehow. It all seemed .. and in fact was .. bigger than life. That was the year of Reggie Jackson, Thurmon Munson, Bucky Dent, Lou Piniella and Mickey Klutts whose name I could not forget if I tried. We saw Ron Guidry pitch - the Yankee's won but I have no idea the score, and Reggie hit a home-run which is all I wanted, really. This was a magical year for the team, who finished 100-62 finishing first in the AL East and beating the LA Dodgers in the World Series four games to two. Reggie had his own candy bar and despite black-outs and race riots, it was all good. And the manager? Billy Martin, of course, who would bring his genius to Oakland in the early '80s right when I was transfixed by the game.