Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
September 22, 2008
BASEBALL: Yankee, Go Home

I'm going to be frank here: I won't miss Yankee Stadium.

Yes, yes, in part that's a reflection of how I feel about the Hated Yankees. And yes, it's also colored by the fact that it's extremely inconvenient to get back and forth to Yankee Stadium from where I live in Queens, and that most of my experiences there over the years have been night games in the upper deck. And yes, I know that most of the nostalgia about any baseball park is about the memories of great moments there - that's as it should be - and Yankee Stadium has had more than its share.

But as to the structure itself, I always found it an unpleasant place to watch a baseball game, and of the six other big league parks where I've seen games (Shea, Fenway, Dodger Stadium, Citizens Bank Park, Camden Yards, and Tropicana Field) I can't seriously rate it ahead of any but the Trop, and there largely because of Tampa Bay's horrendous parking situation and some of the curious decisions made about its scoreboard. The clogged arteries at the heart of the stadium - the steep, narrow staircases leading to and from the higher decks - make entering and exiting the place slow, hot, crowded and claustrophobic. The interior of the stadium is dark and grim. Yankee Stadium lacks the intimacy of Fenway or the charm, bells and whistles and better sightlines of the newer parks, and isn't a family ballpark in the way that Shea is or a relaxed, sunshiney place like Dodger Stadium. Much as I despise the Yankees, their franchise has long deserved a better home.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:52 AM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

Excellent post, thank you!

Posted by: Jay Smith at September 22, 2008 9:56 AM

I think you are giving the precise reasons why they needed a new stadium. I was not around for the old Yankee stadium, pre-1976, but many old-timers never liked the remodled version. Too many changes from the old building, and the 1976 version was too modern. There is too much nostalgia for the real estate ("Babe Ruth ran these same bases"), and the fact that the new stadium is right next door makes it much easier to swallow the abandonment of the current stadium. Maybe the team does not need a new building today at this precise moment, but they most certainly will 20 years from now, and it's cheaper to rebuild today.

Posted by: steve at September 22, 2008 10:00 AM

I was struggling with this all last evening. I was born in 1956, moved to NYC area in 59 and grew up as a huge baseball fan. I read countless books about baseball history and wanted to fulfill my dad's dream that I be a baseball player (got drafted, didn't make the majors). First went to the stadium at age 5 and grew up with Mantle, Maris, Ford, et al with all the other kids in the neighborhood. But my family always rooted for the Indians and hated the Yankees. We moved away and my last trip there was in 1970.

Last night, the nostalgic baseball fan in me had to recognize the enormous history of the place. But I didn't have good memories (other than just being with my dad at a MLB game). Yes, I saw Koufax strike out 15 in the 63 WS and got to see a lot of great players. But, my antipathy for the Yankees and their money and the extreme damage that they do to the competitive balance of the game made it impossible for me to join in the feeling of loss.

Posted by: stan at September 22, 2008 10:07 AM

Of all the ballparks I have been to - Oakland, Anaheim, Arlington, Philly (Veterans & the new one), Kansas City, Detroit, Baltimore, Yankee Stadium and Shea - the worst experience I ever had was at Shea. I bought tickets down on the field level but I ended up right behind the walkway and spent 80% of the time watching people walking back and forth, blocking my view of the game. I suspect there are bad seats like that in any park (I had upper deck seats at Yankees Stadium on Thursday and I was blocked fairly regularly by people walking up and down the stairs, though not nearly as bad as at Shea) but I would be surprised if anyone makes you pay so much for the priviledge. Plus I always thought those neon baseball figures on the outside wall of the stadium were tacky.

With that said, I still like Shea. Of all the parks I have gone to, only Philly's old Veterans Stadium was a bad ballpark. I won't miss the Oakland Coliseum either, but it wasn't terrible.

Maybe it is the Yankee fan in me, but no ballpark has the same impact on me as Yankee Stadium. It always seems to produce a sense of awe and beauty in me. I will miss her.

Posted by: Paul at September 22, 2008 10:26 AM

Some day, after you have lived your life, you will try to get into the baseball section in heaven -- no serious theologian disputes heaven has baseball -- and you will have to explain this post.

Posted by: wd at September 22, 2008 10:30 AM

Thank you for saying what we were all thinking.

Seriously, Yankee Stadium was a dump. I've been to both great parks (Fenway, Camden, Nationals Park, Safeco, Minute Maid) and dumps (Fulton County, RFK, the Vet, Shea and Yankee), and Yankee Stadium was barely better than RFK and the Vet, and on par with Shea. They hype the history, but quite frankly, there is/was no mystique to the place. Whatever sense of history existed was done away with after the re-modeling. What stood there was an ugly, concrete slab that had mediocre sight-lines, terrible concessions, and which smelled like piss.

I have nothing but respect for the incredible history of the Yankees, and the physical location of the stadium hosted so many of the greatest moments in the history of sports. But the stadium sucked, and won't be missed.

Posted by: crankycon at September 22, 2008 12:43 PM

I'm glad you included considerations towards your biases in your viewpoint of Yankee Stadium. I disagree with you.

I started going to Yankee games riding the bus to Manhattan and then subway to the Bronx from Central NJ in the late 1960's. Bat Day's were how I got my bat for use in Little League. I remember the old stadium and the rebuilt version (not to mention the 2 seasons of exile to Flushing).

The old stadium had the same character that one can only find today in Fenway or Wrigley. The rebuilt stadium made some improvements - but the character remained from the history and the better teams that played there in the late '70's and then again in the 90's to present. Touring Monument Park before a game is something that adds to differentiating Yankee Stadium from the other ballparks.

I agree that the Trop is a horrible park, almost as bad as Philly's Vet, which along with the Astrodome and Baltimore's Memorial Field are the worst parks I've ever been to. (Astrodome was unique in the 1960's - but beyond that it was a bad park). Fenway has character related to its age - but I don't think it has the national cache of Yankee Stadium.

I saw my first game at Dodger Stadium this year was was very unwhelmed by it. It reminded of Shea - with little character and little to recommend. A 'C' at best for both of those.

There are many average stadiums that I've attended games at - Oakland, Candlestick, Angels Stadium, Kansas City, SkyDome, old Cominsky - and some newer stadiums that offer charms and advantages to make the experience better - Camden Yards, and San Diego's new ballpark - but perhaps it is 40 + years of seeing games there, or being a Yankee fan, but Yankee Stadium stands near the pinnacle as one of the top cathedral's of the game.

Posted by: Athos at September 22, 2008 1:38 PM

While I never attended a game at Yankee Stadium, I can appreciate your feelings. I almost cried when they torn down Connie Mack Stadium in Phila. Well, maybe cry is not the word since I had to avoid getting mugged every time I went to a game.

Forbes Field in Pittsburgh was also emotional (probably for Yankee fans as well). Three Rivers did not cause me to shed even a tear.

Funny, in my lifetime some teams have gone thru 3 stadiums while others are still on the same one! I am only 56 years old!

Posted by: Lee at September 22, 2008 1:53 PM

Well, I grew up in the Bronx, and even rooted for the !@#%&* Yankees until Mickey retired. No baseball fan is allowed to hate Mickey. But while the old place had ghosts, it had no character. Fenway does, without a doubt. But Yankee Stadium was exactly what the Yankees presented to the baseball world: GM. Very big, very impersonal, very corporate. OK, the Yankees were successful and GM is now not, but in the same way. Throw lots of cash at something, and blanket things, and probably something will work out.

So my memories are great: my parents taking me in the early 60s; I used to go up, even in '78 and get tickets at the box office when the Red Sox came to town (I was at the twi night doubleheader during the Massacre); taking my oldest to see Ken Griffey Jr. with the Mariners, demolishing the Yanks. But those memories would be great no matter where you were. The stadium itself was awful: as an architect, I found the place dangerous: only two ways in and out, and always congested, when people did NOT panic. Besides, the Yankees have decided to put everything up for sale. I'm shocked the monuments aren't being auctioned off. Maybe it's because Goldman Sachs is restructuring. No buyers. So when a memory is for sale, it's only something else to pay for.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at September 22, 2008 2:03 PM

That's not he real Yankee Stadium. It is a Seventies attempt to convert Yankee Stadium to the type of stadium popular at the time, the Cookie Cutter Park.
The real Stadium had eccentric dimensions which varied slightly from 1923 to 1973, but were always unique to this park. The game as played in this park was much more interesting than in the park they called Yankee Stadium from 1976 to the present.
Joe

Posted by: Joe Deegan at September 22, 2008 2:53 PM

What pains me as a Yankee fan is not that we won't have the old stadium anymore but that we will still have to listen to Suzyn Waldman's annoying voice on the radio.

By the way, being from Connecticut, I'll never truly appreciate a Met fan's hatred of the Yankees. I've never -hated- the Mets personally. To me, the Mets are just one of those national league teams that I don't really follow.

Posted by: MVH at September 22, 2008 4:06 PM

Does anybody know why the media has constantly refused to admit that the current Yankee Stadium has absolutely nothing to do with the House that Ruth Built? What they did in the 1970s was essentially what they're doing now, only they built the new stadium on the same spot as the old stadium.

This probably bothers me a lot more than it would somebody who isn't a Mets fan (like I am), but how can nobody in the media even MENTION the fact that this stadium was built in the mid-1970s - not in 1923.

Posted by: Jeff at September 22, 2008 4:57 PM

I have to admit that I love the Fenway. It was always a more intimate stadium then some others. But this year I have to admit that bringing along my favorite baseball book "Pinch Hitter", really kept me from pulling my hair out at some of the games. Amazingly, Dean Whitney is a really great author.

Posted by: Melissa at September 22, 2008 8:46 PM
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