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Yankee Stadium

The original Yankee Stadium is a stadium located in The Bronx in New York City. It served as the home baseball park of Major League Baseball's New York Yankees from 1923 through 2008. Located at East 161st Street and River Avenue in The Bronx, the stadium has a capacity of 57,545 and 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, as well as the host of twenty of boxing's most famous fights and three Papal masses. The stadium's nickname, "The House That Ruth Built" comes from the iconic Babe Ruth, the baseball superstar whose prime years coincided with the beginning of the Yankees' winning history.

Yankee Stadium is one of the most famous sports venues in United States, having hosted a variety of events and many historic moments during its existence. Its primary occupants, the Yankees, have won far more World Series championships (26) than any other major league club and Yankee Stadium has hosted 37 World Series, far more than any other baseball stadium. The Stadium also hosted the major-league All-Star Game four times: 1939, 1960, 1977, and, as part of its curtain call, 2008.

In 2006, the Yankees began construction on a new $1.8 billion stadium in public parkland adjacent to the original Yankee Stadium. The Yankees are expecting to open their new home in 2009. Once the new stadium opens, most of the old stadium, including the above-ground structure, is to be demolished to become parkland.

The first game at the stadium was held on April 18, 1923, with the Yankees beating the Boston Red Sox 4-1. The final game at the stadium was held on September 21, 2008, with the Yankees beating the Baltimore Orioles 7-3.

History and design

Soon after its opening, Yankee Stadium came to be known as "The House that Ruth Built", in reference to the Yankees' star player, Babe Ruth. Ruth's power as a drawing card had enabled the Yankees to build their own stadium in the Bronx after their rivals across the Harlem River in Manhattan, the New York Giants, were threatening to evict them from the Polo Grounds. In the first game at Yankee Stadium, April 18, 1923, Ruth hit the first home run at the Stadium, a three-run shot to help defeat his former team, the Boston Red Sox, 4-1. Boston Red Sox first baseman George Burns got the first hit ever in Yankee Stadium. The Yankees also won their first World Series during the Stadium's inaugural season, a rare coincidence that would not occur again until the St. Louis Cardinals did it in 2006.

When Tillinghast L'Hommedieu Huston and Jacob Ruppert, the team's owners since January 1915, footed the bill for construction of a $2.5 million stadium, they did so at considerable financial risk and speculation. Baseball teams typically played in 30,000-seat facilities. Huston and Ruppert invoked Ruth's name when asked how the Yankees could justify a ballpark with 60,000 seats. Many people felt three baseball teams could not prosper in New York City, 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 in the 1950s). 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.

Huston and Ruppert were undeterred, and they also had little choice but to relocate. In 1920, Ruth's first 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 (they lost to the Giants in the World Series). 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."

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 lumberyard 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. When it did, Fred Lieb of the New York Evening Telegram dubbed it "The House That Ruth Built". (Critics of its cozy right field dimensions would sometimes call it "The House They Built for Ruth", although Ruth also lost many homers to the cavernous left and center field area.) The Stadium was also, in part, "The House That Edison Built", as the walls were built of "an extremely hard and durable concrete that was developed by Thomas Edison". Edison had begun a Portland cement company in 1899. A total of 20,000 cubic yards of concrete was used in the original structure. New York Governor Alfred E. Smith (who would become the Democratic Party's candidate for president in 1928) threw out the first pitch. John Philip Sousa led one of his famed marching bands.

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.

Old 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 stadium was unit of measure--the length of a footrace; the buildings that housed footraces were called stadiums. 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 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 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.

As Yankee Stadium owed its creation largely to Ruth, its design partially accommodated the game's left-handed-hitting slugger. Initially the fence was from home plate down the right-field line and to near right field, compared with to the deepest part of center field, nicknamed Death Valley. The right-field bleachers were appropriately nicknamed Ruthville.

The Stadium's 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.

Yankee Stadium underwent more extensive renovations from 1936 through 1938. The wooden bleachers were replaced with concrete bleachers, 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 the respective team's bullpens. By 1938, the Stadium had assumed the "classic" shape that it would retain for the next 35 years.

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 1966–67 offseason, during the period in which Rice owned the stadium, the concrete exterior was painted white, and the interior was repainted blue. The copper frieze circling the upper deck was painted white.

1974–75 Renovation

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, refused to sign off — effectively delaying the renovations. 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 (by comparison, it cost $2.4 million to build in 1923 — adjusted for inflation, $6 million in 1972 dollars) and lease it back to the Yankees. Since the city owned Shea Stadium as well, the Mets had little choice but to agree. Yankee Stadium closed on September 30, 1973 for the two-year facelift; the Yankees played the 1974 and 1975 seasons in Shea Stadium. The original Yankee Stadium was "torn down" after the 1973 baseball season.

Since a significant portion of the stadium was demolished and rebuilt, 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". Textbooks on the subject, such as Green Cathedrals, make no such distinction, since much of the original structure was retained and re-used, in contrast to the total demolition of facilities such as Cleveland Stadium or Wembley Stadium, whose in-place replacements were totally new structures. The most noticeable difference resulting from the renovation was the removal of the 118 columns that reinforced each tier of the Stadium's grandstand. The Stadium's roof, including the distinctive, copper frieze that circled its interior, was replaced by the new upper shell; new lights were also added. A white replica of this frieze was built at the top the wall behind the bleachers. The playing field was lowered by about seven feet and moved forward slightly.

Yankee Stadium installed the first instant-replay display in baseball. All seats in the old stadium were replaced with wider, more modern plastic seats, and the upper deck was expanded upward by approximately nine rows, as modern building techniques allowed them to do so. There appears to be an extra guardrail in the upper seating of the modern stadium where the original runways to the upper level concourse once ran.

A new upper concourse was built above where the old concourse existed and the old exits were closed in by new seating. The old, closed-in upper-deck concourse still exists to this day and is used by stadium employees for transport. A new "loge/middle-tier" section was also built for the new stadium with far fewer seats to create a larger press box and 16 luxury boxes. About half of the bleachers seats were eliminated; the middle portion was converted to what is today called "the black," a dark, unused area that serves as the batter's eye. A wall was built behind the bleachers, preventing strap-hangers from watching the game perched on the elevated subway platform above River Avenue. All told, the Stadium was reduced to a listed capacity of 57,545.

The Stadium's dimensions were narrowed, leaving the monuments and plaques that today comprise Monument Park behind an inner fence (they had been on the field in fair territory). Also, deep center was significantly reduced to a distance more consistent with modern parks.

Several new restrooms were added throughout the stadium, along with three elevators. The southern border of the Stadium, 157th Street, was closed to cars and became part of the Stadium's property. The city also seized property on the southern side of this street for a four-story parking garage (about 2,300 parking spaces) to suit the increasingly suburban crowd whom the Yankees were hoping to attract. No money was spent to help the residents and business owners of the neighborhood, fueling the sometimes uneasy relationship between the Yankees and their neighbors.

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. At the time, many referred to Yankee Stadium as the House That Lindsay Rebuilt, because the costly renovations were approved by New York City's Board of Estimate, based on the insistence of Mayor John Lindsay. Lindsay had orchestrated the city's purchase of Yankee Stadium from Rice University (the university in Houston, Texas owned the stadium thanks to a bequest from John William Cox '27) and the nine-acre parcel of property the Stadium occupies from the Knights of Columbus, also the recipients of a gift by Cox.

The Stadium reopened on April 15, 1976 . 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 the 1980s, the fence was moved in on the left field side, allowing for the retired numbers row that currently exists as a lead-in to Monument Park.

In April 1998, during the stadium's 75th year anniversary, a concrete beam in the shape of an 'H' collapsed and destroyed one seat along the 3rd base line. The beam weighed 500 pounds and left a gaping hole causing the city of New York and the Yankees to postpone their game against the Angels that night. The city then began an inspection of the entire stadium which kept it closed for 2 weeks before Mayor Giuliani signed off to reopen the park.

Sports and notable events at Yankee Stadium

Baseball

In its 85 years of existence, Yankee Stadium has hosted 6,581 regular season home games for the Yankees. Only Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, Sportsman's Park and Tiger Stadium have hosted more games. Due to the Yankees' frequent appearances in the World Series, Yankee Stadium has played host to 161 postseason games, more than any other stadium in baseball history. The Stadium hosted 37 of the 85 World Series during its existence, with the Yankees winning 26 of them. In total, the venue hosted 100 World Series games.

Sixteen World Series have been clinched at Yankee Stadium, nine by the Yankees and seven by opponents:

Perhaps the most memorable moment in the venue's history game came on July 4, 1939, designated as "Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day". Gehrig, forced out of action permanently by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and dying, delivered his famous "Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth" speech.

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 (the latter against the then-Montreal Expos; the only regular season interleague perfect game.) 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.

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 eighth inning of the game was 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.

In 2001, six weeks after the September 11 attacks, Yankee Stadium hosted an emotional three games in the World Series. For Game 3, President George W. Bush hurled the ceremonial first pitch, throwing a strike. In Game 4, Tino Martinez hit a game-tying home run off Arizona Diamondbacks closer Byung-Hyun Kim with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. Derek Jeter hit the winning "walk-off" home run in extra innings off of Kim, earning himself the nickname "Mr. November". The following night in Game 5, the Yankees replicated their heroics from the previous night; Scott Brosius hit a game-tying home run off of Kim with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning en route to a win.

All-Star Games

On July 11, 1939, Major League Baseball held the league's seventh All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium, in concert with the World's Fair being held at Flushing-Meadows in Queens. Yankees manager Joe McCarthy loaded his American League team with pinstripes: Bill Dickey (catcher), Joe DiMaggio (outfield), Joe Gordon (second base), Red Rolfe (third base), George Selkirk (outfield), and Red Ruffing (pitcher) were all in the starting lineup. Reserve players included Frank Crosetti (shortstop), Lou Gehrig (first base), Lefty Gomez (pitcher), and Johnny Murphy (pitcher). The American League won, 3-1, behind a home run by DiMaggio, in front of more than 62,000. This was the second All-Star Game held in New York; the Polo Grounds had hosted the event in 1934.

From 1959 to 1962, Major League Baseball held two All-Star Games each year. On July 13, 1960, Yankee Stadium hosted baseball's second All-Star Game in three days. The National League won both games. In the latter game, Whitey Ford was the starting pitcher. Yogi Berra (catcher), Mickey Mantle (outfield), Roger Maris (outfield), and Bill Skowron (first base) were in the starting lineup; Jim Coates (pitcher) and Elston Howard (catcher) were reserves. The National League won the Yankee Stadium game, 6-0, tying a record with four home runs, including one by hometown favorite Willie Mays. The 38,000 fans who attended the game also saw the Red Sox' Ted Williams in his final All-Star appearance.

Showcasing its new renovation, Yankee Stadium hosted the All-Star Game on July 19, 1977. With the Yankees defending their 1976 pennant, Billy Martin managed the American League team on his home field. The National League won its sixth consecutive All-Star Game, 7–5, in front of more than 56,000 fans; the senior circuit's streak would reach 11. Reggie Jackson (outfield) and Willie Randolph (second base) started for the American League; Sparky Lyle (pitcher), Thurman Munson (catcher), and Graig Nettles (third base) also made the team. Jim Palmer was the game's starting pitcher because Nolan Ryan refused to play when Martin asked him.

In honor of its final year of existence, in July 2008, Yankee Stadium hosted 2008 All-Star Game festivities. In the Home Run Derby, Josh Hamilton set a single-round record with 28 home runs in the first round. At one point, he hit 13 straight home runs, many of which landed in the stadium's upper deck and deep into the right field bleachers, spurring the crowd to chant his name. The American League went on to win the 2008 All-Star Game 4-3 in 15 innings. Michael Young hit the game winning sacrifice fly in the 15th off Brad Lidge. The game was the longest in All Star Game history by time, lasting 4 hours and 50 minutes, and tied for the longest in history by innings, tied with the 1967 All-Star Game, and was played in front of 55,632. J.D. Drew was named game MVP going 2 for 4 with a home run and 2 RBI.

Final game and closing

With Andy Pettitte as the starting pitcher, the Yankees played their final game at Yankee Stadium on September 21, 2008 against the Baltimore Orioles, recording the final out at 11:43PM EDT with a 7-3 Yankee victory. Among many lasts to be recorded, a long-time standing question was answered. It was first wondered by Babe Ruth after he hit the first home run in Yankee Stadium on its opening day of April 18, 1923: That person turned out to be Jose Molina, as he hit a two-run home run in the fourth inning.

Other lasts were Jason Giambi recording the last hit in Yankee Stadium, driving in Brett Gardner, who scored the last run in Yankee Stadium. Mariano Rivera made the final pitch in the stadium with Cody Ransom recording the final out at first base. In the eighth inning, Derek Jeter became the final Yankee to bat in Yankee Stadium. He ended 0-5 for the night after being hit by a pitch on his hand in the previous day's game.

The game was attended by many former Yankees and their families. Pre-game ceremonies honored past Yankees players and staff by position, with living legends and/or their family members taking their positions in the playing field. Julia Ruth Stevens, daughter of Babe Ruth, threw out the ceremonial first pitch in the final game in "The House That Ruth Built". Guest commentators for the game on ESPN included Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, Reggie Jackson, and Michael Kay.

After the game was over, captain Derek Jeter delivered a speech on the field surrounded by his teammates. In the unplanned speech, Jeter thanked and saluted the fans:

"For all of us up here, it's a huge honor to put this uniform on every day and come out here and play. And every member of this organization, past and present, has been calling this place home for eighty-five years. There's a lot of tradition, a lot of history, and a lot of memories.

"Now the great thing about memories is you're able to pass it along from generation to generation. And although things are going to change next year, we're going to move across the street, there are a few things with the New York Yankees that never change— its pride, its tradition, and most of all, we have the greatest fans in the world.
"And we are relying on you to take the memories from this stadium, add them to the new memories that come at the new Yankee Stadium, and continue to pass them on from generation to generation. So on behalf of the entire organization, we just want to take this moment to salute you, the greatest fans in the world."

Afterwards, the team circled the stadium on the warning track waving to fans and wishing the stadium goodbye.

An official closing ceremony was reportedly scheduled to occur in November 2008 to celebrate not only the Yankees but also the football Giants, the various boxing matches, Papal visits, concerts and other events that took place at the Stadium over the years. However, that last ceremony which would had been held on the weekend of November 8th-9th for charity was apparently canceled and perhaps never under serious consideration. 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. The front office staff is scheduled to vacate the premises in late February/early March 2009.

Boxing

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 Lou 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 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. With the Nazi Party on the verge of taking over much of Europe, 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

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. 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.

Notre Dame played 24 games at Yankee Stadium, going 15-6-3. Army played 38, compiling a 17-17-4 record. 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. NYU beat Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon University) in 1931 and 1932, defeated Fordham in 1936, lost to Oregon State in 1928, 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.

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

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. 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.

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.

The Giants played their home games at the Yale Bowl in New Haven, Connecticut in 1973 and 1974. They played at Shea Stadium in 1975, before relocating to their current home, Giants Stadium, in 1976.

Soccer

In 1971 and 1976, the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League played their home games at Yankee Stadium. 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. Scottish club Celtic FC have also played at Yankee Stadium.

Other events

Beginning in 1950, the stadium began holding religious conventions of the Jehovah's Witnesses. The first convention attracted 123,707 people, more in a single day than any other stadium event up to that time. 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.

Francis Cardinal 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 following the end of apartheid in South Africa. 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 rock 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 Heritage Classic and the NHL Winter Classic outdoor games. If approved, it would have been the final sporting event at the current stadium. The NHL, however, decided to hold the second Winter Classic in Chicago, at Wrigley Field.

Distinguishing characteristics

Monument Park

Monument Park is a section of Yankee Stadium which contains the Yankees' retired numbers, a collection of monuments and plaques pertaining to the New York Yankees and other events to take place at the stadium and in the city.

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.

The Frieze

One of the most distinguishing characteristics of Yankee Stadium is the white frieze that runs along the bleacher billboards and scoreboard.

The original frieze was made out of copper (painted white in the 1960s), and ran around the roof of the grandstand's upper deck. The 1974-75 renovation saw the roof replaced and the 1923 frieze removed, with the current smaller version added above the scoreboard and billboard wall. In the new stadium, the frieze is to return to the upper deck roof.

"The facade," as it is sometimes called, is used as an icon for both the stadium and the team. This can be clearly seen in its major use in graphics for the YES Network, and the logo for the 2008 All-Star Game.

The Big Bat

Outside the stadium's main entrance gate, stands a tall exhaust pipe in the shape of a baseball bat, complete with tape at the handle that frays off at the end. It is sponsored by Hillerich & Bradsby, makers of the famous Louisville Slugger line of baseball bats, which leads to many people referring to it as "The Louisville Slugger", which is specifically designed to look like a Babe Ruth model. The bat is also often used as a designated meeting spot for fans to meet their ticket holding friends before entering the stadium.

Asymmetry inside and outside

Yankee Stadium was built on a five-sided, irregular plot of land. This gave it a very distinctive asymmetrical shape. For many years, and even today after remodeling, left field and center field were and are much more difficult areas to hit home runs than right field. The designers' plans to extend the right field upper tiers, coupled with the need to accommodate football, compelled a short right field area. There would have been ample room for a "normal" right field if those design elements had been omitted and the bleachers had been made much narrower. Nonetheless, this feature is one of many that makes Yankee Stadium fairly intimate, despite its size. it is widely believed, right field was also shortened to accommodate Babe Ruth's preference for pull to that side as a hitter. Even after the remodel, the short "right porch" as it is known remained due to the decided home-field advantage it created with left handed hitters over the years and continues to influence Yankee signings of right field home run hitters.

Bob Sheppard

Since 1951, Bob Sheppard has been 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 announces players for over half a century has made him a part of the lore of the stadium and the team. Before a player's first at-bat of the game, Sheppard announces his uniform number, his name, his position, and his number again. Example: "Now batting for the Yankees, number 2, Derek Jeter. Number 2." For each following at-bat, Sheppard announces just the position and name: "The shortstop, Derek Jeter." Before every at bat at Yankee Stadium, Jeter has a recording of Bob Sheppard's voice saying "Now batting for the Yankees, Number 2, Derek Jeter. Number 2." Sheppard, in a recorded message played at the stadium's final game, has announced his intentions to return to announcing at the new Yankee Stadium when it opens in 2009. Sheppard's long-term back-up is Jim Hall.

Hammond Organ

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. 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.

The Owner's Box

The Owner's Box is a personal suite belonging to New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. It is located behind home plate on the second deck along with the two broadcasting booths of the YES Network/My9 and WCBS Radio 880/Yankees Radio Network, the Press Box, and some other luxury suites. The owner sits in the box along with guests and occasionally Yankees GM Brian Cashman. Yogi Berra is known to watch Yankees games from there.

"God Bless America"

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, all American Major League Baseball stadiums started playing God Bless America during the seventh-inning stretch for the remainder of the 2001 season. Many teams ceased this practice the following season, although it has continued in post-season events at many cities and become a tradition at Yankee Stadium alongside Take Me Out to the Ballgame. Usually, a recording of the song by Kate Smith is played, although sometimes there is a live performance by Irish tenor Ronan Tynan. For part of the 2005 season, the Yankees used a recording of Tynan, but the Kate Smith version was reinstated due to fan complaints about the long duration of the Tynan version. For the final game at Yankee Stadium, Tynan performed "God Bless America" live, including the rarely-heard introduction to the song.

Theme from "New York, New York"

Another tradition for Yankee Stadium is that after each home game, Frank Sinatra's classic version of the "Theme from New York, New York" is played over the loudspeakers. (In past seasons, Liza Minnelli's version was played after a loss.)

Westminster chime

When the Yankees score a run, a version of the Westminster chime plays as the last player to score in the at-bat gets to home plate. The version of the chime is the beginning of Workaholic by the music group 2 Unlimited. The only time the chime is not always played is if the Yankees score a run to record a walk-off win, when "Theme from New York, New York" by Frank Sinatra may ensue.

Other characteristics

While some elements of the Stadium are decidedly modern, its asymmetry, monuments in left-center field and exterior arches give fans a reminder of the Stadium during its most golden period. Even the blue YANKEE STADIUM letters over the main gate are longtime features; they're the same letters that first appeared there in the 1950s; the letters were originally white before being painted blue in the 1960s. The proximity to the 4 train makes it a part of the stadium, and there is a large gap in the walls behind the right field bleachers where fans and commuters can get a peek at each other. Additionally, the black area in center field is iconic due to the rareness of players hitting the ball that far (420-490 ft.). In Game 6 of the 1977 World Series, Reggie Jackson capped off a championship-clinching evening on which he hit three home runs by hitting his third into "the black" (estimated at traveling 475 ft.).

Roll call

After the first pitch is thrown at the top of the first inning, the "Bleacher Creatures" in Section 39, usually led by a man nicknamed Bald Vinny, begin 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 do not stop chanting the player's name until he acknowledges the Creatures (usually with a wave or a point), who then move 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 host the rival Boston Red Sox. Sometimes, after a long rain delay, the Creatures start another Roll Call for comedic effect. Often when a player is replaced in the field, their replacement is also welcomed with a chant. In 2008, centerfielder Melky Cabrera booted a routine grounder while attempting to wave to the fans.

Access

Yankee Stadium can be reached via the 161st Street–Yankee Stadium station of the New York City Subway, along the IRT Jerome Avenue Line and IND Concourse Line ().

Since the 1970s renovation, there has been discussion to add a Metro-North station on the Hudson Line tracks that run behind the Stadium's south parking garage, but the Yankees have never been willing to pay for the station. In 2006, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) said it plans to pay for a station after the Yankees relocate to a new stadium north of 161st Street in 2009. The station is expected to cost $45 million. The MTA said it will use money that had been earmarked to explore a subway expansion to La Guardia Airport in Queens.

The MTA also has buses that run to the stadium. Lines Bx1, Bx6, and Bx13 all have stops near Yankee Stadium.

Yankee Stadium has 15 official parking lots around the stadium for those wishing to travel by car. The main auto route to the stadium is the Major Deegan Expressway (I-87). Connections to I-95, I-278, and several other major highways are within a few exits of the stadium.

NY Waterway runs a ferry service to Yankee Stadium from various piers in Manhattan and New Jersey. This service is called "The Yankee Clipper" and serves food and alcohol while fans enjoy New York skylines.

Outfield dimensions

Since it opened, Yankee Stadium has changed its dimensions several times. This chronology is derived from a variety of sources. Green Cathedrals, by Phil Lowry, is a good basic reference. Baseball annuals, starting with editions in the 1920s, routinely gave dimensions of the major league ballparks. Photos are also a good source, as the Yankees were among the first to post distance markers on the outfield walls. Among the many book sources of photos are Yankee Stadium: Fifty Years of Drama, by Joseph Durso; and Yankee Stadium: 75 Years of Drama, Glamour and Glory, by Ray Robinson and Christopher Jennison. In general, Yankee Stadium has been considered a pitcher-friendly ballpark, especially compared to others in the American League.

The 415 sign in left-center is often seen in World Series highlight films, as it was in front of that sign that Al Gionfriddo caught a deep fly ball hit by Joe DiMaggio in the 1947 World Series. The 402 marker was on the other side of the bullpen runway.

The 415 sign, and its 367 counterpart in right field, were both covered by auxiliary scoreboards installed between 1948 and 1949. Those boards displayed the current game inning-by-inning along with runs-hits-errors. The right field board is visible in a widely circulated photo of Don Larsen delivering in the ninth inning of his Perfect Game in the 1956 World Series, with a row of zeros across the board for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

The 301 sign in the left field corner is also seen in film and photos of Sandy Amoros' game-saving catch of Yogi Berra's opposite-field line drive in Game 7 of the 1955 World Series.

A sense of the strength of Mickey Mantle can be seen in a photo of the 461 sign in center field, on August 12, 1964. The photo shows the ball that he hit, sailing over the high batter's eye, with the center fielder looking up in vain hope that the ball might stay in play.

Year Left Field
Line
Straightaway
Left Field
Left Center Straightaway
Center Field
Right Center Straightaway
Right Field
Right Field
Line
Backstop
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.

The team's magazines indicate that there may still be an area of center field as deep as . If so, it is unmarked. 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 left-center field wall locations from earlier years of the remodeled stadium can still be seen in a few spots, although the walls are not covered with blue padding as the current one is.

Photo gallery

References

  • Ray Robinson and Christopher Jennison, Yankee Stadium: 75 Years of Drama, Glamor, and Glory (Penguin; 1998)

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