R.I.P. Yankee Stadium (1923-2010)
I knew this sad day was coming, but I was totally occupied with other obligations over the weekend, and didn't even find out about it until late last night: The last remnants of Yankee Stadium came down on Saturday morning, just before 9:00 A.M. The exterior walls were pulled inward, away from the elevated train tracks, as you can see in the following video, which was posted on baseball-fever.com:
Thus ends the painful, awkward period of "limbo," which several fine old ballparks have had to endure. It's been about 18 months since Yankee Stadium closed for business in October 2008. It's probably better to put the grand basilica out of its misery, rather than to neglect it while it crumbles into ruins, as has happened elsewhere.
To mark this melancholy occasion, I have put together a list of "memorable moments" since Yankee Stadium was built. Entries since 2004 include links to the appropriate blog posts. I will update the Yankee Stadium page over the next few days.
- May 5, 1922: Construction begins on Yankee Stadium, completed in less than a year.
- April 18, 1923: Yankees beat the Red Sox 4-1 in the first game in their new home, as Babe Ruth hits a home run.
- 1928: Upper decks are extended to left-center field.
- 1937-1938: New bleachers are built, and all three decks are extended to right-center field.
- July 4, 1939: Lou Gehrig makes his famous farewell speech: "the luckiest man on the face of the earth." He died two years later.
- June 13, 1948: Babe Ruth makes his farewell speech. He died two months later.
- Oct. 4, 1955: The Brooklyn Dodgers win their first (and only) World Series, beating the Yanks in Game 7, 2-0.
- Oct. 8, 1956: Don Larsen pitches a perfect game, beating Brooklyn 2-0 in Game 5 of the World Series.
- Dec. 28, 1958: Baltimore Colts beat the New York Giants 23-17 to win the NFL Championship, in "the greatest game ever played."
- Oct 1, 1961: Roger Maris hits his 61st home run, breaking Babe Ruth's record.
- May 22, 1963: Mickey Mantle hits a home run to right field that came within inches of clearing the roof. (He did the same thing May 30, 1956.)
- June 8, 1969: Mickey Mantle makes his farewell speech. He died in August 1995.
- Nov. (?), 1973: Reconstruction work begins: supporting beams are removed, upper deck is enlarged, etc.
- April 11, 1976: Renovated Yankee Stadium opens; Yanks beat the Twins.
- Oct. 18, 1977: Reggie Jackson hits three home runs as the Yanks beat the Dodgers in the sixth and final game of the World Series.
- Oct. 26, 1996: Yanks beat the Braves in Game 6 of the World Series, their first championship since 1978. The beginning of the "Fourth Dynasty."
- May 17, 1998: David Wells throws a perfect game, as Yanks beat the Twins, 4-0.
- [July 18, 1999]: David Cone throws a perfect game, as Yanks beat the Expos, 6-0.
- Oct. 30, : Seven weeks after the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush threw out the ceremonial first pitch in Game 3 the World Series.
- Oct. 16, 2003: Yanks win ALCS, beating the Red Sox thanks to an 11th-inning home run by Aaron Boone.
- July 22, 2004: The only game I ever saw at Yankee Stadium; Yanks beat Blue Jays, 1-0.
- Oct. 21, 2004: Red Sox win ALCS, beating the Yanks 10-3 to complete the most improbable comeback in postseason baseball history.
- June 2005: Yankees announce they will build a new stadium, with their own money.
- August 2006: Groundbreaking ceremonies at the new stadium.
- November 2006: After lawsuits were dismissed, actual construction begins.
- Oct. 8, 2007: Yankees lose to the Indians 6-4 in the deciding game of the ALDS, the final postseason game in Yankee Stadium.
- July 15, 2008: The fourth All-Star Game in Yankee Stadium goes 15 innings; AL wins, 4-3.
- Sept. 21, 2008: The final game ever played in Yankee Stadium; Yanks beat Orioles, 7-3.
- Oct. 3, 2008: I toured Yankee Stadium, along with Brian Vangor. The first October without baseball in The Bronx since 1993!
- May 2009: Preliminary demolition slowly begins, accelerating in November.
- Mar. 10, 2010: Demolition progresses rapidly, with upper decks pulled down.
- May 8, 2010: Demolition is completed; only rubble remains.
SOURCES: Yankee Stadium 1923-2008, by Gary Hermalyn and Anthony C. Greene (Arcadia Publishing, 2009); Yankee Stadium, USA Today Sports Weekly Keepsake Edition (2008); A Tribute to Mickey Mantle (L.F.P., 1995), baseball-almanac.com
[UPDATE: It is worth pointing out that the last remaining section of Yankee Stadium was not even part of the original 1923 structure. The grandstand in the right field corner was added in 1938, fifteen years after Yankee Stadium first opened. And just to clarify my own feelings on all this, I'm sure they could have found a way to rebuild and even restore Yankee Stadium to last for through the 21st Century if they really wanted to. This is a tragedy that could have been avoided, and the misguided renovations of 1973-1976 did not necessarily ruin the stadium forever, as some have argued. But I know life goes on, and I will get over it, and will get used to the "Brave New Yankee Stadium" next door.]
[Corrections to two dates, in 1999 and 2001, were made on May 21.]