First Yankee Stadium Would’ve Marked 100th Birthday
By Dan Schlossberg (Special from the IBWAA)
This article was featured in “Here’s The Pitch” the newsletter of the IBWAA and is shared with permission. This article was published in April 2023.
I’m old enough to remember the original Yankee Stadium, the one built in the Bronx with money generated by Babe Ruth’s first three explosive years as a Yankee.
I was there when Chris Chambliss hit a pennant-winning home run, there when Reggie Jackson hit three homers in a World Series game, and there when legends like Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, and Yogi Berra earned their pinstripes on the way to Cooperstown.
I remember riding in the press elevator with people like Henry Kissinger and George Steinbrenner. I even asked George whether he enjoyed his portrayal on Seinfeld and whether he ever filmed an episode himself.
“I’m a huge fan,” he said, “but I wound up on the cutting room floor.”
It was Steinbrenner who took over the media parking lot for one day after hearing reports of abuses. A writer drove up, pleaded his case, and said, “But I’m a good friend of George Steinbrenner’s!”
Maybe not so much after that event.
Many of my trips to the ballpark resulted from my friendship with late, great blind sportswriter Ed Lucas. I served as his sighted escort and was honored to do so. He knew everyone in the game and knew as much baseball trivia as I did. Plus his jokes were legendary.
The old ballpark is long gone but memories remain.
Built at a cost of $2.5 million — less than the average salary today — the stadium was renovated in 1974-75, years when the Yankees borrowed Shea Stadium from the Mets, and eventually demolished to make way for the “new” Yankee Stadium in 2009.
Fittingly, Ruth hit the first home run in the old ballpark as the Yankees beat the Red Sox, 4-1, on April 18, 1923. The crowd of 74,200 would have been bigger but fire marshals turned thousands away.
Players through the decades were amazed at the dimensions. Roy White, whose autobiography has just been published, came up in 1965 and was immediately dumb-struck at the 463-foot sign, posted on the wall to the left of the monuments, which were then in fair territory.
''It was like three blocks away,” he said of the distance from home plate. “You needed two relays to get it back to the infield.”
The old ballpark was the site of 11 no-hitters, including three perfect games. When it closed for good after the 2008 season, it had hosted 100 of 601 World Series games.
The original stadium’s birthday was feted before Tuesday night's game against the Los Angeles Angels — but at the current version on the other side of 161st St.
HTP weekend editor Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ can’t wait to get to the museum. In the meantime, he’s covering the Braves-Mets title chase and other stretch-drive baseball for forbes.com, Latino Sports, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, and various other outlets.