Sunday, September 21, 2008

Closing the Doors at The House That Ruth Built

Another great old stadium is gone. Of course I’m a Red Sox fan, and of course I hate the Yankees, but I’m not dense. I fully appreciate the loss of Yankee Stadium. It ranks with the Rose Bowl, Churchill Downs and Madison Square Garden among the most important sports arenas anywhere. It’s hosted popes (3 of them), presidents and Pele, maybe the greatest soccer player ever. Nelson Mandela, Billy Joel and Jose Feliciano have played Yankee Stadium. Joe Louis, Jack Dempsey and Muhammed Ali won fights at Yankee Stadium. The greatest football game ever played happened at Yankee Stadium when Johnny Unitas and the Baltimore Colts beat the New York Giants to win the 1959 NFL championship. Notre Dame and Army both played home games there, too.

No other stadium has its own monument park (which used to be in fair territory). The greatest speech ever made by an athlete was a dying Lou Gehrig’s famous “I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth” address when Yankee fans paid tribute to him on July 4, 1939. The second greatest sports speech took place there, too (Knute Rockne’s “Win one for the Gipper”). Chuck Bednarik of the Philadelphia Eagles ended Frank Gifford’s career at quarterback with a hellacious (but perfectly clean) hit. That was at the Stadium. When Babe Ruth died, his body lay in state at the entrance to the Stadium. Of course, it’s hosted 37 World Series and 26 World Series titles, along with a ridiculous number of Hall of Famers. An abbreviated list of pinstripe immortals includes Ruth, Gehrig, Dimaggio, Mantle, Berra, Dickey, Huggins, McCarthy, Stengel, Martin, Jackson, Rizzuto, Ford, and will eventually add Jeter, ARod, Rivera, Torre and Clemens. Three perfect games by Yankee pitchers: David Wells, David Cone, and of course Don Larsen. Nobody else has ever done that in the World Series. That was at Yankee Stadium, too. Jackie Robinson stole home in the World Series, at Yankee Stadium. Reggie Jackson dismantled the LA Dodgers in the World Series with consecutive homers on three at bats, against three different Dodger pitchers. That was, of course, at Yankee Stadium.

Yankee Stadium has boasted the greatest public address announcer in the history of sports, Bob Sheppard. I loved the late Sherm Feller at Fenway, but he wasn’t Bob Sheppard. Yankee Stadium has the Roll Call. Yankee Stadium has The Big Louisville Slugger. Yankee Stadium has the façade. Yankee Stadium has Frank Sinatra singing “New York, New York” (unless the Yankees lose, in which case it’s Liza Minelli singing it). This was the first baseball venue to be called a “stadium”. Before, there were “parks” (Fenway, Shibe, Forbes), “grounds” (Polo) and “fields” (Wrigley, Crosley. Ebbets). If Fenway is baseball’s Sistine Chapel, Yankee Stadium was baseball’s grand cathedral.

There will be a new stadium hosting the hated Yankees next year, but no matter what it’s called, it’s not going to be The House That Ruth Built. There’s one Carnegie Hall, there’s one Empire State Building, and there’s only one Yankee Stadium.

1 comment:

Amy said...

Well said.... I can't help but think who will be building the "next house"....do you think it will be "The House that Jeter Builds"? or someone new?....