Home to the New York Yankees from 1923 to 2008, the original Yankee Stadium remained the city’s most famous sports symbol until its demolition. Often eulogized as the “the Cathedral of Baseball,” the stadium stood as a testimony to the Yankees’ scripting MLB records and becoming the most successful professional sports team. Yankees moved to the adjacent new stadium when the 2009 season began, and the 1923 stadium underwent demolition. The former Yankee Stadium site now is home to a public park named Heritage Field, a fitting remembrance of its MLB legacy after demolition.
Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert looked for a permanent home ground after relations with their city MLB rivals the New York Giants turned worse. Both teams were sharing the Polo Grounds since 1913 but the Giants served an eviction notice to the Yankees in 1920. Their on-field success also encouraged Yankees’ owners to take a calculated financial risk to build the Yankee Stadium. The 1920 season saw more than 1.3 million fans flocking to the stadium to support the Yankees. Next year, they emerged as the winner of the American League for the first time.
Ruppert zeroed on a 4-hector upper Manhattan site, a half-mile away from the Polo Grounds, and started construction on May 5, 1922. The Yankee Stadium was thrown open on April 18, 1923, with a game against the Boston Red Sox and amid a musical fanfare.
Design and Renovations
The 60,000-capacity stadium was the first three-tier arena in the United States and perhaps, the first baseball arena to be called a stadium. Its asymmetrical shape made it look unique. Thomas Edison invented a special type of durable concrete to build the structure. Its very design made it a multi-purpose facility.
Yankee Stadium was the first to have a warning track for outfielders, and all subsequently built baseball stadiums incorporated it as a standard. It is the first to have an electronic scoreboard exhibiting team lineups and scores of baseball games played elsewhere.
There was an open-air museum called Monument Park. It boasted monuments and plaques commemorating Yankee greats. Another appealing feature at Yankee Stadium was its façade. Originally built as a frieze and made of copper, it underwent modifications in subsequent years and was painted.
Yankee Stadium underwent renovation from 1936 through 1938 that replaced wooden bleachers with concrete ones and gave it a more classic look. The 1974-75 seasons saw major renovations to reinforce the structure until its reopening on April 15, 1976. It saw an overhauling of the roof structure and the addition of escalators, luxury boxes, walls, a replica of the frieze, a concourse, and ramps. The upper deck was expanded while new seating was done.
Yankee Stadium’s 85-year history witnessed the home team playing 6,581 games, the fifth-highest in the US baseball history. It also hosted over 100 world series games and 161 postseason games, higher than any other baseball stadium. There were 37 World Series games played here and the Yankees emerged victorious 27 times. It also played host to 16 of 17 World Series organized in the Bronx and the home team winning 9 of them. Based out on this home ground, the Yankees won 26 World Series championships.
It was the cradle of the offensive-oriented baseball era that was inaugurated by the hitting prowess of Babe Ruth, who entertained the audience with his record-breaking performances. This led fans to call Yankee Stadium “The House That Ruth Built.” His performance gave Yankees enough financial muscle to pay the loan taken to build the arena.
Yankee Stadium also hosted All-Star Games in 1939, 1960, 1977, and 2008.
The Yankee teams lined up in 1927, 1939, 1961, and 1998 at the stadium were nicknamed “Murderers’ Row” and considered among the greatest baseball teams ever played.
The End of An Era
In the early 90s, Yankees began to look for a new stadium. The construction started on a site across the street on August 16, 2006, and the new Yankee Stadium hosted its first game on April 2, 2009.
Meanwhile, Yankee Stadium hosted its last game on September 21, 2008. It was thrown open for public tours until November 23 that year. Memorials and retired numbers from Monument Park were moved to the new stadium, seats were removed, and it was completely vacated in the next few weeks.
The iconic white façade was the first to be brought down. Then, the entire structure of Yankee Stadium of 1923 underwent complete demolition that went on till May 13, 2010.
There were attempts to save iconic parts, including Gate 2 built in 1923. However, these couldn’t succeed, and a public park fittingly named Heritage Park replaced the old Yankee Stadium in April 2012.
Purely Baseball Things To Know
- Yankees played 6,581 games and won nine world series titles at the stadium.
- It was the home to Yankees when they won 26 world series titles, 35 AL Pennants, 15 East Division Titles.
- First baseball park to be called a stadium.
- Its iconic facade was part of the 2008 All-Star Game logo.
- Thomas Edison invented a special type of durable concrete to build its outer wall.
- The stadium was among the first ones to say goodbye to the “dead-ball era.”
- Babe Ruth started the “Golden Era” of baseball at this very stadium.
Yankee Stadium hosted many lightweight and heavyweight championships since it’s the year of its inauguration. In 1938, African-American boxer Joe Louis defeated Hitler’s favorite German boxer Schmeling, much to the chagrin of Nazis in Berlin. Muhammad Ali defended his heavyweight title at the stadium in 1976 by defeating Ken Norton, who was one of two opponents ever to win against Ali.
Yankee Stadium was also the venue for college football games between 1923 and 1987. A 1929 game draw a record 80,000 audience. The 1946 match between Army and Notre Dame continues to inspire as the best ever college football games until today.
The stadium was the venue for the first American Football League in 1926. It also hosted All-America Football Conference games that saw the participation of the New York Yankees. The NFL had its first game at the stadium in 1958.
Yankee Stadium saw its first major soccer game in 1931. Liverpool, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, and Pele’s Santos were some notable international clubs that played at the venue. It had also hosted national teams and NASL games.
Yankee Stadium had its first rock concert in June 1969. It was on the list of venues during U2’s Zoo TV Tour in 1992. The venue saw 253,922 people attending the New York International Convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1958.