Sunday, September 21, 2008

Built By Ruth, Destroyed By Greed

Right now, the last game is being played at Yankee Stadium. This historic ballpark is going to be torn down so that the Yankees can play at a new stadium currently under construction next door in the Bronx. It is a sad day for every Yankee fan and every New Yorker. Our tax dollars are helping tear down a perfectly good and historically priceless landmark so the richest sports franchise in the country (if not the world) can move into a new stadium that will resemble a shopping mall.

My first game at Yankee Stadium was a regular season game against the Oakland A’s. I was in grade school and my family lived in Yonkers. Against my wishes, my family left the game early, after the 7th inning, but the Yankees were ahead and won the game.

My second game at Yankee Stadium was on Phil Rizzuto Day, when the retired shortstop retired from broadcasting. Mickey Mantle came out of the dugout in his old uniform. The stadium went crazy. Former Yankee Tom Seaver, who was pitching for the rival Chicago White Sox at that game, celebrated his 300th win against the Yankees. I watched Billy Martin kick dirt on an umpire. It was fantastic. Again though, I was forced to leave the game early by a parent who wanted to beat traffic. This is partly the reason I will never leave a game early, ever.

My fondest Yankee game memory is from October of 2001, when the Yankees won their divisional playoff series against Oakland. It was after September 11, and there was a great feeling of unity and patriotism in the city after September 11. I had managed to get great seats on the first row of the upper deck, and witnessed Derek Jeter make a diving backward catch into the stands. The crowd screamed “RUDY!” whenever Mayor Giuliani’s face appeared on the big screen.

I am a Yankee fan for two reasons: I am originally from The Bronx, and growing up in Yonkers in the late 70s, the New York Yankees were great heroes whose baseball cards were treasured. I remained a Yankees fan through the bad times and good, and made attending Yankee games a must when I moved back to New York.

Yankee Stadium is the House that Ruth Built. In fact, it was built with a shorter right field than was common at the time to accommodate Ruth’s hitting style. Babe Ruth hit the first home run in Yankee Stadium when it opened in 1923.

The new stadium is being built to do nothing but rake in profits and rake fans over the coals. There will be about 2,000 fewer seats and three times the number of luxury boxes. The park land that the Yankees organization said would be replaced by now has not materialized, and the number of prospective new jobs that the stadium will produce has been downgraded substantially. In face, the Yankees may have willfully defrauded the city to get tax breaks.

The cheapest seat available for tonight’s game, via links from the Yankees’ official web site, was $239 + fees for a bleacher seat. No thanks.


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