Saturday, July 12, 2008

Please Don't Go: The Case for Yankee Stadium

Despite the aura and mystique that Yankee Stadium has bestowed upon its in-house tenants, the Bronx Bombers (26 World Series championships, 39 American League pennants, and a gaggle of Hall of Famers), ‘The House that Ruth Built’ has been privy to several papal visits, the 1925 Notre Dame/Army game altered by the ‘win one for the Gipper’ speech, “The Greatest Game Ever Played” (the NFL’s first overtime contest, a 23 – 17 win by the Johnny Unitas-led Baltimore Colts over the New York Giants), Pele’s tenure as New York Cosmos’ striker from 1975 - 1977, numerous Billy Joel, U2, and Pink Floyd concerts, and boxing matches that featured the likes of Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis, Max Baer, Rocky Graziano, and Sugar Ray Robinson. Although many associate the Stadium with our national pastime, the Yankees’ home field is a sports arena that has attracted audiences of varying interests for nearly 85 years. Renovated in 1975 and 1976, a project funded by benefactor George Steinbrenner (a time during which the Yanks played their home games at Shea), the Stadium has developed an ambiance of winning, professionalism, and poignancy that has earned it the title of the Cathedral of Baseball. July 15, 2008 will mark the last All-Star Game (the Stadium’s fourth) to be played in the Bronx, while September 21 (at the earliest) may in fact be the last game contested at the Stadium, playoff berth notwithstanding. With construction of the new Yankee Stadium to end in early 2009, the old Stadium will be bulldozed, only to be recalled in history books and the minds of baseball fans across the nation. Should this deconstruction take place? This Yankee fan says no. Here’s a look at why:

5. There are no foreseeable plans to construct ‘The Bat’ at the new Stadium site.
Constructed as an aesthetic cover to an eyesore of an exhaust pipe, the 138-foot tall rendering of a Louisville Slugger stands as a meeting place for ticket holders looking to rendezvous with fellow fans sitting in their section before each game. ‘The Bat’ is a landmark by which all fans can relate and easily seek out, as it is the epicenter of the many vendors peddling hot dogs, pretzels, and pinstriped memorabilia outside of the Stadium’s gates. Although current renovations do include the upheaval of Monument Park (a collection of plaques that commemorate Yankee legends) and the inclusion of the trademark frieze atop the scoreboard (the white fa├žade that lines the upper interior of the Stadium), there is no intention to include ‘The Bat’ in the current architectural state of the new Yankee Stadium. In spite of this exemption, the nonchalant uprooting of locker room artifacts and placards for their placement in the new Stadium simply will not be the same—it’s the equivalent of dusting off your old NES games and revisiting them for old time’s sake, knowing that your Xbox 360 collection currently predominates. Just as the old Yankee Stadium has transmuted into a highly identifiable landmark (with pennants and championship-caliber lineups compiled along the way), attempting to recreate the former Yankee aura simply will not cut it knowing what was previously sacrificed in the name of tending to the corporations and suits that will flood the new Stadium. After all, why relinquish a perfectly good product that still works just fine (Yankee Stadium continues to pull in over three million fans on a yearly basis, in spite of the third-world atmosphere surrounding the Stadium’s confines)?

4. Thousands of seats are being removed for more luxury boxes and party suites.
At its peak, Yankee Stadium held an upward of 70,000 fans (in 1942), a far cry from the 57,545 it currently holds. For various reasons (the infrastructure of the Stadium is too fragile to hold such numbers and baseball implemented the 'batter's eye' in all ballparks; hence, the 'black' and loss of hundreds of seats in right-center), Stadium architects were given no other choice but to modify the seating arrangements in order to keep the park up-to-date with its safety codes. The new Yankee Stadium will hold 52,325 fans at maximum capacity, a number that dwindles from the original capacity in light of Steinbrenner and Company's incessant desire to incorporate luxury boxes and party suites along the mezzanine, two measures that allows businesses to keep the Stadium's revenue costs in the black. As is the ongoing trend in the construction of new ballparks, stadiums are constructed with luxury boxes in mind, all in the name of procuring filthy money hand over fist.

3. Shall we call it “The House that A-Rod Built?”
Say this about Alex Rodriguez: with three American League MVP's to his credit (two with the Yankees) and the inevitable onslaught of Barry Bonds's homerun mark, A-Rod is worthy of the spotlight and a place in Cooperstown as one of the game's greatest. Even so, Rodriguez does not, nor will he ever, amass the same kind of 'Ruthian' resume that the Babe did. In light of the Black Sox Scandal in 1919, baseball was on the operating table, a sport in desperate need of a savior. Enter George Herman Ruth. His capacity for clubbing mammoth homeruns lifted the game from the Dead Ball Era and made the pastime worth following again. In 1923, Ruth's third year with the Yankees, the Stadium was constructed, an era that was forever fortified by Babe's dominance as baseball's greatest power hitter. Without the Babe, the Yankees don't go on to win four World Series during his Yankee tenure, nor do fans fathom the namesake that will forever belong to the old Stadium. Alex Rodriguez, arguably the face of the franchise, will usher in a fresh era with the new Stadium's construction, but has a long way to go before he deserves his name hypothetically associated with a ballpark.

2. The Ghosts of Yankee Past won’t take too well to a relocation.
When Yankee captain Derek Jeter waxes nostalgic about the ballpark he so masterfully made his own domain, he fondly speaks of its intangibles, the 'ghosts' who mythically manipulate games in the Yankees' favor. Now, imagine excavating the very grounds these spirits called home for so many years and you get a sense of the horror new Stadium architects are facilitating. Think Poltergeist II, when Craig T. Nelson realizes that the home he purchased in the first film was erected on top of a burial ground for deceased cult members, led by the demagogue pastor Kane. The spirits of these misled cult disciples were not exorcised in the first house and would follow Carol Anne wherever she went. Pretty terrifying, huh? If Yankee brass knew any better, they would ask for Pope Benedict's return to the Bronx in order to perform a service that allows the ghosts of DiMaggio, Mantle, Gehrig, and Ruth to rest peacefully. If not, we're talking a curse of Red Sox proportions.

1. Says loyal season ticket holders everywhere, “You expect me to pay WHAT?”
You better sit for this one. While you're at it, remove anything breakable from your reach, pop a shot of tequila, and prepare a bucket for possible upchuck. Currently, you can 'afford' a seat behind home plate at Yankee Stadium for $250. The same seat in the new Yankee Stadium will cost... (figure will be written out for much-needed emphasis)...TWO THOUSAND, FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS, ten times the original cost!!! Mind you, these seats will be catered, but unless Yankee ownership intends to defray the cost for a year's worth of groceries, you are s%$# out of luck. Many current season ticket holders will be expected to fork up twice the amount they already pay on their ticket plan. If they choose to not pay such a price, then to hell with them; the Steinbrenners will find somebody else that will. For a game that is sustained by the common man, an everyday Joe that can enjoy a game anywhere in the ballpark, whether it be in the bleachers or the upperdeck, the sport of baseball is willing to excise this fanbase in exchange for suits with gargantuan money market accounts. As the Yankees are willing to embrace this trend, you can say goodbye to the Bleacher Creatures that made the Stadium the experience it is today, while you nuzzle up to a yuppie who knows nothing about the game and guzzle that eight dollar brew of yours.

1 comment:

Marc V said...

Just gives me another reason to hate Yuppies.