Sunday, July 13, 2008

Not Your Father's Yankee Stadium

The upcoming Major League Baseball All Star Stadium being held at Yankee Stadium celebrates the final season of the facility, and like clockwork, baseball writers over 40 flood the print media and airwaves with memories of the Mick, Joe D and sometimes reaching back for the Iron Horse and the Babe. That's fine and dandy, but let's recall those legends played on a field that was seven feet higher than the existing one, was enclosed by fences in left and center field far deeper than the dimensions we know today -including Monument Park being part of an even more intimidating Death Valley, covered by a roof trimmed with the iconic brass frieze, not aluminum paneling over the remade upper deck shell and recorded by a far more informative scoreboard. Much of the original structure is intact, but to say the the two incarnations of the ballpark are the same ignores the two years spent to reconfigure the park: this is no seat replacement and paint job a la the tweaks the Mets made to Shea Stadium made in the early 80s. Some sources, such as the ESPN Sports Almanac, refer to the pre-1974 park as 'Yankee Stadium I' while other publications keep the continuity.

It is this tie to the past that allows writers like Mike Vaccaro to glorify the park with gems such as "the chance to come see Yankee Stadium, one last time, in all its resplendent splendor." Resplendent Splendor? In those cramped concourses? Embarassingly understaffed vending pool? Two inning lines for hot dogs or restrooms? OK, so their elevators are in better shape, not that the average fan would know. Maybe they have better pregame dessert carts for members of the press. If Mike Francesa, one of the biggest Yankee fans and historians around today, literally and figuratively, could get worked up about the need for a new venue, no nostalgic rose-colored glasses of the park are needed anymore -it is worth noting that debate between Francesa and Chris 'Mad Dog' Russo was one of their most fiery of the year, though that discussion included the issue of public funds for a stadium, which can be addressed here another time.

EDIT: Another nostalgic sportswriter who has no idea what he's talking about.

Yankee Stadium information provided by Wikipedia.
Yankee Stadium images provided by Baseball Fever.