June 18, 2009: Bronx, New York
If the original Yankee Stadium was The House that Ruth Built, the new Yankee Stadium is The House that Jeter Built. Derek Jeter became the Yankees full-time shortstop in 1996. His arrival launched what the Yankee Stadium Museum calls The Jeter Era. Jeter, along with outfielder Bernie Williams, catcher Jorge Posada, starting pitcher Andy Pettitte and lights-out closer Mariano Rivera, led the Bronx Bombers to four World Series titles in five seasons. The team was guided by the stoic Joe Torre and played their home games in historic Yankee Stadium, built in 1923, a venue unlike any other in sports. I waited until 2001 to make my first visit to Yankee Stadium and was blown away by the intense atmosphere: Postseason comebacks propelled by mystique and aura, and the sense that, regardless of the score or inning, the Yankees were going to win. This was real; search Byung-Hyung Kim or Grady Little. Despite the home field advantage, the old Yankee Stadium’s amenities did not offer fans the same game day experience that became standard during the ballpark boom of the 1990s and 2000s. This led to the end of an era with the old Yankee Stadium closing its doors following the 2008 season, ushering in a ballpark unlike any other.
Yankee Stadium II serves as the new home to Yankees history just across the street from its’ predecessor. For those looking for nostalgia walk across the street to Heritage Park which is built on the site of Yankee Stadium I. The Yankees new home greets fans with its’ limestone facade and Great Hall where Yankee greats like Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle are honored. It is my favorite part of the ballpark. I made my first visit to Yankee Stadium II for the rubber match of the Nationals Yankees inter-league series. The game was scheduled for 1:10 however due to rain and the fact that it was the Nationals sole trip to the Bronx both teams and a few thousand fans waited out a 5 hour and 30 minute rain delay. I spent my time at the ballpark watching out of town games on the Yankee Stadium center field scoreboard and listening to my iPod. The delay was so long it enabled Mike, who could not attend the 1:10pm start, to join me after work; we crossed off ballpark #36 together. It also gave me ample time to tour the new stadium. Most games during the 2009 season were sellouts. Yankee Stadium II, like many new ballparks, reduced the amount of seating bringing fans closer to the action.
If you are a baseball fan who cannot run off the Yankees 27 World Series Championships walk the main concourse where above each concession stand there are photos honoring each team. It’s a nice touch for the otherwise opulent $1.3 billion dollar ballpark. The Yankees added a museum to their new home; it chronicles the team’s five Championship eras (Ruth, DiMaggio, Mantle, Reggie Jackson, and Jeter). The museum also features deceased Yankee great Thurman Munson’s Yankee Stadium locker and sculptures to honor the battery of pitcher Don Larsen and Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra who combined for the only perfect game in World Series history.
Yankee Stadium I was spacious which enabled two sets of Bleachers away from the Grandstand providing fans a festive atmosphere to watch the otherwise straight-laced organization, Mattingly cut your hair. It’s also were the Yankees roll call was born. Fans sitting in the right field bleachers chant each Yankee fielder’s name until acknowledged. The new Yankee Stadium brought the bleachers closer to the field creating obstructed view seats and access to the entire ballpark. This shift in design also reduced the amount of space and visibility of Monument Park, currently tucked behind the center field wall. If you’re not familiar with the original Monument Park, you might miss the new one.
Over my four visits to Yankee Stadium I’ve seen the first game at the new ballpark without a home run (6/18/09 Nationals 3 Yankees 2), a combined one-hitter by Sergio Mitre and Chad Gaudin (8/29/09 Yankees 10 White Sox 0), Yankee Stadium’s shortest game, 2 hours and 7 minutes, thanks to starting pitchers Dallas Keuchel and Brandon McCarthy (8/21/14 Yankees 3 Astros 0) and the first of a two game New York doubleheader (6/10/15 Nationals 5 Yankees 4) where the Nationals featured Bryce Harper, their #1 pick after a 59-103 2009 season which was highlighted by winning two or three against the 2009 World Series Champion New York Yankees! That’s right the Yankees christened their new ballpark with World Championship #27.
The Yankees are the sole organization whose current ballpark, in my opinion, is a step down from its’ predecessor. The same will be said if the Red Sox or Cubs ever move from Fenway Park or Wrigley Field respectively. More space for concessions and better sight lines in numerous sections are great for fans, but it’s impossible to recreate the character and history of the classic ballpark. If the Yankees stay in their current ballpark for 85 years I am sure there will be many memorable moments, generations of Yankee fans will call the new stadium their home and names like Judge and Sanchez will become the next in a long line of Yankee greats.