Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Red Sox Fan's Tribute to Yankee Stadium

By now anyone who knows baseball at all knows that Yankee stadium was rightly dubbed, 'the house that Ruth built'. Indeed one could call it at its inception in 1923 the house built for Ruth, with that less than 300 feet distance down the right field line. George Hermann Ruth was of course a Red Sox who won a world series with the Sox, as a pitcher no less. And yes, its true, he was traded for a song-- more particularly so that the then owner of the Red Sox could stage a musical-- 'No, No Nanette', in one of the colossally stupidest moves ever made in baseball history.

Whoever it was who saw the potential of Babe Ruth as a home run hitter, he must have also been far sighted enough to realize that if you build a cathedral for baseball, ideally suited for lefties like Ruth to hit home runs, then 'they will come'. And come they did. For 39 American league championships and a likely never to be equalled 23 World Series titles. No one can ever dispute that in the
20th century, no team dominated a professional sport like the Yankees dominated baseball. And of course this is a tribute to the unbelievable number of great players and plays that have graced that field.

When I was a child my father used to drive me to Greensboro to see the Greensboro Yankees play. I took my glove with me, and watched Mel Stottlemeyre and Tommy Tresh and Bobby Mercer and others come and go on the way to New York. I used to admire Whitey Ford, as he was a pitcher and a lefty like me (but I loved Sandy Koufax even more who not only was a lefy but was born on my birthday). In the late 50s and early 60s on the game of the week the Yankees seemed larger than life with a lineup of Maris, Mantle, Howard, Richardson, Kubek, Boyer, Ford and so many others. Who could ever beat them?

But then a team in 1960 fired up by a Duke guy named Dick Groat and one Bill Mazeroski temporally knocked the Yankees off their championship perch. They would rebound of course and win in 1961 and 62. But no one knew it in 1962, but 1962 foreshadowed the end of total dominance in a year after year fashion. The Yankees between 1962 and 2000 would indeed win more championships, but there would be interspersed long dry spells (e.g. no championships between 1963 and 1976, or between 1982 and 1996). In fact, the year 2000, the last year of the 20th century (because centuries always begin with the year 1, not the year 0), was the last time the Yankees have won the World Series.

It is an odd truth, that just as a Red Sox began the run of glory for Yankee Stadium, it was also a Red Sox team that caused the Yankees most stinging playoff defeat in the young 21rst century, when the self-described 'bunch of idiots' called the never say die 2004 Red Sox beat the Yankees four straight games in the ALCS, (the last two in Yankee stadium) to finally break the curse of the Bambino, and send the ghosts of Yankee stadium back to where they belong. Baseball in Boston has not been the same since then. New England pessimism had to find some other punching bag than the Red Sox to blame for their troubles, thereafter. One columnist even said that the ghost of New England fatalistic Calvinism died a happy death in that year.

Tonight, when they close down Yankee stadium once and for all, it would be my hope as a lover of our National Past Time that three true Yankees of class and dignity and skill would have a great night--- Andy Pettite, Mariano Rivera, and Derek Jeter, one of my personal favorite Yankees of all time. Hats off to the Yankees for showing us how it was done for so many years, and Red Sox nation looks forward to christening the new ballpark next year. "Say it ain't so Joe....", they closed the ballpark in the Bronx once and for all tonight. Or as Yogi once said "it's getting late, early tonight :)"


danny said...

As a Sox fan, I'm with you. I loved going to Yankee Stadium, if you're a baseball fan, you can appreciate the history of the place. Even if it is the heart of evil. =)

For the record, the story of Frazee selling Babe Ruth for No, No Nannette is a myth. But whatever his reason was, it was a stupid one.

Ben Witherington said...

Actually Danny, Peter Gammons says the story is true about No No Nanette, and as a fellow UNC alum, I'm bound to accept his word as he has an encyclopedic knowledge of such things.


Crowm said...

Hey Ben,

As much as I despise the Yanks, I was concerned when I read a Sox fan would give any tribute to any part of the organization.

BTW, great post. What I observed was the closing of a historical place with a lack of class. Where was Pinella, Torre, etc. Although they might not have left on good terms, they should have been recognized (by video or another media). I think it points to the class of the front office (or lack thereof).

danny said...

As much as I love Peter Gammons, he's not perfect (fact: No No Nanette didn't exist until 6 years after Ruth was sold).

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Anonymous said...

Only in affluent America do we tear down billion dollar stadiums just to build another billion dollar stadium with more box seats and suites. I know that sounds pessimistic, but I fear it's true. I love the game, but if the stadium was so great why in the world did they tear it down? I watched the game thinking "this is so unncessary, it's such a Yankee thing to do." But then the Mets are doing the same thing...

I was born in Cincy and so love the Reds but live in Michigan and so follow the Tigers, perhaps this helps shead light on my pessimism.