Here’s a good one for you that slipped under the radar: Over a week ago, Parks Department Commissioner Adrian Benepe announced that the city would tear down Yankee Stadium once the Yankees vacate the city-owed facility. The footprint of the stadium will be converted into parkland.
Bill Egbert of the Daily News broke this story on June 23, but not too many people picked up on it last week. Egbert reported on the doom of the House that Ruth Built:
Hardcore Yankees fans may wail and rend their jerseys at the prospect of any trace of one of the last great ballparks from baseball’s golden age disappearing, but Benepe said that after the stadium’s massive renovation in the 1970s, very little of the original structure remained.
“The steel inside is historic,” he said, “and some of the brick, but not much else.” The rest, including the stadium’s iconic facade, dates back only to the Age of Disco.
While the details have yet to be worked out, Benepe said that some parts of the old stadium will be sold off to collectors, with the proceeds shared between the Yankees organization and the city’s General Fund. “Everything that’s sellable will be sold,” Benepe said. “The city’s Economic Development Corporation will be overseeing that.”
This is, of course, the aspect of the new stadium that I hate the most. Condemn the current Yankee Stadium to this fate, and you are condemning baseball history. Sure, the Stadium was renovated to death in the 1970s. Sure, it looks different than it did when Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford played for the Bombers. But the history is there, and even the physical structure is there too.
Take a stroll around Yankee Stadium, and you will see the outside of a stadium still in place since 1923. The windows are boarded up; the entrances are modernized. But the structure’s shell is still the same, and the city doesn’t seem too well to to keep even a part of the stadium up for the sake of history.
Over the last fifty years, New York City has done a fabulous job tearing down its history. We’ve lost Ebbets Field and the Polo Grounds. We’ve destroyed the Beaux Arts Penn Station to make way for the monstrosity that is Madison Square Garden. And soon, we’ll sentence Yankee Stadium to a similar fate.
I know, for me, it will be a sad day when the wrecking ball meets the Yankee Stadium wall. A part of my life will die along with the stadium. I just hope New York knows what it’s doing before that ball come crashing through the façade hanging high above River Ave.