Apr
14

Scenes from the destruction across the street

By

DSC00354

Over the last few years, I’ve been a vocal opponent of the new Yankee Stadium. I didn’t approve of the political process or the kickbacks the wealthy Yankees received from the city for the new park, and I didn’t believe old Yankee Stadium was beyond repair. Yet, from the day, Mayor Bloomberg announced his support of new ballparks for the Mets and Yankees, I was fighting a losing battle.

When the new stadium opened, I reluctantly embraced it. The Yankees, after all, would be playing in the stadium on the north side of 161st St. for the bulk of my adult life, and I could either choose to leave behind the Yankees or swallow the sting of losing the old House that Ruth Built. Not yet prepared to give up on the Yankees, I enjoyed my first year as a fan in the new ballpark. Although parts of it seem sterile and very much the same as any of Populous’ new ballparks that dot America’s baseball landscape, it’s very much a unique Yankee Stadium, modernized for the 21st Century.

The Bat Remains Yesterday, I steeled myself for some tough sights as I made my way up to the Bronx. Throughout 2009, old Yankee Stadium remained a familiar sight across the street. Crews were too busy ripping out the stadium insides to knock down any of the walls, and I could pretend that my old home – the place I spent so many nights growing up – wouldn’t be gone any time soon.

I took the D train yesterday to Yankee Stadium and didn’t have the shocking experience of seeing the old stadium in ruins from the elevated tracks as the 4 train emerges above ground after its stop at 149th St. Instead, I climbed the transfer from the IND platform up to the IRT, and the view was shocking. Fans getting their first glimpses of the destruction were silent and morose. This was a funeral for a friend, and it brought the glimmer of tears to my eyes.

It might be rare to be so sentimental over an old building, but this one featured so many baseball memories and New York City memories for me and millions of other fans. It provided solace after Sept. 11 and countless warm nights in high school when nothing mattered but the outcome of the game. The electricity of a postseason game would fill the air, and even during those early years of my fandom in the late 1980s and early 1990s, a sunny Saturday afternoon meant Yankee baseball. It meant a trip with my mom, dad and sister to the ballpark, and it meant watching Donny Baseball play the game with a bunch of schlubs around him.

Bring Out Your Wrecking Ball

New York City has a long record of tearing down its history. Parts of Lower Manhattan were settled nearly 400 years ago, but rare are the signs of anything newer than the skyscraper boom from the middle 20th Century. We tear down Penn Station; we tear down Yankee Stadium. We bury our past in picture books and minds, hoping that someone will try to save something – save Gate 2, save the dugouts, save home plate – and yet the wrecking ball brings it all down in the end anyway.

I arrived at the stadium yesterday at around 11:45 and spent some time just staring at the Yankee Stadium destruction pit. I tried to take some pictures that expressed the magnitude of the destruction, but it’s hard to capture the emotional depth of the sight. By mid-summer, the stadium will be gone, and the Parks Department will begin the process of constructing Heritage Field, a new park that, despite its name, will be without much Yankee Stadium heritage. And so it goes.

The full photoset from the Destruction of Yankee Stadium is available here on flickr. I’ve embedded the slideshow after the jump. All photos are by Benjamin Kabak.

Categories : Yankee Stadium
  • scoopemup

    Talk to me brother,talk to me.Sad,and unnecessary.Build the new one if you must,but leave the Cathredral intact.

  • Across the pond

    It would have been great if they left some of the stand up (somehow), say behind home plate and build the park around it.

    How cool would it be playing in a park that was surrounded by that.

    • http://twitter.com/JoeRo23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      Well that was the original plan… The field and first level of seats would remain as a high-school stadium. Of course, in the end, that plan was scrapped.

      • Across the pond

        I really hope there was a very,very good reason for that decision.

        I got over last year for a few games and even just seeing it sitting idle felt wrong. I can’t imagine what it feels like now!

        Kinda glad I won’t see it like that.

        • Rose

          Probably took way too much up of the park. My guess is that they’re not adding much old Yankee Stadium behind because they don’t want it. They just want the park to be the park.

          • Chris

            I saw somewhere that leaving the stadium (or even just the field itself) would have significantly limited the number of ball fields they could have at the park. So it’s a trade off between maintaining the history of the stadium and providing adequate park space for the neighborhood.

  • http://twitter.com/JoeRo23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

    Amen, Ben.

  • bonestock94

    Sad article, reminds me of all the games I went to as a kid with my dad. I always loved the bat, is that sticking around?

    • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

      The bat is sticking around because it’s part of the physical plant and infrastructure of the area. It’s a huge ventilation shaft disguised as a bat.

  • Marsha

    These pictures are so sad. Seeing the section poles (17 and 19) and the gift shop sign really got to me. I’m glad I was able to tour the Yankee Stadium before it was too late. RIP the real Yankee Stadium.

    • Victoria

      the sad gift shop sign with the huge interlocking NY was what I mentioned to Ben too! I never got to tour YS :(

  • Mike P

    I’d like to know what people think of the new stadium apart from it being unnecessary and a little sterile in places.

    Personally, I feel that the old Yankee Stadium’s biggest attraction was that it was geared towards everyday folk, as many as possible, participating in the ballgame. Now, with the tiny upper deck, obstructed view bleachers and lower capacity, it seems to me the Yanks just didn’t care to be inclusive of all fans. The only nod in that direction for me are the standing room areas.

    I’m not against charging people more for the improved facilities in good seats, but that shouldn’t be incompatibe with giving as many people as possible, especially kids, the chance to cheer for their heroes.

    • http://twitter.com/JoeRo23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      We’ve had this conversation many times here so I won’t get into this stuff again… But I just wanted to respond and say that there are plenty of people out there who agree with your sentiments.

    • Victoria

      the significantly reduced capacity in favor of more luxury boxes is definitely indication that the new stadium isn’t geared toward everyday folk

    • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

      We’ve definitely had this conversation, but to reiterate, the Tier/Grandstand distinction is one of my least favorite aspects of the new park. In the old stadium, the Tier — the combined Boxes and Reserve — were massive and held the bulk of a full ballpark. No matter how far up you were sitting, it felt like part of the crowd. In the new stadium, the Grandstand is crammed into the overhang, and it feels more like an afterthought. There are fewer people and less of a sense of being a part of the crowd.

      That aisle separating the old Tier Boxes from the Tier Reserve may have been annoyingly narrow, but it made the crowd seem larger and more immediate.

      • http://twitter.com/JoeRo23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

        Again, amen.

        I actually looked back at some pictures from my seats in YS2 the other day and was surprised by how much closer we were to the field and how much better the view was, and that’s coming from someone who’s been beating the same drum as you about the difference between the upper tiers in YS2 and YS3. Even as someone who’s aware of the issue and has taken issue with it since the opening of YS3, I’d forgotten how big the difference really was. We thought our seats in YS2, for the price, were the best seats in the house. In YS3… Not so much.

        • Mike P

          Let me beat that drum with you: my favourite seats at the old place were in the upper deck above 1st base and directly behind home plate. The price meant I could take my grandpa and afford a couple of games whenever in New York. He’s 82 now and falls asleep watching on his couch, but would never refuse the climb to the upper deck! Man, those memories’ll never fade.

          • http://theyankeeu.com Matt Imbrogno

            Even in YSIII, I like being behind the plate and in the upper deck. That way, you’re able to see everything that’s going on.

            As for new vs. old, I loved the old one and I love the new one. I’m easy to please, I guess.

      • Mike P

        Thanks for the non-dismissive response, I guess I should follow threads more closely! I haven’t been to the new stadium yet, so I’m sad to hear that the feeling matches the impression you get on pictures/TV.

        • http://twitter.com/JoeRo23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

          (I don’t mean to speak for Ben, but as someone who said something similar about having this conversation before:) I don’t think anyone intends to be dismissive, I think people are just wary of opening this can of worms again.

  • Rose

    I wonder how many people had a similar feeling when they took down Ebbets Field and the Polo Grounds…

    • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

      Well, ostensibly, Joe Raposo wrote a song about Ebbets Field that Frank Sinatra recorded. That’s a lament if I ever I heard one.

      • Rose

        Ahh that’s right. No love for the Polo Grounds though huh? I play that field in the video games sometimes and it’s amazing how they had baseball there for roughly 50 years haha.

        • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

          I don’t know. No one really misses the Giants as much as they do the Dodgers. The Giants also had a terrible attendance record by the 1950s, and staying in New York wasn’t much of a viable option. They were definitely the forgotten third team in the city by the time of the 1950s.

          • Rick in Boston

            I’m reading the Barrow biography right now, and the ownership of the Giants in the 20′s was big into funnelling money away from the team to cover his brokerage losses. That kept money away from the Giants organization and the team couldn’t compete against clubs that plowed money back into their player development (such as the Cards and Yankees).

            • Pat D

              And yet they were still smart enough to sign Willie Mays.

              Or rather, they weren’t run by a racist like George Weiss or Joe Cronin and were willing to sign a black player.

              • Accent Shallow

                Can you imagine a Mays/Mantle outfield? Or a Mays/Williams?

                Yikes.

  • Renny Baseball

    Ouch. I really didn’t need to see these pictures today.

  • http://www.soxandpinstripes.net JGS

    I took the 4 yesterday. One of the (clearly from out of town) guys on the train was telling his wife that you can see the stadium right when you exit the train. There was lots of sighing when it became visible

  • Januz

    I have always been a supporter of the New Stadium and still am. There is little doubt that this project would not even be considered today (Due to such factors as credit availability, the economy, the increased level of CORPORATE taxation and regulation, and political pressures). We should be very appreciative of this facility, because it is the primary factor which enabled the Yankees to secure World Championship # 27 (Bringing in Tex, CC & AJ for example).
    Another element is the fact that teams and owners will have a decreased ability to finance player acquisitions because of the higher INDIVIDUAL tax rates, which will make spending more money in the pursuit of excellence (Like George did), that much more difficult. Furthermore, there is a real possibility of a Value Added Tax enacted which would essentially tax everything from the tickets on down, so I am glad the additional revenue streams from the Stadium will help pay the salaries of Tex, Arod, and future acquisitions until the economy improves and until Obama is out of office, so that the tax rates come down (I predict that Obama is a shoe-in for re-election, and I can’t stand him).
    Finally teams that cannot keep up, with their competitors are likely going to become bottom feeders in their respective sports (See the Islanders, Edmonton Oilers, Nets, Cleveland Indians, Buffalo Bills, Toronto Blue Jays, and soon to be Tampa Bay Rays as examples of this). I am glad the Yankees are not in that boat.

    • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

      We should be very appreciative of this facility, because it is the primary factor which enabled the Yankees to secure World Championship # 27

      The Yanks signed Teixeira, CC and A.J. before the new stadium was even finished. They signed them based upon record attendance and record TV ratings generated at the old stadium. I couldn’t disagree more with this statement. Can you back it up?

      • http://twitter.com/JoeRo23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

        Yanks’ Opening Day payroll:

        2009: $201,449,189
        2008: $209,081,577
        2007: $189,639,045
        2006: $194,663,079
        2005: $208,306,817

    • http://www.soxandpinstripes.net JGS

      not going to comment on most of this, but re: the Rays–it’s not the money, it’s the intelligence of the front office. Tampa has a good one, thus they will not be bottom feeders. Even if they have a few lousy years, there is a difference between rebuilding and becoming the Pirates

      • http://www.bomberbanter.com/ BomberBanter.com

        and then there’s the mets… talk about spending money unwisely. i just dont understand their plan. I get what the rays and Os are doing, I sort of understand the Royals, but the pirates and mets… no idea whats going on there.

        • http://theyankeeu.com Matt Imbrogno

          i just dont understand their plan.

          There’s no plan to understand.

    • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

      Why don’t you tell us your thoughts on Greece while we’re here? Personally, I love baklava, so I don’t really care what happens!

    • Mike P

      None of your arguments hold as far as I can tell. Ben and Mondesi debunked the championship arguments. And if you’re going to go off on a political rant, note that all the teams in Major League Baseball have the same White House. Higher taxes apply to everyone, and seeing as the USA has national monopoly on professional baseball, players aren’t going to emmigrate.

      Therefore: the Yanks retain their competitive advantage and player salaries adjust, even if income tax and corporation tax go through the roof.

  • Pat D

    While these pictures are sad, and getting sadder by the day, it’s the way of the world.

    You mention how there’s no evidence of New York of 400 years ago anymore. Of course there isn’t. Holding onto “tradition” and romanticizing the past gets in the way of progress, technology and, especially in NYC, commerce.

    It’s just the way of the world. How much of ancient Greece and Rome still remain? How much of the Great Wall of China is gone? How many landmarks in this country are preserved? Heck, there’s a campaign to save the Hollywood sign right now. It’s not on government property (as far as I know), so it’s fair game for developers.

    Essentially, my point is what George Harrison said some years ago:

    All things must pass.
    All things must pass away.

    • Across the pond

      How much of ancient Greece and Rome still remain? How much of the Great Wall of China is gone?

      quite a lot actually. In both instances. Not the best example.

      • Pat D

        Compared to what it once was is my point, I guess. And the fact that we don’t care as much about history in this particular country.

        When I was thinking of Rome, I guess I was thinking specifically of the Senate, which I remember seeing is now nothing more than half a foundation.

        • Mike P

          You can’t make that argument as many of the monuments lost from ancient Greece and Rome (and the wall of China) is due to destruction from war, natural disasters or plain old time, with some recycling of materials by locals. Not many instances of destroying historical monuments for the sake of building on top of them to suit your argument.

  • wayne’s world

    Heartbreaking pictures and well-wrought essay. While many of the comments in this thread suggest that tearing down the old buildings is the way of the world, that approach is far too cynical. Progress is not a bad thing; it’s a good thing. But judgement must be brought to bear in deciding which portions of our past to save and which portions to discard. Wholesale discarding of the past is not progress. There simply was no reason to tear down the old ballpark. The Yanks were already the most valuable franchise in sports. They drew over 4 million people per year. They could have kept raising prices to their heart’s delight…and could have carved more of the loge into luxury boxes. And, guess what, people still could have squeezed through the narrow hallways, as they had been doing for almost a century. The destruction of the old ballpark was not progress; it was ignorance.

    • Bob Stone

      Amen.