Aug
03

Imagine: These Yankees at the original Yankee Stadium

By

Last weekend I had the privilege of attending the Yanks-Sox game with a couple of first-timers. Not only had they never been to the current Yankee Stadium, but they’d never been to any Yankee Stadium. They were quite curious about the various aspects of the new park, and how it all looked at the old park. It made me nostalgic for the Stadium across the street, of course. That’s the park I grew up with. But it also got me thinking about the old Yankee Stadium.

It’s hard to imagine any park looking quite like the one in which the Yankees played before the 1970s renovations. The dimensions were, by the modern standard, incomprehensible. Imagine you’re Alex Rodriguez and you hit one right on the sweet spot. It soars out to left-center and lands 390 feet from the plate — but is in the field of play.

(Or, better yet, imagine his 500th home run. That also would have been in the field of play, thanks to a 461-foot fence in center.)

True, the Yankees typically pound their homers to right. Back in the day the Stadium still had that short porch — it was actually a little shorter down the line, though it was a bit deeper in right-center — so it would have still played to the Yankees’ primary strength. But it’s hard to imagine the Yankees hitting many of their homers anywhere near right field.

Of course, there were righties who hit for power at Yankee Stadium. Joe DiMaggio led the league in home runs in 1937 while playing more than half of his game at Yankee Stadium. He hit 27 of his 46 homers on the road, sure, but that’s still 19 at home. He also produced a near .300 ISO at home, and an overall 1.061 OPS. Apparently that cavernous right field didn’t hold him back a bit.

(I haven’t seen the stat anywhere, and I’m sure he went opposite field plenty, but I have to wonder how many of DiMaggio’s homers were inside the parkers.)

A park so oddly shaped could certainly benefit a team. We’ve already seen the Yankees amass players who can park pitches over the right field porch. Imagine a lineup that balances those players with ones that can poke the ball into that enormous right-center field gap. In-his-prime Ichiro, for example, would have been great for that kind of gap hitting.

Modern field technology would make such a park even more attractive. While I wouldn’t want to remove the monuments from center field, there wouldn’t be any career-changing sprinklers in the outfield. Basically we’d have the old-time layout with modern technology. I’d be game for that.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be room in today’s game for a park as oddly shaped as the old Yankee Stadium. Which is a shame. Sure, it might be difficult to lure pull-heavy right handed power hitters, but it’s not as though the Yankees attract, or even seek, many of them anyway. (A-Rod, for example, had superb opposite-field power). I’d love to see modern teams play in a Stadium like that.

Categories : Days of Yore

52 Comments»

  1. yanks says:

    “Imagine you’re Alex Rodriguez and you hit one right on the sweet spot. It soars out to left-center and lands 390 feet from the plate — but is in the field of play.”

    considering left center is currently 399 feet, thats not too hard to imagine

  2. Need Pitching & Hitting says:

    Arod’s 500th was down the LF line, iirc
    I think 600 was to center though.

    • Soda Popinski says:

      #600 was pretty deep and to left center, from what I remember. I was at the game, but I could be mistaken- it was very sunny, and I was partially distracted by a giant beef on wick sandwich.

    • Jim Is Bored says:

      Yup, 500 was down the LF line against the Royals.

      http://newyork.yankees.mlb.com...../index.jsp

      • Nick, No problem,glad to oblidge. The biggest difference from the original actually occurs immidiatly after you walk in the stadium,you can see the field. There are obvious advantages to this as you can see the game from almost anywhere! The negative is that it loses the mystic of having to walk through a tunnel and then glimpsing the most beautiful field in all of baseball. It was amazing as a 6 or 7 year old to see the field for the first time. The original configuration was much less commercial as the only advertising signs were on the back walls of the bleachers.There were less concessions which resulted in less distractions which led to people actually paying much closer attention to what was happaning on the field.

  3. Nick says:

    just haven’t warmed up to the new yankee stadium yet. Not sure if I ever will to be honest, the spaceship in CF hovering over the monuments is just terrible. The atmosphere felt different from first steps into YS3. The best part about the park across the street IMO was the overhanging upper decks, especially in RF where the balls would fly into. Just not the same now that the third deck is nearly impossible to hit (believe a few have come close but into the suites just below). Small quirk sure, but i sure miss it.

    Would be curious to hear opinions of anyone who’s been to all three yankee stadiums. Sure wish I could of watched a game in pre-renovated original YS.

    Btw, watching Gardner roam that massive old OF would be something.

    • Kosmo says:

      I´ve had the pleasure of watching games at all 3 YS. Outside of the vertical columns that obstructed some fans view of the playing field the original house that Ruth built was certainly the most historic one. I also remember the 1st time I saw a game, those were the days of black and white TV so emerging into the stands from the tunnels and seeing the field of green was a sight to behold. I also like the very low RF wall as contrasted to the rather high RF walls in YS2 and 3. Personally I´d rank pre renovation as the best followed by 2 and 3 in that order.
      I also liked the Mel Allen for Ballantine Beer commercials.

      If you check Gehrig´s stats he tallied alot of triples, probably didn´t mind taking the ball to the opposite field.
      Mantle and DiMaggio were robbed of any number of HRs because of the spacious LF-CF. I saw Mantle batting RH positively crush balls to “death valley“ only to be caught.

      • my first YS1 visit was probably in 1956 or 1957, at age 8 or 9. sat in many areas, grandstand ($1.30), bleachers (.75), and box seats (seagrams seasons tickets) – my friends father was a seagrams exec. loved double headers on sunday, scheduled as one admission. used to take sandwiches and soda (bought peanuts at the park) and stayed all day. left via the field thru the bleacher gate. miss the ramps leading to the upper deck, no elevators in those days. and even though the 50′s are called “the golden age of baseball” in new york, attendence is much higher now. much. and, yes, i was able to walk to the stadium. lived 4-5 blocks away. so no planning was needed. after school some days, used to hang out by the bleachers exit with friends and blend in with the people leaving early, usually in the 8th inning, and stroll on in to catch the rest of the game. sometimes, the game went unexpectedly into extra innings. a real treat.

        by the time YS2 (1976) came along, i was married, with children living in the suburbs. so my trips were less frequent. YS2 was ok, a “cleaned up version” of YS1.

        YS3 is nice but going to a game is oh so different then YS1. you need to plan, “budget” :)and you are bombarded with all sorts of marketing/entertainment “features” from the scoreboard “television” screen. (the clarity is amazing though). music, silly contests, etc. i guess at the prices and salaries today, more is expected and needed for the casual baseball fan. food, yes, better today. lots of people milling around in the walkways DURING PLAY. NOT EVEN WATCHING THE GAME. AMAZING.

        and YS3 is built directly on the site of my little league field
        (stadium little league, 1959).

        my votes for favorite “YS”: YS1, YS3, YS2.

        ps- YS3 has the nicest rest rooms! :)

    • Georgiy says:

      The only players to have reached even the Suite Level are:

      Mark Teixeira (3 times)
      Rick Ankiel
      Russell Branyan
      Nick Swisher
      Brandon Allen
      Raul Ibanez
      Curtis Granderson
      Alejandro de Aza
      Eric Chavez

      So yeah, reaching the suite level is quite an accomplishment. Hitting a ball up to the suite level is like hitting a ball three quarters of the way up the upper deck at the old stadium.

    • rich says:

      YS1 is the all-time best hands down. The history of the place, all the greats who played there, memorable moments. YS can’t hold a candle to it, modern though it is. The atmosphere is totally different. Thank goodness, I’m old enough to have seen many games at YS1

  4. RetroRob says:

    If I understand this SABR article correctly (I browsed it very quickly), DiMaggio hit only two inside-the-park HRs during his career. Not even sure if he hit them at home or away.

    http://research.sabr.org/journ.....-home-runs

    • RetroRob says:

      …I believe DiMaggio’s numbers are in the interim column, so he might have hit more, but I’m doubting it was many more.

      I never really heard DiMaggio mentioned as an opposite-field power hitter either. I’m curious where he was hitting his HRs when at the Stadium.

      Bill James estimated that no hitter in MLB history had been hurt as much by his home park than DiMaggio was at Yankee Stadium.

    • nyyankeefanforever says:

      According to The Hardball Times, DiMaggio three career inside-the-park home runs, his first as a rookie, and the first two were both off the same pitcher: Chief Hogsett. Found that in a timeline of historic anniversaries on their site. Here’s the link:

      http://www.hardballtimes.com/m.....operstown/

      Hope that’s helpful.

      • vicki says:

        this surprised me. i checked and found joe d. hit plenty of triples, which i thought suggested more quadruples, in support of joe p.’s supposition.

        reminds me of one of my favorite trivia questions: whose club career homeruns record did babe ruth break?

    • susan ward says:

      DiMaggio had 3 inside the park homeruns, only one of which was at Yankee Stadium

  5. Rocky Road Redemption says:

    Removing the monuments from the field of play was an excellent idea. They’re an injury risk, and it’s complutely unecessary for them to be there.

    Imagine running fullspeed trying to catch a ball over the shoulder and slamming into the monuments.

    No, I’m glad they moved those out of the way.

    (I also happen to be one of the only people who prefers New Yankee Stadium to post-renovation Old Yankee Stadium. The old one was cramped and kind of ugly too. The new one is beautiful, supposedly looks like the original Old Yankee Stadium more than post-renovation Yankee Stadium did, and has a nice layout that makes it easy to get around.

    Also, I think the “playoff” atmosphere” thing is bullshit. So there’s that too.

    • Rocky Road Redemption says:

      Okay, I’ll clarify: I think the Stadium is definitely louder in playoff games and rivalry games where the game is very important and the seats are packed, but I don’t think it’s any less loud in this Stadium than the old one. I think that’s confirmation bias; everybody expected this Stadium not to be as loud as the old one, so that’s what they heard.

      I think it’s bullshit.

      • KeithK says:

        I don’t have sound data for either place. But I feel like the new stadium is quieter and I think the reason is the upper decks. They’re just so much shorter now. The tall, overhanging upper deck just held in the sound better. As someone who grew up sitting in the top row of the upper deck (general admission seats) I really miss it.

        Has anyone heard of an injury occurring because of the old monuments? I haven’t. They were about 450 feet away from home plate after all. Maybe a twin of Mays’ famous catch would take someone that far on a dead sprint. But it would certainly be extremely rare.

        • Rocky Road Redemption says:

          You wouldn’t expect somebody to be injured tripping over a sprinkler either, but it happened and I’m glad we no longer have that risk.

          • Deep Thoughts says:

            The risk of someone getting hurt by the monuments was ridiculously minuscule. Surely the players of that generation, who served in world wars and thought you smoked cigarettes for good health, would have laughed in your face.

            Wikipedia sez:

            While the monuments were very far from home plate, a batted ball still sometimes made it back there. In the 1992 book The Gospel According to Casey, by Ira Berkow and Jim Kaplan, it is reported that on one occasion a Yankees outfielder had let the ball get by him and was fumbling for it among the monuments. Manager Casey Stengel hollered to the field, “Ruth, Gehrig, Huggins, somebody get that ball back to the infield!”

            That’s pretty awesome.

              • RetroRob says:

                DiMaggio’s hitting was even more impressive as it looks like they played with 20 OFers back in the day. Joe Maddon’s computer would melt down with the shift possibilities.

            • Rocky Road Redemption says:

              The argument “they served in world wars and smoked cigarettes and laughed” isn’t an argument, so I’ll ignore it.

              Now, “The risk of somebody getting hurt is ridiculously miniscule?” Eh, IDK. Those monuments are pretty hard stone. You can trip over them, slam into them, jump for a ball and slide over the top of one.

              Anyway, I don’t like physical objects actually being on the field of play. It’s just…weird.Imagine a stadium with big stone slabs sitting randomly in the middle of the outfield. We’d laugh at it, right? That was Old Yankee Stadium.

          • vicki says:

            meow, meow. just a generation earlier outfielders maneuvered between spectators who stood on the field of play. men were men!

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      I definitely have a preference for YS3, although I’m not old enough to know the pre-renovations old stadium. I think we know the minuses related to food, prices, and atmosphere, but ease of getting round the stadium does it all for me.

      • jjyank says:

        I also prefer YS3. As far as I’m concerned, it’s just a better stadium. It feels less cramped, it feels cleaner, and I think it feel more majestic.

        I don’t buy into the whole “atmosphere” nonsense. The fans and the team make the atmosphere, not some mythical presence that died with the old stadium. The kept the name and they modeled YS3 after the old stadium, and that’s good enough for me.

        • Tcmiller30 says:

          Agreed. Sometimes that “atmosphere” goes from nostalgic to just plain outdated. Ex: Fenway Park. Sure it’s cool because it’s old and different, but the field is apparently in terrible condition, the seats are small and uncomfortable. Some don’t even really face the field and it hold a small handful of people.

          I’m happy with the renovations YS has made over the years, and it doesn’t feel any less majestic to me because it’s not the same place it was 100 years ago.

        • Rocky Road Redemption says:

          Absolutely.

  6. Adayoff says:

    Your article brought back memories of Elston Howard’s closed stance from the right side – in the hope of popping one into the right field.

    Mantle was considered a better right handed batter in the era when stats were only BA, HR and RBI. I saw more than one manager bring in right handed reliever to force Mantle to bat from the left side. Those games ended fast as Mantle would inevitably dink one into the right field porch (as Mel Allen called it).

  7. Adayoff says:

    Notice how the angle at the LF foul pole. This has tradition has been kept through all three parks. Similar to RF in Fenway Park, which was also built to accommodate a football field.

    Also note the height of the outfield fences. Outfielders, particularly in RF, were able to get to balls headed for the first two rows of the grandstand and haul them back in, just as first basemen and third basemen do today on foul balls.

  8. vicki says:

    polo grounds. now THAT was a bathtub.

    • Jose M. Vazquez says:

      Actually, if you looked at the Polo Grouns from the air it looked like a giant Roman Pool. Of course, it was made for riding horses from one end to the other. In the many games that I sat in the right center field bleachers or the center field bleachers, I never saw anyone hit one into the center ones. Many times mickey hit drives toward the 457 sign in left center that just died. Those wouldbe homers in today’s park.

  9. LarryM.,Fl. says:

    I have some great memories of the old stadium. One as a HS graduate going off to college participating in a three day tryout with the Yankees back in the summer of ’67. Unfortunately, it takes more than a few hours a day to take in the entire field. But I did get a taste for a turtle back infield which was sloped as a turtle’s shell for drainage.The first and third baseman were in a little downward slope. During infield practice while playing third base fielded a ground ball. I made a strong throw and put it into the the seats behind first base. If you threw the ball at the first baseman’s chest it went higher and over his head. You had to throw at his knees. But the stadium was so expansive, I had tunnel vision as a horse with blinders on and could only focus my view in front of me. I could only imagine a rookie pitching before a full house.

    As far as the other difference to me its RCF in the old ballpark 407′ with a high fence from home plate. Now that was a poke as compared to today and some of the HRs going over the aux. scoreboard maybe 375′. The outfield in left or center was a given for difference when hitting it into today’s bullpen may not have been a HR. Personally, I like the old place but the game has changed and so have the fields.

    It was a great old ballpark. The pitchers could not pitch just to the middle of the field. Hitters could hit to the gaps and run all day.

  10. JohnC says:

    Great shot of the original Stadium. I remember it well. The high scoreboard behind the centerfield wall, the low right field wall where you could reach in and take home runs away. Death Valley, where LCF was 457 ft and dead center was 463 and the monuments were in the field of play. Don’t know if anyone remembers this but the wall beyond the left field wall back then was low enough that you could catch glimpses of the game from the platform of the 161st ST. station. When they rebuilt the Stadium the first time, they built that wall high enough that you could no longer see the game from there

  11. Buffalo Bill says:

    To those wondering if the monuments being in play would be an injury risk, you need not worry – Granderson would clearly first take two steps in on any ball hit over his head in that direction, so there is no way he would reach the monuments with the ball still in the air.

  12. Yank The Frank says:

    There were also columns in the lower deck holding up the upper deck in the original. I remember as a kid always being behind a column.

  13. Professor Longnose says:

    Without the monumetns on the playing field, we wouldn’t have this photo, one of the greatest Yankee photos I’ve ever seen. Someone should make a poster of this.

    http://img443.imageshack.us/im.....uments.jpg

  14. Peter North says:

    As much as I like the new stadium and its moderity, I still wish they’d just renovated/updated the old one again. Widened concourses to walk around easier, new bathrooms, more technology. They probably could’ve accomplished all that without starting from scratch. It would be nice to still watch the game unfold on the original field and it was heart-wrenching to watch the old stadium come down. As much as it pains me to say it, look at what they were able to do with Fenway Park instead of replacing it.

    • Adayoff says:

      i’m with you Peter. It was torn down for the season boxes. As I see YS3 on TV, it looks drab. New stadiums like those in Pittsburgh and Seattle, and Citifield look far more interesting and contemporary. YS3 looks like a gray museum. Give me the feeling of being in the antiquities section of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Does not look like a fun place.

    • Rocky Road Redemption says:

      The thing is, “old” Yankee Stadium wasn’t old. It dated back to the 70s.

  15. Vinnie says:

    Mantle was the only one who could reach those bleachers with any regularity and I can remember a pinch hit grand slam Bob Cerv hit over the 457ft sign. Another one I recall seeing was a fly ball hit to the 461ft sign in dead center by Hector Lopez that was caught by Jimmy Piersall for a sac fly.
    If you check on you tube, there’s an old Buster Keaton clip filmed in the Stadium of the 20′s, before the second and third decks were added along the lines and where you can see how the fences were aligned even deeper than the Stadium of the late 30′s on up.

    • Georgiy says:

      A-Rod hit a 460 foot blast to left-center last year, the ball traveled over the visitors’ bullpen and landed about three rows into the bleachers. Longest Yankee hit at NYS. I wonder if that would’ve been a homerun at the old Stadium.

  16. toad says:

    I don’t know why modern stadiums aren’t more oddly shaped. It does seem to confer an advantage by making some players better hitters than they would be anywhere else.

  17. OldYanksFan says:

    There is film of Bobby Murcer trying to dig a ball out from around the monuments.

    I was at YSI a number of times, and YSII a twice, but never at the New Stadium (I have lived in NH since 1973). LF and CF in the original stadium were sick, and I HATED seeing 420′ blasts to CF look like popups (caught 30′ in front of the warning track).

    I don’t like fields that screw around with the OF. (Is it Houston that has a slope and flag pole in CF?). Too many monumental shots by Mantle and Howard that were easy outs. When Mickey was up with no one on base, the LFer was often playing at around 400′.

    I agree that renovating the Old Stadium would have been fine. For a Billion dollars (2/3rds of the cost of the new stadium), they could have done anything with it. I’m sure thay could have put up luxury suites. Maybe there were some structural issues… I don’t know, but building a new stadium next door seemed foolish.

    P.S. I was at the game where Mantle hit #500… and at the double header where Murcer hit 4 HRs in a row. Good times.

    • Georgiy says:

      Some things that I would’ve liked to see renovated in 2009:

      Bathrooms; admit it, the bathrooms were pretty cramped and smelly
      Wider concourses
      Wider vomitoria
      Better seats
      Perhaps bring in the left field bleachers a bit closer to home plate
      Decorate the alley between the seats and the bleachers in right field, I didn’t like how it was just a giant grey wall

  18. Mick taylor says:

    If Joe DiMaggio had played in a normal size park he would have hit 60 home runs in a season. You must be kidding when you say Joe d could take advantage of the old ballpark by hitting the ball the other way because it was still 407 ft to the right field power alley. If babe Ruth had been right handed even he might not have hit 60 home runs. The greatness of Joe d is attested to the fact that if you compare his 13 years in baseball against the same teams on the road leaving out Fenway park and ys1 to Ted Williams Joe had a higher batting average, averaged more rbis, and had about the same ops .And a la Michael Jordan Joe d had 9 championships in 13 years, the true measure of greatness, not stats.

  19. Mick taylor says:

    If Joe DiMaggio had played in a normal size ballpark he would have hit60 home runs in season. It is ludicrous to say he could have had an advantage by hitting to right field since the power alley was still 407 ft. If babe Ruth had been right handed he maynot have hit 60 homeruns. The greatness of Joe d is attested to thefact that if you compare his 13 years in the majors to Ted Williams first 13 and compare their hitting in ballparks other than yankee stadium and Fenway,Joe had a higher batting average, more rbis, and about the same obs. And a la Michael Jordan, joe’s9 championships in 13 years isthe true mark of greatness not stats.

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