Old ‘House’ makes way for new one

2008 football season predictions horribly mistaken, but Tatum knows talent

2008 football season predictions ‘horribly mistaken,’ but Tatum knows talent

Cody Dyer

On Dec. 26, 1919, Harry Frazee, principal owner of the Boston Red Sox, sold his top left-handed hitter to Col. Jacob Ruppert’s New York Yankees for the sum of $125,000.

A year later, George Herman Ruth helped transform Ruppert’s struggling franchise into one of the best teams in baseball. Ruth, also known as “Babe,” “The Maharaja,” “The Bambino” and “The Sultan of Swat,” hit an unprecedented 54 home runs in his first season with the Yankees – more than every team combined except for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Ruth’s off-the-field antics were as notable as his performance on the field. Yet, when it came time to open the Yankees’ new ballpark in April 1923, it certainly wasn’t coincidence the new yard was referred to as “The House That Ruth Built.”

Ruth appropriately hit the building’s first home run, a three-run shot against his former team, in the inaugural game at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees beat the Red Sox that afternoon, 4-1.

Monday marked the final game for The Big Ballpark in the Bronx, with the Yankees beating the Orioles, 7-3 – capping more than eight decades of baseball history.

Throughout the years, Yankee Stadium has witnessed some of the game’s greatest drama. From Murder’s Row to Chris Chambliss’ dramatic home run off of Kansas City’s Mark Littell in the 1976 American League Championship Series, the stadium has bled baseball.

Growing up in a small suburb of Kansas City, I naturally became a Royals fan and quickly grew a natural hatred for the Yankees.

These were the guys who always found a way to get past the Royals year after year in the playoffs throughout the 1970s. This was the team who used the Athletics – when they were in Kansas City – as a farm team throughout the 60s.

Even so, it made for incredible drama, which, oddly enough, always seemed to take place at Yankee Stadium.

When the Yankees move into their new home next season, Yankee Stadium will be brought down – leaving behind only memories of once was The Cathedral of Baseball.

Baseball is a game measured against the ghosts of all who have gone before. Unlike other sports, baseball has been played in shrines like The Big Ballpark in the Bronx rather than stadiums, and even though “stadium” was attached to the ballpark’s name, its charisma made it so much more.

From the late 1940s through the 1950s, the city of New York was the capital of baseball. Throughout this period, considered by most historians as baseball’s golden era, the city of New York came to dominate the game like never before, with three teams – the Yankees, Giants and Dodgers – sparking the imagination of baseball fans around the country.

Young boys and grown men alike idolized Willie Mays for his speed and grace; Duke Snider for his elegant playing style; and Mickey Mantle for his ability to hit a baseball farther than anyone thought possible.

Throughout the 50s, Yankee Stadium played host to eight World Series. Fans witnessed an improbable hero, Don Larsen, throw a perfect game and the Brooklyn Dodgers capture the title that had eluded the franchise for 65 years.

The Yankees have always done things over the top – specifically since George M. Steinbrenner III bought the team from CBS in 1973 – but Monday’s closing ceremony was right on the money. To see all of the guys who helped create so many memorable moments was moving.

Whether you love them or hate them, the Yankees and the ballpark they have played in has held a special place in the hearts of baseball fans for nearly 90 years.

Thank you and goodbye old friend.