Yankee stadium faces the wrecking ball

Believe it or not there was a time in my life when I had no interest in politics. However we are turning the clock back over 50 years in the process when we lived in central New Jersey. At that time my hero’s were not Abe Lincoln or Ronald Reagan. Instead my hero’s in the late 40’s & 50’s were Duke Snider, Gil Hodges, Pee Wee Reese and Jackie Robinson. They are each acknowledged in Roger Kahn’s book “The Boys of Summer.”My favorite team, The Brooklyn Dodgers, played at Ebbets Field in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn. Their arch enemies, which by definition were also mine, were the “Bronx Bombers” (of the American league) and New York “Giants” (of the National league) whose home games you could attend by taking the “D” train from Times Square and getting off at 155th street to go to the Polo Grounds or stay on the train, crossing the Harlem River, and get off at the next exit East 161st Street to the house that Ruth Built called Yankee Stadium.

For years we would debate which team had the best position players starting with center fielders. Willie Mays, Duke Snider or Joe DiMaggio? Or perhaps the debate would be between Yogi Berra or Roy Campanella behind the plate. Who was the better shortstop, Pee Wee Reese or Phil Rizzuto (later of the Money Store).

As part of the 2008 All Star festivities they held the home run competition last night in the House that Ruth built. Watching the power display by Josh Hamilton was awesome. However as we all watched him stroke homer after homer into the right field upper deck we also realize that the last of the three original New York stadiums I remember as a youth are all history. It’s called progress. Others label it redevelopment. You might ask the question why? What’s wrong with retaining the original stadiums that hold all of the records be it baseball, football or any other outdoor team sport?

When we visited the baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY we spent the day reading about the teams and individual records that evolved from those three stadiums. On display are the bats, balls and gloves of the combatants whose feats of greatness were from these three New York area houses that will all be history come next year when the last of the group, Yankee Stadium, falls to the wrecking ball.

Yes, there will be a new Yankee Stadium next year, at a cost of $1.3 billion, but it will not be the same field where the Yankees ruled baseball for so many years.

Five words that will always remain in my memory bank of the Brooklyn Dodgers is the walk off home run in the Polo Grounds by Bobby Thompson in 1951 and the announcer screaming “The Giants win the pennant–the Giants win the pennant.” Sadly that stadium, and most of the combatants, where those words were spoken is long gone.

So now we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the LA Dodgers in Chavez Ravine where families were removed by “eminent domain” way back in time to be replaced by the current Dodger stadium. Yes, I guess the show will go on regardless of the victims and our memories.

For myself, who will win tonight is less important than the passing of the House that Ruth built. Although a Yankee hater for more than 50 years, I do respect their numerous accomplishments on that nostalgic baseball field.


About Larry Gilbert