It seems hard to imagine that the Yankees will play their last game in the House That Ruth Built Sunday. The team’s play this season – sub-par by Yankee standards – seems to match the decline of their great host, which holds so many indelible memories.
History will sadly remember that in the year that Yankee Stadium was set out to pasture, the Yankees missed the playoffs. For many teams, that might be commonplace. This, however, is the Yankees -- a historical juggernaut so steeped in winning tradition that the grand, tired old gal of a stadium must be asking why a World Series trophy isn’t her crowning garment as she heads into the grave.
A newer generation might find this all a bit amusing. Stadiums now have a shelf life that seems shorter than a player called up as a cup of coffee. Fenway and Wrigley will take up the mantel of “historic” ballpark.
The "Selig Reclamation Project" has changed the face of the Green Cathedrals. Yankee Stadium is simply another one in line.
This isn’t to say that it was all charming. Those who have attended games there will tell you that short of the history which has been made on the diamond, the stadium lost much of its luster after the 1973 renovation. Likewise, its dank smell and concrete accoutrements won’t be missed.
Now, it will be replaced with something that looks much like the original limestone façade unveiled in April of 1923, but with a martini bar and a steakhouse on the inside – a ruse designed to recall the historic memory of the past while tapping into the wallets of those that come to a new stadium, not just to watch a game, but to be serviced in grand style. Certainly for some, baseball at New Yankee Stadium will be the dessert instead of the main course.
The Yankee brass has been keen on saying that the field dimensions will be exactly the same as its historic sibling – a twin of sorts.
Too bad the mystique couldn’t be packaged with it.
It may be this aspect that plays to the advantage of teams such as their nemesis, the Red Sox. When play ends Sunday, and a new season begins in 2009, the wrecking ball will have removed the ghosts of Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, and DiMaggio. A new history will need to be written, regardless of the monuments being moved out of the House That Ruth Built and into the House That King George Built.
So, goodbye Yankee Stadium, that House That Ruth Built. Your current caretakers have yet to honor the Babe, but somewhere in the great beyond, that infamous exchange at Ruth’s funeral is taking place. Joe Dugan and Waite Hoyt were pallbearers at Ruth’s funeral on a scorchingly hot day just over 60 years ago. Dugan said to Hoyt, “I’d give a hundred dollars for a cold beer.” Hoyt replied, “So would the Babe.”
Sunday, the ghosts of all the greats from Yankee past will surely saddle up to the bar, and raise a toast to the baseball cathedral they once called home.
Farewell, Yankee Stadium. Thanks for the memories.