End of an Era
Yankee Stadium—the very name evokes nostalgia for generations of New Yorkers. At the end of this season, the ballpark where Babe Ruth (below) hit legendary home runs and Mickey Mantle chased fly balls will be replaced with a new $1.3 billion facility across the street. Preservation spoke to New Yorkers about their memories of the famed stadium, which will be completely demolished by 2010. George Vecsey, a New York Times reporter and columnist who grew up a fan of the rival Brooklyn Dodgers, contributed these memories:
My father was proud of playing hooky to attend the first game at Yankee Stadium in 1923, and with great respect he took me there for my first time on the last day of the 1947 season. We did not go to root against the Yankees, but to admire the stadium and to see Babe Ruth being honored.
It was well known that Ruth was dying of cancer, and I remember his voice echoing around the stadium, imploring the kids to take care of themselves—something sweet and poignant. We liked Ruth, who had briefly coached for the Dodgers, and I have always separated my fear of the Yankees from my fascination with Ruth. If Yankee Stadium was The House That Ruth Built, that worked for me.
I also remember the day of Martin Luther King Jr.'s funeral in 1968, when I warmed up Yankee pitcher Jim Bouton, a friend of mine who wanted a workout to keep sharp. The stadium was empty and silent, and I crouched down at home plate. I still think of that sometimes.
But mostly I think of Babe Ruth and the echoes. Yankee Stadium has always seemed a somber place to me, I guess because we were Dodger fans. When the stadium was due to be replaced, I tried to feel nostalgic, but my inner Dodger fan said, "Huh, they took away Ebbets Field (and the Polo Grounds), they can take away Yankee Stadium, too." I guess that's the Brooklyn in me.