Voices of Yankee Stadium
Fans of the House of Ruth Give a Last Hurrah.
By Charles Wilson | Online Only | September/October 2008
Yankee Stadium (1923-2008): The House of Ruth will be replaced by a new $1.3 billion ballpark across the street and demolished in two years. Add your own memories below.
Vinny Milano, 34, a.k.a. Bald Vinny
Vinny has watched about 800 Yankee home games in the same seat in Section 39, Row B, Seat 18 of the bleachers. After the game's first pitch, he leads the "Roll Call" by Section 39's "Bleacher Creatures." For this ritual, the Creatures scream every Yankee player's name (except the pitcher and catcher) until the player acknowledges them with a wave. Vinny also runs a T-shirt company with Yankee-related themes. Several of his selections offer some unflattering assessments of the Boston Red Sox.
"The fans are one of the elements that make Yankee Stadium what it is. If you don't have the everyday fan in the bleachers who works hard for his money, comes here, who is going to get up on his seat and yell—then all you have is the box seat corporate fans, who come in their suits and ties, and arrive in the 3rd inning and leave in the 7th. That's not a baseball fan…. [In the new stadium,] they've gotten rid of Section 39… They've renamed us 203. I just think it's going to be different. It's going to be different…. Everybody is emotionally attached to this place. One of my favorite things about here is how bleak this area is. Look how shitty this street is. When I was kid, I would walk around here, and everything was brown and black. And I'd walk into the stadium, and everything in there was all green and white, and it was like a jewel. That's what drew me here. Dude, I'm sitting here getting goosebumps just talking about it."
Listen to Bald Vinny talk about the Bleacher Creatures and the impending move to a new Yankee Stadium:
Jonathan Mahler, 39, author of Ladies and Gentleman, The Bronx is Burning
Mahler's book examines New York City in 1977, a tumultuous time in the city's history and a year when the Yankees won the World Series behind Mr. October, Reggie Jackson.
"My father grew up in the South Bronx, not far from Yankee Stadium. He had filled my head with stories of the Bronx. They were idyllic urban tales, of a middle-class upbringing with stickball, two-family houses. He attended Bronx Science for high school, and he went to a lot of Yankee games. I conjured these images of men in fedoras, a Bronx version of Neil Simon. When my family moved back to New York from California in the late 1970s, I first came to Yankee Stadium when I was all of eight years old. It was a dramatically different thing that what I had imagined. The stadium was not surrounded by cheerful two-family houses but by depressing tenements…
"It's a terrible ballpark. I don't like it as a ballpark. It has poor sightlines. I like it only as much as I saw a lot of great games there. It's ugly on the outside, and it's bad on the inside. I have no doubt that the new park will be beautiful, and a much more pleasant place to watch a game, but I worry about the price of seats. What are they going to do to the working-class people who are their fan base? The Yankees claim disingenuously that the luxury boxes are going to subsidize Joe Fan. A ballpark should be a great democratizing force."
Freddy Schuman, 83, a.k.a. "Frying Pan Freddy"
Since 1988, when he retired, Freddy has been roaming the seats of Yankee Stadium every game with a frying pan that has a four-leaf clover painted on it. He bangs the pan with a spoon to try to start Yankee rallies. Attached to the pan's handle are homemade "Freddy 'Sez'" signs that say things like "Fans we gonna cheer Yankees like crazy!"
"This is a very important memory that I have. The year was 1996. It was Game #6 of the World Series, and we were playing Atlanta. Part of what I do is I try to get the grownups to hit the frying pan. The marquee comes on and says "Make Some Noise." That's where I shine. They call me "the pan man." But this game, I couldn't get the grownups to hit the frying pan. 'This is the World Series,' I said. 'Let's make us some noise! Let's get something going!' The grownups ignored me completely. This kid, who couldn't have been more than 7 or 8 years old, he grabbed the spoon from me and started to whack the heck out of the frying pan. And I said to the fans, 'Mark my words, this kid is going to win the World Series for us.'… Don't you know, the Yankees made three runs, and the final score was three to two. This kid won the World Series. It was absolutely amazing! That's the thing that I remember most. It stuck in my head…
All of our pennants and all that occurred, our 26 world series, it's been done over here. It's Babe Ruth's stadium. We're going to have to start all over. You can't help but love this place. I've gone through all the hallways, including the bathrooms, so it's very, very fond memories."
Listen to Freddy discuss his fondest memories of Yankee stadium:
Marty Appel, 60, former Yankees PR director
Marty started working for the Yankees at the age of 19 by answering Mickey Mantle's fan mail. From 1973 to 1977, he served as the team's public relations director.
"Up until the early 1960s, the ushers would open up the gates at the end of the game, and people used to depart Yankee Stadium through the running tracks and out through the outfield grass through the bullpens. They did so in an orderly fashion. No one was stopping to carve out a piece of sod. We used to live like that in America. We didn't even lock our doors…. At the stadium, I had a basement office, and Mickey would always give me his gift certificates whenever he was a guest on a pre-game show. 99.5% percent of the mail was the same thing: 'Dear Mickey, You're my favorite player. Can you please send me an autographed ball?'…
"I'll miss the character of the skyline beyond the outfield. The court building, the Concourse Plaza Hotel, they've been part of that backdrop for so long. The new place doesn't have the same view."
Tony Morante, 66, director of the Yankee Stadium tours
"My dad was an usher, and he started taking me to the stadium in 1949, when I was six years old. The first day that I walked out of a gate behind home plate and saw the blue sky, the green grass, the cumulus clouds, and smelled the aromas from the hot dogs, beers, and peanuts, it left an indelible mark, and it's never left me. In the 1940s, we didn't have a color TV, and when I had seen games it was in black and white. This whole vision exploded before my eyes…
"Bill Fisher was the guy who coughed up the shot that Mickey Mantle hit on May 22, 1963, when the ball nearly left the stadium and dented the copper frieze. Bill was later a pitching coach for an opposing team, and I decided to go down to the visitor's clubhouse. I said: 'Bill, I run the tours here, and we often make reference to you. How did it feel coughing up a shot like that?' He looked at me and said, 'For a ball to have been hit that hard, it must have been coming in pretty fast.'…
"I walk around this stadium every day and I see my father everywhere. He passed away fifteen years ago, and I still see him all over the place."
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