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Welcome to the page for "Babe's Place" by Michael Wagner
You can contact Michael Wagner about his book at: firstname.lastname@example.org
TABLE OF CONTENTS
View behind the frieze taken from the upper deck grandstand.
Photo taken at the last game
before the renovation,
The 256 pages of text in "Babe's Place" details the history of the New York Yankees from the team's beginning in 1903 through 1976. It also contains nearly 450 photos, with approximately 240 of them covering the 1973-1976 renovation of the ballpark. Over 100 pages of text detail the renovation itself. This includes diagrams and interviews with some of the people who worked on this very historic event. No other book details the renovation of Yankee Stadium so closely, as they usually contain only a couple of sentences and one or two photos of this event.
Photos include Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, Yankee Stadium in 1923 and 1928, the 1920s Polo Grounds, the Yankees at Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium from 1974-1975. This includes Old Timers' games featuring Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, and other greats. Photos also include the last game at Yankee Stadium on September 21, 2008.
Mike Wagner spent nearly five years researching documents and conducting interviews for this reference book. Sources include The New York Times, Newsday, The New York Post, The New York Daily News, and numerous people who worked on the modernization of this icon. Many wonderful friends onwww.baseball-fever.com also contributed to this book. Go to "Ballparks, Stadiums, and Green Diamonds." Then go to the thread "Yankee Stadium Renovation, 1974-1975," by Mike Wagner. It took almost four years to write and assemble this manuscript.
Mike Wagner, a life-long New York Yankees and Yankee Stadium fan, is currently looking for a publisher for this work.
PETE SHEEHY -
- Page 145
Michael “Pete” Sheehy was every inch the Yankee that Babe
Ruth was. Perhaps even more. This
unsung hero was the clubhouse man for the New York Yankees from 1927 thru 1985.
He began his career as one of the luckiest men on the face of the earth,
when, at age 15, Fred Logan, the Yankees equipment manager, asked Sheehy, “Son,
will you help me with some equipment?”
Pete had been waiting for the gates of the grand ball park to open.
Later, while sitting on a trunk,
Pete’s military service in the Pacific from 1942 to 1945 carried into the way he worked the clubhouse. Fred Logan was still in the clubhouse when Pete left, but retired by the time the war veteran returned. As Nick Priore, assistant to Sheehy since 1971, related, “I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but the shirts would be hanging on the left side of the locker, and the pants would be hanging two hooks away. Pete was very military-minded. He liked things to be orderly.” Before Priore, “Little Pete” Previte was lucky enough to be Pete Sheehy’s assistant since 1942.
While Pete Sheehy enjoyed Babe Ruth, he loved Lou Gehrig. The Babe would frequently ask Pete to get him a “bi,” short for bicarbonate. “The Babe was a big, lovable fellow – always a kid. The Babe never had a uniform fitted in his life. He had to take it right off the shelf.” As for Lou Gehrig, Pete said, “What a sweet man he was. He became one of my best friends, a quiet gentle fellow, no conceit, no bombast at all.”
“DiMaggio was a shy man.” Joe DiMaggio would always have the trusted Sheehy get him a “Cup of coffee, Pete, but only half a cup.” Pete said that of all the players, DiMaggio was the most perfect. “DiMaggio never made a mental mistake, he was the greatest all-around player of them all. I rate him with the greatest.”
“No man ever swung a bat with more power,” was his assessment of Mickey Mantle. “He was a powerful man. Too bad he didn’t have stronger legs.”
Whether getting coffee, Coca Cola, more boxes of baseballs to autograph, picking up clothes the players dropped on the floor, polishing shoes, or washing and hanging up uniforms, Pete was there. Of the famous pinstripes, Sheehy once said, “I think it’s a beautiful uniform. It’s conservative, but it’s beautiful. I don’t know. It does something to you.” While he was mostly in the clubhouse during the games, he said, “I sneak out for an inning or two, but it’s before and after the games that I get to see the players most. And that’s when you really get to know them.”
The Yankees honored Pete Sheehy by renaming the renovated
Stadium’s clubhouse, “The Pete Sheehy Clubhouse.”
It came complete with a plaque that was adorned with Pete’s face on it.
This beloved friend of the Yankees died of a heart attack in a
Below is an excerpt from the book - 1923 and 1973
Here are also some great photos
that Mike took on April 3, 1974 using his Kodak Instamatic 100 Camera.
Here are also some great photos that Mike took on April 3, 1974 using his Kodak Instamatic 100 Camera.
1923 - THE FIRST YEAR OF MAGIC
The Yankees started the baseball year with spring training
Even with a population of 10,000,000 in
The Yankees’ new masterpiece was 20,000 square feet larger than their former home, with left field, left center, and right center field accounting for most of this added space. Yankee Stadium incorporated 138,000 square feet in fair ball territory, whereas the Polo Grounds displayed 118,000. This did not hamper Babe Ruth. The Babe himself stated of Yankee Stadium, “I don’t see any fences there that I can’t hit over.” That was great news, considering the Yankees would play 76 scheduled regular season home games to inaugurate their new residence. Babe had already tested his new home on February 15th, when he knocked a few balls over the fence with his favorite bat. Sportswriter Fred Leib dubbed the place, “The House That Ruth Built.” The spectacular dwelling appeared to be modeled after Greco-Roman architecture. The neoclassical colossus greatly reminded one of the Roman Coliseum.
The field dimensions were:
Left Field Line: 281 feet
Left Center Field: 460 feet
Center Field: 490 feet
Right Center Field: 429 Feet
Right Field Line: 295 feet
Manager Frank Chance led his visiting Boston Red Sox onto the glistening diamond as they took batting and fielding practice first, at . The former Yankee manager was making his debut with the Beantown club. When they finished, the Yankees followed. The mighty Babe gazed out at the right field stands, exclaiming, “Looks pretty far out to that right field fence.” No doubt he felt better after having lifted four balls into the stands.
Business Manager Ed Barrow ensured the thirty-six ticket
windows would all be open, as would all forty turnstiles in the edifice. The
Yankees’ offices on
An official crowd of 74,217
fans attended the first game at Yankee Stadium.
This was by far the most people to ever attend a game for the national
pastime, eclipsing the previous record of the fifth game of the 1916 World
Series at Braves Field in
Two men, one age 28, from
New York Governor Alfred E. Smith threw out the first ball. Yankee owners Ruppert and Huston, baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, Bronx Borough President Henry Bruckner, Red Sox owner Harry Frazee, Giants owner Charles Stoneham, Mrs. Smith, and other distinguished guests took part in the dedication ceremonies, which occurred shortly before game time. Numerous other local politicians and military guests also made sure they did not miss this huge event. American League President Ban Johnson planned to attend, but had to bow out due to a bout with influenza. New York Mayor John Hylan also missed the festivities. The Bronx Board of Trade held 2,000 seats for the festive event, the Bronx Lodge of Elks had 1,000, and other local organizations reserved other portions of the grandstand.
Part of the dedication included the Yankees, Red Sox, and dignitaries marching to the centerfield flagpole to unfurl Old Glory and the American League pennant. Renowned bandmaster John Philip Sousa and the Seventh Regiment Band began the musical program at . Among the pieces played were the “Star Spangled Banner,” and the “Stars and Stripes.” The parade then returned to home plate, where Governor Smith threw out the ceremonial first ball from his seat in the stands to Yankee catcher, Wally Schang. Schang then returned the ball to the Governor.
The Yankees received a floral horseshoe during the event
and Babe Ruth was given a case containing a big baseball bat.
The team issued a round pin to the press.
The blue and red enamel background with gold lettering was made by Dieges
& Clust. The badge was inscribed,
“Yankee Stadium – Opening Day
The Yankees inaugurated Yankee Stadium with a 4-1 win over
the Boston Red Sox. Bob Shawkey
gave up only three hits in his finest game over
Another historic event was that Yankee shortstop Everett
Scott played in his 987th consecutive baseball game. The team worried
as to whether he would play ever since he suffered an ankle injury a week
Scores of bleacher fans rushed onto the field shortly before the game ended and surrounded their hero, Babe Ruth. Order had been restored so the game could continue.
Once it was, a throng of joyful worshipers encircled the Yankee dugout. Some of the hometown heroes had trouble making it to the clubhouse.
YANKEE STADIUM FIRSTS:
First pitch thrown by Shawkey was a ball.
Shano Collins caught the first outfield fly ball, off Babe Ruth.
The first hit was by
The first Yankee batter was Whitey Witt.
The first Yankee hit was a 3rd inning single by Aaron Ward.
Bob Meusel of the Yankees hit the first double in the Stadium.
Norman McMillan of
Bob Shawkey scored the first run in Yankee Stadium on Joe Dugan’s 3rd inning single.
Bob Shawkey recorded the first strikeout.
Babe Ruth hit the first home run in the 3rd inning, scoring 3 runs. (There’s a surprise!)
Babe also made the first error, a dropped fly ball in the 5th inning.
Wally Pipp, the Yankee first baseman, recorded the first putout.
Wally Pipp of the Yankees and George Burns of the Red Sox both attempted to steal a base, but both were thrown out.
ROSTER OF THE 1923
Benny Bengough c PITCHERS
*Joe Dugan 3b
Mike Gazella if Joe Bush
Lou Gehrig 1b Waite Hoyt
Hinkey Haines of Sam Jones
Harvey Hendrick of Carl Mays
Fred Hofmann c Herb Pennock
Ernie Johnson if George Pipgras
Mike McNally if Oscar Roettger
*Bob Meusel lf *Bob Shawkey
*Wally Pipp 1b
*Babe Ruth rf
*Wally Schang c
*Aaron Ward 2b
*Whitey Witt cf
*played in lineup of opening game of Yankee Stadium on
Boston Red Sox who played against Yankees in the first game:
Chick Fewster ss
Shano Collins rf
Joe Harris lf
George Burns 1b
Norm McMillan 2b
Howard Shanks 3b
Al DeVormer c
Howard Ehmke p
Mike Menosky ph for Ehmke in 8th inning
Carl Fullerton p
President Warren G. Harding saw the Sultan of Swat belt a home run when the Yankees visited the Washington Senators on April 24th. The Babe walloped a pitch well into the right field bleachers, which the President had wanted to see. He gave the home run king a long applause after the feat, for which the Babe tipped his hat to the Commander-In- Chief when he neared the Yankee bench. Ruth hit 1.000 in the 4-0 win over the Senators, with a home run, two singles, and a base on balls.
The Polo Grounds was still in the midst of undergoing a renovation. Decorations included red painted steel girders, concrete pourers, and piles of sand and concrete. Art Nehf pitched the Giants to a 7-3 win over the visiting Boston Braves.
The Yankees clinched their third straight pennant on
September 20th at the Stadium by defeating the St. Louis Browns 4-3,
behind the pitching of Sam Jones.
The Giants coincidentally also won their third successive banner eight days
later across the river, earning Little Napoleon John McGraw his ninth pennant.
Art Nehf tossed a 3-0 game over the Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers) as his gift
This led to another World Series contest between the bitter rivals. This time, however, two ballparks would be used to stage the heady event. On September 30th both clubs announced applications could be made for mail only to purchase one reserved seat for three World Series games for $16.50. Both parks would reserve lower grandstand seats. Polo Grounds upper stand and Yankee Stadium upper stand and mezzanine seats would be available for purchasers of general admission tickets. At on the day of the game fans could buy general admission unreserved seats for $3.30 and bleacher seats for $1.10. Scalpers along Broadway sold the $16.50 seats for an average of $27.50 and $10.00 for the $3.30 seat.
The third consecutive World Series amid these two foes set new records in numerous ways. Yankee Stadium, with its capacity to seat 63,000 fans and the Polo Grounds’ ability to share the event with another 52,000 set the stage for breaking all box office receipt records baseball had ever seen. By the day of the first game at Yankee Stadium on October 10th, the Bronx Bombers had already sold all 25,000 reserved seats while the Giants still had these seats for sale. When the gates opened at 10 a.m., there was no uncertainty the remaining 18,000 unreserved grandstand seats and the same number of bleacher seats would be sold. The Yankees expected total receipts to reach $200,000.
This, the first million dollar series, eyed a total of 301,430 fans, who shelled out $1,063,815 to cheer the six games, while many had been turned away. Each player on the winning team would earn a share of $6,530, and those on the losing team took home $4,363. These figures set new records for World Series play. The Yankees voted a share of $750 for Phil Schenck. When the game started at 2:00, the winner of the series was said to be a “toss up,” with the Giants said to have better batting and the Yankees possessing superior pitching.
It should be mentioned that across the nation, interest in
this event was not at fever pitch.
The usual routine of the Yankees vs. Giants has made people take this show for
granted. Also, many people out of
The first game at Yankee Stadium was the first to be
broadcast on radio, with announcer Graham McNamee behind the mike.
The contest brought in a record-breaking crowd of
55,307 and ticket sales of $181,912.
Baseball clowns Nick Altrock and Al Schacht set the tone for the day by
entertaining fans before the start of the game.
Besides Commissioner Landis, Christy Mathewson, Connie Mack, Ban Johnson,
John Heydler, and Branch Rickey attended the contest.
The mood was that of people watching a baseball game, and not a
championship game. Perhaps the most famous play of the game was an
inside-the-park home run by thirty-four year old Casey Stengel, who hit a
screaming line drive between
The last game ended on October 15th, in which
although Art Nehf gave up a first inning home
run to the Bambino, he was masterful, keeping the boys from the Bronx hitless
from the third through the seventh innings. After a couple of hits and walks in
the eighth, the final blow for the
Giants came thanks to a rally. Bob
Meusel singled in three men with the bases loaded off Bill Ryan, who came in to
relieve southpaw Nehf. The final
score was 6-4, in front of 34,172 souls. Although John McGraw was already one of
the game’s greatest immortals, he wished to win three World Series in a row. But
he was to be denied. The beginning of
1923 dealt him a huge blow, as well.
Willie Keeler, one of baseball’s greatest stars, died on January 1st.
He suffered from heart trouble and dropsy. The former teammate of McGraw was
only 50 years old. At his burial in
Babe Ruth had a great series, hitting three homers and batting .368. The unflappable Casey Stengel led the Giants by batting .407. He also hit two - four baggers to win two games for McGraw’s men. The Giants thanked him a few weeks later by trading Casey to the Braves, along with Dave Bancroft. The glistening “House That Ruth Built” sat 1,007,066 devotees in its first year. Most teams drew less than half the number. Not bad for a team that spent $300,000 on player salaries.
The New Year showed itself to be ominous early on, as the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) sold the Yankees on January 4th, to a group of 12 men, headed by 56 year-old Yankee president Michael Burke and 42-year-old Cleveland, Ohio, shipping magnate George Steinbrenner III. The $10 million bargain price tag was $3.2 less than CBS paid for the team in 1964. Mr. Burke had been running the team since CBS purchased it.
He led quite a life. He graduated from
Mr. Steinbrenner was chairman of the American Ship Building Company and part-owner of the Chicago Bulls Basketball team. These two gentlemen were the only two partners to appear at the Yankee Stadium press conference. Yankee greats Phil Rizzuto, Elston Howard, and general manager Lee MacPhail also appeared. Other members were to be announced about one week later. A delighted Mayor Lindsay happily responded that “as the landlord of the Yankees,” the purchase and restoration of the ball park would “continue in full force.”
Mr. Steinbrenner attempted, but failed to purchase the Cleveland Indians two years prior to this acquisition. The Indians recently sold for $10.8 million. In referring to his recent Yankees partnership, he elatedly said, “It’s the best buy in sports today. I think it’s a bargain. But they [CBS] feel the chemistry is right – they feel they haven’t taken a loss on the team.” The consortium beat out baseball man Herman Franks, who was talking to CBS about buying the Yankees for between $13 and $14 million. Franks and his friends were five days late with their offer.
A mutual friend introduced Burke and Steinbrenner a few
months earlier. On
In this latest venture, he said, “CBS substantially broke even on this deal, taking account of investment and depreciation and things like that. Some years were profitable, some were not. The first half of last season was disastrous, but the second half of our attendance doubled. I think CBS suffered some small embarrassment in buying a club at its peak and then having it fall from first place in the league to sixth and then to tenth.”
He continued, “Last summer people were tripping over themselves to buy the club, but until recently Mr. Paley was not interested in selling it. Lately he believed the Yankees did not fit into CBS’s plans. He did feel that I should stay on as chief executive officer, and the club should be sold to a respectable group. Now there’s $10 million on the table – and it’s not a dollar down and a dollar a month.”
Deputy Mayor Edward Hamilton, who also came to the media
event, denied an outside group
would reap the rewards of the $24 million renovation. He called the pact “an
investment” in the
The CBS disclosure said, “the $10 million purchase price substantially recoups the original CBS investment of $13.2 million, taking into account consolidated financial results during the period of ownership. The purchase price is well in excess of the value carried on the CBS books.”
For his part, George Steinbrenner decreed, “We plan
absentee ownership as far as running the Yankees is concerned.
We’re not going to pretend we’re something we aren’t.
I’ll stick to building ships.”
This new partner grew up as a Cleveland Indians fan, since he grew up in
that town. But, he liked the
Yankees and held them in great esteem, even if secretly.
Speaking at the Stadium Club at the
He could now tell his true feelings about the club now that
he owned a part of them. “The
Yankees are important to
Steinbrenner had always been interested in sports.
He ran track and was halfback on the
But sports was in his blood.
He ran the Cleveland Pipers basketball club from 1959 thru 1961.
The club won two championships, although losing $250,000.
In 1967 he bought the struggling American Ship Building Company from his
father, Henry. It was now worth
$100 million. This great
entrepreneur became part-owner and vice president of the Chicago Bulls
basketball team, as well as proprietor of the 860-acre Kinsman Stud Farm in
Besides possessing the great knack of making money, this Yankee chief has generously sent 75 students through college with his own funds. He’s also well known for raising money for civic and charitable purposes. As for the Yankees, he said, “I won’t be active in the day-to-day operations of the club at all. I can’t spread myself so thin. I’ve got enough headaches with my shipping company.”
The Yankees introduced their other partners at
The list of Yankee Leadership for 1973:
Michael Burke - General Partner
George M. Steinbrenner III - General Partner
Gabe Paul - Administrative Partner
Jess A. Bell -
Leslie Combs II
Lester Crown -
John De Lorean –
Thomas Evans -
Edward M. Greenwald
Sheldon B. Guren
Nelson Bunker Hunt
Daniel R. McCarthy
James M. Nederlander
Francis J. O’Neill
Marvin L. Warner
Charlotte L. Witkind
Joseph W. Iglehart - Consulting Partner
On April 5th, Mayor Lindsay advised the public
that the estimated price tag of the Yankee undertaking rose by $7 million to
$27.9. million. He called it
“routine – a moderate escalation.” The cost of purchasing the
Controller Abraham Beame and City Council President Sanford
Garelik, both mayoral candidates, assailed the rebuilding of Yankee Stadium.
Said Garelik, “The Mayor’s casual admission of a nearly $7 million
increase in the Yankee Stadium price tag defies belief.
The administration ignored my admonitions and the public was told that
the $21 million figure was a sound one which took into consideration the normal
costs of escalations. Today the
Mayor, without blinking an eyelid, contradicts himself when he says the increase
is normal and moderate. The total
stadium cost may well come in twice the $24 million cost of Shea Stadium.
Beame called the almost 30% cost alteration “rather steep.” He added, “In any event, adding the Mayor’s increase of $6.9 million to my original estimate of $47 million brings the total Yankee Stadium project cost to $53 million. Brand new all-weather stadiums with retractable domes can be built for about $80 million.” The original $24 million appropriation included a built-in 15% escalation clause. This really meant the city pledged $28 million to the remodeling. The Board of Estimate and City Council would have to approve a capital budget amendment for any funding above that.
Beame’s engineers resolved the Mayor had not included $25 million of added costs, such as design and supervision costs ($2.2 million); labor and construction increases ($3.2 million); contingencies for tenant changes, unanticipated conditions, underestimated unit prices ($6.5 million); extra costs due to anticipated selective building ($2.2 million); additional scoreboard costs ($1 million); purchasing and new parking amenities ($10 million); and consultant construction estimate ($21.7 million).
As for the game of baseball itself, the Yankees wasted no
time in adding to the team’s role
in baseball history. On April 6th,
Ron Blomberg became the first
Designated Hitter (DH) in the history of the game.
Boston Red Sox pitcher, Luis Tiant, walked Blomberg on his first at bat.
The last home opener at Yankee Stadium, as fans knew it, occurred at on a chilly Monday, April 9th, vs. the Cleveland Indians. A crowd of 17,028 witnessed the two hour and thirty four minute game. One of the fans was Mayor Lindsay, who sat to the left of the Yankee dugout.
Eighty-one year-old Herbert Bluestone had the honor of
throwing out the first ball. This
operator of a pharmacy at
The First Ladies of the Yankees, Mrs. Babe Ruth and Mrs. Lou Gehrig also came to the historic game. Mrs. Gehrig conveyed, “They’ll earn it all back. And don’t worry about this year’s club. We always used to say, ‘Wait till the Fourth of July.’” Mrs. Ruth chimed in, “It’s too young in the season to start worrying. If they want to fix up the Stadium, I’m definitely for it from a business standpoint.” She added, “You know, there’ll never be another one-two…like Babe and Lou.”
The official celebration of the 50th year of the
historic stadium took place on Sunday, April 15th, against the Boston
Red Sox. The golden anniversary
celebration included each fan receiving a specially wrapped chocolate Hostess
cupcake. The wrapper had a label
that featured the 50th anniversary
logo of Yankee Stadium. Besides
40,000 of these cupcakes being delivered to the Stadium, a six foot high and six
foot diameter white frosted cake was created in the shape of Yankee Stadium.
The cake featured the infield,
scoreboard, and the lights and flags on the upper deck.
The inscription said, “Yankee Stadium, 50th Anniversary.”
The cake was cut in pre-game ceremonies.
Bob Shawkey threw out the first ball from the pitcher’s mound, while Whitey Witt, the first Yankee batter in the 1923 Opener, stood in the batter’s box. The Knickerbocker band played tunes, and the New York All-City High School Chorus sang old-time tunes. Each fan received a reproduction of the 15 cent program sold at the Opening Day game a half century earlier.
Famed postmaster James A. Farley, who attended the first
game, was here, too. The long-time Yankee fan recalled, “I was there the day it
opened. I don’t remember much about
the game, but I was there – and have been for many years since.”
He reminisced, “Why did the stadium become the showplace?
It was partly the city:
The crowd of 35,700 sat through the two hour and fourteen minute contest, in which Mel Stottlemyre led the Yankees to a 6-2 win over John Curtis, who pitched for the visiting rival Boston Red Sox. The local heroes scored all of their runs in the fourth inning. The Fenway group gained their pair of runs in the sixth inning.
The face of management changed on April 30th,
when Michael Burke stepped down as chief executive officer of the team.
George Steinbrenner and Gabe Paul effectively dissolved Michael Burke’s
responsibilities in an evident power struggle.
Paul’s many years in baseball clinched the deal. Burke had the CBS and
Disagreements between the two general partners ranged from the length of players’ hair, television issues, pre-game entertainment, and pledges made to each other. Perhaps the greatest disparity was the disagreement concerning the financial operation of the ball club. With Burke out of the picture, Steinbrenner and Paul could run their new team freely. With Burke’s future now uncertain, several people thought the charismatic entrepreneur should run for public office.
Before the May 13th doubleheader vs. the Baltimore Orioles, Burke and Steinbrenner appeared at a news conference in an effort at public resolution. Burke could not conceal his regret at not actively taking part in operating the team he loved. He was to remain with the Yankees as a limited partner and paid consultant, under a 10-year agreement. Steinbrenner commanded the assembly, as he said a big contrast came from “which persons fit best in which areas.” This referred to Gabe Paul’s interjection into the front office. Burke said, “With Gabe’s background and experience, he couldn’t join an organization like this without getting involved.”
Steinbrenner, who sat next to Burke, said, “Mike didn’t agree with everything I wanted to do, but he was a big man about it.” Burke interjected, “the sale to his group from CBS happened so quickly “we didn’t get to know each other better before we got the club. Before long, we were facing a certain degree of incompatibility. We were two strong-minded independent individuals and we had a clash. We considered the possibility of trying to put ourselves back where we were six months ago. Could we start all over again and try to work it out? But, we decided this was the best way to do it.” He added, “When you’re so totally immersed in something like the Yankees, there’s a lingering sadness or disappointment that things didn’t turn out well. But one has to be pragmatic.”
A couple of days before this meeting, they resolved their differences through a number of meetings. They agreed on Burke’s position with the Yankees. “A lot of times making someone a consultant is putting him out to pasture or a settlement,” said Steinbrenner. “This isn’t the case here.” The two gentlemen felt Burke had practical wisdom in specific areas, such as the upcoming renovation. Burke retorted, “I’m interested in contributing as much as I can to the success of this ball club. The Yankees have become part of my chemistry and perhaps, I theirs.”
Burke had been contacted by “a whole slew of people” about
numerous job prospects. He did, in
fact, speak to Sonny Werblin, who was searching for somebody to operate the New
Jersey Meadowlands sports complex.
Burke said he would make no career decisions for at least two months.
Steinbrenner commented, “Some people may find it hard to believe, but I don’t
intend to project myself into it.
They’ll see no interference from me.
I think we have it working now in a way that will be best for the
A new challenge awaited Michael Burke, when on July 26th,
he was named president of
Starting on July 8th, Yankee Stadium hosted 70,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses for a five-day “Divine Victory” assembly for their faithful in the Atlantic Seaboard states. The packed venue held 63,700 in regular seating, 5,000 in folding chairs around the track, and another 2,000 sitting below the bleachers. Another 5,000 people listened to speeches via the public address system piped into a temporary tent bordering the Stadium. Even in the stifling early July heat, the sect believed only divine intervention was the only means to solving troubles currently facing humanity.
Another big, but different crowd arrived on Saturday, August 11th. This celebration brought the 27th annual Old Timers’ Day Game to the historic ball park. The Yankees hosted the Oakland Athletics on this day, which paid tribute to the 50th Anniversary of Yankee Stadium. Representatives from 50 Yankees teams included Whitey Witt, Waite Hoyt, Joe Dugan, Bill Dickey, Joe DiMaggio, John Lindell, Casey Stengel, Bill Skowron, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Tom Tresh, Horace Clarke, and Bobby Murcer.
Approximately 65 Yankees were on the guest list, along with the newest Baseball Hall of Fame inductees, Monte Irvin and George Kelly. Mrs. Babe Ruth, Mrs. Lou Gehrig, and Mrs. George M. Weiss were Special Guests of Honor. Frank Messer served as Master of Ceremonies, and introduced all the guests. Mel Allen acted as Master of Ceremonies for the Old Timers’ baseball game. Introductions began about . This was followed by the playing of the National Anthem by Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians at . The two inning Old Timers’ game started about . The Yankees then played the A’s after the Old Timers’ Day festivities ended. The 46,253 cheering fans could not help the current Yankees overcome a few errors and lackluster hitting, as Vida Blue led the A’s to a 7-3 win over Mel Stottlemyre and the home team.
Besides commemorating the golden anniversary of
With the Mets now in a heated pennant race, the beloved idol said, “I had a love affair with baseball, and now we’re parting.” He further stated, “I wish I could help them, but I know I couldn’t. Hitting .211, it’s not fun going out there.” Willie did play in three World Series games against the Oakland Athletics. In seven at bats he had two hits, scored one run, and batted .286. The A’s won four games to three. Thus, came the end for one of the game’s brightest stars. Another National League superstar was on the verge of setting one of baseball’s most sacred records on its ear.
Hank Aaron was closing in on Babe Ruth’s sacred record of 714 lifetime home runs. During the September 29th game in the fifth inning, the quiet 39 year-old Atlanta Braves outfielder smacked a slow curveball near his knees over the left center field fence for number 713. Jerry Reuss, pitcher for the Houston Astros, gave up Hammerin’ Hank’s latest blast. Carl Morton pitched a six-hitter in front of 17,836 fans at Atlanta Stadium for the Braves 7-0 victory. Hank had one more game to play, but registered no home runs. He had to wait until next year.
On Monday, September 24th, representatives from
the Baseball Hall of Fame, Smithsonian Institution, the
Sunday, September 30th spelled the last game for
Yankee Stadium as we knew it. Fans received a 33 1/3 RPM record, “YANKEE
STADIUM, The Sounds Of A Half Century.”
The Voice of the Yankees, Mel Allen, narrated the 32-minute album, which
relived some of the greatest moments of Yankee Stadium. The grand old park
hosted the Detroit Tigers for the finale.
Mayor Lindsay threw out the first ball.
Fritz Peterson started the game for the Yanks, and Fred Holdsworth pitched for
the Tigers. In the 2:29-hour game, the Yankees lost by a score of 8-5 in front
of the 32,238 faithful.
The highlight for the Yankees was that Duke Sims hit the
last Yankee home run into the right field bleachers. Before the game Gerry Moses
and Sims tossed a coin to see who would be the catcher for this last game.
Sims won the toss. The crowd
heartily booed manager Ralph Houk when he pulled Lindy McDaniel in the eighth
inning after McDaniel pitched to eight batters and only got two of them out.
A couple of banners in the stands declared, “Houk Must Go,” and “Fire
Houk.” Wayne Granger pitched the final 1 1/3 innings for the pinstripers. At , Mike Hegan flied out to Mickey
Stanley in center field for the final out at the old ball park. Instead of
Sparky Lyle’s theme of “Pomp and Circumstance,” organist Toby Wright played
“Auld Lang Syne.”
Nine-year old Larry Wiederecht, of
Some 20,000 fans poured onto the field after the last out.
Security police officer Harvey Levene protected home plate from souvenir
hunters. He refused a $20 bribe
from a fan who carried a shovel in hopes of making off with the historic piece.
First base coach Elston Howard snatched
first base before the fans could, although at least one tried to grab the prized
trophy. Anything was up for
grabs as far as the souvenir hunters were concerned. The center field monument
plaques of Miller Huggins, Lou Gehrig, and Babe Ruth had been removed a week
earlier in anticipation of such an event.
Fans did manage to grab second base.
The New York Daily News reported
Prowling fans kicked seats out of their cement anchors and carried them away, with many having to leave them behind as police officers confiscated many of them as the souvenir hunters were leaving the stadium. Others took signs. One fan yelled to the press box, “Hey, any of you guys got a screwdriver?” Larry Wiederecht’s brother took sod and put it in a dish at home and tried to water it. The divot died in November.
Michael Wagner, of
Roy Slezak, of
Ron Swoboda came away with four seats, which he gave to announcer Don Criqui. Pitcher Fritz Peterson took seats, which he later gave away, but kept the black stool he used during the season. Bert Randolph Sugar, one of the few people who seemed to realize the value of such keepsakes at the time, handled promotions for the team. When offered the chance to take what he wanted, he responded by loading 17 U-Haul trucks with uniforms, turnstiles, lockers, chairs, plaques, and documents. This included a copy of Babe Ruth’s contract, and Jacob Ruppert’s original stock certificate. He bestowed a number of items to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Unbeknownst to Yankee fans, Ralph Houk tearfully bade his team goodbye, then made the official announcement at a news conference shortly after the loss to the Tigers. He had two years left on a three-year contract, which reportedly paid him $75,000 annually. Still in his beloved pinstripes and choking back tears, he said, “Sometimes when you’ve been with somebody as long as I’ve been here, and when you don’t accomplish what you are after, you get the feeling it is better off for the Yankees, who have done so much for me and my family, to resign. I believe I’m making the right decision. I decided four or five days ago to resign. This has been a rough year. We really thought we had a winner. We’ve won some pennants. But it’s been a little rough since 1966. A man has to go with his convictions. I blame no one but myself. It will be better for the Yankees to have a new manager.”
What really happened was the Yankees were in first place for six weeks. This included the whole month of July. Then things went downhill after the All-Star break at the end of that month. Sparky Lyle pitched brilliantly during the first half of the season, but then fizzled out. The defense did poorly, giving away a number of games. The starting pitching rotation stumbled: Steve Kline was hurt. New hurlers Sam McDowell and Pat Dobson didn’t pitch as well as hoped. By August there was gossip that the players stopped caring about whether they won or lost.
So ended Houk’s 35 years as a Yankee, which was also his
uniform number. The long-time Yankee had no immediate
plans for the future.
He concluded, “I’m going down to
At , Monday, October 1st, the beginning of the
end dawned at home plate at Babe’s Place.
Mayor Lindsay, Lee MacPhail, Gabe Paul, and Bronx Borough President
Robert Abrams presided over the official ceremony that would begin the
renovation of Yankee Stadium.
Elston Howard and pitcher Sam McDowell were among the 25 or so people in
attendance. The Mayor would present home plate to Mrs. Babe Ruth and first base
to Mrs. Lou Gehrig. The two female
icons of Yankee tradition arrived half an hour before the Mayor and reminisced.
They were sorry to see Ralph Houk leave as the Yankees manager, as they agreed
that he was a nice man. His Honor,
dressed in a gray business suit, received the first set of seats removed from
the Stadium. He would donate the
box seats to
When the Mayor presented home plate to Mrs. Ruth, he said,
“I am happy to present you this home plate from The House That Ruth Built.
I want to assure you that there always will be a House That Ruth Built.”
Mrs. Ruth responded, “Thank you, Mr. Mayor, for your hard work and
determination.” He then offered
first base to Mrs. Gehrig, saying, “Mrs. Gehrig, I am happy to present to you
this first base from Yankee Stadium.
Lou was first in everything he did.”
Dressed in blue pants, red blouse, and
a mink vest-like cape, she replied, “Thank you, Mayor Lindsay, and I want
to wish you a very successful future – after all, you’re still a kid.”
Mrs. Gehrig later presented first base to the Baseball Hall of Fame in
During the ceremony Lindsay said, “Nothing could be more
important to the economic vitality of our city than to assure that The House
That Ruth Built and the New York Yankees remain here in the
When asked about their feelings at this historic moment, Mrs. Ruth was asked why nobody was crying. Her response: “Why should we? It’s just like changing coats. When your fur wears out, you get a new one. There’s nothing I hate worse than a ratty fur coat.” Mrs. Gehrig echoed, “You can’t stop progress. I am happy to see progress.”
Ross Lewis, destined to become a renown photographer for
the National Football League, was one of many Americans who had grown to love
Yankee Stadium. He was one of the photographers on hand for this bittersweet
event. From this date through
After the ritual, Roy Slezak accompanied Mrs. Gehrig from
the Yankee dugout to second base so she could visit with Mrs. Ruth. During this
stroll, Mrs. Gehrig proudly showed Slezak the charm bracelet on her wrist.
The widow proclaimed, “the charms were cut from Lou’s World Series and
All Star rings.
The Mayor began the official demolition by sitting in the cab of a bulldozer and scooping up dirt in short right field. In reality, even before the day’s ceremony began, workers began ripping seats from their anchors. A bulldozer was also tearing up the field.
Invirex Cuyahoga Demolition of Queens, New York, won the demolition contract for Yankee Stadium. They began selling items from the Stadium to the general public on October 1st. Some relics for sale: foul poles, the electric scoreboard, chairs, uniforms, the city’s longest bar, flag poles, and bricks. The city didn’t want to sell any artifacts because they felt that doing so was too financially risky. At this time the estimated cost of the renovation was guesstimated to be anywhere from $27 million to $50 million.
The iconic electric Yankee scoreboard was erected in early 1959. With dimensions of 113 feet wide by 45 feet high, it was the largest scoreboard in the major leagues. The tower in the center would rise to 75 feet. Henry (Lon) Keller, a well known American artist, designed the $300,000 mammoth. He also produced the official Yankees top hat logo, which made its first appearance in 1946.
The Spencer Display Corporation,
The message board, located in the middle, had seven lines
at the bottom of the tower that could flash messages.
Each line could flash up to eight characters.
The left side of the scoreboard carried information about the Yankees
game, such as the score, balls, strikes, and outs.
The right portion of this score keeper told the time, scores of the other
American and National League games, as well as umpires at the Yankee game.
In the end, this famous feature was sold for scrap, as was the electronic
Longines time sign above the Gate 4 entrance.
Ball field dimensions were part of the planned changes for the upcoming structure:
1973 Yankee Stadium 1976 Yankee Stadium
right field foul line 296 feet 310 feet
left field foul line 301 feet 313 feet
deepest center field 461 feet 419 feet
seating capacity 64,644 52,671
The newly-remodeled Stadium field slope would incline from
outfield to infield. The current field was just the opposite. Sodium vapor
lights would encircle the new roof instead of the present group of six
A stunning press conference at Tiger Stadium on October 11th occurred when the team announced the hiring of Ralph Houk for $75,000 a year. The word was that George Steinbrenner undermined Houk’s job as Yankee skipper by saying disparaging comments
about certain players, and also how things should be
handled on the field and off.
People close to the situation thought this contributed heavily towards the
downfall of the Yankees in the last couple of months of the season.
As Houk put it, “I went fishing for a few days after
The Yankees shook things up as well when they hired
executive vice president Talbot Smith from the Houston Astros on November 1st.
He replaced Lee MacPhail, who had been elected as the president of the
American League. Gabe Paul,
president of the Yankees, worked with Smith during a stint with the Cincinnati
Reds 16 years ago, and the Astros 12 years ago.
Paul said if MacPhail had not attained his new rank, he would currently
be the Yankees’ president.
The current administration terminated the position of general manager, as they deemed it as an “outmoded concept.” Running a baseball club was too complicated now. Smith knew the importance of being the third highest member in the Yankees organization. As he explained, “The Yankee image and tradition are number 1 among the 24 teams in the big leagues. I feel the Yankees have talent and are making strides. To join them is a real tribute, and I’m excited by the challenge.”
The New York Times
reported in its November 8th issue the cost of renovating the Stadium
rose another $15.8 million. Budget
Director David A. Grossman said the final cost would be higher or lower, based
on bids by construction companies for work to be performed.
Grossman declared these funds were needed to cover contracts already
committed, additional agreements to be bid, and revisions of the original
Also in November, the city asked the Board of Estimate to
allow the Yankees to rent Shea Stadium for $1 a year for the next two years to
help compensate revenue losses on the sale of concessions.
The Mets refused these earnings to the Yankees, as such earnings were
guaranteed to the Mets in their contract with the city. The Mets argued that
they would lose some of their fans to their
The estimated loss to the Yankees would be $1.4 million over the course of two years, according to Sanford Freeman, special assistant corporation counsel. Consequently, the city wanted to let the Yankees keep the parking fees when they played at Shea. Mr. Freeman projected the Yankees would collect $556,000. in parking fees over this time period. The team would save $374,000. in rent payments to the city, but still be $500,000 in the red due to concession earnings lost over the two years.
Matthew Troy, Jr., chairman of the City Council’s Finance
Committee, threatened to stop further financing of the renovation, as the cost
swelled to $49.9 million as of mid-November.
He called the project a “bottomless pit.”
On November 16th, The Board of Estimate
reluctantly approved another $15.9 million funding for the renovation, which was
requested earlier in the month. The
vote had been 14 to 8. This came after a budget amendment was okayed to begin
building a controversial $200 million convention center on the
When City Council met on November 20th, they
agreed to wait one week before choosing whether or not to approve these two
quarrelsome issues. For one thing,
Bids for the reconstruction of Yankee Stadium were released on December 4th. They were $5 million more than estimated by the architects, Madigan-Praeger. Instead of costing the $50.7 million total cost in the 1974-1975 capital budget, the expense for the money gobbling undertaking went up to at least $55 million. Herbert T. Simins, the city’s Commissioner of Public Works, opened the proposals. Law required separate contracts for bidding on public works projects. They were for general construction; electrical work; heating, venting and air conditioning; plumbing; and elevator installation. The five bids totaled $30,730,731, or 20%more than expected. Madigan-Praeger predicted the bids to come in at $25,129,000.
The lowest bidders tallied at:
Number of Bidders Job Lowest Bid
4 General Contract $22,220,000
13 Electrical $2,849,000
15 Heating, Venting, A/C $2,431,000
10 Plumbing $1,650,000
8 Elevator & Escalator Work $1,580,731
Mr. Simins was pleased with the number of bidders. Advertisements for these submissions were advertised six weeks earlier. He explained that the lowest bidders would not necessarily get the job. They also had to prove competence and be bonded. The architects estimated the bare construction costs to be about $32.7 million.
The city gave the Yankees a nice holiday present on December 28th, when The Board of Estimate unanimously elected to let the team lease Shea Stadium for $1 per year and pay $760 per game for operating expenses. This came to $61,800 annually. The club would also be able to keep up to $450,000 in parking fees. Anything above that would be divided equally with the city. This was the last board meeting in Mayor Lindsay’s administration. Democrat Abraham Beame defeated Republican State Senator John Marchi, and would become the next Mayor of New York City on January 1st. He would face the city’s worst historical financial crisis, in which the threat of bankruptcy was an ever-looming threat. Yankee Stadium’s escalating costs didn’t help matters.
THE HEROES SPEAK
Below is a copy of the letter I generally sent to baseball players, umpires, and sportscasters. Sometimes I asked the question more than once. Not all of these responses were the same. I wrote to Yankees and opponents I thought would have played in the Stadium in the World Series, All Star Game, etc. The vast majority of replies were via the mail. Some were in person, and even a few by telephone.
Dear Mr. ___________,
I’m a big New
York Yankees fan who is 52 years old.
I grew up in
During the renovation of the Stadium from 1973 thru 1976 I visited the site 13 times and took about 200 photos with my Kodak Instamatic 100 camera. I’ve enclosed a couple of sample copies for you.
I’m still collecting information regarding the renovation, as I am writing a book about this event. I have never seen one written about the revamping of Yankee Stadium, and I have found some good solid facts about it. The reason I’m writing to you is twofold:
1. I would like to know your thoughts about the renovation of Yankee Stadium for
inclusion in my book. Since you’ve had the pleasure and honor of playing at the
Stadium, I would think you’d have a very interesting point of view that spectators
such as myself would like to hear.
2. Do you know of anyone with specific “gee whiz” information, such as what happened to the dirt from the field and the concrete taken away from the Stadium? What happened to the seats, lights, and other artifacts? Or any other facts that you feel may be relevant or interesting.
Thank you for your time and kindness, Mr. _________. I look forward to hearing from you.
God Bless You.
RESPONSE DATE RESPONSE
Bernie Allen I am sorry. I don’t have much information to share with you.
Marty Appel Marty recalls a lot of seats were destroyed during the last Yankees Public Relations game from kids kicking them out of their anchors and Director, 1973-1977 trying to take them home. Marty spoke to me on the phone.
Sal Bando It became a better hitters park & background to hit.
Red Barber The tax payers should not have to pay over $100
Legendary Announcer million for it.
Yankee Stadium is the true history of baseball.
The great Umpire honor I had
the first time I worked there was great. I will
Dear Michael: I enjoyed your recent letter as respects to Atlanta
Braves Owner Yankee Stadium.
I have always thought of Yankee Stadium
the years I have attended other events there such as NFL
Football games, College Football games and Heavyweight
Boxing Championships, etc. I have also enjoyed the baseball
experience many times.
I congratulate you on your interest in baseball and I am sure
you will enjoy the “New Yankee Stadium,” which promises to
be a magnificent structure!
Regards, William C. Bartholomay
Dear Michael: Many thanks for your nice note.
I am not too Brooklyn/L.A. Dodgers
familiar with the renovation of Yankee Stadium. I do know Executive
that it is still a left hand hitters park.
Keep in mind when my
No, I know nothing about the dirt and
cement from the
stadium. I can tell you that when we left Ebbets Field after the
last game we let the fans dig up the infield, take the bases and
the seats. I am sure the Yankees did the same thing.
Regards, “Buzzie” Bavasi.
I’m a bit sentimental about the old Stadium, lots of nice
more modern. I guess the big thing is the fences were brought
in, and maybe you don’t have almost 70,000 people at World
Series games anymore.
The other thing is the clubhouse is pretty luxurious-and much
more comfortable than when we played.The Stadium’s
changed but it’s still a great place for baseball-it’s still like a
Hope this helps, and best of luck with your project. (And if
you find anyone with pieces of the old Stadium willing to
loan or donate to the
hesitate to contact me!)
Ewell Blackwell Good.
Interview at New York Yankees Fantasy
Camp, Legends Field,
of the renovation.
I like it. The work the City of
M.W.: So you like it better than the old Stadium?
J.B.: The renovation I don’t like. I don’t like the bringing in of the fence. I don’t like
that. The hitters do. The pitchers don’t (laughs). The overall Yankee Stadium
renovation…yeah, I like it. I thought it was well done. You can only do so much
to an old ballpark. And, they did it. It’s very good. It’s still “The House That
Ruth Built,” and they didn’t vary too much from it. Now…they’re going to tear
this beautiful place down, and I tell you there’s going to be a lot of fans in New
M.W.: I’m hoping what they’ll do is take debris from the Stadium and put it in the new
one. I guess for good luck. So you could say that part of Yankee Stadium is here,
J.B.: Here’s what I plan to do… I would like to have something from there…
preferably a couple of seats.
M.W.: I’m sure they’re going to sell them.
J.B.: They’re going to sell them alright. I’ve heard numbers from
$300 to $400, and they’ll get their money for it. Good Lord, they have 60,000
M.W.: They still sell old seats from the Stadium when you played, on ebay and auction
houses, and they usually sell for $1,000, $1,500, or so.
J.B.: I’ll never get one, but I’d love to have one. The concrete…when the big
(wrecking) ball hits the side of that building, little chips of concrete…my sons
and grandsons said, “Grandpa, can you get a piece of the concrete? Then my
older son said, “Geez, Dad, when you go back next time, like during an Old
Timers Day game, we can get out there early.” They want little vials of dirt
around home plate. I thought, “God, why didn’t I think of that?”
Have not seen the renovation personally; however, I liked the
Dear Michael: It was good to hear from you and to know of
what happened to the seats, lights, concrete or dirt from the
field. My only memory was of the unusual dimensions of the
field. It was so oddly shaped, 296 feet down the right field
line and 470 feet in left center, known as “death valley.” Left
field line I believe was 340 feet. I saw two broken bat home
runs down the right field line.
I’m sure if you could contact some former Yankee players,
they could give you more information about the stadium.
Best of luck with your book. Sincerely, Red Borom
Mr. Wagner – I don’t think I can be much help to you. Steve
Dick Bosman Michael – I don’t remember much about the renovation
much there & that was OK with me! I did like the things they
did although I loved to pitch in the ‘old’ Stadium. Thank you
for your interest. Sincerely, Dick Bosman
CHAPTER TITLE PAGE # CHAPTER CONTENTS
Thank You And Acknowledgements i
1. A Team Is Born 1 Early Yankees history
2. Jerome Avenue 8 Before Yankee Stadium
3. Babe’s Place 9 Building Yankee Stadium
4. 1923 – The First Year Of Magic 23 1923 Season & Stadium
5. Babe’s Decade 29 1920s Yankees
6. Let There Be Light 32 1946 Renovation
7. 1971 33 1971 season, NYC, and
8. 1972 39 1972 season, NYC, &
9. The Plan 43 Renovation Plans, Costs,
10. 1973 69 1973 season, NYC, Costs,
& Renovation Costs
11. The Beginning Of The End 83 Demolition Details, Items
Sold From Stadium
12. Blueprints 87 Compares 1923 & 1976
13. 1974 88 1974 Season at Shea,
Progress, Aaron, Mays
14. 1975 95 1975 Season, NYC, &
15. 1976 – Round Two 102 Renovation Details &
Costs, Food Prices, 1976
16. The Trademark 130 Yankee Stadium frieze
17. Our TV, Radio, & Other Friends 132 Rizzuto, Messer, White,
Mel Allen, Sheppard,
18. Pete Sheehy 135 Biography of Yankee
19. New York Giants Football 136 History at Yankee
Stadium & NJ in 1976
20. Yankee Stadium Advertisers In Programs 140 1923-1976 Advertisers
And Yearbooks in Programs & Yearbooks
21. Yearbook & Scoreboard Prices 149 Sampling 1922-1976
22. Yankee Stadium Ticket Prices 154 Sampling 1923-1976
Also NY Giants & Boxing
23. The Heroes Speak 155-193 How former ballplayers,
Umpires, & Baseball
Executives Feel About the
24. They Were There 194 People Who Worked On
25. Robert C.Y. Young 195 Architect
26. Telephone Interview With Dick Muller 199 Iron Worker
27. Dick Muller Telephone Interview #2 201
28. Doug Walker Telephone Interview 212 Master Carpenter
29. Ralph Drewes Interview 219 NAB Superintendent
30. Harvey Levene Telephone Interview 220 Guard At Home Plate Last
Game of 1973
31. Mariano Molina e-mail 222 Engineer
32. Stephen Offerman Telephone Interview 224 Supplied Paint
33. Victor Strauss Telephone Interview 225 Painted Stadium
34. Jerry Marshall Interview 226 Installed Sound System
35. Larry King Interview 228 Installed Sound System
36. Ed Brunjes 229 Director of Design, NYC
Dept. of Public Works
37. Mark Costello 253 Gives his opinions on
renovation and other
aspects of Stadium.