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Welcome to the page for "Babe's Place" by Michael Wagner

You can contact Michael Wagner about his book at: yankeeswinws@yahoo.com

"Babe's Place"

TABLE OF CONTENTS

PETE SHEEHY

View behind the frieze taken from the upper deck grandstand.  Photo taken at the last game before the renovation, September 30, 1973.


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 on www.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, Logan asked “Silent Pete,” as he called the lad, to come around the next day.  The next day turned into 58 years. 

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 New Jersey hospital on Tuesday, August 13, 1985.  With him went many memories and secrets that we can only dream about.  Players wore a black armband in Pete’s honor.


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.

1923 - THE FIRST YEAR OF MAGIC

 

The Yankees started the baseball year with spring training at Pelican Park in New Orleans, Louisiana on March 7th.  The first Yankee on the field  for the two hour practice was catcher Fred Hofmann.  Eight of the thirty-five players had not yet reported to the club. This included Babe Ruth and Franklin “Home Run” Baker, who planned to retire.

Wednesday, April 18th, 1923, was a momentous day for the New York Yankees.  They had a dazzling new gem of a home they could call their own.  This was a great relief to the American League club, as they had outdrawn the Giants in attendance for the past three years.  The bitter Giants wanted to make up for the financial loss of losing rental fees paid by the Yankees by scheduling more games on Sunday to fill the void.  They felt this would recoup $100,000 in lost revenue.   The Yankees opposed this idea, saying this was a mercenary move by their former landlords to make the American League look feeble and that “Sunday baseball might be overdone in New York City.” 

Even with a population of 10,000,000 in New York City alone, the Yankees, Giants, and Dodgers had to also contend with numerous semi-pro and amateur baseball clubs.  The Yankees now had a leg to stand on since they had their own home.  Yankee Stadium was the first ballpark built since 1915, and by far the largest.  Comiskey Park, home of the Chicago White Sox, for example, held 35,000 fans, Fenway Park, housing the Boston Red Sox, sat 30,000 devotees, and Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis, sat only 18,000 supporters, by far the smallest following in the American League.

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 noon. 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 42nd Street, the Winchester store on East 42nd Street near Madison Avenue, and Spalding’s downtown Manhattan store at 126 Nassau Street had also been selling tickets for today’s monumental event.  Gates opened at 12:00 and the game would begin at 3:31 – only one minute late.  

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 Boston, where 42,000 fans passed through the turnstiles.  Inspector Thomas Reilly, in charge of the police outside the Stadium, estimated another 25,000 hopefuls were turned away.  The lucky ones filled up the stands a half hour before game time. Fans stood three and four rows deep behind the seats.  Some also viewed the game from the ramps.

Two men, one age 28, from Brooklyn, and the other, 35, of Manhattan, were arrested for scalping tickets. One tried to sell a $1.10 Grandstand seat for $1.25, and the other attempted to charge $1.50 for his Grandstand ticket.  Each was held in the Night Court Prison, as they could not come up with the $500 bail. This offense carried a fine of $500 or one year in jail, or both.  Baseball genius and Giants manager John McGraw turned out to be wrong when he had Giants owner Charles Stoneham evict the Yankees from the Polo Grounds to “…build a park in Queens or some other out-of-the-way place.  Let them go away and wither on the vine.”  

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 1:00.  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 April 18, 1923.  After the ceremonies, Shawkey pitched  “Ball One” to Red Sox shortstop Chick Fewster for the historic first pitch.  Tommy Connolly performed the role of umpire-in-chief behind home plate.  Billy Evans arbitrated at first base, and Howard Holmes at third.  

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 Boston’s Howard Ehmke, and the Bambino hit a homer into the right field bleachers in the third inning, with Whitey Witt on third base and Joe Dugan on first.  The two and two pitch landed about ten rows into the stands. Babe answered the jubilant crowd by lifting his hat to them after he crossed home plate.  He also got his wish when he had earlier said, “I’d give a year of my life if I can hit a home run in the first game in this new park.” The game lasted two hours and five minutes.  Colonel Ruppert hosted a party at the Hotel Commodore to exult the opening of his dream home.  He boasted, “This is a wonderful occasion.  I now have baseball’s greatest park, baseball’s greatest players, and baseball’s greatest team.”

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 earlier in Springfield, Missouri, during an exhibition game. He expected to play in his 1,000 uninterrupted game on May 2nd.  Ironically, Lou Gehrig made his major league debut with the Yankees on June 15th, and would later shatter Scott’s streak of 1,307 games played in a row, which ended in 1924.

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.

Boston’s first batter, Chick Fewster, grounded out to the shortstop.

Shano Collins caught the first outfield fly ball, off Babe Ruth.

The first hit was by Boston’s George Burns, a 2nd inning single.

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 Boston  hit the first triple in the park.

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 NEW YORK YANKEES

 

   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

 *Everett Scott           ss

 *Aaron Ward           2b

 *Whitey Witt           cf

 

*played in lineup of opening game of Yankee Stadium on April 18, 1923.

Boston Red Sox who played against Yankees in the first game:

Chick Fewster        ss

Shano Collins         rf

Camp Skinner        cf

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.

Across the Harlem River, the Giants played their first home game at the Polo Grounds on April 26th before a crowd of 25,000 fans.  New York City Mayor Hylan showed up for the game and pre-game festivities, which included Commissioner Landis presenting World Championship diamond rings to the Giants, after defeating the Yankees in the 1922 World Series.  Legendary former Giants pitcher Christy Mathewson appeared during the ceremonies and received a huge ovation. 

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 to McGraw 

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 10 a.m. 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 New York area did not show much interest as in years past since it was again a New York affair.  The name that seemed to bring the most passion was “McGraw.”  He was known as being shrewd, a great strategist, and superior baseball psychologist.  While Babe Ruth had a great year, people still remembered he had a terrible World Series the year before, batting only .118.

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 Bronx outfielders Whitey Witt and Bob Meusel, which rolled to deepest left center field. Frankie Frisch, the second baseman for the Giants, received the most applause for the day.  He would hit .400 and made many sparkling plays on the field.  Many said it was his greatest game ever.

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 Brooklyn, McGraw was seen to be very affected by the loss of his friend.  

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.

 

1973

 

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.

Born in Enfield, Connecticut, in 1916, Michael Burke grew up in Ireland, which he dearly loved.  He also loved New York.  The city was fortunate that they were dealing with him.  Deep down, he never wanted the Yankees to leave the Bronx.  As he once said, “You don’t just pick up the team and leave the city because of a few dollar signs.  What sets a baseball team apart from, say, a dry-cleaning business is that peculiar nature of a ball club. You’re a citizen of the city with civic responsibilities.  If you have any sense of this city, you have a commitment.”  He felt it was important to keep the Yankees in New York.  He was an honorable gentleman and a man of his word.

He led quite a life. He graduated from Yale Law School before joining the Navy.  During World War II, he was a secret agent with the Office of Strategic Services (O.S.S.). His heroics earned him the Navy Cross and Silver Star.  Screen legend Gary Cooper played Mr. Burke in the movie, “Cloak and Dagger.” He managed the Barnum & Bailey Circus, and was also a film writer, as well as television executive.  CBS hired him in 1957 as president of CBS for Europe, then transferred him to New York in 1962 as vice president in charge of development.  After the entertainment giant purchased the Yankees from Dan Topping, Burke took over the daily operations of the team, as well as buying a portion of it. In July of 1972, he acknowledged that CBS had been paying attention to proposals to buy the team.

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 December 19th, 1972, they made their proposition to William S. Paley, chairman of CBS.  He agreed to their price three days later.  When Burke was the CBS vice president in charge of investments, he advised the entertainment giant to buy the Yankees.

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 Bronx.  He further said, “Any landlord is delighted to learn that the tenant is hot property.  We are delighted…for the Yankees, which are such an integral part of the Bronx and the whole city, we know the best is yet to come.”

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 Bronx ball yard, he exhorted, “When the Yankees came to town, it was like Barnum & Bailey coming to town.  I don’t mean that they were like a circus, but it was the excitement.  They had these gray uniforms, but there was a blue hue to them.  Watching them warm up was as exciting as watching the game.  Being in Cleveland, you couldn’t root for them, but you would boo them in awe.”

He could now tell his true feelings about the club now that he owned a part of them.  “The Yankees are important to New York, but they’re also especially important to baseball and to the whole nation.  The Yankees are baseball.  They’re as American as apple pie.  There are still great things about the past that are worth going back to and grabbing into the present.  I think that’s so with the Yankees.”

Steinbrenner had always been interested in sports.  He ran track and was halfback on the Williams College football team.  After a stint with the U.S. Air Forces’ Strategic Air Command, he became a high school basketball and football coach in Columbus, Ohio.  He also spent a year as an assistant football coach at Northwestern and Perdue Universities.  He went into the family shipping business in 1957 after leaving his college position. 

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 Ocala, Florida.  He’s also the part-owner of a limousine service in New York City. 

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 New York’s 21 Club on January 10th.  This included the surprise addition of Gabe Paul, who had worked for the Cleveland Indians for the past twelve years.  He had just resigned as vice president and general manager of the team although he had four years left on his contract.  Paul spent 30 years as a  baseball executive.  He also held posts with the Cincinnati Reds and Houston Astros.  Steinbrenner approached Paul after receiving permission from Indians owner Nick Mileti.  The 63 year-old Paul made the decision to join the Yankees after being assured Lee MacPhail and Ralph Houk would stay with the team. Phil Seghi, who served as the Indians vice president and director of player personnel for the last 14 months, would replace Gabe Paul’s empty position. Michael Burke said he’d keep his titles of president and chief executive officer.  Gabe Paul would function as Administrative Partner.

The list of Yankee Leadership for 1973:

Michael Burke  -  General Partner

George M. Steinbrenner III  -  General Partner

Gabe Paul  -  Administrative Partner

Limited Partners: 

Jess A. Bell  -  Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Leslie Combs II  -  Lexington, Kentucky

Lester Crown  -  Chicago, Illinois

John De Lorean – Detroit, Michigan

Thomas Evans  -  New York, New York

Edward Ginsberg  -  Cleveland, Ohio

Edward M. Greenwald  -  Cleveland, Ohio

Sheldon B. Guren  -  Cleveland, Ohio

Nelson Bunker Hunt  -  Dallas, Texas

Daniel R. McCarthy  -  Cleveland, Ohio

James M. Nederlander  -  New York, New York

Francis J. O’Neill  -  Cleveland, Ohio

Marvin L. Warner  -  Cincinnati, Ohio

Charlotte L. Witkind  -  Columbus, Ohio

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 Bronx arena was $3 million, with a 21 million outlay for the actual reconstruction.  Pundits would rather the money be allocated for schools and libraries.  At the City Hall press conference, the Mayor said, “this will be the finest stadium in the country, and very cheap at the price.”

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 2:00 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 Manhattan’s Plaza Hotel attended the opening of Yankee Stadium 50 years ago.  “You couldn’t get in that day,” said Mr. Bluestone. He reminisced, “They turned away about 25,000 people.  I paid 25 cents for a seat in the bleachers.”  Nearby sat former Mayor Robert F. Wagner, who when asked how he felt about the renovation, “I’m enjoying the game.  My father took me to the 1923 opener.  The city helped the Mets and I think the Yankees have to be helped, too.”

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.”

 On the field, southpaw Fritz Peterson pitched for the Yankees against Cleveland’s Brent Strom.  The Indians won by a score of 3-1.  The Yanks scored the first run in the second inning when Felipe Alou hit a double and Thurman Munson hit a sacrifice fly to score him.  Cleveland scored a run in the third, sixth, and ninth innings. Peterson pitched 5 1/3 innings, giving up two runs and six hits. Lindy McDaniel relieved him and yielded one run and three hits. Strom pitched all the way for the Tribe.

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: New York’s the place.  Partly the team that played there: the Yankees.  Mostly, it was Babe Ruth.  He came in during John McGraw’s heyday with the Giants and took over.”

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 New York contacts needed by Steinbrenner and Paul. 

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 Yankees. 

A new challenge awaited Michael Burke, when on July 26th, he was named president of Madison Square Garden.  Irving Felt, the board chairman of Gulf and Western, the major stockholder of this site, wanted Burke to improve its corporate image and the value of its stock.  Six years earlier, shares sold for a high of 14 ¼.  Now, it sold at less than $2 per share.  Stockholders roared about mismanagement.  New Yorkers liked, respected, and trusted Michael Burke. Madison Square Garden counted on him to transfer these qualities to them in order to raise their stock and trust in the eyes of Knicks and Rangers fans, and others who had a stake in the company.

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 1:15.  This was followed by the playing of the National Anthem by Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians at 2:00.  The two inning Old Timers’ game started about 2:05.  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 America’s most historic baseball stadium, 1973 had a couple of more surprises under its belt.  The incomparable Willie Mays announced he would hang up his spikes for good at the end of the season. He broke the news on September 20th.  His 22 years of exciting baseball began with the New York Giants in 1951 and ended in New York with the New York Mets.  Willie, at age 42, played in only 66 games and  batted only .211.  The great legend hit the last of his 660  home runs on August 17th against Don Gullett of the Cincinnati Reds.  Baseball Willie last played center field on August 24th.  He was nursing a sore arm and bruised  ribs, which occurred while playing first base on September 9th, after hitting a railing while chasing a foul ball. 

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 Babe Ruth Museum in Baltimore, and Manny from Manny’s Baseball Land across the street from Yankee Stadium were allowed to carry away items from the Stadium before the demolition phase of the renovation a week later.  The Hall of Fame took a ticket booth, an old wooden staircase near the visitors clubhouse below the third base stands, a dozen seats from the special guest section, and a turnstile.  The Babe used the wooden stairway as a private exit from the Stadium when the Yankees used the third base dugout.  The Smithsonian received the Yankees bat rack and a ticket booth.

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 2:00 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.  Detroit reliever John Hiller won the game and Lindy McDaniel recorded the loss for the Yankees. The Yankees finished in fourth place, with an 80-82 record, and a .494 winning percentage.  The league-leading Eastern Division Baltimore Orioles finished a whopping 17 games ahead of the Yankees.

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 4:41, 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 Westchester, went to the game with his dad and two brothers.  They sat in the left field Upper Deck.  To their surprise, Michael Burke was only a few rows away.  Young Larry also remembered seeing a small number of plastic seats similar to what would be found in the Stadium in 1976 

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 Detroit third baseman Ike Brown took third base.

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 West Hempstead, Long Island, brought a one-quart Carvel plastic ice cream container and put dirt from the area where the second baseman played into it, along with some sod.  Someone even tried to pickpocket him on the field. All this mayhem occurred despite the fact the Yankees let it be known that anyone taking anything from the Stadium would be arrested for stealing and prosecuted. Hardly any damage actually occurred.

Roy Slezak, of Passaic, New Jersey, recalled a number of ushers armed with screwdrivers, charging $3.-$5. to take brass plates off railings that had section and seat numbers on them.  Some fans also brought hammers and screwdrivers to salvage souvenirs.

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 Florida, put out some lines without hooks and just sit there for a while.”  The Yankee brass tried to talk him out of leaving, but failed in their attempt.  Sometimes you just need a change in life.

At noon, 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 Gracie Mansion, the home of the Mayor of New York City.

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 Cooperstown, New York.

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 Bronx for future generations of New Yorkers.  That commitment has been made and today we not only honor the past, but look with great expectation to the future.”

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 April 15, 1976, Lewis would shoot a staggering 13,000 museum quality photos of the renovation of Yankee Stadium.  He was the only photographer granted special credentials by the City of New York to photograph this project.

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, 271 Madison Avenue, New York, constructed it.  With 11,210 bulbs and 115,000 watts, it contained 619,000 feet of electric cable, 4,860 push buttons on the master control console, and would weigh 25 tons.  This did not include the steel support structure.  The total front of the non-glare black enamel scoreboard contained 4,872 square feet.  Letters and numbers measured twenty-two inches high.

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 floodlights. 

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.  Detroit’s General Manager, Jim Campbell would allow Houk the freedom to run the team as he saw fit – just as Michael Burke had done.  George Steinbrenner’s constant interference apparently was a major factor in Houk’s surprise resignation as Yankee manager. 

As Houk put it, “I went fishing for a few days after Campbell called me last Sunday (October 7th) and I couldn’t quit thinking about it.  And the more I thought about it the more excited I got.  I had been with the Yankees 35 years.  I think I had just been there too long.  I was tired of saying the same things to the same players every day.” Houk replaced interim manager Joe Schultz, who took over the managing responsibilities after Billy Martin was fired on September 2nd.  Since the Tigers were an older team, Houk knew he’d have to rebuild the lineup with younger players. 

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 reconstruction plans. 

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 Bronx rivals.  Apparently, revenues from the sale of concessions meant the difference between profit and loss for the season.

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.”  Troy, the Democratic leader of Queens County, sent a letter to the Mayor, stating, “It is my intention now to ask for an immediate halt to this project until we get some concrete answers about projected costs and projected value to the city.”  He angrily went on that the Mayor “has deliberately deceived us as to the costs.  I sometimes wonder why we do not tear the entire Yankee Stadium down and build over again rather than do what we are doing now.”

Troy was fully aware the Pittsburgh Pirates built a new stadium for $45 million and the Cincinnati Reds erected a ball park for $25 million.  New York City experts asserted that replacing Yankee Stadium with a new stadium would cost $80 million. This figure came from three architectural-engineering firms, who calculated costs based on the expenditures of the Pittsburgh and Cincinnati stadiums, as well as New York’s construction costs. A spokesman for the Mayor said “all cost factors on Yankee Stadium are publicly known and have been fully explained to the Board of Estimate.” 

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 Hudson River, between 43rd and 47th Streets.  That poll was 18 to 4, with Bronx Borough President Robert Abrams and Brooklyn Borough President Sebastian Leone voting against the revision, as did Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton, Staten Island President Roger Connor, and City Council President Sanford Garelik. Connor opposed the project from the very beginning.  Although administration bureaucrats contemplated that delaying the vote would further hike the cost of the Stadium modernization, they thought the city was too far into the project to abandon it.  City Council and Matthew Troy, Jr., still had to approve the appropriation.

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, Troy wanted Kinney Systems, Inc., to explain the costs of building two parking garages near the Stadium, as the city had the option of buying them once completed.  The estimated cost was $22 million.  The hearing lasted from 10 a.m. to 6:50 p.m.  Three hours were dedicated to Yankee Stadium.  Officials from the Mayor’s office said that canceling the Stadium project would cost the city over $16 million.   Sanford Freeman explained that $15.9 million was necessary to complete the renovation, or it would have to be dead in the water.  The city would have to pay $10.5 million in existing contracts and at least $3 million for the land.  With those facts, the Board of Estimate grudgingly approved more money.  They also agreed to fund the convention center.

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. 

Date

Dear Mr. ___________,

I’m a big New York Yankees fan who is 52 years old.  I grew up in West Hempstead, Long Island, New York, from 1956 thru 1982, and had the pleasure and honor of going to many New York Yankees games. I still love the “old” Yankee Stadium. 

 

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.

                                                                                                            Respectfully,

                                                                                                            Michael Wagner

 

 

   PERSON AND

RESPONSE DATE            RESPONSE

 

Bernie Allen                          I am sorry. I don’t have much information to share with you.

March 7, 2005                     I enjoyed playing at the Stadium.

 

Sparky Anderson                 Sparky signed a photo of the renovation for me.

February 10, 2005

 

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.

January 7, 2004

 

Sal Bando                            It became a better hitters park & background to hit.

February 20, 2005

 

Red Barber                          The tax payers should not have to pay over $100

Legendary Announcer        million for it.

November 10, 1981

 

March 18, 1986                   No feeling.

 

Larry Barnett                       Yankee Stadium is the true history of baseball.  The great Umpire honor I had the first time I worked there was great. I will January 15, 2008  always remember that day. Larry Barnett, A.L. Umpire,

                                            1969-99.

 

William Bartholomay         Dear Michael: I enjoyed your recent letter as respects to Atlanta Braves Owner Yankee Stadium.  I have always thought of Yankee Stadium June 4, 2008 as a shrine rather than a ballpark.  It is indeed unique and over

                                            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

 

Buzzie Bavasi                       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 January 15, 2008                  clubs met the Yankees in a World Series it was usually in the

                                            original field.

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.

 

Yogi Berra                           I’m a bit sentimental about the old Stadium, lots of nice March 21, 2005 memories playing there. It’s changed a lot-it’s still old but it’s

                                            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

                                shrine.

 

                                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 Yogi Berra Museum, please don’t

                                hesitate to contact me!)

 

Ewell Blackwell                 Good.

March 27, 1975

 

John Blanchard

Interview at New York Yankees Fantasy Camp, Legends Field, Tampa, FL during a rained out day.  Wednesday, November 15, 2006.  I showed him some photos I took

of the renovation.

 

J.B.:     I like it. The work the City of New York had done…didn’t they put the cab on

             that?

 

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

             York that will feel badly about that. 

 

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,

             I guess.

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

             of them.

 

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?”

 

Milt Bolling                        Have not seen the renovation personally; however, I liked the November 20, 2007 original. Sorry. I can’t help you.

 

Red Borom                          Dear Michael: It was good to hear from you and to know of November 5, 2007your book project of Yankee Stadium.  I have no idea as to

                                            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

 

Steve Boros                         Mr. Wagner – I don’t think I can be much help to you. Steve March 25, 2008 Boros

 

Dick Bosman                        Michael – I don’t remember much about the renovation

December 17, 2007             except we had to play at ratty Shea Stadium.  I didn’t pitch

        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

 
 

TABLE OF CONTENTS DETAILS

 

            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

                                                                                                     Was Built

 

 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

                                                                                                     Renovation Planning

 

 8.        1972                                                                  39           1972 season, NYC, &

                                                                                                     Renovation Planning

 

 9.        The Plan                                                            43           Renovation Plans, Costs,

                                                                                                     & Diagrams

 

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

                                                                                                     Stadium Dimensions

 

13.       1974                                                                  88           1974 Season at Shea,

                                                                                                      NYC,  Renovation

                                                                                                      Progress, Aaron, Mays

 

14.       1975                                                                  95            1975 Season, NYC, &

                                                                                                      Renovation Costs

 

 

 

15.       1976 – Round Two                                           102          Renovation Details &

                                                                                                      Costs, Food Prices, 1976

                                                                                                      Season

 

16.       The Trademark                                                  130         Yankee Stadium frieze

                                                                                                      history

 

17.       Our TV, Radio, & Other Friends                      132          Rizzuto, Messer, White,

                                                                                                      Mel Allen, Sheppard,  

                                                                                                      Broadcast history 

                                                                                              

18.       Pete Sheehy                                                      135         Biography of Yankee

                                                                                                     Clubhouse Man

 

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

                                                                                                    Renovation   

 

24.       They Were There                                                194       People Who Worked On

                                                                                                    The Renovation

 

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.

 

                                               

 


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