As famous Yankees player Yogi Berra once said, “Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good, too.” At least, that is the sentiment most Yankees fans have. Rain or shine, cold or hot, happy or sad, Yankees fans travel to the Bronx to watch their favorite team play ball.
Baseball executive Frank Farrell and former police officer Bill Devery bought the Baltimore Orioles franchise in 1903 for $18,000. After many seasons with a terrible record, this team — called the Highlanders — became the Yankees. As they grew as a franchise, the team moved into their own Yankee Stadium in 1923. For nearly a century, this stadium was the home base for a team that would win 26 world series and would lift up baseball giants like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Yogi Berra. When the team moved across the street to a new stadium almost identical to the original, some fans sobbed and others cheered. However, history is still within the walls of this more than a decade-old stadium. Here are the top 10 secrets of the new stadium.
1. A Red Sox fan tried to curse the Yankees by burying a David Ortiz jersey behind home plate
Gino Castignoli, a devoted Red Sox fan, helped construct the new Yankee Stadium. However, he did so with suspicious intentions. On his only day working on the stadium, Castignoli buried designated hitter David Ortiz’s jersey behind home plate under feet of cement. However, other workers caught him before it was too late.
The New York Post published a story about the incident that prompted an “excavation ceremony” to search for the shirt. After employing jackhammers to get the job done, the Yankees administration sent the jersey to Boston. Rather than drive the rivalry further, they turned this fiasco into good by auctioning off the jersey to raise money for the Jimmy Fund, an organization that raises money for cancer. The scandal attracted a lot of attention and the Yankees donated $175,000 to the charity.
2. A change in curvature over right field makes it easier to hit home runs
During the inaugural season in their new stadium, the Yankees broke their home run record by hitting 237 home runs within their stadium. Some chalked this up to beginner’s luck; however, it is scientifically proven that it is easier to hit a home run in the new stadium.
Right field is shorter by 4 to 5 feet on average and up to 9 feet in some spots. This is due to the elimination of the gentle curve from right field to center field that the original Yankee Stadium featured. The new stadium’s dimensions are the same as the stadium in which Babe Ruth hit 259 home runs. However, there is a wall that is 2 feet shorter than a nearly identical wall in the original stadium.
3. A “Ball Wall” displays baseballs signed by almost every Yankee player
Within the 3,600 square feet of Yankee Museum is the “Ball Wall.” This wall contains 870 baseballs autographed by Yankees players, coaches, managers and broadcasters from throughout the team’s history. In order to find favorite players and key members of the Yankees management team, fans can use the Yankees Ball Finder computer that pinpoints the location of certain autographed balls.
Balls vary in color — Lou Gehrig’s signed ball is a faint brown color and Rick Down’s ball still shines bright white. The Yankees franchise will continue to add to the wall as they plan to display balls signed by every living Yankees player.
4. The limestone and granite exterior and trademark frieze honor the original Yankees Stadium
The Yankees spent $1.5 billion to build a nearly identical stadium across the street from the old stadium, which had served the wider Bronx community for almost a century. From 1974-1976, the Yankees renovated their stadium, as it was falling into disrepair. However, these renovations held out for only so long. The Yankees felt they needed a new stadium in order to generate more revenue and provide their dedicated fans with more luxuries, such as a museum on site. In addition to the money the Yankees spent on the stadium, the City of New York spent $220 million on infrastructure and other improvements in the area.
The new stadium features a limestone and granite exterior that mirrors that of the 1923 stadium. Within the walls of the stadium, white frieze lines the top of the stands. However, the new stadium features additional aspects including the Yankee Museum within the Great Hall that resembles the old Great Hall.
5. The stadium was supposed to have a retractable roof
The new Yankee Stadium cost $1.5 billion to build. However, $200 million in construction costs would have been added to that price tag had the designers followed through with the addition of a retractable roof. A roof like this exists at Minute Maid Park where the Houston Astros play.
A retractable roof would have starkly contrasted the design of the previous Yankee Stadium. However, with this roof, rainouts would never happen again. Fans who dislike rain on game days must ask themselves if rain delays and rainouts are part of the charm of cheering on the Yankees.
6. Thurman Munson’s locker is in the Yankees Museum
Thurman Munson played as a catcher for the New York Yankees for 11 seasons. As a seven-time All-Star, Munson hit 113 home runs while batting .292. Munson died tragically when he crashed his private plane practicing landing maneuvers at a Canton, Ohio airport. At the young age of 32, Munson had years left to offer to the Yankees.
In honor of his dedication to the team as both a captain and a player, the Yankees have retired his number 15 and attempted to freeze his locker in time. From 1980 to 2009, the Yankees captain had his locker next to Munson’s, but when the Yankees moved across the street, so did Munson’s locker. However, it is now in the Yankees Museum near the “Ball Wall.” An empty locker remains next to the captain’s locker in honor of Munson.
7. Yogi Berra threw the first official pitch in the stadium
Yogi Berra, the esteemed catcher and later a manager and coach, finished his career in baseball with the Yankees. Known for saying “It ain’t over till it’s over,” Berra and his “Yogi-isms” have influenced modern vernacular just as much as they have affected the baseball world. It is said that Berra wanted the home plate from the old stadium, but the Yankees sold it at an auction for six figures.
At age 83, Berra threw the first pitch at the new Yankee Stadium. He says that when throwing a ceremonial pitch, one must consider how to walk to the mound along with when and how to wave to the crowd. Although he passed away in 2015, his legacy lives on through his signed ball on the “Ball Wall” and the stories people tell — including about how he would distract batters behind the plate.
8. The Bleacher Creatures sit in section 2o3
The Bleacher Creatures are a set of Yankees fans who have declared themselves the most “real” fans. These die-hard Yankees fans sit in section 203 of the new stadium. The purchase of alcohol was not allowed in sections 37 and 39 of the old stadium, where the Bleachers Creatures had sat, because of rowdiness, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal. The only apparel allowed in Bleacher Creatures territory is Yankees merch unless a poor soul wants to get shunned out of the game.
The Creatures are known for a routine they direct at the beginning of every game. This routine, called “Roll Call,” began sometime during the 1990s. Since then, chants honoring each of the players carry from the Bleacher Creatures’ section onto the field. When a player’s name is called by the fans, he turns around and acknowledges them, sometimes adding his own flare such as a salute or signature smile. On Lou Gerhig Day in 2021, the Creatures added his name to the end of the call to honor his contribution to baseball and to raise awareness for ALS, the disease he fought.
9. Gwen Goldman became a batgirl 60 years after she was turned town due to her gender
Sixty openings for the batboy or batgirl position exist each season across the MLB. Six decades ago, Gwen Goldman, a dedicated Yankees fan, applied to be a “batboy.” However, Roy Hamey, the General Manager at the time, told her no. He wrote, “While we agree with you that girls are certainly as capable as boys, and no doubt would be an attractive addition on the playing field, I am sure you can understand that in a game dominated by men a young lady such as yourself would feel out of place in a dugout.”
Although disheartened, Goldman never gave up. Just last month, the Yankees invited Goldman to be a batgirl. Tears formed in her eyes as she walked on the field for the first time. She even got a locker with her name on it where she could dress before walking on the field. During this game, she threw the ceremonial first pitch along with acting as the Bronx Bombers’ honorary batgirl.
10. The Yankees won the World Series in the opening seasons of the old and new stadiums
When the Yankees finally got their own stadium in 1923, they also hosted the World Series in the same year. They played the New York Giants, a team with which they had shared a stadium for years, and defeated them in six games. Since then, the Yankees have won 26 other World Series.
It seems that the first year in a new stadium is good luck for the Yankees because they won the World Series during their inaugural season at the new stadium. The Yankees beat the Philadelphia Phillies in six games as well. With this victory, the Yankees took the World Series title from the Phillies who had won the championship the year prior.
Next, check out 10 Black baseball sites in New York City!