The Temple of Baseball - Yankee Stadium


The timeless patterns still resonated: the clarity of the lights against a darkening sky, the coffee colored diamond and the emerald outfield, the buzzing of the crowd, the monuments, the fluttering banners heralding the 26 World Championships, the train and apartment buildings just beyond the familiar white façade of this enduring cathedral, and, of course, the boys of summer, the Yankees themselves.  How this Yankee team and stadium had occupied central places within my heart as a boy in the Bronx.  It was over this team and this grand coliseum that I wept and shouted in my early years.  It was in this splendid theater that the grandest dramas of my youth were staged.    

I had come again, as I do every year, with my children, so they may know the temple of baseball, the hallowed ground upon which the fabled greats plied their craft with mastery and skill, where the invincible Yankee teams triumphed through the decades, where the traditions and symbols of preeminence were fixed over the course of so many years.  I brought them so they may see what, in the sport's world, is sacred space, the capital of sports, the citadel of baseball lore and boyhood dreams, so they may know what I had the privilege of knowing as a lad.

But this year was different, for the Yankee owner, George Steinbrenner, and the city of New York had conspired to build a new Stadium and to convert the old one, the one with the matchless history dating back to 1923, with its roots mired deeply in the cultural soil of this nation, an integral part of its ethos and myth, into - what? - a series of parks as it turns out.  At least not a collection of condos and department stores!  But not what it was and should have remained until the angels descended, blew their trumpets, and announced the coming of the Messiah. 

Why not build a new Statue of Liberty or Brooklyn Bridge?  Perhaps the Taj Mahal needs an update?  How do you come to the decision to tear down Yankee Stadium, the Home of Champions?  Do you pave over the ground that Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, and Mantle walked?  To turn to rubble this house of memories where baseball's most revered archives are kept?  What is the destructive element within the American soul that compels it to raze and devalue the irreplaceable and priceless?  

The mere thought that the Yankees would depart the old ball park, for other domains (even across the street) is profane, for this was the House that Ruth Built: in this Stadium dwelt the echoes and remembrances of Yankee legends and their Olympian feats, their memories hovering just above the diamond, their invisible hands resting on the shoulders of each generation's Yankee team peering in and assuring that the traditions and standards were upheld.

But I was not consulted.  And, so, I came for a final pilgrimage, to pay my respects to the stadium in its closing year, with all four children, four brothers (nursed, as I was, on the milk of Yankee memories), and a host of cousins, nieces, and nephews, to gaze out one last time across the lustrous pastures of the storied field, and watch the Yankees: the current crop of which, by the way, has been nothing if not disappointing.

But whatever the fortunes of a particular year, to see the Yankees is to see history, the chronicle of a celebrated franchise that has meant so much to so many and given so much to the country: a symbol of excellence, a metaphor for American exceptionalism, the ultimate sports icon. 

In my travels to the remotest corners of the globe, in the jungles of Cambodia, the savannahs of Tanzania, and the mountains of Peru, and beyond, it is Yankee hats, with the famous Yankee logo that are worn (not any other team's), people everywhere, of every class and description, wanting to identify themselves with a winner: even despite their hapless play since their last World Series championship in 2000. The Yankee insignia stands for something whatever the travails of a given Yankee team. 

I have learned that the new stadium being built literally a stone's throw from the old one is being constructed with an eye to history and will actually resemble the original structure more so than the current incarnation, which was remodeled in the seventies.  Perhaps, they will transfer the earth as well, the sacred dirt of the House That Ruth Built. 

In the midst of a contentious election year, and the sad spectacle of a Yankee-less October, it is proper, if only momentarily, to pay homage to the glory that was Yankee Stadium, the Home of Champions.


  • James

    October 27, 2008

    Wail! It's like an old friend is being sent to the guillotine. I know what you mean. I can't believe how unhistorical most of America is. Rarely is anything built anymore with heritage in view. Good ol' disposable USA.

  • Al

    November 1, 2008

    In many communities across America, there are agencies which are chartered to preserve historic buildings and locations. How sad that the financial whims of millionaires should dictate the destruction of such an historic icon.

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