Loran Smith’s Sports Column: Yankee Stadium

Published 2:26 pm Tuesday, May 9, 2023

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The original Yankee Stadium, “the House that Ruth built,” was

constructed one hundred years for the opening of the 1923 season. The

Yankees had been playing their games at the Polo Grounds, home of the

New York Giants.


Initially, the two teams were compatible with the arrangement, but the

Yankees’ popularity with New Yorkers got under the skin of Giant manager

John McGraw who told owner Horace Stoneham that the Yankees had to

  1. McGraw’s ire peaked in 1920 when the Yankees attracted 1,289,422

fans, which was 350,000 more fans than the Giants drew.


That was Ruth’s first season in Yankee pinstripes. He hit 54 home

runs and became wildly popular. It was a great time for ownership (Col.

Jacob Ruppert and Tillinghast Huston) to build a facility for their team which

is how the popular stadium came about—the only one in major league

baseball to carry the name, “stadium.”


Ruth would play 14 more years, bashing homeruns everywhere and

setting a career record for home runs with 714. It was considered an

unbreakable record until Hank Aaron powered an Al Downing slider 385


feet over the left field fence in Atlanta to become the new home run king.

Witnessing that memorable moment from the Atlanta Falcon box will

always be an emotional highlight of my life. I still consider Hank Aaron the

all-time home run slugger. Nothing fake about his record.

While in high school in the mid-fifties, I had the enviable opportunity

to see a Yankee home game and almost got a memorable souvenir.

Mickey Mantle hit a batting practice home run in the right field bleachers

near where I was sitting, but bounded out of reach into the hands of

someone who talked very funny.

A lifelong Red Sox fan, I was, nonetheless, smitten by taking the

subway out to Yankee Stadium. I was a fan of Mickey Mantle and

appreciated the legend of Babe Ruth. I never was a true “Yankee hater,”

but was emotionally burdened by the so called “Curse of the Bambino.”

I was a little sad when old Yankee Stadium had to be rebuilt in 1974-

  1. The construction made it a better baseball facility, but I preferred the

confines of the original park.


I had seen New York Giants’ (football) games there along with

several Yankee games including the ’62 World Series. Then later, I got to

know current manager, Aaron Boone, who had an affinity to see a Georgia


game between the hedges that mirrored my passion to spend time at

Yankee Stadium.

Enjoying a Yankee game today in their new stadium, completed in

2009, is not like it was in the Mantle era fifties. Just too much history in the

old stadium.

It must have been something in 1923 for the opening games between

the Yankees and the Red Sox. The attendance was estimated at 65,000.

Fans were entertained by John Phillip Sousa’s Seventh Regiment band.

In attendance were Gov. Al Smith and baseball Commissioner

Kennesaw Mountain Landis, who was named for historic rock formation

familiar to Georgians.


Those were the days when a subway fare was only a nickel. After

the game many fans had the option to ride back into Manhattan and take in

the “Ziegfeld Follies” at the New Amsterdam Theatre.

Not sure what a hot dog cost at Yankee stadium in 1923, but today it

will run you $3.00. If you want to include a beer, that is another $7.75. In

1923, you could not buy a beer since it was Prohibition. Vendors sold a

substitute, which was called “near beer.”


New York has been such a magical place for years, and it appears

that the city is back. The allure of Manhattan in December is its old self.

The magic of Broadway has returned.

There is a difference, of course. New York has never been cheap,

but today it is over the top expensive. That doesn’t keep tourists from

flocking there.


And, best I can tell from the Internet, the cheapest price ticket for a

Yankee-Red Sox game is about $50.00. Two tickets along with two beers

and two hotdogs and your tab for two for a night out at Yankee Stadium, by

the above accounting, would cost at least $125.00.

For that amount, you could have taken your entire street to a game a

hundred years ago.