There was a T-shirt in New York in the early '80s that said, "Welcome to New York, Now Go the ---- Home." It is only with a small degree of exaggeration that you can apply the same sentiment to the experience of watching a game at Yankee Stadium. It is not for the faint of heart or for the aesthetic-minded.
The list of complaints is sizable: the ridiculous ticket prices, the lousy concessions (how can pretzels
"Boy, the food at this place is really terrible," says one.
"Yeah, I know, and such small portions."
That's also how I feel about Yankee Stadium, a tourist attraction that is a throwback to the rough old days of New York, when the city didn't care about
"Yankee Stadium is something else, a law unto itself," wrote critic
It drives my friend in California nuts when I refer to Yankee Stadium as
The old Yankee Stadium, prior to the mid-70s renovation, housed some of the most famous sporting events in history -- the
Still, more than a thousand protestors greeted Opening Day in 1976. "As has been borne out since," noted historian
"They changed a lot of it," utility infielder
Physically, the renovated park followed the trend of cylindrical, hollowed-out Stadiums that were in vogue in the '60s and '70s. It may have been slightly more convenient than the old version, but aesthetically it was not an improvement. The bleacher seats were cut in two and the centerfield fence went from 461 feet to 417. "Death Valley" in left-center went from 457 feet to 411, though the corners were pushed out slightly (future "renovations saw center field go to 410 feet in 1985, then 408 in '88, while left-center eventually ended up at 399). The place was colored in royal blue.
The Stadium was an instant success because the '76 Yankees won the pennant, and winning is the only measure of success in the Bronx. One of the defining moments in the team's history came when
In Game 6 of the 1977 World Series, more than a dozen kids sat on the right-field wall with their legs dangling in play during the top of the ninth inning as the Yankees closed in on the championship.
There have been some memorable fights on the field --
By the end of the decade, enervated by Steinbrenner's ceaselessly paranoid interference, fans began forming groups like SOS (Stamp Out Steinbrenner) and FOUL (Fans Opposed to Useless Leadership). In late August 1989 fans chanted "George Must Go! George Must Go!" Then, on Sept. 15, Steinbrenner held the first-ever "Banner Night." There were more than 150 placards, mostly dissing the Yankees owner ("Pardon US, George, Sell the Yankees"), but just one arrest: a fan dressed as a monk, with a large wooden cross around his neck, and a banner that read, "Forgive Him Lord, He Knows Not What He Does."
The raucous spirit of the Stadium fans is best seen in the bleachers. In the early '80s the bleacher gang was lead by the charismatic
Years later the self-anointed
The Stadium crowd has changed throughout the years -- recently, as attendance has topped 4 million per season, it has become more corporate and suburban than ever. Still, when the Yankees win a big game, the place shakes and makes a kind of noise that is unmatched in any park. When the Yankees are losing, the park can be a drag -- unfriendly, crude and boorish -- but you go because of the possibility of something thrilling happening, with
Great teams and players make the Stadium. And so do the fans. So has the legendary public address announcer,