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A Brief History: Yankee Stadium

Some may say there have been two Yankee Stadiums, with 2008-09 being the cutoff. But that’s not really true. There have been three iterations of baseball’s greatest cathedral: The “Original Yankee Stadium” — the one built in 1923, The “Old Yankee Stadium” — the renovated version that opened in 1976, and The “New Yankee Stadium” — that explanation is obvious.

Podcast – A Brief History: Yankee Stadium

Check out today’s podcast, where I talk about the history of Yankee Stadium — the amazing baseball moments and other events that have happened there, the three iterations of the stadium, construction, owners and more.

The House That Ruth Built

When “The House That Ruth Built” opened its doors in 1923 it looked a lot different than when it closed in 2008. The stadium went through modifications to the field dimensions, stands and exterior. It changed owners multiple times. It was gut-renovated in the 1970s and then moved across the street in the 2000s. While all of that was happening, history was being made within its walls.

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Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert built the stadium when he was evicted from the Polo Grounds in 1921. He had other events in mind when he had it designed. The first boxing match happened in front of 58,000 in July 1923, just four months after the stadium’s grand opening. The ring was positioned over second base where they had installed the necessary electronic connections for boxing and other events.

It hosted numerous football games, including Army vs Notre Dame starting in the 1920s, the Army vs Navy game in 1930-31, and New York (football) Giants from 1956-73. The 1958 NFL Championship Game between the Giants and Baltimore Colts, “The Greatest Game Ever Played,” was played at Yankee Stadium.

Starting in 1946, the New York Black Yankees Negro League team played there. As legend has it, Josh Gibson hit a home run over the left field roof, which would make him the only player to ever hit a home run out of Yankee Stadium. Mickey Mantle almost did it to right field in 1963 (and some say he hit the right field frieze in 1956 as well).

Anything and everything came through Yankee Stadium — soccer matches, concerts, the rodeo, the circus, and a Jehova’s Witness convention, which is responsible for the stadium’s largest ever crowd of 123,707. The largest baseball crowd ever reported was 85,265 in 1928 — 20,000 over capacity!

Babe Ruth’s coffin was carried into the stadium for a public viewing in 1948.

Perhaps the most emotional moment came on July 4, 1939 when Lou Gehrig gave his farewell speech — baseball’s Gettysburg Address.

The stadium continued to hold other sporting events and concerts even as it went through massive renovations in the ‘70s and when the new one opened. It hosted three papal masses — 1965, the first ever in North America, 1979, and 2008. In 1990, Nelson Mandela proudly proclaimed “I am a Yankee!” in front of thousands while on his Freedom Tour. The new place has hosted college football and outdoor NHL games, and NYCFC calls Yankee Stadium home today.

From a baseball standpoint, no field matches it’s history. On April 30, 1939, Gehrig played his final game. On May 15, 1941, DiMaggio started his 56-game hitting streak. On October 8, 1956, Don Larsen pitched his World Series perfect game. On October 1, 1961, Roger Maris broke the Babe’s home run record. On May 14, 1967, Mickey hit his 500th home run. On October 18, 1977, Reggie hit three World Series bombs. On September 4, 1993, Jim Abbott tossed his no hitter. On October 26, 1996, the new dynasty was born. On May 17, 1998, David Wells was perfect and then a year later, on July 18, 1999, David Cone was perfect. On November 1, 2001, Jeter became Mr. November and Scott Brosius hit déjà vu all over again.

Between the three venues that have “Yankee Stadium” mounted on its doors, the Yankees won 27 World Series. They welcomed millions of fans. The greatest baseball legends ran around the bases. Some of our favorite announcers called games — from Mel Allen, to Phil Rizzuto and John Sterling.

Maybe you saw just one game there or you had season tickets. Anyone who’s been knows the feeling when you walked through the tunnel and saw the green grass for the first time. Only one word to describe it: chills.