Yankee Stadium is one of the most legendary stadiums in the sports world. It is home to the Major League baseball team the New York Yankees. The original stadium was constructed in 1923, a year in which the team won the World Series. Maybe that outcome foreshadowed the success the organization would have there.
As the home of the Yankees, this stadium has hosted many men in pinstripes who are generally considered to be the greatest baseball players in the history of the game: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Thurman Munson, Yogi Berra, Mariano Rivera, Reggie Jackson, and Derek Jeter, among many others. These are amongst the great players to play in the Bronx. The new stadium, rebuilt in 2009, looks very similar to the old one in order to keep some of the heritage and tradition. They attempted to replicate the old stadium, but at the same time they updated many of the features. While it is a smaller venue (49,000 seats compared to 57,000) than the original, it incorporates modern, fan-friendly features such as more restrooms, and concessions. Of course, a large portion of sports fans, particularly baseball fans, aspire to attend a game in this amazing place.
I was fortunate enough to watch a game between the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium in the summer of 2013. This experience was like no other. I had watched many games on TV, but seeing it in person was a whole different experience. Maybe it was because of their history and their success, or maybe it was because of their former longtime owner George Steinbrenner. The Yankees have the type of organization where you either love them or you hate them. Upper School English teacher Pete Follansbee is a passionate Red Sox fan. When asked about the rivalry between the two teams, he said “I love the rivalry, particularly when both teams are doing well. I have Yankee friends, and it’s a lot of fun to rib and go at each other in good humor when the teams are competing for a pennant or division title. This year, the Sox are in last, but actually playing better at the end of the season. But a friend of mine is a big Yankee fan, and they’re competing for the wildcard, so I’m supporting my friend.” Varsity baseball player Jack Sroba (‘17), said, “Being a Philadelphia Phillies fan, the Yankees are not my favorite organization, but it was still very interesting to see the team play in person.” Even fans of different teams agree that watching a game in the stadium is an amazing experience.
The new stadium’s capacity is 49,642, making it the fourth largest of all MLB teams. Seeing the stadium in person is, of course, much different than watching a game on television. Sroba’s description of it was, “Seeing Yankee Stadium in person is incredible not only because of the stadium itself but the atmosphere that the fans bring. The unique setting of the stadium gives it the classic baseball feel.” David Bannard, chair of the Upper School math department, is a long-time Yankees fan. He is an example of how Yankee Stadium and the Yankees baseball team is closely associated with the memories of people’s lives. For example, Mr. Bannard says, “I was born in 1947, four days before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. My father was a Yankee fan (New Yorkers rooted for the Yankees, Brooklyn Dodgers or NY Giants, and we were Yankee fans and thus despised the other two). I first started following the Yanks when I was about five.” Being a diehard Yankees fan, Mr. Bannard has seen 17 World Series victories by the team.
Mr. Bannard recalls, “In about 1955, we bought our first TV, a 10-inch black and white. I was only allowed to watch it Saturday morning, but many nights I would have heart-to-heart conversations with my father while he just happened to be watching a game. I also went to sleep many nights listening to games on the radio.” These memories have never left him. Another powerful Yankees memory Mr. Bannard has is his first Yankees game: “The first game I remember attending was in the old, old stadium where the three monuments, Ruth, Gehrig, and Miller Huggins, were still on the field in deep center. The game was in ‘55 or ’56 against Cleveland, and we went with my father and a business associate of his. Early in the game, my father’s friend, a Cleveland fan, offered to bet me five cents on the outcome. Despite a sign on the center field wall that said ‘No Betting,’ I was assured that it would be ok to make the bet. The Yanks were trailing by two runs in the 8th when Elston Howard hit a three run triple to the monuments to give the Yanks the win, and I was richer by a nickel. I think the other lasting memory of Yankee Stadium has always been how impressive the structure is and how beautifully green the grass is.”
To some, sports is simply just a game, competition, or activity, but to many it is something with a significant amount of meaning. It connects humans and brings out different sides of them, such as competitiveness and hard work. Mr. Bannard found a connection with his family through the Yankees and baseball. He comments on the matter by saying, “I think maybe the most important part of being a Yankee fan is the connection it gave me with my father and the link it has provided with my three sons, all of whom have played baseball.”