Thursday, September 18, 2008

House Pride of the Yankees

The nostalgia machine is in full force. By the end of September, the air at 161st St and Jerome Ave. will be so thick and sweet with sentimentality, it'd choke the producers of "Extreme Makeover."

The most fabled ballpark in all of sports, Yankee Stadium, is in its last days. Cue the Babe Ruth footage. Cue Gary Cooper, Reggie Jackson, several Popes, and Joe Louis. While you're at it, cue consumer fraud. The "last" days of the "old" Yankee Stadium are a disgraceful shuck made possible only because America abolished history as being too difficult to remember sometime in the 1990s. It's an attempt to wring a few more bucks out of the most lucrative franchise extant.

What's being demolished this winter, and, may I add, good riddance, isn't old at all. It's the "formerly new" Yankee Stadium, another monument to the nadir of architectural design, the '70s. The "original" or "real" Yankee Stadium closed for the 1974 and 1975 seasons while it was
"renovated" at, need I add, taxpayer expense. The Yanks shared Shea Stadium with the Mets.

Were the 1970s so long ago nobody remembers this? I do, and while not young, I'm not quite in Grandpa Simpson territory yet. In fact, I have been to the real Yankee Stadium. Went to the home opener of that 1973 season with Rusty and Bernice Heilprin and Neil Silverman. We got stoned, drank beer, ate far too many peanuts, and watched New York thump the Red Sox.

The current Stadium is nothing like the original. Death Valley was removed, the fences were made higher, the monuments were taken out of play, and the facade removed. The House That Ruth Built was transformed into the House Some City Planners Approved, much more like other parks than before, but with wider concourses. Yippee. What'd history ever do for George Steinbrenner, other than make him richer than he'd ever dreamed?

Nobody made much of a fuss over this, because the Yanks started winning when the renovated Stadium opened in 1976, and pretty much kept on winning, with a few dry spells. As a building, the formerly new Stadium lacks charm and comfort, but stuff happened there. Reggie. Rivera. Game 7 ALCS, the Yankees kept on making memories inside a ballpark that was a shell of its former self.

So pardon me for not choking up. I may not stand before you the luckiest man on earth, but at least my memory's still working. Saying farewell to the current Yankee Stadium is saying farewell to a structure that was neither fish nor fowl, one that tried to straddle history, not enshrine it.

The "newest" Yankee Stadium is likely to be more expensive than I can tolerate. But at least it won't pretend it's old.

People forget, especially people who


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