Thursday, 17 December 2009

Yankee Stadium (New York Yankees)

On 22 November 2009 my wife and I took part in a tour of Yankee Stadium, home of the famous New York Yankees baseball team. The five-day trip to the Big Apple was an extension of our honeymoon, which we had spent in Spain (see also my posts on grounds in Benidorm, Alicante, and Valencia). I had booked the tour one month in advance over the internet. Tickets were $20 each and I think it was well worth it. Although I do not really know anything about baseball, the Yankees are one of those big teams in world sports that transcend the traditional fanbase of the sport they compete in, similar to Manchester United in football or the All Blacks in rugby.

The Yankees have won the World Series 27 times, making them the most successful 'franchise' (I hate that word) in North American professional sports. The last time they lifted the championship trophy had only been 18 days ago when we visited Yankee Stadium. The 2009 season was the first season in the new ballpark, which opened on 2nd April of this year.


161st Street-Yankee Stadium subway station in the Bronx is adjacent to both the old and the new Yankee Stadium. It is only about 15 minutes on the number 4 subway from Grand Central Terminal, which was almost right next door to our hotel. The first thing we saw when we climbed these stairs was the old Yankee Stadium.


The old park is being demolished at the moment. It was opened on 18 April 1923 and was the Yankees's home until 1973 when it closed for renovations. It then reopened on 15th April 1976. The final game here was played on 21st September 2008. Unfortunately I was unable to get a better view of the inside of the old ballpark than this.


I walked round the whole stadium but no open gates unfortunately! I probably should count myself lucky that part of the park was still here however I had hoped to see more.


Another picture of the old stadium taken from just outside the new one. We had booked the tour at noon which was the earliest available on Sundays at the time of booking. I had initially planned to start the day with visiting Citi Field, the stadium of New York's other MLB team, the New York Mets, which is situated in Flushing, Queens. However breakfast took us longer than I had expected so I decided to see this park after we had completed the tour of Yankee Stadium.


We then walked up to the adjacent new stadium to pick up our tickets at the box office near Gate 4. This all went without any problems, I only had to show my printed receipt of the internet booking. We still had about 45 minutes left which we killed by walking around the ground and visiting the team store.


I had set my sights earlier on a Yankees jacket and a replica baseball shirt but prices in the stadium shop were high and I have to say that I found the shop quite small compared to massive stores I have seen at football clubs like Man City, Barcelona and Liverpool. Right next door to the shop is the Hard Rock Cafe which we did not visit.


As stated above, the tour started at noon but it was organised with military precision and we were asked to wait in the Great Hall about 20 minutes before the actual tour started.


We were asked if anyone needed to go to the 'bathroom' before the tour started as it would last about 60 minutes. I did not really need to but I decided to go to the loo anyway, I did not want to miss out on the chance to visit the toilets at Yankee Stadium...I did not take any pictures as I was not alone(!) however the modern facilities did not disappoint.


Finally the tour proper started at noon. First stop was the museum. The picture above shows six of the seven 'Commissioner's Trophies' the Yankees have won. Although the 'Bronx Bombers' have won the World Series 27 times, this trophy was not awarded until 1967. The 2009 trophy had not yet been added to the museum when we visited.


The 'Ball Wall' is the centrepiece in the museum and features a few hundred balls autographed by past and present Yankees players and the idea is to eventually add autographs for every player who has ever played for the Yankees.


Although I am by no means a baseball expert, I recognised names like Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, and present star player Alex Rodriguez. A maquette of the new park was also on display in the museum and the perfect opportunity to take the 'aerial photograph' at the top of this post! After the museum, the next stop was Monument Park.


Monument Park is a bit of a bizarre concept to someone like myself who is not familiar with ballparks. It is an open-air museum containing a collection of monuments, plaques, and retired numbers honouring distinguished members of the Yankees, as well as other events that took place at the stadium and in the city. I had initially thought this was a small park outside the stadium, however it is actually inside the ground, in an area behind the fence in straightaway centre field.


Some of the Yankees legends in Monument Park: Lou Gehrig (1903-1941), Miller Huggins (1879-1929), and Babe Ruth (1895-1948). If you want to grow old do not become a baseball legend!


Also in Monument Park, the retired numbers of former Yankees players.


This guy I knew as well, was wondering where he had gone...At least one Yankees legend who reached a respectable age!


This picture was taken from Monument Park, which shows that it is situated right behind the centre field fence. The new stadium has a capacity of 52,325, which is actually less than the 56,936 capacity of the old park when it closed its doors in 2008. This was explained by the more comfortable, and wider, new seats and the many amenities that take up a lot of space. I wonder if they have just raised the ticket prices to maintain the revenues of the old stadium?


We then went to the dug-out, which is actually air-conditioned so it was nice and warm on this November day. Here you can see the infield. Note the frieze that lines the roof, this was also a trademark of the old ballpark.


Another picture of the infield I had taken earlier during the tour. You can see the party before us in the dug-out as well.


The outfield, again seen from the dug-out. Monument Park is situated right under the large video screen.


Another view from the dug-out, this time looking behind our shoulders. I assume these are executive boxes and/or press boxes.


And another view from the dug-out. We were then shown the players' clubhouse and the indoor batting cages however we were not allowed to take any pictures here, supposedly because players did not like it if any of their personal belongings were photographed, however I did not see what all the fuss was about.


After the tour I went on the look-out for my Yankees jacket and I finally found the one I liked in the 3rd or 4th shop I tried. I also bought a replica baseball shirt with Alex Rodriguez's name on the back for a total of $135, whereas I had seen just the jacket in a Footlocker store on Times Square the previous day for $120. This was all genuine merchandise and should you ever be in New York, I would recommend one of the shops outside the ground for Yankees souvenirs. The proximity of these shops to the ground is probably also the reason why the stadium shop is relatively small.


After Yankee Stadium I wanted to see the ballpark of the other New York team, the Mets. Citi Field, which has a capacity of 41,800. The stadium opened only a few days before the new Yankee Stadium on 29th March of this year. Of course the Mets are not as celebrated as their Bronx counterparts, having won the World Series only twice, in 1969 and 1986. This picture shows the Jackie Robinson Rotunda. Brooklyn Dodgers legend Robinson was the first African-American MLB player of the modern era. To Europeans it is of course strange that part of the stadium is named after a player who played for a different team. The Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in 1958 and became the L.A. Dodgers. The Mets were established four years later to fill the gap that was left by the relocation of the Dodgers.


Citi Field replaced the adjacent Shea Stadium, which unlike the old Yankee Stadium, had already been demolished when I took these pictures. It took about 45 minutes to travel from the Yankees park in the Bronx to the Mets ground in Queens. As soon as the subway arrives in Queens it becomes an overground elevated train. This gave us a bit of an impression of the 'real' America after spending three days in the bubble that is Midtown and Downtown Manhattan.


Even though the subway was busy considering it was a Sunday there was hardly a living soul to be found near the stadium. Even the Mets Team Store was closed and according to the opening hours on the window it is even closed on Saturdays!


This picture shows the gates to Right Field. Curiously just like the new Yankee Stadium, Citi Field, which cost $900 million to build, has a smaller capacity than the old ground. The new park has 6,000 seats less than Shea Stadium.


Another picture of the outside of Right Field. Unfortunately I was not able to take any pictures from the inside so I had to make do with walking around the stadium and taking pictures of the exterior. I have to say Citi Field looked like a very impressive baseball park, a shame they were not doing any tours!


I left Flushing again slightly disappointed. When we walked back to the ground I noticed that the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center is located near Citi Field as well. However I did not want to annoy my wife any more by suggesting to walk up to the home of the US Open as enough valuable shopping time had already been wasted by taking her to a deserted baseball ground!


Unfortunately this was as close as I got to the tennis complex!

3 comments:

  1. Your miles off with your comments on why the Mets were formed. They 'replaced' the New York Giants, who moved to San Francisco at around the same time as the Dodgers went west too. The NY logo the Mets use is the same as the old Giants badge.
    Nobody 'replaced' the Dodgers

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  2. And everyone commemorates Jackie Robinson, not just the Yankees. His 42 shirt is universaly retired (you have a picture of it in the bleachers, or 'Monument Park' if you wanna call it by its new name) and all ballparks have 42 in their row of retired numbers.
    Jackie Robinson is an iconic figure in sport and goes beyond team rivalries - oh, and he retired before the Mets were even thought of!

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  3. I think both the Dodgers and the Giants moved to California in 1957 but to be honest I had not thought about the Giants. Like I said in my post:'I do not really know anything about baseball.' Make that:'absolutely nothing at all' :-) So if 'I'm miles off' I am not surprised.

    As far as your second comment is concerned my original point still stands: I do not know of any football (soccer) player who is an 'iconic figure in sport and goes beyond team rivalries'. I can only think of George Best or giants like Pele but even then 'other' clubs do not name stands or whatever after them. I am not saying there is anything wrong with Jackie Robinson's status in US sports, on the contrary I think it is great, but it is definitely a difference between US sports (or baseball at least) and European 'soccer'/football.

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