Yankee Stadium is the home stadium of the New York Yankees, a major league baseball team. Located at East 161st Street and River Avenue in the Bronx, New York City, it originally opened on April 18, 1923 and reopened on April 15, 1976 after an extensive three year renovation. The first night game was played on May 28, 1946.
Yankee Stadium is often referred to as "The House that Ruth Built", "The Home of Champions," "The Big Ballpark," or simply "The Stadium". It was the first baseball arena to be labeled a "Stadium", and it conformed to the usage of the term in ancient Greece, where a stadium was a foot-race arena. Yankee Stadium's field was initially surrounded by a (misshapen) quarter-mile running track. That track effectively also served as an early "warning track" for fielders, a feature now standard in all major league ballparks.
Yankee Stadium favors left-handed batters because of a shorter right-field fence (once called "Ruthville"), although the field has become much more symmetric over the years. In contrast, it has been a very difficult park for right-handed batters to hit in. Under the original configuration, it was 395-feet from home plate to left field, 460 ft to left center, and 490 ft to straightaway center.  Left center soon came to be called "Death Valley," in reference to the high number of balls hit to that area that would have cleared the wall easily in other parks but resulted in simple fly ball outs in Yankee Stadium. Although the fence has been moved in several times over the years to make it more hitter friendly (it is currently 399 feet to left center and 408 to center), the park remains one of the most difficult for right-handed hitters, as evidenced by the fact that in 2005, Alex Rodriguez became the first right-handed Yankee hitter to hit 40 home runs in a season since 1937, when Joe DiMaggio belted 46. A story that has become somewhat of an urban legend purports that the stadium's design was tailored to fit the left-handed power exhibited by Babe Ruth. However, a look at aerial photographs of the area shows that the stadium is built on a triangular plot of land originally owned by one of the Yankee owners, and that the stadium, like many other parks of that era and many newer "retro" parks, was fit into that plot. Additionally, an elevated train line still runs beyond the right field bleachers, and was present when the stadium was first built. Making the right field area larger would have necessitated eliminating seating and possibly building a high "Green Monster"-like wall.
A good depiction of the atmosphere of the pre-renovation stadium can be seen in the latter scenes of the 1959 Mervyn LeRoy film The FBI Story, which starred James Stewart. In these scenes, FBI agents tracked a suspected Soviet espionage courier. These scenes show the arrival of an elevated train at the station near the right field bleachers, football action and crowd scenes and reaction during a New York Giants game, groups of people waiting at a concession stand, and scenes outside the main stadium concourse.
The seats behind center field are painted black and not occupied during baseball games; this allows batters to track the ball as it is pitched, as the "black seats" section is directly in front of them. If fans were allowed to sit in this section, it would create an unfair pitcher's advantage, as it would make it virtually impossible for batters to track the ball if a substantial number of fans were wearing white shirts.
Perhaps the best known of all baseball stadiums, Yankee Stadium is the scene of such memorable events as Babe Ruth's then-record 60th home run in 1927; tearful farewell addresses by Lou Gehrig in 1939 and Babe Ruth in 1948; Don Larsen's perfect World Series game in 1956; Roger Maris's then-record 61st home run in 1961; Reggie Jackson's three home runs in a World Series game in 1977; and countless on-field celebrations of World Series championships.
The New York Giants football team played at Yankee Stadium from 1956 to 1973. The Stadium was also home to several football teams known as the New York Yankees, but none of these lasted for more than a few seasons.
The 1930 and 1931 Army-Navy Games were played at Yankee Stadium. Army played Notre Dame there in 1928, and led at halftime, before Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne inovked the memory of his school's greatest football hero to that point, George Gipp, who had died in 1920. In a story he is now believed to have made up, Rockne told of meeting Gipp on his deathbed, and hearing the great player say, "Sometime, when the team is up against it, and the breaks are beating the boys, tell 'em to go out there with everything they've got, and win just one for the Gipper." Notre Dame came back to win the game. Army and Notre Dame also played at Yankee Stadium in 1946, when Army was ranked number 1 in the nation and had won the last two National Championships, and Notre Dame was ranked number 2. One of several college football games to be known as "The Game of the Century" in the days leading up to it, the game ended in a 0-0 tie, and when both teams remained undefeated at the end of the season, Notre Dame was awarded the National Championship.
Starting in 1971, the Stadium hosted the Whitney M. Young Urban League Classic, a game between "historically black colleges," often featuring Grambling State University of Louisiana, coached by Eddie Robinson. The Classic helped to spread the fame of Grambling and other similar schools. The Classic was held at Shea Stadium during the 1974-75 renovation of Yankee Stadium, and was last played there in the 1987 season, the last time a football game was played there.  It has been held at Giants Stadium in New Jersey's Meadowlands Sports Complex ever since.
Many boxing matches have been held at the stadium, notably Joe Louis's victory over Max Schmeling in 1938. Billy Graham held large gatherings at the Stadium. The New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League used Yankee Stadium for home games in 1971 and then again in 1976.
On October 4, 1965, Pope Paul VI celebrated a Mass at Yankee Stadium during a visit to the United States in front of a crowd in excess of 80,000. This was the first Papal Mass ever delivered in North America. Fourteen years later, on October 2, 1979, Pope John Paul II also celebrated Mass there. The Stadium was also the site of a memorial service on September 23, 2001 in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
One of its distinguishing features is the white facade that hangs over the outfield bleacher billboards and scoreboard (a similar frieze once hung from the roof over the upper deck, pre-renovation). Also notable is the exhaust stack that stands outside the main entrance gate, constructed in the shape of a baseball bat. (For years it bore the Louisville Slugger logo.)
While elements of the Stadium are decidedly modern, its asymmetry, monuments in left-center field and exterior arches give fans a reminder of the Stadium during its most golden period. Even the blue YANKEE STADIUM letters over the main gate are longtime features; they're the same letters that first appeared there in white in the early 1960s.
Those monuments, commemorating various retired Yankee players, once stood on the playing field in deep left-center field. They are now out of play, in an area called Monument Park. In the 1992 book The Gospel According to Casey, by Ira Berkow and Jim Kaplan, it is reported that the Yankees manager, Casey Stengel, was watching his centerfielder fumbling with the ball in the vicinity of the monuments, while the batter-runner circled the bases. Stengel yelled out, "Ruth, Gehrig, Huggins, somebody get that ball back to the infield!"
The monuments are located more than 450 feet from home plate. It is an achievement for a home run in the "new" Stadium to go into the monuments on the fly. Among those who have done so are Thurman Munson (in Game 3 of the 1978 American League Championship Series) and Alex Rodriguez (in August 2005).
Since the mid-1980s, the rear fence lining the walkway from the grandstand to the monuments -- the barrier that was the outfield fence from 1976 to 1984 -- has borne the Yankees' retired numbers. Under those numbers are biographies of the players that were honored.
One hypothesis is that the "Bronx cheer" was so named because of its popularity among Yankees fans.
New Yankee Stadium
On April 16, 2005, the team announced plans to build a stadium on the adjacent land, to be ready for the 2009 season, with the official announcement made on June 15, 2005 at a press conference. The team would pay for the new ballpark, estimated to be about $800 million (US), to be located north of the current stadium in Macombs Dam Park. The plan is for the new stadium to look like the pre-renovation Yankee Stadium, but with modern touches such as 50 or more luxury suites and a field configured like the current stadium. The expected capacity is 50,800 (with possible expansion to 54,000) with a completion date of 2009.
Unlike most of the new stadiums built in the United States, the stadium will be built and paid for by the team, with the city and state paying for infrastructure improvements. However, the plan requires both city and state approval before going through.
Interestingly, three days earlier, on June 12, 2005, a plan for a New Mets Stadium in Willetts Point, Queens in the parking lot of the current Shea Stadium was announced. If approved it is also to be completed for the 2009 baseball season.
The new Yankee Stadium would have served as the site for Baseball in the Olympics had New York City been chosen as host city for the Games of the XXX Olympiad, assuming that the decision would have encouraged the International Olympic Committee to retain the sport for the 2012 Olympic Games.
- Ballpark Digest Visit
- Yankee Stadium history
- Yankee Stadium images and information
- New ballpark's a winner, Daily News, June 16, 2005
- Pride of the Yankees: A new home in 2009, Star Ledger, June 16, 2005