In the end, though, the trademark of the Yankees and their ballpark became the home run.
Ruth started that on opening day and punctuated it in 1927 when he capped a landmark season by hitting his 60th home run there. His single season record lasted until 1961 when another Yankee, Roger Maris, shattered it hitting his 61st into the same, cozy right field seats.
Ruth was a larger than life character, an almost mythical slugger who hit 714 home runs, for many years the career record and still the third most in baseball history. His slugging partner was Lou Gehrig, who signed off the Columbia University campus and played in 2,130 consecutive games.
On July 4, 1939, Gehrig stood at home plate and delivered an emotional farewell to a packed Stadium. He had been diagnosed with Amytrophic Lateral Sclerosis, a rare degenerative muscle disease. In a passionate speech, he declared himself, “the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”
Two years later, he was dead.
Seven years after that, Ruth, his body riddled by cancer, leaned on a borrowed bat in the same spot to say his own goodbye. Two months after that, he, too, was dead.
Ruth and Gehrig were the centerpieces of the early days of Yankee Stadium. And they were followed by a parade of Hall of Fame players who kept the Yankees on top of the baseball world.
Joe DiMaggio hit in 56 consecutive games in 1941, Mickey Mantle won the Triple Crown in 1956 and Reggie Jackson hit three home runs in one 1977 World Series game, each against a different pitcher, each on the first pitch, each one longer than the one before it.
They led a cavalcade of stars through the years, one following another, who together kept the Yankees at or near the top of the baseball world, proud occupants of baseball’s proudest ballpark.
HBT: Controversial umpire Angel Hernandez blew another call that nearly cost the White Sox a win on Friday, earning the ire of manager Robin Ventura.
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