Remembering Yankee Stadium
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NEW YORK - It never occurred to Rome’s many emperors, from the deified to the depraved, to tear down the Coliseum or the Circus Maximus in order to make room for more modern facilities. (Pro-Consul Suites, anyone?). Even in Carthage, where Rome famously smashed every brick to dust after finally defeating its rival once and for all, the amphitheater survived — a testament to the importance which most of the world attaches to these great places of public gatherings.
The current stadium construction mania can be viewed as proof of our optimism as a nation — and our shallowness as curators of the past. What other nation could, within the course of a generation, erect and destroy so much of its history in the name of progress? Only one sure it could afford to do so over and over again, even if we’re not sure we’ll be able to afford to drive there for much longer.
As we prepare to celebrate the final game at Yankee Stadium, spare a moment for Forbes Field, the Polo Grounds, Shibe Park, the old Comiskey, Three Rivers Stadium, Griffith Field, Memorial Stadium and Tiger Stadium, and yes, even that forlorn, miserable broiling rack in Texas called Arlington Stadium. There are others, too. And all of them, like Carthage, have been pounded into dust in the name of progress.
A plaque survives in a few cases to recall the millions who once thrilled to baseball. In Pittsburgh, a portion of the ivy-covered left field wall of Forbes Field still survives, thanks to the foresight of the university which took over the land. For the most part, though, these great temples of baseball passed without much fanfare, and even, sometimes, to cheers from fans who, like those who held Kingdome implosion parties a few years back, thought the creation of a sleeker, improved field of battle would auger the rise of a sleeker, improved baseball team.
Now, many will see this as unadorned nostalgia — or even pinko socialism.
Mostly, they’ll say, what vanished with these hulks were the memories of generations themselves ready to pass from the scene. (Even I, at 46, can only faintly remember Mickey Mantle on the field, and have only a mid-teenager’s recollection of Yankee Stadium, my home away from home, as it existed before the 1970s shag carpet and plastic seats renovation).
Of all the stadiums to pass into history amid the building boom of the past two decades, arguably none will take so much history with it as the ballpark which has stood at 161st Street and River Avenue in the Bronx.
Across town at Shea, which also comes crashing down after the Mets do this fall, there also are reasons to mourn. That fantastic ’69 season, the ’73 team full of heart, Tom Seaver, Jerry Koozman, and ’86 World Series team that, like the Yankees of the late 1970s, was as much larceny and legend in their makeup. (The Yanks also played there for two seasons — 1974 and 1975 — as their awful renovation went forward). But, let’s face it, while the Mets grew into a great franshise, Shea Stadium was the booby prize built for a team created because New York’s other great franchises flaked out to California. The real story of the 2008 baseball season — the one which will be part of baseball’s highlight reel regardless of what happens in October — is the destruction of Yankee Stadium.
ATLANTA (AP) - Matt Harvey pitched six hitless innings, John Buck homered and the New York Mets held off another Atlanta comeback, beating the Braves 4-3 Tuesday in the first game of a doubleheader.
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