NEW YORK - Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and other stars from the New York Yankees’ famous pinstriped past would have been embarrassed.
After an 85-year run in a stadium that was home to 26 World Series champions, the Yankees opened baseball’s fanciest and priciest ballpark Thursday with a humiliating 10-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians.
“It felt like we disappointed quite a few people today,” Johnny Damon said.
Fans in the sellout crowd of 48,271 and players alike bubbled about unprecedented amenities on a picture-perfect sunny afternoon. New York’s hitters then fizzled and its bullpen came apart in the formal debut of the new Yankee Stadium, a $1.5 billion monument to the Yankees’ wealth and power.
Jhonny Peralta broke a 1-all tie in the seventh with a two-run double off Jose Veras, and Grady Sizemore hit a grand slam into the right-field seats off Damaso Marte.
By the time Victor Martinez’s solo homer capped the nine-run inning, just as the shadow of the famous frieze was about to creep past home plate, angry spectators who paid up to $2,625 list per ticket taunted the Yankees with chants of, “We want Swisher!”
That was a reference to New York right fielder Nick Swisher, who pitched a scoreless inning during a blowout loss at Tampa Bay on Monday.
“It’s not how you want to start a new stadium, but one game is not going to make the history of this Yankee Stadium,” manager Joe Girardi said.
Cleveland, whose only Series titles were won in 1920 and 1948, enjoyed its accomplishment against a superpower whose $201 million payroll dwarfs the $82 million the Indians spent.
“To come in here and do what we did is something we’ll always remember,” Sizemore said.
On April 18, 1923, Ruth homered as New York opened the original Yankee Stadium with a 4-1 win over the Boston Red Sox. The ballpark, built for $2.5 million and considered grand at the time, quickly was dubbed “The House that Ruth Built.”
The opening of the new house drew a celebrity-filled crowd that wasn’t happy with the result.
Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who has attended few games since becoming increasingly frail, watched from his box to the left of home plate, with baseball commissioner Bud Selig and developer Donald Trump among his guests.
Current and former New York City Mayors Michael Bloomberg and Rudolph Giuliani watched from the first row to the plate side of the Yankees dugout in some of the most expensive seats, while former Yankees pitcher David Wells sat in the bleachers. New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan was on hand, as was rapper Jay-Z.
They saw the Yankees botch numerous chances in the first five innings, when they stranded 10 runners while going 0-for-7 with men in scoring position against Cliff Lee (1-2). The primary cheers were for Jorge Posada, who hit the first home run in the ballpark’s history, a fifth-inning drive that that landed in Monument Park behind center field.
“I’m going to remember the home run, no question about it, but right now it’s a little disappointing,” Posada said.
CC Sabathia, pitching in pinstripes for the first time since signing a $161 million, seven-year contract, allowed an RBI double to Kelly Shoppach in the fourth just after third baseman Cody Ransom threw out Peralta at the plate on Ben Francisco’s grounder. But Sabathia left after 122 pitches and 5 2-3 innings in his first start against his former team
“The park still looks kind of like the old stadium,” he said. “But it’s a weird feeling, too, going out, you know, it being a clean slate, a new era of Yankee baseball.”
After Edwar Ramirez and Phil Coke finished the sixth, Veras (0-1) failed to retire anyone in the seventh, walking Mark DeRosa and allowing a double to Martinez before Peralta’s double into the right-field corner.
“I feel bad. Better to happen now than later in the season. I know I can be better than that,” Veras said.
Marte hit Shin-soo Shoo with a pitch, loaded the bases when he fielded Francisco’s sacrifice and threw too late to third, then gave up an RBI single to Shoppach and walked Trevor Crowe one out later with the bases loaded, making it 5-1.
“I didn’t throw the ball inside or outside. I threw it down the middle and I paid for it,” Marte said.
Steinbrenner, who watched the first five innings from an outdoor seat in his luxury suite, quickly went inside. From the pricey seats to the $5 obstructed-view bleacher spots, fans started emptying out.
It was the second ballpark opening in New York in a four-day span, following the Mets’ 6-5 loss to San Diego on Monday night in the first game at $800 million Citi Field.
Coming off two poor outings, Lee (1-2) allowed one run and seven hits in six innings in a matchup of the last two AL Cy Young Award winners.
“You could feel that it was not just a normal game,” Lee said. “But for me, I’ve got to kind of filter that stuff out and focus on executing pitches.”
Fans were entertained at the start of hourlong pregame ceremonies by the West Point Marching Band, which played the “Washington Post March” and “Stars and Stripes Forever” by John Philip Sousa, who led the Seventh Regiment Band before the first game at the old stadium.
John Fogerty followed by playing “Centerfield,” and former Yankees center fielder Bernie Williams strummed an acoustic guitar version of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” A group of about 45 former Yankees, all wearing special jackets commemorating the new stadium, came out and lined the back of the infield dirt.
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