No matter how fancy, there's no replacing Yankee Stadium

May 01, 2007|By PETER SCHMUCK

NEW YORK — NEW YORK-- --It is hard to imagine a baseball world without Yankee Stadium, but the clock is running down on the House that Ruth Built, and its fabled concourses will go dark after next season.

There will be a new Yankee Stadium, of course, with wall-to-wall JumboTrons and fancy luxury boxes, and it will improve on the old one in all the ways we care about these days.

More comfortable. More accessible. More revenue.

It'll be in New York, so it will be the best and the brightest, even if it isn't, and it will be another giant step toward the total gentrification of baseball.

Ladies and gentlemen ... please stand by ... for the first ... $500 ... box seat.

Once again, I don't know whether to laugh or cry. The Yankees hater in me won't miss the old ballpark a bit, because it represents everything that I don't like about New York.

Cramped. Crowded. Colossally arrogant.

The baseball lover in me will miss it a lot, because there is more history there than in any other sporting facility in the world.

(OK, I know I'm going to be accused of being America-centric. There's probably some soccer stadium in England or some bullfighting arena in Madrid that has just as much history as Yankee Stadium, but since I wouldn't know an Espada from an Escalade, I'm sticking with the place where Ruth and Gehrig presided over the Golden Age of Baseball.)

Modern isn't always better. Would you go back and insert a designated hitter into Murderers' Row? Would Lou Gehrig's "Luckiest man" speech have had nearly the same impact on a Webcast? Which tragic celebrity hookup will you remember most: Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe or Howard K. Stern and Anna Nicole Smith?

I will say that if Babe Ruth were alive today, he'd be a must-read blog:

Babe4U: Love the Sports Legends Museum down in Baltimore, pal, though a wrap-around bar would really spice the place up. By the way, it's great to see chicks still love the home run.

I'm pretty sure the new Yankee Stadium will feature enough architectural similarities to the old one that local fans will still feel the tradition. There will be monuments and Frank Sinatra singing about New York and animated subway races. There will be overpriced players and overbearing fans who don't seem to understand that having twice the payroll of almost every other team in baseball should - at the very least - temper that obnoxious superiority complex.

Hopefully, they'll add about 30,000 additional seats so those same fans can actually get in, instead of coming down to Baltimore to find decent seats (many of which, incidentally, are still available).

The first level already is rising up across the street, part of a two-stadium renaissance that also includes a new Mets ballpark that is even further along in Queens. No argument at all on that one. Shea Stadium has long been a hole that needed to be filled. The old Yankee Stadium is supposed to remain standing, for use by local amateur teams and maybe to house a museum, but after the city figures out how much it will cost to maintain it, don't be surprised if it eventually gives way to a park or a parking lot.

Of course, there will be a few years of generational angst. The old-school fans won't like the new ballpark simply because it is new. The new-age fans won't quite get that, and - anyway - they'll be too busy sipping $15 martinis and talking about the next big merger to even notice the game.

That's sort of what happened in Baltimore, where Oriole Park is a massive architectural and logistical improvement over Memorial Stadium, but fans still pine for the old days at the "world's largest outdoor insane asylum."

I'm guessing a few hundred thousand Yankee fans will develop the same kind of edifice complex, though they will never admit it because they are required by law to insist to outsiders that everything in New York is better than anywhere else.

Except, of course, the Knicks.

Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays and Sundays.

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