On April 18, 1923 — 95 years ago today — Yankee Stadium opened its gates for the first game in its storied history.
In the third inning, Babe Ruth took Howard Ehmke (the same from our previous post on 4/16) deep for a three-run home run, the first homer in the stadium’s history. 74,200 fans were on hand to watch the Yankees defeat the Red Sox 4 – 1, christening the park that would eventually see the Yankees take 37 pennants and 26 World Series titles before its closing in 2008. It seems odd to think there was a time the Yankees had never won a World Series, but before they moved into their confines
Yankee Stadium was the holy ground of baseball during its lifetime. Whether its the white facade swooping along the Stadium’s upper deck, the echoes of the immortal voice of Bob Sheppard, or the countless legends that dug into the batter’s boxes, The House that Ruth Built was home to innumerable and iconic pieces of baseball’s lure.
6,581 game were played at Yankee Stadium as well as 100 World Series games.
As we celebrate the 95th birthday of the stadium often called “The Cathedral of Baseball,” we name the top five moments in Yankee Stadium history:
5. Aaron Bleepin’ Boone
The Yankees found themselves in extra innings in a back-and-forth classic game 7 against the hated Boston Red Sox. The game bled on into the 11th inning after the Yankees crawled their way back to tie it in the 8th. With knuckler Tim Wakefield on the mound, Boone sent the first pitch he saw into the New York night, sending the Yankees to the World Series.
4. Roger Maris deposits 61st homer in right field seats
On the last day of the season, Maris finished off a bittersweet year with his 61st homer, breaking Babe Ruth’s all-time single season record. The year was filled with frustration and stress for Maris, who battled the media and the pressure to break the record in 154 games or less, which is how many Ruth needed to hit 60. The record held an asterisk until 1961. Still, it was an astounding feat for the notoriously introverted slugger.
3. Reggie Jackson’s three homers on three pitches helps clinch Series
In one of baseball’s greatest superhuman feats, Reggie Jackson sealed the 1977 World Series by homering 3 times, on 3 consecutive pitches, off of 3 different pitchers. His three homers and five RBI put the Yankees over the Dodgers 8 – 4, giving the Yankees their first title since 1962. Jackson would forever be known as Mr. October.
2. Don Larsen’s Perfect Game
With the 1956 World Series locked at two games apiece, Don Larsen took to the mound for Game 5 in the Bronx against the rival Dodgers. The Yankees would put up 2 runs, enough for Larsen who didn’t yield a single base runner. It is the only perfect game in World Series history. The Yankees would go on to win the series in seven games.
1. Lou Gehrig gives “The Speech” on July 4
It is one of the most iconic speeches not only in baseball history, but in American history. Lou Gehrig took the field on Lou Gehrig appreciation day on July 4, 1939. Gehrig had been diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, and retired from the game. He earned the nickname “The Iron Horse” for his streak of 2,130 consecutive games streak. Yet, even as one of baseball’s greatest players was forced to say goodbye to the game that he lived for, he spoke the words to the Yankee faithful that would live for eternity.
Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.
I, myself, was only privileged to visit the old Stadium a handful of times. My father, a Brooklyn native, practically grew up in the ballpark. I grew up to stories of Mantle, Berra, Ford, Howard, Richardson, Kubek, and many many more. He loved to tell me how little it cost for an upper deck seat, a subway ticket, and a hot dog.
Yankee Stadium was a fond friend to my father who left this world in 2006, and I’d love to hear stories if you have them. Please comment below if you have something specific that you remember about the hallowed grounds of Yankee Stadium — The House That Ruth Built — which is 95 years old today.