The Babe’s Mighty Blast Christens the New Ballpark in the Bronx

One hundred years ago this day the new home of the New York Yankees opened on 161st in the Bronx. The Yankeess who had previously played in the Polo Grounds, sharing the facility with the National League New York Giants, were asked to leave following the 1922 season. It was for the better since the two teams were becoming intense rivals having squared off in the 1921 and 1922 World Series. Both were won by the Giants. The new ballpark which cost $2.5 million would be called Yankee Stadium and soon earn the nickname “The House That Ruth Built”.

Yankee Stadium

 April 18, 1923 was the season opener for New York against the Boston Red Sox, the Babe’s former team. According to the Chicago Tribune reporting on the event, “governors, generals, politicians, and baseball officials gathered solemnly today to dedicate the biggest stadium in baseball. But it was a player who did the real dedicating. In the third inning, with two teammates on base, Babe Ruth smashed a savage home run into the rightfield bleachers, and that was the real baptism of the new Yankee Stadium.” The Yankees went on to easily defeat Boston 4-1.

The Babe

The Stadium would remain on that location for 86 years hosting 39 American League Pennants for the Yankees and 26 Yankee World Championships until it was demolished for the New Yankee Stadium which opened in 2009. Ruth would go on to hit 258 more Yankee Stadium home runs, only Mickey Mantle who played for 18 years in New York hit more.

On a personal note: I attended Yankee Stadium many, many times; as a kid with my father and brothers, as a teenager with my buddies and as an adult with my family. Some of the trips are loosely portrayed in my novel Mickey Mantle’s Last Home Run. In those scenes in my book, I routinely referred to Yankee Stadium as The Stadium, “stadium” always capitalized. This gave my editor fits. In my neck of the woods here in northern New Jersey going to a Yankee game could commonly be expressed by saying going to The Stadium. We all knew that meant Yankee Stadium. Sure, Shea Stadium was around but The Stadium could only mean Yankee Stadium. As happened far too often, my editor won out, explaining that if I wanted to appeal to a larger audience, clarity would be best, and Yankee Stadium would be Yankee Stadium not The Stadium in my book. For the most part I accepted my editor’s suggestions and my book benefited from it, but to me, to this day, Yankee Stadium will always be “The Stadium”.

References: The Yankee Encyclopedia by Mark Gallagher and Walter LeConte

New York Yankees Season of Glory by William Hageman and Warren Wilbert                     

Judge Joins the Elite Yet Controversial 60 Home Run Club

Last night Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees became only the sixth major leaguer to hit or surpass 60 home runs in a single season.

Only Babe Ruth, Roger Maris, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds have accomplished that incredible feat.

Babe Ruth had 60 home runs in 1927 with the Yankees.

Roger Maris 61 in 1961 with the Yankees.

Mark McGwire 70 in 1998 and 65 in 1999 with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Sammy Sosa 66 in 1998, 63 in 1999 and 64 in 2001 with the Chicago Cubs.

Barry Bonds has the Major League record with 73 which he hit in 2001 with the San Francisco Giants.

Judge now holds the American League single season record for most home runs by a right-handed batter. Jimmy Foxx hit 58 for the Philadelphia Athletics and Hank Greenberg had 58 in 1938 for the Detroit Tigers.

Although the 60-home run mark has been a milestone for nearly a century those who have achieved it have done so with a certain amount of controversy.

Ruth achieved his feat during an era when some of the greatest baseball players were not allowed to play in the major leagues due to racial segregation.

Maris reached 60 home runs only after the majors extended the season from 154 games to 162. Thus, giving him more games than Ruth.

McGwire, Sosa and Bonds all reached the 60-home run mark during the steroid era. McGwire has admitted that he used steroids to improve his power numbers. Though there is much evidence to the contrary Sosa and Bonds have not admitted steroid use.

To this point Judge’s pursuit of the single season home run record has been met with tremendous excitement and no controversy. We’ll see how far he goes. I for one will be rooting for him.