Our sweet, terminal Shea Stadium only has nine official days of life in her.
Some of you have asked: yes, if the Mets make the post-season, the Doomsday Clock will reset
and we shall all rejoice in the reprieve.
There will be no such last-minute call from the Governor for Yankee Stadium. The days for The House that Ruth Drank In are truly numbered. Sunday night, the doors of Yankee Stadium close forever.
Over the next few days, we'll post a few recollections of Yankee Stadium. It's only fair. Love or hate the Yankees, there is no doubt that Yankee Stadium is also a cultural landmark. Yes, this isn't the "real" Yankee Stadium anymore but that's beside the point. Some of my best friends (and nicest relatives) are Yankee fans, and some very cool Yankee fans have even become Loge13 readers and offered their great memories of both doomed stadiums (big shout out to John!). Heck, a Yankee fan even runs the Blogs By Fans network - Depressed Fan Brian
- (hence the name). This will be a rough weekend for them. So here's to my homeys.
The NY Times had a great little item today on the original architectural plans for Yankee Stadium.
Enjoy:George Steinbrenner came to public renown in Cleveland.
But Yankee Stadium was born there and raised in the Bronx.
Osborn Engineering Company of Cleveland turned its knowledge of bridge design into an expertise in sports architecture early in the 20th century that made it the creator of an all-star team of facilities: the Polo Grounds, Forbes Field, Navin and Braves Fields, Fenway and Comiskey Parks, Griffith Stadium, and two of the Indians’ homes, League Park and Cleveland Municipal Stadium. The Yankees’ owners, Jacob Ruppert and Tillinghast L. Huston, sought out Osborn, and by early 1921 they had signed their deal.
On April 18, 1923, Yankee Stadium opened.
“It was the first ballpark to call itself a stadium,” said Kurt Rim, chairman of the firm that was founded in 1892 by Frank Osborn. “And it was the first triple-deck stadium.”
The steel-and-concrete evidence of Osborn’s architects will be razed, to be replaced by a stadium modeled on the original but designed by HOK Sport, the Osborn of modern days. But long after Yankee Stadium I turns to rubble, Osborn’s actual work, contained in scores of gray linen-cloth blueprints, will continue to exist. The plans, in precisely drawn ink, bring to vivid artistic life the original rooftop copper frieze, the minute details of the spacing between the letters of “YANKEE STADIUM” above the main entrance and the perfectly rendered lines of the mezzanine seats, the snack stands and the bathroom layouts.
“Before there was brick and mortar, there were these,” said Arlan Ettinger, the owner of Guernsey’s, which is selling the Osborn blueprints during a Yankee Stadium-themed auction Oct. 18 at Madison Square Garden.
“In three lifetimes,” he said, “you might not come across these again.”
Earl Santee, the principal in charge of the HOK team that designed the new Stadium, studied copies of Osborn’s original designs, partly to re-create the frieze and also to understand the proportions of the original and how they applied to the new one.
“I’ve been around long enough to have put ink on linen like Osborn did,” he said, “but you have to be thoughtful about every line that is drawn. There was more detail then. The beauty is in the hands of the people who drew them. Today, designs all look the same; they’re spit out by a computer. Then, a curve or a detail got more attention.”
The linens illustrate some of the planned magnificence of features, like the exterior archways, terra cotta medallions of eagles perched on nests of bats (which have been re-created for the new Stadium) above the entrance to the Yankees’ offices, and the way the flagstaffs were to be attached to columns separating each section of the 16-foot-high frieze.
There are some extremely mundane linens showing the plans for toilets, mezzanine seats, concourses, offices, foundations and ramps. Still, a 1922 design of storage rooms offers this snappy little note: “This space for peanut roaster and popcorn popper.”
About 10 years ago, when Osborn moved its offices, it sold its archive of blueprints to the Lelands auction house. “Space was at a premium, and we thought of microfilming them, but the cost was prohibitive,” Rim said.
Mike Heffner, the Lelands president, said most of the designs were sold in large lots, although some were sold individually. “It’s not great artwork,” he said. “But you might want to hang one up on your wall.”
Many, but not all, of the Yankee Stadium blueprints were acquired by Mitch Baker, a New Jersey memorabilia dealer. He acquired nearly all that Lelands had available, and more from other collectors. He once had about 190 of the blueprints, but after selling some, including those of the frieze and outdoor archways, he has 160 left. They span the 1920s to the ’40s, from the true originals to those for expansions and alterations.
“I just look at them, see they’re all ink-on-linen and hand-drawn, and think of all the hours it took to make them,” he said. “These are the actual plans. I can sit here and say: ‘This is the start of Yankee Stadium. These are the originals.’ ”
He added: “I look for hard-to-find stuff that puts a smile on your face. When Lelands sold these, they were in a cardboard box that said, ‘Yankee Stuff.’ ”
Baker is also selling letters between the team and Osborn, including one to Frank Osborn in which Ruppert wrote, “Enclosed is a check for $3,332, minus the $88.20 you charged for taxes we don’t feel we have to pay you.”
Osborn did not disappear from stadium architecture, but it faded. The firm designed Three Rivers Stadium and provided engineering to its hometown Jacobs Field and Cleveland Browns Stadium.
“It’s sad knowing Yankee Stadium will no longer exist,” Rim said. “When they demolished Three Rivers, I was asked to watch, but I couldn’t go. I said, ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’ ”
No date is scheduled for the razing of Yankee Stadium.