It is not exactly what one would refer to as a fire
sale. Nevertheless, all the ingredients are there - - making an
extra buck, capitalizing on people's nostalgia and their desire to
get a piece of the action, the right timing . . .
From all reports the New York Yankees are poised to
profit from selling off parts and pieces of 85-year-old Yankee
Stadium before it is no more. What will be on the selling block
remains pure speculation. But the famous blue plastic seats seem
fair game. Derek Jeter's locker, used by him for his 14-year career
could fetch $50,000 to $100,000 if the Yankees decide to auction it.
At a hundred bucks a pop, pieces of the white frieze plastic
replica running around the top of the bleacher's billboards would
fetch a pretty penny or two or three.
And there is so much more railings, pitching rubber, jock straps,
uniforms, furniture from George Steinbrenner's office. . . .
We have been here before but in a much less hyper
way. That was when Yankee Stadium was renovated and refurbished
after the 1973 season and re-opened again in 1975.
The final game in the "old Yankee Stadium was September 30, 1973.
DUKE SIMS: I caught that last game for the Yankees.
It was only at the moment of the final out when I saw the crowd hit
the field that I went "Whoa! They want souvenirs." It seemed there
were thousands of people, all in a frenzy, tearing up everything,
even scooping dirt from the ground. I was right at home plate. If I
were smart, I would have grabbed it.
DAN MARENGO: By the sixth inning of that last game,
all you heard was hammers. When the game finally ended, people
jumped out of the stands trying to get anything that was not nailed
down. They even took stuff that was: second base, sod, signs,
advertising paraphernalia, chairs. Using tools my father had brought
along, my friend Jerry and I took the chairs we had been sitting on.
But we saw people carrying off rows of seats.
The Stadium was chaos, a free for all to get
souvenirs. People had come not only to see the last game but to
take pieces of the Stadium, and they were tearing it apart. Back
then, they didn't have that much security.
JOEY COOPERMAN: I took the wooden chair I had been sitting on. Heck,
nobody stopped me. People were wandering around with chairs. It was
like a riot broke loose. Phil Rizzuto, on the broadcast, was very,
very upset that somebody stole second base.
Afterwards, a more civilized disposition of Yankee artifacts was
organized. The bat racks and bullpen steps were donated to the
Smithsonian. Babe Ruth's widow received home plate; Lou Gehrig's
widow was given first base. George Steinbrenner loaned a group of
seats for the audience to the producers of a new television show:
"Saturday Night Live." (Never returned, they remain in use to this
day.) Those seats that had escaped the free-for-fall following the
final game were sold to ex-players and fans.
PHIL SPERANZA: I went down with three friends and we all bought
seats, thirteen dollars each, the old wooden seats, all blue, the
ones that when fans banged on them, an echo would go through the
Stadium. I also picked up a one-piece grounds crew uniform which had
the Yankee logo on the back for about eight dollars.
JIM BOUTON: I bought a whole bunch of stuff:
pictures, chairs which I have in my basement right now, a stool from
the clubhouse --Babe Ruth used to sit on a stool like that.
TRACY NIEPORENT: My brother Drew and I got
ourselves a chair for just ten bucks It had iron stanchions and was
very heavy. We'd come up to the Stadium by subway and now had to
climb that damn El on 161st Street to get back home. When we did, we
found a piece of petrified gum underneath the chair. At first, I
thought to scrape it off. But then I thought it might have been
there when Joe DiMaggio had his 56th game hitting streak.
SETH SWIRSKY: I got one of the seats. It has the
original paint on it, that particular blue and the slats in the
back. I sit in it in my house now, and I think about whoever sat in
this seat over the years
The 1973 season marked an end of an era whose time
was captured by Bob Sheppard in an elegiac ode:
Farewell, old Yankee Stadium!
You've filled these fifty years
With a treasury of memories
Some laughter, thrills and tears.
Farewell, old Yankee Stadium!
We'll miss your graceful sweep...
The far façade...that triple deck...
That centerfield so deep.
Farewell, old Yankee Stadium!
We'll miss you while at Shea;
But we'll be waiting anxiously
For your next Opening Day.
The 1973 "Fire Sale" of artifacts and mementos sold
off by Invirex of Long Island, the firm hired to dismantle the
$30,000: lights purchased by Oasaka baseball team of Japan
$10,000: foul poles purchased by Osaka baseball team of Japan
$500: box seats, enlarged photos of Babe Ruth on Babe Ruth Day,
and clubhouse stool purchased by Jim Bouton
$300: sign "Gate A"
$200: huge picture of a young Joe DiMaggio
$150: photo of Dan Larsen making last pitch of perfect game
$75: locker room scale
$50: an old duffel bag that belonged to Joe Pepitone
Box seats: $20
$10: groundskeeper's uniform
$5: trays of hot dog vendors
$3: Men's' lavatory "In" sign
$3: A sheet of World Series tickets, unused from the 1972
Yankees' near miss
50 cents: sign: "Scout Admission 50 Cents"
Total proceeds from that sale were $300,000.
How much the 2008 "fire sale" will net is beyond imagining.
Harvey Frommer is the author of REMEMBERING YANKEE
STADIUM: AN ORAL AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOUSE THAT RUTH BUILT
(The Definitive Book) Fall 2008 (Abrams, Stewart, Tabori & Chang).
# # #
You can reach
Harvey Frommer at:
About the Author:
Harvey Frommer is in his 38th year of writing books.
A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports
books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and
"Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE
STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL
AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to
acclaim in 2011. The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was
Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One.
His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times,
Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men's Heath,
The Sporting News, among other publications.
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Frommer along with his wife, Myrna Katz Frommer are the authors of
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