Another season, another opening day.
The old Yankee Stadium still stands but the new
one (as if we needed it) is in place poised for its first opening
One of the most memorable of openings days at the
“House That Ruth Built” took place in 1927 when the old Yankee
Stadium was just four years old.
Owner Colonel Jacob Ruppert was very upbeat about
prospects for baseball in 1927 but was muted in his predictions for
his team. He did not seem to have a clue as to what tremendous
accomplishments lay ahead for his Yankees.
“Everything indicates that 1927 will be one of the
most remarkable in baseball history,” Ruppert told reporters.
Although born in New York, he had never lost the German accent
inherited from his paternal grandfather. It was an accent that
became thicker when he became emotional, usually when talking about
On April 10th , a New York Times headline
“BIG LEAGUE SEASON TO OPEN ON TUESDAY: Yanks Will
Greet Athletics, Picked by Many to Win Flag, at the Stadium”
“Well, it won't be long now,” James R. Harrison
wrote in The Times. “Only a few days more and the greatest show on
earth will be on. Tired business men will lock their desks and go
uptown for an important "conference" at 3:30 P.M. The mortality rate
among the grandparents of office boys will take an alarming jump . .
Everything was in readiness for the Yankees of New
York beginning their fifth season at their majestic Yankee Stadium
home field in the Bronx.
"The big parade toward Yankee Stadium started
before noon yesterday,” Peter Vischer described Opening Day 1927 in
the New York World. “Subways brought ever-increasing crowds into
the Bronx. Taxicabs arrived by the hundreds. Buses came jammed to
the doors. The parade never stopped.”
"Yankee Stadium was a mistake, not mine but the
Giants’," Ruppert had said. The site was chosen for among other
reasons to irritate the Yankees former landlords the Giants and
because the IRT Jerome Avenue subway line snaked its way virtually
atop the Stadium's right-field wall.
Built at a cost of $2.5 million, "The Yankee
Stadium", as it was originally named, and nick-named "the House that
Ruth Built,"when the park first opened in 1923 by Fred Lieb always
one especially handy coming up with a catch phrase, had a
brick-lined vault storing electronic equipment under second base,
making it feasible to have a boxing ring and press area on the
Yankee Stadium was the first ballpark to be
called a stadium. A mammoth horseshoe shaped by triple-decked
grandstands, the edifice’s huge wooden bleachers circled the park.
The 10,712 upper-grandstand seats and 14,543 lower grandstand seats
had been fixed in place by 135,000 individual steel castings upon
which 400,000 pieces of maple lumber were fastened by more than a
million screws. Sod from Long Island, 16,000 square feet of it, was
The Stadium had eight toilet rooms for men
and as many for women scattered throughout the stands and bleachers,
a nice touch for the time. A 15-foot deep copper facade adorned the
front of the roof, covering much of the Stadium's third deck, giving
it an elegant almost dignified air. This decorative and distinctive
element was the ball park’s logo.
Seating capacity in 1927 was now 62,000, increased
from 58,000. The admission price for the 22,000 bleacher seats (the
most in baseball) was reduced in 1927 from 75 cents to 50 cents.
Grandstand admission was $1.10. All wooden seats were painted blue.
In right center field there was a permanent "Ruthville" sign.
Sometimes , the area was also called "Gehrigville".
The left-field pole was but a short 281-foot poke
from home plate. It was 415 feet to left, 490 feet to left center,
487 feet to dead center, 429 feet to right center, 344 feet to
right, and 295 feet down the right field line. The 82 feet behind
home plate made for plenty of room for a catcher to run and chase
wild pitches, passed balls, foul balls.
Above the bleachers in right centerfield was the
manual scoreboard. The Yankee bullpen looked out on left
centerfield. The dark green Yankee dugout was on the third base side
of the field and remained there until 1946.
"By game time the vast structure was packed
solid," Peter Vicher’s article continued. "April 12, 1927, Opening
Day at Yankee Stadium. Rows of men were standing in back of the
seats and along the runways. Such a crowd had never seen a baseball
game or any other kind of game in New York."
The crowd was the largest in all the history of
baseball, 73,206, breaking the previous attendance record of 63,600
that had been set in Game 2 of the 1926 World Series. Another 25,000
were turned away.There were 9,000 guests of the New York Yankees
plus one thousand who were able to get in with passes.
On the balmy, almost summery day, the Seventh
Regiment Band dressed in gray outfits began playing with vim and
gusto. Red coated ushers, really into their effort of trying to
keep the level of behavior orderly, worked the crowd, seating
At 3:25 the string bean manager Cornelius
McGillicuddy (Connie Mack) of the Philadelphia Athletics, in dark
civilian clothes and high stiff collar who was featured on that
week’s Time Magazine cover, and the wisp of a Yankee pilot Miller
Huggins posed for photographs.
Mayor Jimmy Walker, 45, typified New York City and
the 1920s. A svelte, more dressed up model of the gregarious Babe
Ruth, Walker in 1927 was happily involved with Betty Compton, 23, an
actress. The two of them, it was said, had a gay time of it in their
Ritz Hotel suite. Largely ignoring public mention of the
relationship, the press instead gave lots of attention to the way
Walker dressed, the parties he attended, the stories he told.
Urbane, dashing, positioned in Ruppert's private
box, the Mayor threw out the first ball – twice, taking no chance to
miss a photo op, to Eddie Bennett, referred to in newspapers of the
time as “the hunchback bat boy.”
Bennett gave players their bats, presented
baseballs to umpires. He let his cap and hump be rubbed by Yankees
before games. He sat on the bench next to Miller Huggins, observing
and pointing out things out on the field, a kind of precursor to
today’s bench coaches. He would bring bicarbonate of soda to Babe
Ruth before every game generally during batting practice after the
big man had downed his massive quota of hot dogs and soda pop.
Ruth and Bennett would create laughs for early
arrivals at the Stadium by engaging in a highly animated game of
catch. Starting about ten feet apart, they would toss the ball back
and forth. Ruth would throw the ball after a while about a foot
above Bennett’s reach, and he would scamper after it. They would
repeat the routine and the Yankee mascot would bitch a bit to the
Babe who would feign total innocence. The game continued until
Bennett found himself backed up against the screen behind home
plate. To some, the whole ritual was viewed as cruel behavior on
Ruth’s part, a taunting, shaming of a cripple. It wasn’t – just two
guys playing around.
On this day of days, the Yankees had two loud
voiced announcers using megaphones to inform the crowd of the
on-the- field goings on. Previously one megaphoner had sufficed,
colorful Jack Lentz, longtime announcer, who wore a derby hat and
sometimes mangled the King's English. He was joined by George Levy,
who had made a reputation working the Polo Grounds. He wore a soft
hat and made use of a smallish megaphone. The work of the
announcers was simple: speak the name of each player as he came to
bat; keep silent after that except when a new player entered the
Knowledgeable fans noticed a significant change in
New York’s white wool flannel home uniforms for 1927. "Yankees" was
now on the front of the jersey rather than the name of the city.
Navy blue vertical pinstripes and stirrups accentuated the uniform.
Players wore navy blue caps with a white interlocking "NY" in script
on the front. The v-necked shirts had a brief tapered extension
around the neck. Sleeves extended over the elbows, and the knicker
pants reached just below the knees. Belts and cleats were black. On
the road, the team from the Bronx would wear a gray uniform with
"YANKEES" in navy blue block letters across the chest, and two
colored stirrups, navy blue on top and rust on bottom.
By noon, a carnival-like atmosphere pervaded the
area around Yankee Stadium. Swarms of hawkers, vendors, gawkers and
fans intermingled in a circus of sounds and colors.
By three o'clock most unreserved seats had been
snatched up. Lines of police were at River Avenue in the back of
the park and also along the approaches in front of the Stadium. New
York’s Finest checked carefully allowing only those with tickets to
It was exactly half past three when the game got
- This was the Yankee Opening Day lineup:
- Earle Combs cf
- Mark Koenig ss
- Babe Ruth rf
- Lou Gehrig 1b
- Bob Meusel lf
- Tony Lazzeri 2b
- Joe Dugan 3b
- Johnny Grabowski c
- Waite Hoyt p
The Yankees, scoring four runs in the fifth and
sixth innings, triumphed, 8-3, They were in first place where they
would remain day in and day out throughout the season.