First Opening Day
It was 77 years ago today - April 18, 1923 - that
"The House That Ruth Built" opened for business.
The New York Yankees’ first home opponent was the
Boston Red Sox. No one back then was bold enough to predict the fabulous
and outstanding moments the future held in store for the brand new
American League park.
The press release first announcing the new stadium
indicated it would be shaped like the Yale Bowl and that it would contain
towering battlements enclosing the entire park so that those lacking
tickets would not even be able to get a glimpse of the action.
Built at a cost of $2.5 million, "The Yankee
Stadium", as it was originally named, had a brick-lined vault with
electronic equipment under second base, making it possible to have a
boxing ring and press area on the infield.
Yankee Stadium was the first ballpark to be called a
stadium, the last privately financed major league park. It was a gigantic
horseshoe shaped by triple-decked grandstands. Huge wooden bleachers
circled the park. The 10,712 upper-grandstand seats and 14,543 lower
grandstand seats were fixed in place by 135,000 individual steel castings
on which 400,000 pieces of maple lumber were fastened by more than a
A massive crowd showed up for the proudest moment in the
history of the South Bronx. Many in the huge assemblage wore heavy
sweaters, coats and hats. Some sported dinner jackets. The announced
attendance was 74,217, later changed to 60,000. More than 25,000 were
turned away. They would linger outside in the cold listening to the sounds
of music and the roar of the crowd inside the stadium.
At game time, the temperature was a nippy 49 degrees.
Wind whipped the two Yankee pennants and blew dust from the dirt road that
led to the stadium. The dominant sound of the day was the march beat
played by the Seventh Regiment Band, directed by John Phillip Sousa.
Seated in the celebrity box were Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain
Landis, New York State Governor Al Smith and Yankee owner Colonel Jacob
At 3:25 in the afternoon, Babe Ruth was presented with
an oversized bat handsomely laid out in a glass case. At 3:30, Governor
Smith threw out the first ball to Yankee catcher Wally Schang. At 3:35,
home plate umpire Tommy Connolly bellowed: "Play ball!"
Babe Ruth said: "I'd give a year of my life if I
can hit a home run in the first game in this new park". His wish and
that of the tens of thousands in attendance came true. The Babe came to
bat in the third inning. There were two Yankee base runners. Boston
pitcher Howard Ehmke tried to fool Ruth with a slow pitch. The Sultan of
Swat turned it into a fast pitch, hammering it on a line into the
right-field bleachers. It was the first home run in Yankee Stadium
history; Ruth got his wish.
The huge crowd was on its feet roaring as Ruth crossed
the plate, removed his cap, extended it at arm's length in front of him,
and waved to the ecstatic assemblage - witnesses to baseball history. The
game played out into the lengthening afternoon shadows. "Sailor
Bob" Shawkey, sporting a red sweatshirt under his jersey, pitched the
Yankees to a 4-1 victory, making the first Opening Day at Yankee Stadium a
matter of record.
Harvey Frommer is the proud author of the "New York
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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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