Omir the Storyteller

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

In Which Omir Says Good Things About Yankee Stadium (Somebody Shoot Me Now)


I hear rumors they're going to build a new Yankee Stadium. I hope they keep the old one.

Here's why.

OK, before we start, most of you who know me know that my favorite teams are the Mariners, whoever's playing the Yankees, and whoever's playing the Athletics. (If the Athletics are playing the Yankees, well, that's sort of like the hillbilly watching his mother-in-law wrestling a bear.) But even though I am, to say the least, not a big Yankee fan, I recognize their place as the pre-eminent sports franchise in America. I can't think of another one with the name recognition, fan base, and the success as a franchise that the Yankees have had. The Cubs haven't head the success. The Dodgers never won a thing until Jackie Robinson came along. The Cowboys were just getting started when Roger Maris was hitting his 61st home run. The only teams I can think of that would even come close to the Yankees would be the Packers, who toiled for years in a sport that played a distant second fiddle to baseball, and the Montreal Canadiens, who are the equivalent of the Yankees in a country with a tenth the population.

Babe Ruth. Lou Gehrig. Joe DiMaggio. Mickey Mantle. Those are names almost every American knows, whether they follow baseball or not. And they all made their names with the Yankees.

Which brings us to Yankee Stadium. Sure it's getting old, it's probably not the economic powerhouse that teams expect these days where money rules with a tighter grip than anything Tony Lazzeri ever put on a bat, but it was home to all of the Yankee's successes from the time it was built to the present. It ranks with Wrigley Field, Fenway Park and the Hall of Fame as a monument to the sport.

Why tear it down? Would you tear down the Parthenon just because it outlived the purpose for which it was built?

I have a modest suggestion: Deed Yankee Stadium to the Interior Department and assess Major League Baseball a fee for its upkeep. Make it an official National Monument. Use it to showcase the history of sport in the United States, and baseball and the Yankees in particular. Yeah, that sets a precedent -- but I would say that, again, the Yankees are unprecedented in American sports history. Yeah, it's something Major League Baseball should do, maybe as an adjunct to the Hall of Fame -- but I'm not sure they would be interested. Help to defray the upkeep and costs by staging exhibitions there. Baseball recreationists would probably love a chance to play in the house that Ruth built, and such exhibitions might give us Americans an idea of what life was like in the days before sport became Big Business.

It would just be a shame to tear it down when so much history is attached. I would like to think that fifty years from now, the ten-year-olds of today could take their grandkids to the park, sit in the seat they sat in with Grandpa, and tell tales of how they watched Derek Jeter beat out a tag at second or how Jason Giambi put one over the fence right there. I'm probably dreaming, but hey, isn't that one of the things a blog is for?