New York’s original Yankee Stadium, opened in 1923, was nicknamed “The House That Ruth Built” for good reason. After six seasons as primarily a pitcher (and a successful one) for the Boston Red Sox, Babe Ruth was traded in 1920 to the rival New York Yankees, or really sold. Ruth went on to a Hall of Fame career with the Yankees, hitting the most home runs in Major League Baseball nine seasons (to go along with his having already done so in 1918 and 1919 for the Red Sox).
And he didn’t take long to make his mark, setting the all time record for home runs in a season with 54 his first year with the Yankees in 1920, and surpassing that accomplishment by hitting 59 in 1921. In 1921 and 1922, he led the Yankees to their first ever American League pennants, losing in the World Series both years to the New York Giants, with whom they shared the Polo Grounds.
By this point the Giants let the Yankees know that they were no longer welcome in their ballpark and would have to make other arrangements for the 1923 season. Ruth and the Yankees by now were such a phenomenon that the money was not hard for the team to come by to build a state of the art ballpark to their own specifications, which they proceeded to do in the Bronx, christening it “Yankee Stadium” (though “Ruth Field” had also been considered).
Showing his usual flair for the dramatic, Ruth hit the first ever home run in Yankee Stadium, in the first game played there, against the Red Sox. More importantly, he and the Yankees won their first World Series in the stadium’s very first season of 1923.
The Yankees went on to win a stunning 37 American League pennants and 26 World Series Championships during the years they played at Yankee Stadium from 1923 to 2008. Ruth was joined as a Yankee legend by teammate Lou Gehrig, and then later decades saw Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and so many other big names, down to such figures as Derek Jeter in the modern era.
Finally the Yankees moved to a new stadium in 2009, built directly across the street from the old. Though “retro” in style, it was as state of the art for its time as the original Yankee Stadium had been in 1923.
Here are some comparisons between the old and the new stadiums:
* The name was retained, so both are called Yankee Stadium. (The current one sometimes being referred to as “Yankee Stadium II” or “the new Yankee Stadium.”)
* The capacity of the old ballpark was 56,886; that of the new is 52,325.
* The seating in the new ballpark is more “fan friendly.” There are more seats close to the field. The seats are slightly wider, and there is more leg room between rows. The seats have cup holders.
* Foul territory has been shrunk considerably. The primary dimensions of fair territory are the same (318 feet down the left field line, 399 feet to left center, 408 feet to center, 385 feet to right center, 314 feet down the right field line). However, the outfield wall is shaped so as to make home runs slightly easier. This coupled with the diminution of foul territory makes the new stadium more of a “hitter’s park.”
* There are 56 “luxury suites” and 410 “party suites” in the new Yankee Stadium, compared to 19 and zero, respectively, in the old.
* Average concourse width is up from 17 feet to 32 feet.
* Concession stands and vendors have been increased from 1 per 191 fans, to 1 per 117 fans.
* There is now 1 restroom per 60 fans, including 12 “family-style” restrooms, compared to 1 restroom per 89 fans in the old stadium.
* The new stadium features substantially more restaurants, lounges, and souvenir stands.
* There are 16 elevators compared to 3, and the new ballpark is substantially more wheelchair-friendly in general.
* The main scoreboard was 25 feet by 33 feet in the old Yankee Stadium. It is 59 feet by 101 feet in the new, and is high definition.
Oh, and one other similarity: The Yankees remain winners. Just as they won the World Series in 1923 in the old Yankee Stadium’s inaugural season, the Yankees started the era of the new Yankee Stadium off right by winning the 2009 World Series.