I'm not from New York. I don't live in New York. It wouldn't
bother me if much of New York was attacked by a sex-crazed giant
But I love Yankee Stadium.
Yankee Stadium is the single most important place in the history
of U.S. sports. No? Name me another stadium that gave America
the best college football game (Army 0, Notre Dame 0, 1946,
starring four past or future Heisman winners), the best pro
football game ('58 NFL championship game, Baltimore Colts 23,
New York Giants 17, OT, ushering in the modern era of the NFL),
the best single-game major league baseball performance (Don
Larsen's perfect game in the '56 World Series) and the most
important prizefight (Joe Louis's knockout of Hitler's Aryan
model, Max Schmeling, in '38).
I could go on and will. Win one for the Gipper. Two popes.
Reggie's three. Thirty-five pennants. Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio,
Mantle. John Philip Sousa. Grambling football. The Chesterfield
sign with the smoke swirling out. The Old Professor. Thurman's
locker. Nelson Mandela. Billy Graham. Pele.
It's not just me. Roger Clemens once scooped up a handful of
dirt from the Yankee Stadium mound and took it home. One of the
first things Tony Gwynn said after the San Diego Padres
qualified for the World Series was, "I get to play in Yankee
Now Curious George wants to kill it.
Don't believe this Shinola that people are writing during this
Series about the New George Steinbrenner. A nicer guy. Doesn't
meddle. So he listens to Metallica before games with David
Wells. So he's run out of pink slips. It's all a setup. This is
Eddie Haskell holding the chair out for you.
Never forget this: George Steinbrenner is a card-carrying greed
beast. He's being good only because he's saving up for his
slimiest deed ever. He wants to put Yankee Stadium on the
prestigious list of America's Most Historic Dirt Piles.
You can guess what George says he wants: luxury boxes. George,
you're going to end up in a one-man luxury box for all eternity.
What's your hurry?
Of course, what George really wants is more money. George needs
more money like Manute Bol needs lifts. This is a man who paid
$10 million for the Yankees 25 years ago and could now sell them
for at least $750 million. George, how much lobster bisque can a
Steinbrenner is like an aluminum-siding salesman. If his lips
are moving, he's lying. He says the Bronx is dangerous. (Not on
game days it's not. You can't throw a bucket of M&M's in any
direction and not hit six cops and a police horse. A few bases
get stolen, tops.) He says people are afraid to go there. (Well,
that's true, except for the more than three million that went
this year.) He says there's no place to park, access roads are
lousy, and the stadium is falling down. (For $535 million the
Bronx's Safe at Home plan would fix all that, plus give him all
the luxury boxes he can sit his lardass in.)
George won't listen. He either wants to move the Yankees to New
Jersey or have the city build him a $1 billion complex on the
west side of Manhattan. "I would think he would need to make a
decision in the next four or five months," says New York City
mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who doesn't much care whether the
Yankees play in the Bronx or at 34th and 10th--just that Curious
George doesn't move the team to the other side of the Hudson
But how do you move history? How do you move the spot where
rightfielder Paul O'Neill stands and thinks, Babe Ruth stood
here? How do you move the giddy, wild mix of race and class and
life a Yankees game attracts now? How do you move somebody like
85-year-old ticket-taker George Kasoff, who started working at
the stadium 50 years ago? "He [Steinbrenner] hardly even nods at
me," says Kasoff. "Yet he's taking something away that I love."
As the Yankees, with their 2-0 Series lead, were packing up for
the flight to San Diego on Sunday night, coach Willie Randolph,
who played more games at second base than any other Yankee, was
stewing about the Stadium. "I understand business and prosperity
and luxury boxes," Randolph said, "but some things are sacred.
Some things you don't mess with. I mean, there are ghosts
bouncing around this place."
May they all have George's home phone number.
COLOR PHOTO: DANA FINEMAN/SYGMA [Rick Reilly]
Steinbrenner wants to put Yankee Stadium on the prestigious list
of America's Most Historic Dirt Piles.