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22nd September
2008

First Published in The New York Sun, September 22, 2008

By Andrew Wolf

The last game of Major League baseball has been played at Yankee Stadium, following an incredible outpouring of nostalgia and reminiscences. Now the vultures are swooping down to sell off the great coliseum, piece by piece. Seats will fetch about a $1,000 each, someone is ready to package the dirt from the field, holy ground to millions of baseball fans throughout the world, and even the urinals will be sold for their “historic” value.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

When the announcement was made that the new Stadium will be built across the street, it was asserted that at least part of the old Stadium would be salvaged.

Somehow, in a town that requires a public hearing if a restaurant wants to put a few tables outside of their establishment, no public hearing was deemed necessary regarding the demolition of this iconic building, one that, by the way, is the public property of the City of New York. The Yankees are merely tenants.

The City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, usually quick to protect scores of less-than-distinguished structures, has refused to “calendar” the Stadium for possible protection. This action would prevent the demolition and dismantling until the Commission could hold hearings, explore possible future uses, and consider the possibility, however remote, that the Stadium could be saved.

Isn’t this the least that Yankee Stadium deserves?

A Long Islander named Tim Reid traveled to Washington recently to try to convince the National Historic Trust to support efforts to landmark the Stadium. Mr. Reid is a friend of Linda Ruth Tosetti, the granddaughter of Babe Ruth. The message he got was clear: they appreciate the Stadium’s importance, and in fact they published an article about its significance in their magazine. But they must defer to the local authorities.

Following the two earlier columns on this topic that I wrote for the Sun, my son and I set up a Web site, www.SaveYankeeStadium.org, to advocate for the preservation of the great arena. There’s nothing in it for either of us, other than expressing our love of the Game as it has been played in my home borough of The Bronx for the past 85 glorious years. And, of course, to honor my father, who watched Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig from the bleachers when he was a lad.

We’ve gotten well over a thousand fans to express their support, most leaving a short comment. What is so striking to me is how many of them come from outside of New York, many not Yankee fans, but all expressing the belief that this isn’t just another ballpark. One fellow from Venezuela sent this comment on Saturday, in Spanish, “If you destroy it, I will die with the sadness of not having known the great temple of baseball.”

These feelings, as well as the outpouring of nostalgia in the various newspapers over the weekend, the all day programming on the ESPN cable network prior to the game, the thousand extra security guards hired to prevent fans from looting the ballpark and, yes, the very idea that even the urinals are of historic value leads me to the inescapable conclusion: this is a place people care about, a place worth saving.

Here is a building, recognized as the symbol of the national sport, known and honored in every corner of the world where baseball is played. It could and should be used as a museum, and would, I believe, become a major tourist attraction enhancing our local economy for generations to come. And unlike the expensive new stadium, the kind of museum I envision, perhaps a branch of baseball’s Hall of Fame, will be a 365-day-a-year draw.

Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m crazy, but I think that the future of an irreplaceable building is worth the time it will take to give some thought and consideration before allowing the piranhas to pick the carcass apart - a carcass I remind you that belongs to you and me as citizens of our great city, not to the Steinbrenner family or the memorabilia merchants.

As we learned after the premature demolition of the old Penn Station, the event that led to the creation of the Landmarks Commission, once the wrecking ball swings, it is too late.

A great deal of love has been expressed for this ballpark. Maybe we can harness that love and achieve the twin goals of protecting our heritage, and boost the city’s economy in this time of uncertainty. It will take a “Ruthian” effort. But that is something that comes with this territory.

© 2008 The New York Sun, One, SL, LLC. All rights reserved.

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