A Tour of the Old Yankee Stadium

Howard Goldin

Several hours before the start of the Yankees-Pirates contest at the current Yankee Stadium, a free tour of the no longer existing old Yankee Stadium was given. The quite unusual, since the previous Yankee Stadium was demolished in 2008, yet interesting tour took place in McCombs Dam Park, the site of the original Stadium.

The tour guide for the 50-100 persons following was Dr. Cary Goodman, the executive director of the 161st Street BID (Business Improvement District). The 161 BID sponsored the tour that was one of many activities that took place throughout the borough during Bronx Week in mid-May.

Cary Goodman is highly intelligent, extremely knowledgeable of the neighborhood and very personable and good humored. His personal characteristics equipped him to make all those taking the tour feel comfortable. He responded to all questions and comments with courtesy. Unlike many “experts”, he was honest when he did not know the answer to a question. He asked the tourists if anyone could find the answer on a smart phone, which several were able to do.

Much history of the Stadium was imparted to the group. When the original Stadium was constructed in the early 1920’s, the cost was $2.5 million. When the new version was completed in 2009, the cost was more than $1 billion.

What was disappointing to learn was how few artifacts of the original Yankee Stadium are still in the area. The frieze that used to noticeably adorn the top of the stadium is now in the park. The 138 ‘ bat that was a meeting place for many outside the ballpark is now located next to the 153rd Street Metro North station, which is inside the park.

The tour group was also informed that only dirt from the mound and Thurman Munson’s locker were brought across the street from the original Stadium. It’s sad that neither the New York Yankees nor the New York City Department of Parks salvaged additional mementos to create a secure learning environment within the park so that the young generation today and those of the future can feel a greater connection to the history of Yankee Stadium and the community in which it is located.

Goodman and the group walked several blocks outside the park, so he could point out other sites in the neighborhood. When showing the group Lou Gehrig Plaza, located a few blocks away, he explained that, despite the rich history of the Yankees, there are no statues of any of the iconic persons.

The 161 BID is attempting to obtain support for the erection of a Lou Gehrig statue in that area with a built in device to provide knowledge of his life and accomplishments. This is an excellent idea since Gehrig’s character can teach much. Also, Gehrig spent his post-baseball years as a Bronx resident until his death.

Although there were not a great many artifacts to view on the tour, Goodman made the one-hour journey interesting and pleasant, especially for young people and out-of-towners who comprised a large percentage of the tour group on Saturday. The tour is worthy of being scheduled more often.