Yankees History: Yankee Stadium Reopened 40 Years Ago Today


When the Mariners and Yankees step on the field for tonight’s game, it’ll mark the 40th anniversary of the 1976 reopening of Yankee Stadium.

The original Yankee Stadium opened up on April 18, 1923 and closed for good (at least for baseball) on September 21, 2008. However, the “House that Ruth Built” was not the exclusive home of the Bronx Bombers for all 85 years of its existence. A renovation project closed the stadium following the 1973 season, and the Bronx faithful wouldn’t see a game played in their borough for two long years. From 1974 to 1975, the Yankees were forced out of their home by a renovation project and played all of their home games at Shea Stadium in Queens.

During the 1973 season, it became apparent that the stadium was in need of a makeover, as pieces of concrete were actually falling from the facade, and the structure was very run down, after 50 years of non-stop baseball action. That being said, there were some bizarre quirks that needed to be changed too.

Although the original dimensions had been altered in 1937, the dimensions before the 1976 revision were still pretty ridiculous. The left field foul pole stood just 301 feet away. The right field foul, meanwhile, was 296 feet away (I guess in case little leaguers had a game at the stadium?). Straightaway left sat over 400 feet away, as did straightaway right field. Right-center was a reasonable 407 (still a bit deep), but center and left-center, which sat 461 and 457 feet away respectively, were just plain absurd.

Did I mention that there were also three giant monuments in play in centerfield? In play! I’m all for honoring Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth and Miller Huggins, but not at the risk of outfielder safety. I don’t know how more guys didn’t get killed out there, not to mention how terrible it must have been when balls caromed off of those monuments. I still scratch my head when I think that those used to be in center. Watch the video below for some footage of how “The Cathedral of Baseball” looked back then.

Aside from moving the fences out down the lines and in everywhere else, (the new dimensions were 312 down the left field line, 379 to left, 411 to left-center, 410 to center, 385 to right-center, 353 to right and 310 down the right field line), the Yankees did a lot more work to their old home. First and foremost, they put the monuments securely behind the center field wall, because… well, duh. I bet Mickey Rivers, who had signed with the team prior to the start of the season, let out a big sigh of relief when he saw that.

The other major change involved the roof. No, Yankee Stadium was never a dome or anything, but it did have a roof, which went basically from the left field foul pole, around home plate and all the way to the right field foul pole. The roof hung over the upper deck and included a beautiful frieze (now known as “the facade”) that adorned the inside of the entire structure. It’s a look the Yankees restored at the new Stadium, which opened in 2009. Anyway, the Yankees removed that roof, and instead created a much shorter area atop the upper deck (which was extended to left-center and right-center) that included lights for the entire field. They kept a version of the facade, using it instead to decorate the area from left-center field to right-center field, where there were no upper decks. The last big change was to create the all black batters eye in dead center, which they did by removing an entire section of bleacher seats. You can see all that below:

Embed from Getty Images

As for the first game in the newly renovated stadium, the thing we’re celebrating in this post, the Yankees took on the Twins 40 years ago today. The game started poorly for the Bronx faithful, as the Twins took a 3-0 lead in the top of the first. I won’t go into full detail, but the Yankees ended up winning an 11-4 laugher. The Yankees first hit was a leadoff infield single by the aforementioned Rivers, and the team managed 13 more hits in the game. However, nobody managed to hit one over the fence on day one. Thurman Munson would do the honors two days later, in the first inning of the next game (a game the Yankees won 10-0). That season ended being a pretty special one, as the Yankees made it to their first World Series in 12 years, losing to the Reds in four games. They would win the next two World Series, which more than made up for the sweep.

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I don’t know about you guys, but as much as I love the new stadium, the renovated version of the old stadium is what I grew up on, and so it will always have a special place in my heart. Even though it’s gone, it’s still nice to remember it whenever I can.