Tuesday, April 11, 2017

SPORTS BOOKSHELF By Harvey Frommer

SPORTS BOOKSHELF

By Harvey Frommer



NBA Play-offs looming and big-time books about basketball all over the

place. What follows is your faithful reviewers picks – all slam dunks.

Golden by Marcus Thompson II (Touchstone, $26.00, 259 pages) is sub-

titled “the miraculous rise of Seth Curry” and it is all about that and much more.

Thompson, who it claimed has been witness to every dribble of Curry’s pro career”

and had limitless access to his subject and all those around him that formed “the

family and friends and support circle” made good use of it. This is a terrific book

insightful, at times controversial, always worth reading. MUST READ

“Return of the King” by Brian Windhorst and Dave McMenamin (Grand

Central Publishing, $28.00, 264v pages) is all about as its sub-title proclaims:

LeBron James, The Cleveland Cavaliers and the Greatest Comeback in NBA

History. Both authors like Thompson II had limitless access it seems to the words

and the deeds of the player many consider the brightest star in the NBA galaxy.

We are there frontstage and backstage, thru the ups and downs, inside the locker

room and on the court. TERRIFIC READ


“FURIOUS GEORGE” by George Karl with Curt Sampson

(HarperCollins, $27.99, 228 pages) is a heck of a book that covers four decades of

George Karl’s experiences in the National Basketball Association. The ex-coach

spares no one as he recounts all the details of what his basketball life was like.

Controversial, eye opening, on point, honest – if only all sports memoirs were like

this. OUTSTANDING




BOOKENDS: College Football’s Greatest edited by Bill Syken (Sports

Illustrated, $32.95, 256 pages) is a mother lode of images, stats. Accounts of the

programs, the big men on campus, the running backs, the coaches, the rivalries.

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Coming this fall:

http://www.frommerbooks.com/ultimate-yankees.html

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About the Author:   One of the most prolific and respected sports journalists and oral historians in the United States, author of the autobiographies of legends Nolan Ryan, Tony Dorsett, and Red Holzman, Dr. Harvey Frommer is an expert on the New York Yankees and has arguably written more books, articles and reviews on the New York Yankees than anyone.   In 2010, he was selected by the City of New York as an historical consultant for the re-imagined old Yankee Stadium site, Heritage Field. A professor in the MALS program at Dartmouth College, Frommer was dubbed “Dartmouth’s Mr. Baseball” by their alumni magazine.
His The Ultimate Yankee Book will be published fall 2017. Pre-order from Amazon:https://www.amazon.com/Ultimate-Yankee-Book-Beginning-Today-Essential/dp/1624144330
“As a lifelong Yankees fan, I was devouring every last delicious new detail about my beloved Bronx Bombers in this fabulous new book.” —Ed Henry, author of 42 Faith: The Rest of the Jackie Robinson Story
Article is Copyright © 2017 by Harvey Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.

Frommer’s work: His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men’s Heath, The Sporting News, Bleacher Report and more

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Foreword: Rickey and Robinson By Harvey Frommer

Foreword: Rickey and Robinson
By Harvey Frommer




Every time baseball season starts up and April rolls around my

thoughts turn back to a long time ago. That past is as real in many

ways as the present.

My fascination with Jackie Robinson and by extension Branch

Rickey began many, many years ago.

When school was out in Brooklyn in the summer, I sometimes

went driving with my father in his taxi cab. One morning we were

driving in East Flatbush in Brooklyn down Snyder Avenue. My father

pointed to a dark red brick house with a high porch.

“I think Jackie Robinson lives there,” my father said. He parked

across the street. We got out of the cab, stood on the sidewalk and

looked at the house. Suddenly, the front door opened. A black man in

a short-sleeved shirt stepped out. I didn't believe it. Here we were on a

quiet street on a summer morning with no one else around.

The man was not wearing the baggy, ice-cream- white-uniform

of the Brooklyn Dodgers that accentuated his blackness. He was

dressed in regular clothes, coming out of a regular house in a regular

Brooklyn neighborhood, a guy like anyone else going out for a bottle

of milk and a newspaper.

Then, incredibly, he crossed the street and came right toward

me. Seeing that unmistakable pigeon-toed walk, the rock of the

shoulders and hips that I had seen so many times before on the

baseball field, I had no doubt who it was.

“Hi Jackie, I'm one of your biggest fans," I said self-

consciously. “Do you think the Dodgers are going to win the pennant

this year?”

"His handsome face looked sternly down at me.  “We'll try our

best,” he said.

“Good luck,” I said.”

“Thanks,” he replied.”

He put his big hand out, and I took it. We shook hands and I felt

the strength and firmness of his grip. I was a nervy kid, but I didn't ask

for an autograph or try to prolong the conversation. I just he walked

away down the street.

That memory stayed with me for a very long time. And as I

entered my sports book writing career I always thought of doing a

book about Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey. That book Rickey

and Robinson: the Men Who Broke Baseball’s Color Line was first

published in 1982.

For me, researching for and interviewing for and writing this

book was one of my most gratifying publishing experiences. So many

of those who were responsible for and witness to the breaking of the

color line in baseball were still around.

So on these pages you will hear Mack Robinson, Jackie’s

brother, who was so untrusting of a white author that he recorded me

recording him, Rachel Robinson, who was eloquent and gracious. The

wonderful Monte Irvin, who later wrote the foreword for another

edition of this book, was simply sublime, re-telling honestly what

those times were like. He said he could have never taken the abuse

Jackie Robinson had to take. “I would’ve not been able to be the first.

I would have smashed those bigots with my bat, my fist.”

Irving Rudd, a little man with big character and an even bigger

heart, was giving of his time and emotions and memories and played

back his role as public relations director of the old Brooklyn Dodgers

when Jackie Robinson was making history.

What is so wonderful about this time capsule of a book is that I

was able to reach out to those who lived “the breaking of the color

line.”

Their oral history makes each page relevant and significant.

They are all listed on the acknowledgments page.

Other books and films have come along since the first edition of

this book. However, most of them do not contain the primary research

and interviews I was able to secure in the early 1980s. That and the

special stories about a special time, I believe, make Rickey and

Robinson a special book, one of the favorites of all I have written.

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Coming this fall:

http://www.frommerbooks.com/ultimate-yankees.html

--------------------------------------------------------------------
About the Author:   One of the most prolific and respected sports journalists and oral historians in the United States, author of the autobiographies of legends Nolan Ryan, Tony Dorsett, and Red Holzman, Dr. Harvey Frommer is an expert on the New York Yankees and has arguably written more books, articles and reviews on the New York Yankees than anyone.   In 2010, he was selected by the City of New York as an historical consultant for the re-imagined old Yankee Stadium site, Heritage Field. A professor in the MALS program at Dartmouth College, Frommer was dubbed “Dartmouth’s Mr. Baseball” by their alumni magazine.
His The Ultimate Yankee Book will be published fall 2017. Pre-order from Amazon:https://www.amazon.com/Ultimate-Yankee-Book-Beginning-Today-Essential/dp/1624144330
“As a lifelong Yankees fan, I was devouring every last delicious new detail about my beloved Bronx Bombers in this fabulous new book.” —Ed Henry, author of 42 Faith: The Rest of the Jackie Robinson Story
Article is Copyright © 2017 by Harvey Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.

Frommer’s work: His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men’s Heath, The Sporting News, Bleacher Report and more

Monday, March 27, 2017

Yankee Stadium, Opening Day 1961 and More By Harvey Frommer

Yankee Stadium, Opening Day 1961 and More
By Harvey Frommer





With Opening Day 2017 just around the corner, it’s just fascinating to

flash back to another time, another Yankee Stadium, another cast of

characters.



In freezing rain on Opening Day April 17, 1961 only 1,947 hardy

souls showed up. Whitey Ford got the Yankees off to a good start blanking

Kansas City, 3–0. Still, the Yankees moved out slowly that season.

Just 9-19 in spring training, 18-15 as the season got into full swing,

the Yankees in their first 33 games managed only 34 homers. But that

would change.



When Roger Maris joined the team in a 1960 trade, he was just

another player added to the roster. He had not come up through the

Yankee farm system. “The Mick” -- who had blasted 52 homers in 1956,

some of them mighty shots -- was the favorite of the Yankee fans. The talk

had always been that if anyone would break Babe Ruth’s single season

record mark of 60, it would be the "Commerce Comet."

Through 10 games in 1961, Roger Maris was homerless. On May 17 th

he hit his first Stadium homer of the season off southpaw Pete Burnside of

Washington. That gave the quiet outfielder four for the season. But there

would be many more - -24 in his next 38 games. By the end of May, Maris

had a dozen homers. By the end of June, he had 27.



On July 1, 1961, the Senators led the Yankees 3-0, when a Mickey

Mantle shot, a few feet left of the 456-foot sign in left field, put the Yanks

on the scoreboard. Washington moved ahead 5–1. The Yankees closed the

gap to 5-4 on a Mantle three-run homer. Then in the ninth inning, Maris

pounded a two -run homer, his 28th. New York won, 7-6.



JOHNNY BLANCHARD: Roger Maris had the locker next to

mine. When he was popping those long ones out of the park, I had

to get out of my own locker because 20, 30 writers would flock

around him, and they would sift into my locker space. Roger was

an introvert and did not like all the bright lights. That was what

gave him the reputation of being nasty. But he was not.


By the end of July, Maris had forty home runs. That placed his

record six ahead of Babe Ruth’s pace. The "Sultan of Swat" had set his

record of 60 homers in a 154 game season. But this year Major League

Baseball had added two expansion teams to the roster and eight games to

the schedule. Accordingly, Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick ruled that if

Maris broke Ruth’s record, an asterisk would be placed next to the solidly-

built Yankee's name in the record books.



While all the focus seemed to be on Maris that '61 season, other

Yankees had big moments, too, but none as big as Maris would have. On

July 26, the man they called "Super- Sub" hammered his third and fourth

straight home runs at Yankee Stadium powering a 5-2 New York win over

the Chicago White Sox. Blanchard’s four home runs in a row over three

games tied a major league record.

On August 4 th Maris clubbed home run number 41 at the Stadium off

Camilio Pasqual of Minnesota. Home runs # 52 and 53 were slammed at

the “House that Ruth Built” on September 2 nd off Frank Lary and Hank

Aguirre of Detroit.



ROGER KAHN: I had a freelance assignment for Sports

Illustrated for a story on Maris. He was fine, just a few little

outbursts of temper. There were times when he got 50 reporters

around him asking the same question. He’d answer them but he

was annoyed.

One day after he finished an interview he turned to Elston

Howard and said: "I'm just sick of all these questions, all this

attention.”



And Howard told Maris: “If I had 55 home runs, questions

would not make me sick.”

In the clubhouse, Maris would tell Mickey “I can't take it

anymore, I just can't.”

And Mantle would say: "I'm telling you Roger, you've got to

take it."



When it got to the point where he could not “take it,” anymore,

Maris would retreat to the training room or sit at a huge oak table in the

center of the clubhouse smoking Camels, sipping coffee while playing for

hours with a contraption trying to manipulate a steel ball through a 40-

hole maze.



He was the talk of the town, the big news in the Bronx. But another

Yankee who was having a spectacular season was the "Chairman of the

Board" – Whitey Ford. And on September 9th , many were on hand to see

one of their all-time favorites honored.


BILL CHUCK: My dad and I came up by subway from

Stuyvesant Town especially for “Whitey Ford Day.” I was very

excited. It cost us three, maybe four dollars total for the two

general admission tickets. We sat between first and third upstairs

looking down, watching the ceremony. Whitey’s wife was out

there and his three kids.

The "Day" was not enormously sponsored like it is now.

And unlike today where a “Day” for a player is given after his

career is over, Ford got his in the midst of one of his great years

where he ended up with 25 wins.

The gifts, considering the money the ballplayers were

making then, were pretty big deals to them. But they were no big

gifts, really. There were things like patio furniture, movie

cameras, color TVs, a trip to somewhere.



After all the other gifts had been given out, Mel Allen said:

“Whitey, we’ve got one last surprise for you.”

Out of one of the bullpens comes a car pulling an eight-foot

tall Life Savers package, peppermint, blue and white, of course. It

drives up. It stops. Out pops Luis Arroyo who had saved Whitey so

many times. He gives Whitey a big hug. Even from the upper

deck, you could see the look of surprise and happiness on

Whitey’s face. We all went crazy.



PAUL DOHERTY: According to most reports, Whitey was very

pleased with all the accolades and gifts but anything but happy

over the “Life Saver” gimmickry that he thought a big tacky.

Meanwhile, fame’s relentless spotlight continued to bear down on

Roger Maris especially since Mickey Mantle, hobbled by injuries, managed

to hit but one home run from September 10 th on. Without Mantle as

contender for the home run title and with the Yankees having clinched

their 26th pennant, it was truly show time for Roger Maris.



And the rest, as they say, is history and oral history.


Coming this fall:

http://www.frommerbooks.com/ultimate-yankees.html

--------------------------------------------------------------------
About the Author:   One of the most prolific and respected sports journalists and oral historians in the United States, author of the autobiographies of legends Nolan Ryan, Tony Dorsett, and Red Holzman, Dr. Harvey Frommer is an expert on the New York Yankees and has arguably written more books, articles and reviews on the New York Yankees than anyone.   In 2010, he was selected by the City of New York as an historical consultant for the re-imagined old Yankee Stadium site, Heritage Field. A professor in the MALS program at Dartmouth College, Frommer was dubbed “Dartmouth’s Mr. Baseball” by their alumni magazine.
His The Ultimate Yankee Book will be published fall 2017. Pre-order from Amazon:https://www.amazon.com/Ultimate-Yankee-Book-Beginning-Today-Essential/dp/1624144330
“As a lifelong Yankees fan, I was devouring every last delicious new detail about my beloved Bronx Bombers in this fabulous new book.” —Ed Henry, author of 42 Faith: The Rest of the Jackie Robinson Story
Article is Copyright © 2017 by Harvey Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.

Frommer’s work His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men’s Heath, The Sporting News, Bleacher Report and more

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

NBA TEAM NICKNAMES, A SHORT HISTORY By Harvey Frommer

NBA TEAM NICKNAMES, A SHORT HISTORY
By Harvey Frommer

Back in the day, as some are apt to say, I was interviewing and writing Red on Red. It was the autobiography of the legendary coach of the New York Knickerbockers, Red Holzman. He is still the only coach to ever win an NBA title with the Knicks; in fact, he won two.
Red was a walking history book when it came to pro basketball. He was especially informed about league trivia. He also knew had to spin a tale.
Before his days as Knick coach, Holzman plied his trade as a pretty good scout for the team. "I was scouting a kid from Czechoslovakia," Red said. "We decided to give him a vision test. I got hold of an eye chart and told the kid, 'All right. Let's hear you read the bottom line.'"
" 'Read the bottom line?' he asked, 'I know him.'"
If you got that joke, read on.
All kinds of team nicknames grace, deface, maim, highlight or punctuate the landscape of the National Baseball Association. Some are more interesting than others. Some have been "shortened" or "modernized" as time has gone by. Still others are no longer relevant for the franchises they represent.
Some clubs have moved from city to city and stayed with their original nicknames. That makes for some both interesting and confusing combinations—Lakers, a major case in point.
What follows is basically a pithy primer. Enjoy. Questions, comments, suggestions—all are welcomed.
 
There's a great trivia question: Name the two NBA teams still playing in their original cities.
The answer: the Knicks and the Celtics.
The name Knickerbockers dates back to when New York was known as New Amsterdam, and the city's Dutch settlers wore trousers bunched up at the knee known as "knickers." The name Celtics originated in 1946. It was was given to Boston's pro basketball entry by Walter Brown, the franchise's founder.
"We'll call them the Boston Celtics," he said. "The name has a great basketball tradition, especially when you think of the original 'Celtics' team. Boston is full of Irishmen; so we'll put the players in green uniforms and call them the Boston Celtics after their Celtic ancestors."
The Atlanta Hawks have a long and circuitous name history. They were once the Hawks of St. Louis. Before that they were the Milwaukee Hawks. Even before that in 1948, they were the Tri-Cities Blackhawks.  Moline, Illinois; Rock Island, Illinois; and Davenport, Iowa were the "tri-cities." All the way back in 1831, the Blackhawk War was fought in that tri-cities area. That led to the original Blackhawks nickname, later shortened to Hawks.
A nine-season member of the NBA, the Rochester Royals moved to Cincinnati and kept the name Royals. In 1972, the franchise moved to Kansas City, Missouri. To avoid confusion in the KC region because both the Kansas City and the Omaha baseball teams used the name Royals, the name was dropped. The new name for the franchise became the Kansas City-Omaha Kings, later simply the Kansas City Kings. A decade later, the team moved to California and became the Sacramento Kings.


Not many are aware that a Denver Nuggets team was a charter member of the NBA. But that franchise lasted just one season. When the Denver Rockets of the American Basketball Association was admitted to the NBA, they had to change their name because the Houston Rockets already existed. So the Denver franchise took the "Nuggets" name of the original franchise.
Charlotte, Miami, Minnesota and Orlando all have interesting "name" stories. Originally, the Charlotte team was named the Spirit. The name didn't stick. Hornets was a name selected in a contest launched among fans. Runner-up choices included: the Charlotte Gold, the Charlotte Knights, and incredibly the original name, the Charlotte Spirit.
Miami also held a name-the-team event. Some of the names that didn't make it included Palm Trees, Beaches, Suntan and Shade.
Over 6,000 entries were suggested for the Minnesota team name. The choice was Timberwolves vs. Polars. Timberwolves easily won. That animal is native to Minnesota. No other professional sports team ever thought to use the name.
         The Orlando Sentinel sponsored a name-the-team contest. Magic and Juice were the finalists. Orlando general manager Pat Williams explained why Magic won. "Magic is synonymous with the Orlando area. We have the Magic Kingdom in Disneyworld, and the tourism slogan here is 'Come to the Magic.'"  
 
        Some claim that the Chicago Bulls got their name from stockyards in that Windy City. It was actually the franchise's first owner Richard Klein who came up with the name in 1966. The rookie mogul liked "Bulls" because it suggested power and toughness. And his wish was to have a team sporting those qualities.
      The Pistons came into being in 1948. They were known as the Ft. Wayne Zollner Pistons. It was a case of an owner naming a team for himself and the business that he ran. Fred Zollner owned a huge piston-manufacturing company. In 1957, the team moved to Detroit, and Pistons moved right along with it.
       Way back in 1925, there was a Philadelphia Warriors team in the American Basketball League. In 1946, Philadelphia joined the NBA and took its nickname from that old team. Many years and many miles later, the Golden State Warriors are a descendant of the old Philadelphia Warriors. They've gone through a couple of geographical shifts. Philly became the San Francisco Warriors, San Francisco became the Oakland Warriors and Oakland became the Golden State Warriors.
       Some years back a newspaper guy suggested a trade of team names. The suggestion had merit, but it did not fly. The idea was that the Utah Jazz become the Utah Lakers and the Los Angeles Lakers become the Los Angeles Jazz.
    Actually, both Utah and Los Angeles have names from cities both franchises vacated. Utah came into being in 1979, when the New Orleans Jazz moved there. The Utah Jazz kept their name and team colors.
   The Minneapolis Lakers made the move to L.A. before the 1960 season and took with it its nickname that comes from the state of Minnesota's motto: "The Land of 10,000 Lakes." There aren't many lakes in L.A. or that much jazz in Salt Lake City—so maybe that newspaper guy really had a brainstorm.
    The three Texas NBA teams got their names this way. The Houston Rockets were once the San Diego Rockets. The name has worked well for both franchises—linked to space programs and industries.
    The San Antonio Spurs got their short name in a public naming contest—a name that makes you think of Texas, and the same is true of the Dallas Mavericks who originated in 1980. A Dallas radio station sorted out many suggested names in a name-the-team contest and picked Mavericks thinking it had Texas flavor.
   In 1963, the old Syracuse Nats were sold and became the Philadelphia 76ers. Anybody who knows anything about American history, knows why Philly got that nickname.
      In 1968, the new Phoenix franchise offered a minimal cash prize and a couple of season tickets to the winner of a name-the-team contest. "Suns" won. Runner-ups included Scorpions, Rattlers and Dust Devils.
   Finally, the New Jersey Nets began as the American Basketball Association entry known as the New Jersey Americans. In 1968, the team left New Jersey and moved to Commack, Long Island and were renamed the New York Nets.   The rationale was that since the New York metropolitan area had the football Jets and the baseball Mets—why not the basketball Nets?
       Just before the 1977-78 season, the franchise moved back across the Hudson River to New Jersey. There were some who thought the original name—New Jersey Americans—should be resurrected. But the name Nets moved right along with the team. Now the Nets are poised to move to Brooklyn, New York.
      They will not exactly be the replacement for the old Brooklyn Dodgers (who got their name because fans had to dodge trolleys near the ballpark). But the Nets will be playing basketball almost in the exact area that Dodger owner Walter O'Malley lusted for back in 1957 but could not obtain. So he moved his team to L.A. but kept the Dodger name...but that is material for another piece.



About the Author:   One of the most prolific and respected sports journalists and oral historians in the United States, author of the autobiographies of legends Nolan Ryan, Tony Dorsett, and Red Holzman, Dr. Harvey Frommer is an expert on the New York Yankees and has arguably written more books, articles and reviews on the New York Yankees than anyone.   In 2010, he was selected by the City of New York as an historical consultant for the re-imagined old Yankee Stadium site, Heritage Field. A professor in the MALS program at Dartmouth College, Frommer was dubbed “Dartmouth’s Mr. Baseball” by their alumni magazine.
His The Ultimate Yankee Book will be published fall 2017. Pre-order from Amazon:https://www.amazon.com/Ultimate-Yankee-Book-Beginning-Today-Essential/dp/1624144330
“As a lifelong Yankees fan, I was devouring every last delicious new detail about my beloved Bronx Bombers in this fabulous new book.” —Ed Henry, author of 42 Faith: The Rest of the Jackie Robinson Story
Article is Copyright © 2017 by Harvey Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.
      Frommer’s work His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men’s Heath, The Sporting News, Bleacher Report and more

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Opening Day at Yankee Stadium: 1927 By Harvey Frommer

Opening Day at Yankee Stadium: 1927
By Harvey Frommer



Another spring, another season, another baseball opening day.
One of the most memorable of openings days at the “House That Ruth Built” took place in 1927 when the old Yankee Stadium was just four years old.

Owner Colonel Jacob Ruppert was very upbeat about prospects for baseball in 1927 but was muted in his predictions for his team. He did not seem to have a clue as to what tremendous accomplishments lay ahead for his Yankees.

“Everything indicates that 1927 will be one of the most remarkable in baseball history,” Ruppert told reporters.  Although born in New York, he had never lost the German accent inherited from his paternal grandfather. It was an accent that became thicker when he became emotional, usually when talking about the Yankees. 

On April 10th , a New York Times headline proclaimed:

“BIG LEAGUE SEASON TO OPEN ON TUESDAY: Yanks Will Greet Athletics, Picked by Many to Win Flag, at the Stadium”

 “Well, it won't be long now,” James R. Harrison wrote in The Times. “Only a few days more and the greatest show on earth will be on. Tired business men will lock their desks and go uptown for an important "conference" at 3:30 P.M. The mortality rate among the grandparents of office boys will take an alarming jump . . .”

Everything was in readiness for the Yankees of New York beginning their fifth season at their majestic Yankee Stadium home field in the Bronx.  

"The big parade toward Yankee Stadium started before noon yesterday,” Peter Vischer described Opening Day 1927 in the New York World.  “Subways brought ever-increasing crowds into the Bronx. Taxicabs arrived by the hundreds. Buses came jammed to the doors. The parade never stopped.”

"Yankee Stadium was a mistake, not mine but the Giants’," Ruppert had said. The site was chosen for among other reasons to irritate the Yankees former landlords the Giants and because the IRT Jerome Avenue subway line snaked its way virtually atop the Stadium's right-field wall.

Built at a cost of $2.5 million, "The Yankee Stadium", as it was originally named, and nick-named "the House that Ruth Built,"when the park first opened in 1923 by Fred Lieb always one especially handy coming up with a catch phrase, had a brick-lined vault storing  electronic equipment under second base, making it feasible to have a boxing ring and press area on the infield.



 Yankee Stadium was the first ballpark to be called a stadium. A mammoth horseshoe shaped by triple-decked grandstands, the edifice’s huge wooden bleachers circled the park. The 10,712 upper-grandstand seats and 14,543 lower grandstand seats had been fixed in place by 135,000 individual steel castings upon which 400,000 pieces of maple lumber were fastened by more than a million screws.  Sod from Long Island, 16,000 square feet of it, was trucked in. 

        The Stadium had eight toilet rooms for men and as many for women scattered throughout the stands and bleachers, a nice touch for the time. A 15-foot deep copper facade adorned the front of the roof, covering much of the Stadium's third deck, giving it an elegant almost dignified air. This decorative and distinctive element was the ball park’s logo.

Seating capacity in 1927 was now 62,000, increased from 58,000. The admission price for the 22,000 bleacher seats (the most in baseball) was reduced in 1927 from 75 cents to 50 cents. Grandstand admission was $1.10. All wooden seats were painted blue. In right center field there was a permanent "Ruthville" sign. Sometimes , the area was also called "Gehrigville".

The left-field pole was but a short 281-foot poke from home plate. It was 415 feet to left, 490 feet to left center, 487 feet to dead center, 429 feet to right center, 344 feet to right, and 295 feet down the right field line. The 82 feet behind home plate made for plenty of room for a catcher to run and chase wild pitches, passed balls, foul balls.
Above the bleachers in right centerfield was the manual scoreboard.  The Yankee bullpen looked out on left centerfield. The dark green Yankee dugout was on the third base side of the field and remained  there until 1946.

 "By game time the vast structure was packed solid," Peter Vicher’s article continued. "April 12, 1927, Opening Day at Yankee Stadium.  Rows of men were standing in back of the seats and along the runways. Such a crowd had never seen a baseball game or any other kind of game in New York." 
  
The crowd was the largest in all the history of baseball, 73,206, breaking the previous attendance record of 63,600 that had been set in Game 2 of the 1926 World Series. Another 25,000 were turned away.There were 9,000 guests of the New York Yankees plus one thousand who were able to get in with passes.

On the balmy, almost summery day, the Seventh Regiment Band dressed in gray outfits began playing with vim and gusto. Red coated ushers, really into their  effort of trying to keep the level of behavior orderly, worked the crowd, seating people.

 At 3:25 the string bean manager Cornelius McGillicuddy (Connie Mack) of the Philadelphia Athletics, in dark civilian clothes and high stiff collar who was featured on that week’s Time Magazine cover, and the wisp of a Yankee pilot Miller Huggins posed for photographs.



Mayor Jimmy Walker, 45, typified New York City and the 1920s.  A svelte, more dressed up model of the gregarious Babe Ruth, Walker in 1927 was happily involved with Betty Compton, 23, an actress. The two of them, it was said, had a gay time of it in their Ritz Hotel suite.  Largely ignoring public mention of the relationship, the press instead gave lots of attention to the way Walker dressed, the parties he attended, the stories he told. 

Urbane, dashing, positioned in Ruppert's private box, the Mayor threw out the first ball – twice, taking no chance to miss a photo op, to Eddie Bennett, referred to in newspapers of the time as “the hunchback bat boy.”

Bennett gave players their bats, presented baseballs to umpires. He let his cap and hump be rubbed by Yankees before games. He sat on the bench next to Miller Huggins, observing and pointing out things out on the field, a kind of precursor to today’s bench coaches.  He would bring bicarbonate of soda to Babe Ruth before every game generally during batting practice after the big man had downed his massive quota of hot dogs and soda pop. 

Ruth and Bennett would create laughs for early arrivals at the Stadium by engaging in a highly animated game of catch. Starting about ten feet apart, they would toss the ball back and forth. Ruth would throw the ball after a while about a foot above Bennett’s reach, and he would scamper after it. They would repeat the routine and the Yankee mascot would bitch a bit to the Babe who would feign total innocence. The game continued until Bennett found himself backed up against the screen behind home plate. To some, the whole ritual was viewed as cruel behavior on Ruth’s part, a taunting, shaming of a cripple. It wasn’t – just two guys playing around.

On this day of days, the Yankees had two loud voiced announcers using megaphones to inform the crowd of the on-the- field goings on. Previously one megaphoner had sufficed,  colorful Jack Lentz, longtime announcer, who wore a derby hat and sometimes mangled the King's English. He was joined by George Levy, who had made a reputation working the Polo Grounds. He wore a soft hat and made use of a smallish megaphone.  The work of the announcers was simple: speak the name of each player as he came to bat; keep silent after that except when a new player entered the game. 
Knowledgeable fans noticed a significant change in New York’s white wool flannel home uniforms for 1927. "Yankees" was now on the front of the jersey rather than the name of the city. Navy blue vertical pinstripes and stirrups accentuated the uniform. Players wore navy blue caps with a white interlocking "NY" in script on the front.  



The v-necked shirts had a brief tapered extension around the neck. Sleeves extended over the elbows, and the knicker pants reached just below the knees. Belts and cleats were black.  On the road, the team from the Bronx would wear a gray uniform with "YANKEES" in navy blue block letters across the chest, and two colored stirrups, navy blue on top and rust on bottom.



By noon, a carnival-like atmosphere pervaded the area around Yankee Stadium. Swarms of hawkers, vendors, gawkers and fans intermingled in a circus of sounds and colors. 



By three o'clock most unreserved seats had been snatched up.  Lines of police were at River Avenue in the back of the park and also along the approaches in front of the Stadium. New York’s Finest checked carefully allowing only those with tickets to pass.
It was exactly half past three when the game got underway. 
  • This was the Yankee Opening Day lineup:   
    • Earle Combs cf
    • Mark Koenig ss   
    • Babe Ruth rf
    • Lou Gehrig 1b 
    • Bob Meusel lf 
    • Tony Lazzeri 2b
    • Joe Dugan 3b
    • Johnny Grabowski c    
    • Waite Hoyt p
The Yankees, scoring four runs in the fifth and sixth innings, triumphed, 8-3, They were in first place where they would remain day in and day out throughout the season.  




About the Author:   One of the most prolific and respected sports journalists and oral historians in the United States, author of the autobiographies of legends Nolan Ryan, Tony Dorsett, and Red Holzman, Dr. Harvey Frommer is an expert on the New York Yankees. He wrote for Yankees Magazine for 18 years, and has arguably written more books, articles and reviews on the New York Yankees than anyone.   In 2010, he was selected by the City of New York as an historical consultant for the re-imagined old Yankee Stadium site, Heritage Field. A professor in the MALS program at Dartmouth College, Frommer was dubbed “Dartmouth’s Mr. Baseball” by their alumni magazine. He lives in Lyme, New Hampshire with his wife Myrna Katz Frommer.

His The Ultimate Yankee Book will be published fall 2017. Pre-order from Amazon:https://www.amazon.com/Ultimate-Yankee-Book-Beginning-Today-Essential/dp/1624144330

“As a lifelong Yankees fan, I was devouring every last delicious new detail about my beloved Bronx Bombers in this fabulous new book.” —Ed Henry, author of 42 Faith: The Rest of the Jackie Robinson Story

Article is Copyright © 2017 by Harvey Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.