Old Yankee Stadium was affectionately known as "The House That Ruth Built" for its famous player, Babe Ruth, who was the first bona fide Yankees star to draw extraordinary numbers of fans to the Bronx to watch the team play. Home to twenty-six Yankees championships and host to thirty-seven World Series Championship match-ups going all the way back to its historic opening day ceremonies in 1923, Old Yankee Stadium was the first three-tiered sports facility in the United States, and one of the first baseball parks to be given the lasting title of stadium. Old Yankee stadium was also one of the first venues of its kind to be deliberately designed as a multi-purpose facility.
It underwent extensive renovations in 1974-75, leading some to claim that this in fact was no longer Ruth's House, though most die hard Yankee fans ended up agreeing that it was still the same hallowed ground the players walked on, and hence still Yankee Stadium.
Its condition had deteriorated markedly however during the 1960's, and its surrounding neighborhood had suffered serious decline as well. The renovations to the stadium that commenced after much political wrangling under New York City Mayor John Lindsay were significant. 118 columns that reinforced the Stadium's grandstand were removed. The stadium roof was replaced with a new upper shell. New lights were added. Old seats were replaced by wider plastic ones, and the playing field was lowered by seven feet, to mention just a few of the major structural changes which ultimately ending up costing the city $160 million dollars.
At the end of its illustrious 85-year history, the 2008 closing game day ceremonies were an emotional watershed not only for Yankee players, personnel, and fans, they were a cultural phenomenon for the entire New York metropolitan area, and beyond that, the nation.
Pre-game ceremonies honored past Yankee greats, with living legends taking up their positions one last time on the field before a nationally televised audience. Julia Ruth Stevens, daughter of Babe Ruth, threw out the first ceremonial pitch. And although the Yankees did not make the playoffs in the final season of old Yankee stadium's existence, Yankee fans took some solace in the fact that they did win the final game played there on September 21, 2008, defeating the Baltimore Orioles 7-3 before a sold-out and appreciative crowd of spectators who knew all too well that this was history in the making.
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