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It won't be a sad day when Yankee Stadium is gone

February 04, 2007|Shaun Powell | Newsday

It's never nice to speak ill about the ill, especially when death is apparent. With that in mind, I'll be kind and just say this: Yankee Stadium can't collapse fast enough.

Unfortunately, the Grim Reaper won't swing the wrecking ball until sometime in October 2008, depending on when Alex Rodriguez kills another playoff run. That's 21 long months from now, or roughly the time between Carl Pavano starts. Until then, baseball fans must continue to root for the Yankees while sitting in a facility past its glory, which is sort of like taking Giselle Bundchen for a spin in a wheezing, old Coup de Ville.

Please, this is no disrespect to the history of the stadium itself.

Just the stadium itself.

Four million people visit Yankee Stadium every year to see Derek Jeter throw across his body to first base, to witness what $200 million buys these days in baseball talent, to observe the winningest team in baseball this decade.

Four million people do not visit Yankee Stadium to do a riverdance while standing in line for the three or four restrooms. Four million people do not visit Yankee Stadium to squeeze through aisles built for supermodels or fight for shouting space at concession stands the size of shopping-mall information booths. Four million people, or at least the few who dare to drive, do not visit Yankee Stadium hours before the first pitch just so they can find one of the limited parking spaces sold at monthly home mortgages.

Once you remove the product on the field and Monument Park in the outfield, the "Yankee experience" is like the death of Barbaro: overrated and overplayed.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Commissioner Bud Selig and other important types made it official Wednesday when the All-Star game was given to the Bronx in '08, but this was a mercy gesture, a nice way of being nice to a sick, suffering old cathedral that should've had the plug pulled a decade ago. Ordinarily, the Midseason Classic wouldn't come anywhere near Yankee Stadium, because baseball knows what we know: The place isn't fit for it.

The beauty of the Stadium nowadays lies exclusively with the history and tradition of the Yankees. People are attracted by walls that talk. They know this is where Babe Ruth smacked his 60th homer in 1927 and where Don Larsen pitched his perfect World Series game in 1956. They want to press their ears close enough to hear the heavy heartbeats from Lou Gehrig's courageous speech and the Babe's good-bye.

They know they're standing in the same place where Roger Maris hit No. 61, where Aaron Boone needed one swing and where Reggie needed three. They also know this is where Joe Louis put Max Schmeling to sleep and where Chuck Bednarik did the same to Frank Gifford. A pair of popes blessed the crowd in the Stadium, and the end zone blessed Alan Ameche in the Greatest Game Ever Played.

All that history is so rich and rewarding and priceless in a building with the charm of Simon Cowell.

Despite getting more nips and tucks than the cast of "The View," the Stadium has seen better days. It can't compare to any of the grand old baseball buildings still standing. For sheer magnificence, nothing tops Dodger Stadium, still in all its retro 1960s glory, sitting elegantly atop Chavez Ravine. Wrigley Field also blows away Yankee Stadium, especially if you compare the neighborhoods that surround both ballparks. And Fenway Park, cozy and intimate and buffeted by the imposing Green Monster, is a more inviting place to waste a lazy afternoon.

Yankee Stadium would've gone long ago had George Steinbrenner not wasted time with his misguided attempt at building in Manhattan or flirting with New Jersey. Meanwhile, the cost of materials went up, to the point at which the price of the new Stadium in the Bronx will equal six Yankee payrolls. Well, if that's what it takes to move the Yankees into the 21st century and out of a dated building, so be it. Only three items are worth taking across the street to the new place. The arching facade, because it's the trademark. Monument Park, which deserves more space and a better presentation. And the roll call.

Well, there is something nice we can say about the old place.

It's not exactly Shea Stadium.

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