100 years of the Yankees House that Ruth built: Historic moments at Old Yankee Stadium

A view of the Old Yankee Stadium from the Yankees bullpen in the 1950s.

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On April 18, 1923, the Yankees moved into their new home in the Bronx now called Old Yankee Stadium. It was a momentous occasion and heralded a new era for the men in pinstripes and their fans. Exactly 100 years after, the Yankees will play against the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday at the new Yankee Stadium built across the place, where once the original one stood.

On that day a century ago, the first pitch was thrown by Yankees pitcher Bob Shawkey to Yankees catcher Wally Schang at 3:30 p.m. on a Wednesday. Babe Ruth hit the first home run in front of 74,200—the largest crowd ever to watch a baseball game—in a 4-1 victory over Boston.

A three-story monolith of Edison concrete and Johns-Manville asbestos roofing, it stood for 50 years, was renovated for two years in the mid-1970s, and then served as a baseball mecca for another 33 years before finally shutting down and being demolished in 2008.

Between that historic night and its last game on September 21, 2008, the Old Yankee Stadium witnessed 11 no-hitters, including three perfect games, hosted 100 out of 601 World Series games and saw the feats of legends, such as Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Reggie Jackson, Derek Jeter, and Mariano Rivera.

Why it was the House that Babe Ruth built?

On February 6, 1921, Babe Ruth turned 26. That same day, baseball fans in New York woke up to the news that the Yankees had bought 10 acres of land in the Bronx, where they would build Yankee Stadium. From then on, Ruth and the baseball park would always be linked.

When Yankee Stadium opened in 1923, it was called “The House that Ruth Built” by a sports writer named Fred Lieb. In the years that followed, the team became one of the best in baseball, and Ruth was the main reason for that. In the first year, the park was open, New York won its first World Series title. In 1927, 1928, and 1932, the team won three more. After Ruth’s career was over, the Yankees kept winning, and Yankee Stadium was the site of many memorable and important sports events over the years until 2009 when the team moved to a new park with the same name.

Here are some of the best baseball-related moments that have happened at old Yankee Stadium.

Ruth christens Yankee Stadium, April 18, 1923

The Yankees beat the Red Sox 4-1 in their first game at their new stadium. This was the first win of the 1923 season. Ruth (who else?) hit the first home run at the park. In the bottom of the third inning, he hit a three-run shot to right field off Howard Ehmke. The Yankees also won their last game of the season, beating the Giants in six games to win their first World Series championship.

Babe Ruth on his last day at Yankee Stadium.
SI

Gehrig’s ‘Luckiest Man’ speech, July 4, 1939

Lou Gehrig took himself out of the Yankees’ lineup on May 2, 1939, when his performance was getting worse and his body was getting old. He had played in 2,130 straight games, making him the “Iron Man.” On his 36th birthday, June 19, 1939, he was told he had ALS. Soon after, the Yankees announced that Gehrig would be leaving the team. On July 4, the team paid tribute to the Iron Horse at Yankee Stadium, where 61,808 fans saw Gehrig give his famous “Luckiest Man” speech while he was very emotional. On June 2, 1941, less than two years after that, he died.

Bambino bids farewell, June 13, 1948

On the day the Yankees celebrated the 25th anniversary of the opening of Yankee Stadium, Ruth, who was sick with cancer, made his last appearance at the Bronx ballpark and had his number 3 retired. At this point, the once-powerful hitter had lost a lot of weight and was having trouble walking. He used his bat as a cane. On August 16, after two months, Ruth died. “The Babe Bows Out,” the title of Nat Fein’s picture of Ruth at the ceremony, won a Pulitzer Prize.

Dodgers win the first title, Oct 4, 1955

In 1941, 1947, 1949, 1952, and 1953, the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Yankees played in the World Series. Every time, they lost. But in 1955, “Dem Bums” finally beat their crosstown rivals. They won their first World Series title with a 2-0 win in Game 7 at Yankee Stadium, thanks to a shutout by Johnny Podres.

Larsen’s perfect game, Oct 8, 1956

In 1956, the Yankees and Dodgers met again in the World Series. This time, it was another seven-game classic that the Yankees won. In Game 5, Don Larsen pitched one of the best games ever. He faced 27 batters and got rid of all of them, making it a perfect game. It has never been done again in the playoffs, and until Roy Halladay did it in 2010, it was the only no-hitter in the playoffs.

Maris hits 61st HR, Oct 1, 1961

Roger Maris‘s hard work to beat Ruth’s record for most home runs in a single season came down to the last day of the 1961 regular season. After tying Ruth with his 60th home run of the season on September 26, Maris hit No. 61 against the Red Sox five days later. This set a new all-time record that would stand until 1998.

Mantle joins 500 home run club, May 14, 1967

During Mickey Mantle‘s career, the Yankees won seven World Series titles. By 1967, though, Mantle was getting close to the end of his career, and New York was no longer in the running for a title. Mantle’s goal of hitting 500 home runs gave Yankees fans something to cheer for, and on May 14, the slugger reached the goal. He was only the sixth player to do so. It was the first time the milestone was reached at Yankee Stadium. Ruth was on the road for home runs 500, 600, and 700, all of which happened away from the stadium.

Chambliss walks it off, chaos ensues, Oct 14, 1976

Chris Chambliss’s walk-off home run in the winner-take-all Game 5 of the 1976 ALCS against the Royals put the Yankees in the World Series and started a wild celebration, with fans swarming the field after the ball left the park. Chambliss was surrounded by people as he went around the bases, so he went back to the clubhouse without touching home plate. Later, Chambliss went back to the field to make sure that the winning run was counted, but the home plate was gone.

“I still had my uniform on, but I put a jacket on over it and took a couple of cops with me out to the field,” Chambliss said in 2016. “We made our way through the crowd, and people had no idea it was me. We went up to the home plate, and when we looked down, there was nothing there. Someone had taken home plate. So I put my foot down where it used to be, and then we went back in.”

Reggie goes for 3, Oct 18, 1977

Reggie Jackson became known as “Mr. October” when he hit three home runs in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series against the Dodgers. He did this on three consecutive pitches, which helped New York win the title. Jackson came out of the dugout for a curtain call after his third home run, a towering blast that landed in the black batter’s eye seats in dead center field. The crowd was chanting “Reggie, Reggie, Reggie” very loudly.

Guidry strikes out 18, June 17, 1978

Ron Guidry blanked the Angels while striking out a Yankees record 18 batters in the game that started the tradition of fans standing and cheering when there are two strikes. Guidry had a great season in 1978. He went 25-3, had a 1.74 ERA, struck out 248 batters in 273 2/3 innings, and won the AL Cy Young Award.

Murcer, Yanks honor Munson, Aug 6, 1979

Thurman Munson, the captain of the Yankees, died in a terrible plane crash on August 2, 1979. He was 32 years old. Four days later, the Yankees went to Munson’s funeral in Canton, Ohio. Hours later, they came back from being down 4-0 to beat the Orioles 5-4 in the Bronx. Bobby Murcer, who was one of the people who spoke at Munson’s funeral, drove in all five runs and hit the walk-off hit in the bottom of the ninth to win the game.

The Pine Tar Incident, July 24, 1983

After George Brett hit a go-ahead home run off Rich Gossage with two outs in the top of the ninth inning, manager Billy Martin complained that Brett’s bat had too much pine tar on it. The umpires agreed, so Brett was called out and the Yankees won. Brett’s angry reaction to the decision is one of the most famous moments in baseball history. He ran out of the dugout to argue and had to be held back by other players. After the Royals filed a protest and AL president Lee MacPhail told the game to keep going from where the home run happened, the future Hall of Famer was cleared.

‘Hang on to the roof!’ Oct 4, 1995

Before the Yankees went to the playoffs for the first time in 1995, it had been 14 years and Don Mattingly’s entire career. Fans were ready to go crazy when the first baseman stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the sixth inning of ALDS Game 2 against the Mariners after Ruben Sierra hit a solo home run to tie the game. Mattingly then hit his own home run, which was the only one he ever hit in the postseason. The crowd went crazy, and announcer Gary Thorne said, “Hold on to the roof!”

Jeter’s controversial homer, Oct. 9, 1996

In the bottom of the eighth inning of Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS, with the Yankees down 4-3, Derek Jeter hit a fly ball to deep right field that looked like it was going to Baltimore’s Tony Tarasco’s glove. But a young fan named Jeffrey Maier reached over the wall and pushed the ball into the stands. Even though this was interference, umpire Rich Garcia called it a home run. New York won the game in 11 innings and went on to win the ALCS 4-1. They also beat the Braves in the World Series, and Maier’s name will always be part of Yankees’ history.

Girardi’s Game 6 triple, Oct. 26, 1996

The Yankees needed one more win to win the World Series for the first time since 1978, but they had to beat Greg Maddux to do it. In Game 2, the Braves won without any runs being scored against Maddux. In Game 6, however, New York scored three runs in the bottom of the second inning against the right-hander. Joe Girardi’s triple brought home the first run, and the crowd’s cheers seemed to shake the foundation of Yankee Stadium.

27 up, 27 down for Wells, May 17, 1998

On a Sunday afternoon in 1998, David Wells made baseball history by striking out all 27 Twins batters in the first perfect game by a Yankee since Larsen’s in 1956.

Tino slams Padres, Oct 17, 1998

In Game 1 of the World Series against San Diego, the Yankees were down 5-2 going into the bottom of the seventh inning. Chuck Knoblauch’s three-run home run tied the game, and with two outs, the bases were loaded for Tino Martinez. After getting a good call on a ball that looked like strike three, Martinez hit the next pitch into the upper deck in right field for a grand slam that broke a tie and put New York on the way to a sweep of the series that ended the team’s historic 1998 season.

Cone’s perfecto, July 18, 1999

David Cone pitched a perfect game against the Expos on the same day that the Yankees honored Yogi Berra by having Don Larsen throw the ceremonial first pitch to the Hall of Fame catcher. This was a reenactment of the last out of Larsen’s perfect game in 1956.

Bush’s perfect pitch, Oct 30, 2001

In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, President George W. Bush sent a message of strength to all Americans by getting on the mound and throwing a strike to Yankees catcher Todd Greene before Game 3 of the World Series between the Yankees and the D-backs.

“You can use all the words to describe it. It was hair-raising, different. Just an awesome healing moment for our country,” Greene said in 2021.

Jeter is Mr. November, Oct 31, 2001

In the bottom of the ninth inning, Martinez hit a two-run homer off Byung-Hyun Kim to tie the game and keep the Yankees from taking a 3-1 lead in the World Series. The next inning, just as the clock struck midnight to start November, Jeter hit the first pitch he saw from Kim for a walk-off home run that tied the series at two games each. And that’s how Mr. November came into the world.

Deja vu for D-backs, Nov 1, 2001

One day after Martinez hit a two-run home run off Kim with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game, Scott Brosius did the same thing, sending Game 5 of the World Series into extra innings. Alfonso Soriano’s walk-off single in the bottom of the 12th gave New York a shocking 3-2 lead in the series as the Fall Classic moved back to Arizona. Even though the Yankees lost the next two games, their magic in the ninth inning in Games 4 and 5 made Yankee Stadium even more special.

Boone sends Yankees to World Series, Oct. 16, 2003

In Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, the Red Sox had the Yankees on the ropes with a 5-2 lead and five outs to go. However, New York came back to tie the game in the bottom of the eighth after manager Grady Little decided to keep Pedro Martinez on the mound even though he was tired. Mariano Rivera kept the Red Sox from scoring for the next three innings. In the bottom of the 12th, Aaron Boone hit a home run off Tim Wakefield to end the series. Boone became the third player, after Bill Mazeroski and Greg Chambliss, to hit a walk-off home run in a postseason game where the winner gets everything.

Jeter flies into stands, July 1, 2004

On July 1, 2004, the Yankees and Red Sox played a very exciting game. New York came from behind to win 5-4 in the bottom of the 13th inning. At the end of the top of the 12th, Jeter ran from shortstop to catch Trot Nixon’s popup down the left-field line and then flew full speed into the stands. This was one of the best defensive plays of his career. Jeter came back out bloodied and bruised. He had to get seven stitches in his chin, but the next day he was able to play.

Red Sox complete historic comeback, Oct. 20, 2004

After losing the first three games of the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees, the Red Sox tied the series with a steal by Dave Roberts in Game 4, two walk-off hits by David Ortiz, and Curt Schilling’s “Bloody Sock Game.” With Ortiz’s two-run homer in the top of the first inning and Johnny Damon’s grand slam in the second, Boston won Game 7 on the road and became the first team in AL/NL history to win a postseason series after being down three games to none. The “Curse of the Bambino” was finally broken when the Red Sox swept the Cardinals in the World Series.

Hamilton’s awe-inspiring Derby performance, July 14, 2008

Josh Hamilton’s drug and alcohol use almost ruined his career, but he finally made it to the Major Leagues in 2007 and started to show why he was once the first player picked in the Draft. In 2008, Hamilton was named to the All-Star team for the first time, and he accepted an invitation to take part in the Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium, where that year’s All-Star festivities took place during the park’s last season. The left-handed hitter put on a memorable show. In Round 1, he hit a record 28 home runs, which is the most ever in a single round. His record didn’t get beat until the “outs” system was replaced with a time limit in the 2015 Home Run Derby.

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