Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Yankee Stadium: Why No Protest at Closing Time?

This post started out as a comment on Soxlosophy in response to this post, but after hitting the third paragraph I figured we'd all be better served with a blog post instead:

The argument about keeping the Stadium alive for the historical value to baseball is slippery slope anyway. Next we'd be saying that the Phillies shouldn't have replaced Veteran's Stadium just because they were there for thirty years.

And before you object and say that Veteran's Stadium wasn't the historical park, I think the analogy is apt (and goes to my next point): all week I've been reading reminiscences from people who remember Yankee Stadium before the renovations, who've never really seen the 1970s version (the Yankee equivalent of Veteran's Stadium) as being the real thing. Clearly they wouldn't be particularly interested in saving the newer park as a relic; it doesn't have that kind of value to them. Younger fans who've written up memories always seem to focus on the games they saw (and the fights, oddly enough, although maybe that's just the Deadspin bias), not the Stadium itself. The collective consciousness seems to view the place as pleasant scenery with a few standout points (Monument Park, the angle of the upper deck, etc.); the real important points were the players and the crowds.

Fenway is different, for a few reasons:
  • First, like Wrigley, it's a survivor of a much older era, an era that today's ballpark designers are trying to recreate. Its resultant air of historical authenticity grant it a cachet not seen amongst the megaparks of the 1970s, even if the survival of that authenticity is just as likely to stem from the historical accident of penny-pinching ownership choosing not to follow the course of 70s ballpark architecture as it is from any concerted effort to keep the old place alive.
  • Second, it's Boston, a place so thick with history you can't walk five blocks without running into some sort of monument to the past...and that list includes Fenway Park. That type of environment makes history pervasive, even if the impact isn't on a concious level. Heck, even within the park there's a slew of historical features (The Green Monster, Pesky's Pole, the Triangle, the Red Seat) that form a defining part of the Fenway experience. Don't get me wrong: New York has historical places, too, but when you live in a city that defines itself as a place where anyone can reinvent themselves, a place that remakes its skyline so often the city had to found a commission to keep valued landmarks from disappearing under the steamroller of progress, history gets a lower priority.
  • Third, and probably most importantly, the Red Sox equivalents of those fans who knew and loved the original Yankee Stadium were the fans who watched the Impossible Dream season unfold at Fenway, who helped break attendence records, make Fenway the most popular ballpark in baseball in 1967, and start the concept of Red Sox Nation. Unlike Yankee Stadium, the monument to their memories still exists; any attempt to take it away would meet (and, via Save Fenway, has met) with fierce opposition.