By Carter B. Horsley
For the best part of its baseball life, New York City has been
divided into three parts: the Brooklyn Dodgers, the New York
Giants and the New York Yankees.
Ebbetts Field and the Polo Grounds, stadia of the Dodgers and
the Giants, respectively, are gone, replaced by now aging housing
Yankee Stadium remains. So far.
With their pin-stripe suits and a history of less than alacrity in
hiring non-white ballplayers, the Yankees epitomized the well-to-
do and their stadium was among the grandest, even after it was
adulterated with city monies - about $125 million about two decades
ago - with nary a pip from the citys normally bellicose
A certain Mr. George Steinbrenner has apparently decided that
New Yorkers are rubes and should lay out several hundred million
dollars more for his Yankee organization in the form of either a
new stadium, most likely not in the Bronx, or in renovations that
would add luxury boxes, more parking for suburbanites and direct
access from highways that might necessitate digging up a city park..
Well, bucko, not all New Yorkers are rubes. You want Jersey. Go
to Jersey, but be sure to change the name of your team to the New
Jersey Whatevers because New York City should sue to retain the
name and perhaps even should condemn the stadium and take it
over since the Yankees rent is less than nominal.
The city should evict Mr. Steinbrenner and get on with the job of
getting three major league teams in the city like the old days.
In the process, whats this nonsense about parking spaces and
corporate suites. Hey, theyre for sissies and suburbanites.
Of course, after the strike by
baseball players a few years ago,
maybe its time to forget about
baseball altogether, at least until
its participants learn that
professionalism means not taking
drugs when you are a childs idol
and that maybe a .400 hitter, or a 30-game winner deserve seven figures a year, but not
.250 hitters and 15-game winners.
Were not against success or profit. We just dont like con men,
fakirs, delinquents, corrupters, incompetents and rip-offs.
We actually really dont even mind corporate suites, if they
subsidize the bleachers.
The Yankees of the late 20s and early 30s were probably the
greatest team in the history of the sport, only approached by the
1953 Dodgers, and, gasp, the 1951 Giants.
Baseball is first and foremost a sport with many great
traditions. Business is secondary. Just ask any Brooklynite
who waited and waited and waited for next year.
If suburbanites want to root for a New York team, great, as long
as they take public transit and not pollute our great city.
If New Yorkers want to support a team, then try the Mets and
boycott the Yankees until Steinbrenner and his gang decide to be
New Yorkers and sign on the dotted line. Its a shame, too, since the
Yankees are once again not a terrible team. To continue to support
them under Mr. Steinbrenners blackmailing attempts to bankrupt
the city is to be a thug.
Dont get us wrong. We liked Reggie Jackson a lot when he was
here and patronizing joints like Jim McMullens on Third Avenue
and we liked Jim Abbott, Don Mattingly and David Cone, and the
grapevine tells us that Mr. Steinbrenner actually is a very pleasant
The Bronx Bombers belong in the Bronx. Period!
There is no question that major professional sports teams are
very important to a citys psyche and esprit de corps and esprit de la
cité. This importance is psychological and not economic, despite
what some subsidized economic spin-doctor might conjure apart
from vendors and retailers in the immediate vicinity and the
occasional World Series contention.
Some cities have made great showcases out of the stadia, often
siting them in prominent waterfront locations. Theres no reason
in the world why New York should not eventually let great casinos
and theme parks spring up along the Harlem River, our favorite,
near Yankee Stadium, which is already close to the fine county
courthouse and the great Grand Concourse, especially since the
police have reported that the area around the stadium is one of the
Mr. Steinbrenner did not create the Yankees. Ruth and Gehrig,
Dimaggio, Mantle, Ford, Rizzuto, Reggie and Casey Stengel did.
Their honored names should not be dragged through Jersey swamp
While were on the subject, the New York Giants football team
should either come back to New York, or change its name and if
New York politicians care about their city they should make sure
they do one or the other.
In April, 1998, Mayor Giuliani announced a plan to finance new
baseball stadia by not reducing the citys controversial commercial
rent occupancy tax as planned on schedule and using those
revenues. While maintaining that he preferred to see the Yankees
remain in the Bronx, his administration openly advocating the
building of a new stadium over open rail yards to the west of Penn
Station and near the Javits Convention Center. By actively
promoting such a scheme, he lost his negotiating position with Mr.
Steinbrenner. The Yankees and Mr. Steinbrenner do not need
further subsidies. They pay the city virtually no rent for a stadium
that is perfectly impressive and fine, despite the fact that a beam
collapsed, propitiously and rather suspiciously for Mr.
Steinbrenners campaign in the Spring of 1998.
The Giuliani Administration and most of the press seem to have
forgotten that a major plan to redevelop the rail yard air rights with
a mix of housing and offices was put forward only a couple of years
ago by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The plan made
some sense because it would provide thousands of units of housing
not far from the west midtown office district. The site, in question,
however, is already fairly congested as the garment center is
nearby and the Lincoln Tunnel and the Port Authority Bus Terminal
generate a great deal of traffic to say nothing of the nearby
convention center that needs expanding.
If the city had no baseball team and no stadium, perhaps a
waterfront location might make sense, especially at Battery Park
City, or perhaps Long Island City. It has two stadiums, however,
and they are perfectly adequate for the fans. If the corporate
tycoons feel left out of the existing suites, then let them finance
another team, or rather bring the Dodgers back and build them a
stadium at the foot of Brooklyn Heights overlooking Lower
Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty and let the Yankees stew.
(I am a Brooklyn Dodger fan, obviously.)