Opening Day at the Original Yankee Stadium, 1923

August 8, 2022

If you are a die-hard baseball fan, then chances are you have an affinity for the old ballparks of yesteryear. It is true that the newer stadiums are larger and have all the modern amenities, but there is something about the nostalgia of the old, original ballparks. 

A colorized photo of New York Yankees batboy, Ray Kelly, left, posing with Babe Ruth in Yankee Stadium before a game against the Boston Red Sox during Opening Day on April 18, 1923 at Yankee Stadium in New York, New York. (Photo by Mark Rucker/Transcenden

Take the original Yankee Stadium, for example. It hosted games for the New York Yankees since it opened in 1923 up until 2008 when the Yankees moved to a new ball field. Let’s go way back and take a look at the construction of the original Yankee Stadium and the opening day at this iconic ballpark of the past with these colorized photos.

Witness to History

In its time, Yankee Stadium was nicknamed “The Cathedral of Baseball” and “The House that Ruth Built.” It was witness to several key moments in the history of baseball, including numerous World Series games, perfect games, no-hitters, and nail-biter finishes. It was in Yankee Stadium on July 4, 1939, that Lou Gehrig, the Yankee’s longtime first baseman, gave an echo-y speech in which he uttered, “Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” Three Papal masses were held at Yankee Stadium and the baseball park also hosted the 1958 NFL Championship football game which has been called “The Greatest Game Ever Played.” 

The opening of the 1923 baseball season only a few months away, we see Yankee Stadium almost complete on its site in the Bronx, in this colorized photo taken in February, 1923. (Photo by Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics, Getty Images)

A Ball Park of Their Own

Prior to the construction of Yankee Stadium, the New York Yankees played their games at the Polo Grounds of upper Manhattan. In fact, they shared this venue with the New York Giants. But the two teams were not good roommates. Beginning in 1909, the Yankees head office started looking for another home for the team. When the Yankees signed hot-shot slugger, Babe Ruth, to their roster in 1920, attendance to Yankees games shot way up, which upset the Giants owners even more. It was time for the Yankees and the Giants to finally part ways.

The owners of the New York Yankees, Tillinghast L’Hommedieu Huston and Jacob Ruppert began looking for a new location in earnest. They found just what they were looking for when a location not far from the Polo Grounds became available. It was a ten-acre parcel of land that was being used as a lumber yard. Huston and Ruppert put up their own money to buy the property from William Waldorf Astor for the princely sum of $600,000, which is equivalent to $9.71 million in today’s dollars.

Huston and Ruppert began construction on the new stadium in the spring of 1922. They took a big gamble by designing the stadium to seat 60,000 fans, nearly double the size of other ballparks. They were banking on their star player, Babe Ruth, to continue to draw in the crowds. The pair also financed the construction of the building. In all, the project cost $2.5 million in 1923 funds.