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Monument Park at the new Yankee Stadium

Monument Park is an open-air museum containing a collection of monuments, plaques, and retired numbers honoring distinguished members of the New York Yankees, as well as other events that took place at the stadium and in the city. Originally built when the original Yankee Stadium was renovated in the late 70's, Monument Park was created to house the monuments, plaques, and flag pole which were originally on the field of play. When the Yankees moved to the new Yankee Stadium, a new Monument Park was built beyond the center-field fences, and everything was transported over.

Players consider receipt of a ceremonial plaque in Monument Park to be a supreme distinction. The ceremonial monuments themselves are the highest honor of all, and are awarded posthumously. Only four players and one manager have monuments dedicated to their memories - players Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, and Joe DiMaggio, and manager Miller Huggins.

Contents

History

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Precursor

As with many other Jewel Box ballparks, the flag pole in Yankee Stadium was placed in play, in the stadium's case a short distance to the left of straightaway center field, over 450 feet from home plate. In 1929, Yankees manager Miller Huggins died suddenly, and in his honor, the team erected a monument dedicated to him. The monument, a plaque mounted on an upright slab of red marble, was placed in front of the flag pole. The Huggins monument was later joined by monuments dedicated to Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth upon their deaths, and a number of plaques were mounted behind them on the outfield wall. Placing monuments in the field of play was not so unusual at the time, as there had been in-play stones and plaques at the Polo Grounds and Forbes Field. In 1969, Mickey Mantle was given a plaque by Joe DiMaggio to hang on the center field wall, who in turn gave Joe DiMaggio a plaque of his own which, in Mickey's words, had to be hung a little bit higher than his own.

While the monuments were very far from home plate, a batted ball still sometimes made it back there. In the 1992 book The Gospel According to Casey, by Ira Berkow and Jim Kaplan, it is reported that on one occasion a Yankees outfielder had let the ball get by him and was fumbling for it among the monuments. Manager Casey Stengel hollered to the field, "Ruth, Gehrig, Huggins, somebody get that ball back to the infield!"

Monument Park I

 
In the original Yankee Stadium, Monument Park consisted of two parts: a row of retired numbers lined the entrance to the monuments/plaques display.

When Yankee Stadium was remodeled in the 70's, the monuments were moved off of the field to an enclosed area beyond the left center field fence. This fenced in area between the two bullpens began to be referred to as "Monument Park". From this location, the monuments were more than 450 feet from home plate. It was an achievement for a home run to reach Monument Park on the fly. Among those who have done so are Thurman Munson (in Game 3 of the 1978 American League Championship Series) and Alex Rodriguez (in August 2005).

From the mid-1980s to the park's closing in 2008, the rear fence lining the walkway from the grandstand seats to the monuments - the barrier that was the outfield fence from 1976 to 1984 - had borne the Yankees' retired numbers. Under those numbers were small stands with short biographies of the players that were honored.

Monument Park was open to fans during most game days at Yankee Stadium, from the time that the gates open until about 45 minutes before the start of the game. Sometimes Monument Park closed earlier for unannounced reasons. On the annual Old Timers Day, it was open throughout the Old Timers ceremonies and game, remaining open until 45 minutes before the start of the MLB game. Monument Park was also part of the public tour of Yankee Stadium; however, while public tours of the facility continued until November 23, 2008, Monument Park's final day as part of the tour was November 9, 2008 so that the monuments, plaques and retired numbers could be dismantled and transported to the new stadium.

The second Monument Park.

Monument Park II

When the Yankees moved to their new ballpark, Monument Park moved right along with it.[1] An area was built behind the fence in straightaway center field, below the Mohegan Sun Sports Bar that serves as the batter's eye. Built of pearl blue granite from Finland, this new monument park features the five Yankee monuments in a central area around a black marble Yankees logo. This is flanked by two short stone walls which hold the retired numbers. The plaques are mounted on the back wall and the September 11th monument is on one end of the park.

In contrast to the old stadium, the new Monument Park is not readily visible from the field, and its relatively drab appearance and inconspicuous placement have led some to derisively nickname it "Monument Cave."[2][3]

Honorees

Honored baseball members

The following players and other Yankees personnel are honored with monuments or plaques in Monument Park. Monuments are considered a greater honor than plaques, and are only awarded posthumously. Often, the uniform number of the player being honored is retired in the same ceremony. Such events historically often took place either at home openers or on Old Timers' Day, but have lately been scheduled on separate weekend home games. Figures are listed in the order in which their plaques were dedicated:

The plaque in the first Monument Park in honour of Jackie Robinson.
Honoree Position(s) Yankee Career Number Retired Plaque Dedicated Monument Dedicated Ref
Huggins, MillerMiller Huggins Manager 1918–1929 May 30, 1932 May 30, 1932
Ruppert, JacobJacob Ruppert Owner 1915–1939 April 19, 1940
Gehrig, LouLou Gehrig First baseman 1923–1939 July 4, 1939 (#4) July 6, 1941
Ruth, BabeBabe Ruth Right fielder 1920–1934 June 13, 1948 (#3) April 19, 1949 [4]
Barrow, EdEd Barrow General manager 1921–1946 April 15, 1954
DiMaggio, JoeJoe DiMaggio Center fielder 1936–1951 April 18, 1952 (#5) June 8, 1969 April 25, 1999 [5]
Mantle, MickeyMickey Mantle Center fielder 1951–1968 June 8, 1969 (#7) June 8, 1969 August 25, 1996 [6]
McCarthy, JoeJoe McCarthy Manager 1931–1946 April 29, 1976
Stengel, CaseyCasey Stengel Manager 1949–1960 August 8, 1970 (#37) July 30, 1976
Munson, ThurmanThurman Munson Catcher 1969–1979 August 2, 1979 (#15) September 20, 1980
Howard, ElstonElston Howard Catcher/Outfielder 1955–1967 July 21, 1984 (#32) July 21, 1984
Maris, RogerRoger Maris Outfielder 1960–1966 July 21, 1984 (#9) July 21, 1984
Rizzuto, PhilPhil Rizzuto Shortstop/Broadcaster 1941–1956, 1957–96 August 4, 1985 (#10) August 4, 1985
Martin, BillyBilly Martin Second baseman/Manager 1950–1957, 1975–1978,
1979, 1983, 1985, 1988
August 10, 1986 (#1) August 10, 1986
Gomez, LeftyLefty Gomez Pitcher 1930–1942 August 1, 1987
Ford, WhiteyWhitey Ford Pitcher 1950–1967 April 6, 1974 (#16) August 1, 1987
Dickey, BillBill Dickey Catcher 1928–1946 April 18, 1972 (#8) August 21, 1988
Berra, YogiYogi Berra Catcher/Outfielder 1946–1963 April 18, 1972 (#8) August 21, 1988
Reynolds, AllieAllie Reynolds Pitcher 1947–1954 August 27, 1989
Mattingly, DonDon Mattingly First baseman 1982–1995 August 31, 1997 (#23) August 31, 1997
Allen, MelMel Allen Broadcaster 1939–1964, 1976–1989 July 25, 1998
Sheppard, BobBob Sheppard Public address announcer 1951–2007 season May 7, 2000
Jackson, ReggieReggie Jackson Right fielder 1977–1981 August 14, 1993 (#44) July 6, 2002
Guidry, RonRon Guidry Pitcher 1975–1988 August 23, 2003 (#49) August 23, 2003
Ruffing, RedRed Ruffing Pitcher 1930–1946 July 10, 2004
Robinson, JackieJackie Robinson Second baseman April 15, 1997 (#42) April 17, 2007 [7 ]

Huggins, Gehrig, Ruth, Barrow, DiMaggio, Mantle, McCarthy, Stengel, Rizzuto, Gomez, Ford, Dickey, Berra, Jackson and Ruffing are also members of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Allen received the Hall's Ford Frick Award, the broadcasters' equivalent of Hall of Fame election.

The Miller Huggins monument was originally placed on the field of play, in front of the center field flagpole. Placing monuments in the deepest part of the playing field was not unprecedented; the Polo Grounds and Forbes Field also had monuments in deep center field. Huggins never wore a number on his uniform, and so no number is retired in his honor. Although the Yankees adopted uniform numbers in 1929, McCarthy never wore a number as Yankee manager, and so no number has been retired in his honor.

The Jacob Ruppert plaque was placed on the outfield wall, to the right of the flagpole. The Lou Gehrig monument was placed to the left of the Huggins monument. Gehrig was the first Major League Baseball player to have his uniform number retired. The Babe Ruth monument was placed to the right of the Huggins monument. The Ed Barrow plaque was placed on the wall, to the left of the flagpole.

Mantle was awarded his plaque on Mickey Mantle Day, handed to him by DiMaggio. Mantle then handed DiMaggio his plaque, saying, "His oughta be just a little bit higher than mine." They were placed side by side on the wall, although as former Yankee publicist Marty Appel noted in his own memoir, DiMaggio's was indeed slightly higher on the wall than Mantle's. These were the last plaques to be placed in play. Following the 1974–1975 renovation of Yankee Stadium, the monuments and plaques were moved to the new Monument Park.

In honor of Robinson's unique place as the first African-American player of the modern era, his number 42 was retired throughout baseball on April 15, 1997, the 50th anniversary of his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers. On April 17, 2007 (their first home game following the 60th anniversary), the Yankees erected a plaque for Robinson[7 ] reading: "In becoming the first Major League player to break the color barrier, Jackie will forever be an inspiration with his grace, dignity and perseverance. His story and the stories of those who never had the same opportunity must never be forgotten." 42's were also painted in front of each dugout. Players active at the time of the number's retirement in 1997 were granted a special exemption (grandfather clause) permitting them to continue wearing the number for the remainder of their careers; the last such player still active is Yankee relief pitcher Mariano Rivera.

Other members and honorees

The September 11th Monument

In addition, the Knights of Columbus donated plaques to the Yankees in honor of the Masses celebrated at Yankee Stadium by Pope Paul VI on October 4, 1965; Pope John Paul II on October 2, 1979; and Pope Benedict XVI on April 20, 2008.

The Yankees dedicated a monument to the victims and rescue workers of the September 11, 2001 attacks on September 11, 2002, the first anniversary of the attacks. It was placed in the back right corner.

Monument Park I photo gallery

Monument Park II photo gallery

References


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