Just before the first pitch at the new Yankee Stadium was thrown, the bat that Babe Ruth used to hit the first home run in the old Yankee Stadium was placed across home plate. Afterward in the dugout, Yankee players and staff alike, were seen marveling at the 40+ oz. hickory club that the Great Bambino brandished. It was a spectacular end to what had otherwise become just one of any another thrice yearly self-aggrandizing Yankee pre-game spectacles.
There was, however, something different about this game (other than the new digs). Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated and Peter Abraham of the Journal News both noticed it. Despite the historic game and its pitchers duel (through six innings), the crowd was eerily quiet. Muted, even.
Verducci took the polite root, blaming this very un-Bronx crowd on the stadium's construction. He noted:
Verducci: New Stadium an instant classic
The Yankees made a dramatic statement with their new stadium. They said, "if you think you can get away with seeing our ballgame for (relatively) cheap (as compared to the prices in the lower decks), then you had better pack binoculars....Also, make sure to bring said binoculars in a plastic bag, no backpacks are permitted on the premises."
There was more to the quiet than the distance, though. Abraham may have hit the nail on the head when he wrote that "You have to wonder if the Yankees priced the real fans out of the place and are left with a wine-and-cheese crowd." With the average price of a ticket at Yankee Stadium at $72.97, outside the bleachers ($14), Yankee games are no longer an event for the average fan.
In the mid-to-late 1990's, George Steinbrenner raised a stink about attendance. Due to traffic congestion and safety concerns, he said not enough fans were coming to games. Steinbrenner challenged fans in 1998. He said that if the Yankees drew 3 million fans, he would "consider" keeping them in the Bronx, instead of finding a new home for them in upper-Manhattan.
While the Yankees would go on to bring in 3 million attendees that year, the extra attendance apparently only guaranteed the fans that the Yankees would stay in the Bronx. The Yankees' devoted followers heeded Steinbrenners call and streamed into the old Yankee Stadium and when the new Stadium was built, they found themselves in a Bronx home with fewer, but more expensive seats, completely devoid of the intimacy that had made the old place the greatest stadium in baseball. Those fans have now been taken out of the game.