The former home of the New York Yankees is being squirreled away by collectors one item at a time via a long-running auction and sale through Steiner Sports.
There have been stadium auctions before.
Busch Stadium. Tiger Stadium. Shea. A couple of basketball and hockey arenas--all of them just in the last few years.
But once the last credit card payment is processed and the final piece of the park leaves storage, none will compare to the sale of what has come out of Yankee Stadium.
Steiner Sports, which teamed with the Yankees to purchase and market the Stadium once owned by the city of New York, has been sorting through mountains of artifacts and placing them into an event that will likely top any and all sports memorabilia auctions in terms of total proceeds.
"We all know what great memories the Stadium gave to each person regardless of age or Yankees era," said Steiner's Stephen Costello. "Being part of the team that brought these artifacts to life was very special. You are walking through the house that Ruth built and helping decide what items customers and collectors will cherish the most."
Negotiations between CEO Brandon Steiner, the ballclub and the city took a long time but finally after the 2008 season ended, the company got to work taking stock of what it was about to acquire. The YES Network taped a show as the ballpark began to take its last breaths and the furnishings belonged to the memorabilia company.
"As you walk through the non public areas, they have an aura that you can’t easily describe," Costello recalled. "Standing in the weight room, measuring the dugout, I could go on and on. When nobody is there, it is special and unusual."
"After hard hats and waivers we really experienced the enormity of the place. We knew that day that this was important stuff people would cherish for years to come. It was a powerful experience I will never forget. I know it was emotional for Brandon as well."
Once ownership was transferred, Steiner employees began organizing, photographing and cataloging the items that make up the first major auction installment. While Stadium seats and small sections of sod are being distributed via outright sale, the auction includes a number of one-of-a-kind pieces including player lockers, bat racks and signs from inside the ballpark. Virtually everything is being sold to hungry Yankee fans and baseball memorabilia collectors.
"I think this project is great for the hobby as everywhere you go, somebody is talking about it and somebody wants something," Costello said. "The auction really tackles all price points, so there is something for everyone regardless of price."
Costello said paintings of Yankee greats from inside the park's Sony Club are on his list of the most attractive items as well as the metal "pennants" that hung in the ballpark and bore witness to the team's many championships. "There is only one of each," Costello explained.
A famous sign from the home clubhouse, offering a quote from Joe DiMaggio ("I want to thank the Good Lord for making me a Yankee") has already been requested by Derek Jeter and Costello says Jeter will "most likely" wind up with it. However, there is a horizontal version of the same sign in the auction. It hung in the press box which Costello called one of the auction's "hidden jewels". Steiner has also created replicas of the sign for autographing.
Other items in the Stadium auction have attracted interest from current and former players and celebrities. "It definitely is a who’s who in both the business world and sports world, so you never know who you’re bidding against. I’m pretty certain a collector may be bidding against a player for his stuff," said Costello.
In addition to the actual items from inside the Stadium, Steiner created other items for inclusion in its sales push including signed baseballs from the trio that hit the first back-to-back-to-back home runs in the new Yankee Stadium this year. "So after the balls were signed by (Melky) Cabrera and (Robinson) Cano, (Steve) Swisher then inscribed "Back-to-Back-to-Back" with the date. That's the stuff that makes us tick."
The auction will close in late July as Steiner hopes to catch fans and collectors in a pennant chase mood.
"July should be a great time for Yankee fans," Costello explained. "We seem to be on a roll right now and teams begin that playoff push after the All-Star break."
More items will be added to the auction in the coming weeks including the seats from George Steinbrenner's private suite. While items from the park's original construction were removed during a 1970s renovation, much remained that had four decades of championship history attached to it.
"I think the surreal experience of the Stadium is as you walked through you could make a case that everything you encountered somebody would want," Costello recalled. "I saw a small sign on a chain link fence, and thought 'somebody's dad put that fence up I bet this sign would mean the world to them'. The one thing for certain is at the end of July it will be hard for us to say goodbye to these items. We've developed an affection for them as well as the memories they hold."
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