It would host events ranging from papal masses to rock concerts. There were big football games and boxing mega bouts. Thousands prayed there. Thousands more played there.
Pope John Paul to Paul O’Neill. Billy Conn to Billy Joel.
Baseball is what it was built for, of course. Jacob Ruppert was tired of sharing the Polo Grounds with the Giants so he took $2.4 million of his own money (over $60 million today) and built his team a ballpark as the 1920s roared. This thing was too big to be called “Yankees Park” or “Ruppert Field” though. This was a stadium. America’s first three-tiered major sports venue was about to rise up against the Bronx sky.
The country was hopping again after World War I and the Yankees needed a fitting place to strut their stuff. They were a big city team with the biggest hitter the game had ever seen.
The stadium’s humble beginnings play out on the back of an 8×10 photo that’s among the top items currently up for grabs through RMY Auctions. The caption’s headline refers to the construction of a “Huge Stadium Near McCoombs Dam Park.”
The area–and baseball itself–would change forever. Dated July 3, 1922, the photo shows the lower grandstands under construction, three months after the first shovel hit the ground. The park would be finished in time for the 1923 season opener when Babe Ruth belted the first homer in the palace whose nickname would credit him with making it necessary. The concrete had been developed by Thomas Edison.
Before its duty ended in late September 2008, The House That Ruth Built would host over 6,500 regular season games and well over 100 more post-season contests.
There is no shortage of photographs of the original Yankee Stadium, but most of them feature the historic venue after it was completed. The photo at auction originated in the archives of Underwood & Underwood, a supplier of photos for countless newspapers during its run. The dated caption remains attached to the back.
It’s among over 1,400 historic photographs up for bids in RMY’s Winter Premier Auction, set to run through Saturday, January 25.