The Bronx
What would the Babe Say?







By Carter B. Horsley

For the best part of its baseball life, New York City has been

divided into three parts: the Brooklyn Dodgers, the New York

Giants and the New York Yankees.

Ebbetts Field and the Polo Grounds, stadia of the Dodgers and

the Giants, respectively, are gone, replaced by now aging housing


Yankee Stadium remains. So far.

With their pin-stripe suits and a history of less than alacrity in

hiring non-white ballplayers, the Yankees epitomized the well-to-

do and their stadium was among the grandest, even after it was

adulterated with city monies - about $125 million about two decades

ago - with nary a pip from the city’s normally bellicose


A certain Mr. George Steinbrenner has apparently decided that

New Yorkers are rubes and should lay out several hundred million

dollars more for his Yankee organization in the form of either a

new stadium, most likely not in the Bronx, or in renovations that

would add luxury boxes, more parking for suburbanites and direct

access from highways that might necessitate digging up a city park..

Well, bucko, not all New Yorkers are rubes. You want Jersey. Go

to Jersey, but be sure to change the name of your team to the New

Jersey Whatevers because New York City should sue to retain the

name and perhaps even should condemn the stadium and take it

over since the Yankees’ rent is less than nominal.

The city should evict Mr. Steinbrenner and get on with the job of

getting three major league teams in the city like the old days.

In the process, what’s this nonsense about parking spaces and

corporate suites. Hey, they’re for sissies and suburbanites.


Of course, after the strike by

baseball players a few years ago,

maybe it’s time to forget about

baseball altogether, at least until

its participants learn that

professionalism means not taking

drugs when you are a child’s idol

and that maybe a .400 hitter, or a 30-game winner deserve seven figures a year, but not

.250 hitters and 15-game winners.

We’re not against success or profit. We just don’t like con men,

fakirs, delinquents, corrupters, incompetents and rip-offs.

We actually really don’t even mind corporate suites, if they

subsidize the bleachers.

The Yankees of the late 20’s and early 30’s were probably the

greatest team in the history of the sport, only approached by the

1953 Dodgers, and, gasp, the 1951 Giants.

Baseball is first and foremost a sport with many great

traditions. Business is secondary. Just ask any Brooklynite

who waited and waited and waited for next year.

If suburbanites want to root for a New York team, great, as long

as they take public transit and not pollute our great city.

If New Yorkers want to support a team, then try the Mets and

boycott the Yankees until Steinbrenner and his gang decide to be

New Yorkers and sign on the dotted line. It’s a shame, too, since the

Yankees are once again not a terrible team. To continue to support

them under Mr. Steinbrenner’s blackmailing attempts to bankrupt

the city is to be a thug.

Don’t get us wrong. We liked Reggie Jackson a lot when he was

here and patronizing joints like Jim McMullen’s on Third Avenue

and we liked Jim Abbott, Don Mattingly and David Cone, and the

grapevine tells us that Mr. Steinbrenner actually is a very pleasant


The Bronx Bombers belong in the Bronx. Period!

There is no question that major professional sports teams are

very important to a city’s psyche and esprit de corps and esprit de la

cité. This importance is psychological and not economic, despite

what some subsidized economic spin-doctor might conjure apart

from vendors and retailers in the immediate vicinity and the

occasional World Series contention.

Some cities have made great showcases out of the stadia, often

siting them in prominent waterfront locations. There’s no reason

in the world why New York should not eventually let great casinos

and theme parks spring up along the Harlem River, our favorite,

near Yankee Stadium, which is already close to the fine county

courthouse and the great Grand Concourse, especially since the

police have reported that the area around the stadium is one of the

city’s safest.

Mr. Steinbrenner did not create the Yankees. Ruth and Gehrig,

Dimaggio, Mantle, Ford, Rizzuto, Reggie and Casey Stengel did.

Their honored names should not be dragged through Jersey swamp


While we’re on the subject, the New York Giants football team

should either come back to New York, or change its name and if

New York politicians care about their city they should make sure

they do one or the other.

In April, 1998, Mayor Giuliani announced a plan to finance new

baseball stadia by not reducing the city’s controversial commercial

rent occupancy tax as planned on schedule and using those

revenues. While maintaining that he preferred to see the Yankees

remain in the Bronx, his administration openly advocating the

building of a new stadium over open rail yards to the west of Penn

Station and near the Javits Convention Center. By actively

promoting such a scheme, he lost his negotiating position with Mr.

Steinbrenner. The Yankees and Mr. Steinbrenner do not need

further subsidies. They pay the city virtually no rent for a stadium

that is perfectly impressive and fine, despite the fact that a beam

collapsed, propitiously and rather suspiciously for Mr.

Steinbrenner’s campaign in the Spring of 1998.

The Giuliani Administration and most of the press seem to have

forgotten that a major plan to redevelop the rail yard air rights with

a mix of housing and offices was put forward only a couple of years

ago by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The plan made

some sense because it would provide thousands of units of housing

not far from the west midtown office district. The site, in question,

however, is already fairly congested as the garment center is

nearby and the Lincoln Tunnel and the Port Authority Bus Terminal

generate a great deal of traffic to say nothing of the nearby

convention center that needs expanding.

If the city had no baseball team and no stadium, perhaps a

waterfront location might make sense, especially at Battery Park

City, or perhaps Long Island City. It has two stadiums, however,

and they are perfectly adequate for the fans. If the corporate

tycoons feel left out of the existing suites, then let them finance

another team, or rather bring the Dodgers back and build them a

stadium at the foot of Brooklyn Heights overlooking Lower

Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty and let the Yankees stew.

(I am a Brooklyn Dodger fan, obviously.)


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