NEW YORK CITY — In 2009, a combined 131 years of New York baseball history were torn down and replaced.
Both the Yankees and Mets – the two New York representatives in Major League Baseball – built expensive new stadiums over classic old ones.
The Yankees built their stadium in 1923, and it was soon named “The House that Ruth Built” because of how legendary star Babe Ruth helped established the Yankees as a dominant baseball organization.
Eighty-three years and 27 World Championships later, some fans are calling the new Yankee Stadium “The House that Jeter Built” after Hall of Fame-bound shortstop Derek Jeter helped the Yankees win the World Series in the ballpark’s inaugural season.
“Carrying the same players over and having Jeter, it’s kind of like a nice transition from old to new,” said Joe Kelly, a Yankees fan from Connecticut who was born and raised in the Bronx. “You’re mixing some of the older veterans with some of the newer players.”
“I miss the old stadium,” he said, looking over at the giant crater where it used to be. “But I think there’s going to be a lot of good memories built in this stadium.”
For Mets fans, the good memories have yet to make the short trip from the bulldozed Shea Stadium to the sparkling Citi Field. While the Yankees were clearly baseball’s best team in cruising to the 2009 World Series title, a case could be made that the Mets were baseball’s worst, since the injury-riddled team lost 92 games.
Fan reaction to the new stadium wasn’t much brighter than the season. Ever protective of their unique history (and unique items like the Home Run apple), some Mets fans had a hard time understanding why the team would build a stadium to look like the Brooklyn Dodgers’ old Ebbits Field.
“I was disappointed last year that there wasn’t much about the place that reminded you that this was the home of the Mets,” said Kerel Cooper, a Mets fan who writes the fan blog On the Black.
Greg Prince, author of Faith and Fear in Flushing: An Intense Personal History of the New York Mets, said the extra restaurants and walking space can distract fans from watching the game.
“Before you know it, you’ve got the whole family away from action for two innings, three innings,” he said. “I wonder what the long-term effect of that is…does it really engender fan loyalty?”
Ted Berg, editorial director for SportsNet New York (SNY) and life-long Mets fan, said the Mets will have to win more often at Citi Field before fans become comfortable with it. Berg said he loved how Shea used to physically shake during a particularly exciting moments, and that the problem with Citi Field is that there haven’t been too many exciting moments yet.
“I spent some time in Citi Field, looking around and thinking, ‘This place feels almost sterilized, and it doesn’t have enough character,’ but I don’t think that’s the case,” he said. “I think it doesn’t have those memories. I think that it will take years for people to develop that.”