© 2007 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
NEW YORK -- The "House that Ruth Built" will be closed at the conclusion of the 2008 season, but not before it's given a fitting send-off.
Standing in front of a 144-year-old painting of Thomas Jefferson on Wednesday, Commissioner Bud Selig made the announcement that the 2008 All-Star Game will be hosted by the Yankees at Yankee Stadium next July 15. The City Hall press conference, in what is called the "Blue Room" -- because of its navy blue walls and dark blue window curtains with gold trim -- was also attended by mayor Michael Bloomberg and Steve Swindal, a Yankees general partner [who was] sitting in for his father-in-law George Steinbrenner, the team's longtime principal owner.
"When you think of Yankee Stadium, it is, in my opinion, the most famous cathedral in all of sports," said Selig in making the long-expected announcement. "You think of all the great Yankee teams to play there, the prize fights, the great football games. It's a fitting way to honor the last year of its existence."
The Yankees have played on the current site at 161st St. and River Ave. in the Bronx since 1923, when Ruth was the team's main attraction and the franchise won the first of its 26 World Series championships, defeating the cross-river rival New York Giants that October.
The original stadium was torn down, rebuilt on the same frame and reopened in 1976. The new Yankee Stadium, to be built across the street, is slated to open in 2009.
As Swindal so aptly pointed out, two popes visited Yankee Stadium and the Yankees won 37 of their record 39 American League pennants there. The first two were won in 1921 and '22 at the Polo Grounds, which once stood in Manhattan, directly across the Harlem River from the current Yankee Stadium site. At that time, the Yankees shared the horseshoe shaped park with the Giants, who resided there until 1957.
"As we make way for a new generation of fans and a new facility, we can't forget the memories that were created here," Swindal said. "This franchise has been blessed with a storied history and tradition like no other in all of sports. It's only fitting then that the All-Star Game be held during the stadium's last season, not only for Yankee fans, but for baseball fans throughout America."
The 2008 Midsummer Classic will be the second All-Star Game played at the 85-year-old facility since it was renovated, as the 1977 game was also played there. The 1939 game and one of the two played in 1960 were held in the original edifice.
Otherwise, there have been four other All-Star Games played in New York since the Midsummer Classic was instituted in 1933: 1939 and '42 at the Polo Grounds, 1949 at Ebbets Field (then the home of the Brooklyn Dodgers) and 1964 at Shea Stadium, then in its inaugural season as the home of the Mets. Shea is also slated to close after the 2008 season, making way for adjacent Citi Field in 2009.
As Selig pointed out, the All-Star festivities now are much more expansive than they were 30 years ago, the last time New York played host.
It is a three-day extravaganza that begins on Sunday before the Tuesday main event, and includes a rookie game and a celebrity softball game on the initial afternoon. Workouts and the traditional Home Run Derby are staged on Monday afternoon through the late evening.
FanFest, which is now a major component of each All-Star event, is slated in New York for the Javits Center, the city's convention center on the far west side of midtown Manhattan.
Bloomberg hardly blanched at the prospect of New York doing a great job of hosting the expanded event.
"As we show every November with the New York City Marathon and every New Year's Eve in Times Square, nobody stages big events like the Big Apple," Bloomberg said. "We've got the experience. We've got the resources. And we have the security. On July 15, 2008, we'll put on the best All-Star Game in baseball history."
In recent years, the game has showcased new facilities. San Francisco, which opened AT&T Park in 2000, is hosting this year, and St. Louis, where the third Busch Stadium opened in 2006, was recently named the recipient of the 2009 game.
Yankee Stadium will be the first older facility to host the game since Boston's Fenway Park staged All-Star weekend in 1999. That game featured one of the last major public appearances of Ted Williams, the Red Sox Hall of Famer who was honored before the game and passed away nearly four years later.
In making the announcement, Selig said that it is his intention now to go back to the format of flipping the All-Star Game from AL to National League cities every year. Because the latest round of new ballparks opened in the NL, three of the last four and two consecutive will have been played in Senior Circuit cities by the time San Francisco hosts this coming July 10.
The 2007 and 2008 All-Star Games will both be televised by FOX.
When asked about the prospects of the All-Star Game swinging back to New York at the Mets' new yard as early as 2011, Selig wasn't ready to make a commitment. The new ballpark in Washington, D.C., which is slated to also open in 2009, recently christened Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia and PETCO Park in San Diego, plus Chase Field, which opened in Phoenix nine years ago and has yet to get the Midsummer Classic, will offer apt alternatives.
"I cannot tell you the intensity of competition for these All-Star Games," Selig said. "Ten years ago, that wasn't true. Now I have a long list of clubs and cities that are desperate. But I can assure you that the Mets are on my radar screen once they get a new ballpark."
To that end, Bloomberg, well into his second term as mayor, noted that the game will generate an estimated $148.4 million in economic activity for the New York area, while attracting more than 175,000 visitors.
He also pointed out the Yankees have had postseason success in years they have hosted the All-Star Game.
The Yankees swept the Reds in the 1939 World Series, were beaten by the Pirates in a thrilling seven-game 1960 series that ended with Bill Mazeroski's walk-off homer at old Forbes Field, and defeated the Dodgers in a 1977 Fall Classic that went six games. Reggie Jackson supplied the offensive punch in that World Series, hitting a record-tying three homers in the finale at Yankee Stadium.
"While the All-Star Game is a fitting event for the stadium's final season, I'm confident that baseball will continue to be played there well into the fall of 2008," Bloomberg said. "That October, that's where I expect to be."