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Magical Pathway Through Hallowed Yankees Ground

Heritage Field (Courtesy NYEDC)

Heritage Field (Courtesy NYEDC)

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By James H. Burns, Guest Columnist

How can there have been virtually no mention of one of the most amazing sights one will ever witness in New York?

I was taken by surprise the other day by a local landmark, and was perhaps even more astonished because this particular vision might no longer exist with the next few weeks, and will certainly be gone forever, by the coming months…

Yankee Stadium, the original, that is, has been reduced to a cavern of debris, viewable only through the spaces in the fence that now surrounds it.

But conversely, cutting across this shire of destruction, there’s also a kind of MAGICAL pathway (if equally under-reported), connecting across the street from the new Stadium’s Babe Ruth Plaza to an adjunct of River Avenue.

Maybe it was the fancifulness of a gentleman at either end of that path playing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” on a plastic flute, their piping drifting through the waves of heat…

Or perhaps I was struck by the remnants in my mind of a wonderful afternoon spent sitting high in the upper deck humidity, above that magnificent outfield view in the Stadium…

But the truth of the matter is that I was walking through hollowed ground, passing over what once was roughly the heart of Yankee Stadium’s playing field. Surrounded on either side by high wooden walls, it didn’t take too much whimsy to imagine that I was now passing through a corridor in time.

Don’t get me wrong.  One can reasonably feel it’s tragic that where once there was a tapestry of enchantment, there is now only asphalt, and beyond the fences, mounds of rock and rubble. It will always be an unnecessary disgrace that Yankee Stadium was torn down.

But that said, the new ballpark is magnificent, almost a palace of the diamond.

And it’s pleasing to know that where the original Stadium once stood will soon be PUBLIC baseball fields, and other athletic amenities.

“Heritage Field” will encompass eleven acres, scheduled to open towards the end of the 2011. The Joseph Yancy Track and Field complex has ALREADY begun operations, at Macombs Dam Park.And there’s also a lovely, small kiddy playground at the end of River Avenue’s retinue of bars and souvenir stands, just beneath that lovely mural of past Yankees, where only a parking lot once existed.

To be sure, the projects have not been without their controversy. The Yankees actually gutted over twenty acres of existing parkland to construct their new home. Creating these expanses was part of the Yankee’s overall development agreement with the City, which allowed them to gut the existing community fields for the new Yankee Stadium’s construction. But local activists point out that the replacement “green spaces” are late, the baseball fields will have been cut from five to three, and that the overall acreage has also been reduced.

The Yankees insist that there is still room for expansion.  It’s disappointing that the neighborhood’s kids will have spent a FOURTH summer without all of their ballfields. The legacy of so many great major leaguers who played within these streets, and those fans that loved them, could have been greater.

But I as peered through that knothole the other afternoon, I couldn’t help but also glimpse the future, and envision a sward growing through the ruins…

These parks insure that the next generation will have access to the happy splendor of sweat, grass and delight–sylvan meadows in the midst of a metropolis, really–where so many dreams and legends have already been sown, and enjoyed.



(James H. (Jim) Burns is a writer/actor living on Long Island who has written features for GQ, Esquire, Heavy Metal, Twilight Zone and Op-Eds for Newsday and The New York Times.)