by Harold Friend
This past July 4, the Yankees hosted the Red Sox in the final Independence Day baseball game ever to be played at Yankee Stadium. A crowd of 55,130 fans saw the Red Sox defeat the home team, 6-4, but it wasn't too long ago that the Yankees were complaining about July 4 attendance.
Only 22,021 Paid to See the July 4, 1994 Game
The first place Yankees hosted the Oakland Athletics on July 4, 1994 before only 22,021 fans. Yankees ' vice president Jack Lawn indicated that while 22,021 tickets were sold, only about 18,000 fans attended. Oakland defeated New York, 4-0, behind Steve Ontiveros, but what was significant was the small crowd.
Was it George Steinbrenner's Fault?
Some claimed that part of fault belonged to George Steinbrenner, who was pressuring New York City into either improving Yankee Stadium and the surrounding areas or building a new ballpark at the site of the Stadium or elsewhere. Mr. Steinbrenner had made it clear that moving the team was a possibility. The surrounding areas had to be redeveloped to reduce crime, an issue that the Yankees ' owner referred to whenever he discussed Yankees' attendance.
It was felt that Mr. Steinbrenner was deliberately trying to frighten fans to create leverage for his position of needing a new ballpark. Murray Chase of the New York Times wrote, "By constantly taking about the high crime area that is the Bronx, Steinbrenner has frightened fans away. He has told them time after time that they are risking their lives if they go to a game in the Bronx. When the man who owns the team loudly warns that it is dangerous to go to his team's games, what fool would ignore his advice?"
For more than a year, starting in 1993, the Yankees agitated taxpayers and politicians with reminders about how crime, lack of proper sanitation, poor parking facilities, bad highways, and traffic jams hold down attendance. In response to the July 4 "crowd" of 22,021, the Yankees circulated a press release, "Yankees Say Fear of Crime, Lack of Parking Kept Fans Away on Fourth of July." A prominent advertising executive expressed amazement at the Yankees' lack of marketing the team.
The Yankees returned to winning World Championships in 1996, and attendance has increased dramatically. Since 2005, the Yankees have drawn over 4 million fans a season, despite not having been World Champions since 2000. Taxpayers have provided the Yankees with a new ballpark that will open in April. Many fans believe it will be a glorious experience to go to the new ball park, but there will be one difference compared to going to a game at Yankee Stadium, because one thing will be missing - forever.
"Yankee Stadium is what the new ball parks aspire to be. Yankee Stadium is an icon. You feel a chill come over you as the train comes out of the subway and you see the Stadium." When you walk through the runway and leave its darkness, the sight of the field where Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, and Mickey Mantle played awes you. We will never, ever again have that experience.
Murray Chass. (1994, July 5). Steinbrenner a Factor In Low Stadium Gate. New York Times (1857-Current file),p. B9. Retrieved March 23, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2005) database. (Document ID: 116565027).
Richard Sandomir. (1994, July 12). Here's My Team. See It Soon at Your Own Risk :Come on up and get mugged, Steinbrenner seems to be saying.. New York Times (1857-Current file),p. B9. Retrieved March 23, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2005) database. (Document ID: 116605100).