Streams

Lights Out at the House That Ruth Built

Friday, September 19, 2008

Yankee Stadium ends its 85-year iconic baseball legacy Sunday evening. In its wake, New York Yankees fans are in a frenzy to get a literal piece of the stadium known as the House that Ruth built. WNYC's Elaine Rivera spent the week talking to fans about what they wish they could have:

REPORTER: Talk to Yankees fans and they'll tell you that it's not just any stadium that's closing its doors. It's the home of 26 World Championships, where unforgettable baseball greats such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle Yogi Berra and Reggie Jackson made baseball lore.

Most of the stadium will be torn down eventually and what's salvaged will be auctioned. In the meantime, stadium officials have had to heighten security to stave off what has already been a steady stream of theft from the site - from seats and signs to toilet fixtures.

And while most people say they wouldn't actually steal anything, here are some fans outside of a game last week with their wish list of what they would like to have:

FAN: Maybe one of those no drinking in the bleachers signs. I'd take one of those....

FAN: First base

FAN: I'd take a seat, that's about it

FAN: I'd take a little bit of Jeter

FAN: Grass or a seat...

FAN: I'd take a locker, I'd take a seat, I'll take everything...

FAN: Well, I wanted to get the no smoking sign in the men's bathroom in the bleachers but someone already stole it...

REPORTER: And the most coveted item seems to be...

FAN: Home plate

FAN: I'd take home plate because a lot of cleats have touched home plate

FAN: I think home plate would be a rather nice treasure

FAN: Home plate, yeah, home plate that would be cool, too

REPORTER: Nearby vendors and stadium employees describe what they've heard what people want:

VENDOR: They'll take anything they'll chip off the sides, they're telling me, anything...they can have

VENDOR: They ask me if I can have my price sign and they offer me $30 and stuff

EMPLOYEE: Urinals...it's the craziest thing, what can I say

REPORTER: Julio Pabon runs the Latino Sports Clubhouse located about ten blocks from the stadium. He had a recent exchange with one fan who took part of a stadium seat which he smuggled out under his sweatshirt.

PABON: You know, I asked the guy, excuse me is that a chair he says yeah, yeah, this is the bottom of the chair but you're not a cop or anything. I said no, no I'm just interested in knowing. He said yeah, and I said why'd you do that and he said, I want to take a piece of the stadium and they're not going to sell this to the regular people. That's what he told me. And I said that's only the bottom and he said, I know, and he said at least something. He said maybe next time I come back I'll take the back

REPORTER: Pabon who grew up in the shadows of the stadium understands why people would want something, anything, from the Yankees home.

PABON: For those historians like myself and others who have lived in the community and those who have seen World Series games, Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, the legends of baseball the people who actually are the ones that baseball is standing on their shoulders today..major events the Pope's visit, El Gran Combo is the first Latin concert - La Fania All Stars was here at Yankee Stadium, major boxing matches this stadium is more than just a baseball stadium - it's a cathedral.

REPORTER: The worshipful relics that come from that cathedral will be valuable collectibles, according to Mike Heffner, president of Leland's - one of the world's largest memorabilia companies. He says fans always want a part of a stadium that is going to be torn down. But he puts Yankee Stadium in a different league.

HEFFNER: Yankee Stadium is by far is the most valuable sports venue out there. There is nothing that really compares there's nothing with the same history. The only thing with the same age would be a Fenway Park and Fenway has a lot of history but even Fenway is not the same historically as Yankee Stadium...

REPORTER: Even the stadium dirt is valuable, Heffner says.

HEFFNER: Based on what other stadiums have sold dirt for, it could be anywhere from $25 to $100 depending on the amount of it...

REPORTER: And for those non-collector listeners out there, the obvious question is Why?

HEFFNER: The thing that makes them valuable is the sentimental aspect to memorabilia and to the pieces of the stadium. These things are items that people are going to hang in their homes, or put their homes or set on their desks and they are going to remember Yankee Stadium by it...

REPORTER: And that fan who joked that he wanted to take the no smoking sign from the men's bathroom in the bleachers? That's Patrick Pielli. He says he's taking something more precious from the stadium that can't be hung on a wall or placed on a desk.

PIELLI: I've taken all of these great memories from this place I've been here for all of the great World Series and all of that so I take it in my head and my heart. Yankee Stadium will always be with me - no matter what - Go Yankees!

REPORTER: Lights at the House that Ruth Built will be turned off permanently after Sunday night's game. For WNYC, I'm Elaine Rivera

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