Former catcher Yogi Berra tossed the ceremonial first pitch and Babe Ruth’s bat was laid across home plate to mark the opening of the new US$1.5 billion Yankee Stadium on Thursday.
More than 40 former New York Yankees, including Hall of Famers Whitey Ford, Reggie Jackson, Rickey Henderson and Rich “Goose” Gossage, ringed the infield in pre-game introductions before the Cleveland Indians spoiled the party by winning 10-2.
The bat used by Ruth to hit the maiden home run in the first game at the original Yankee Stadium on April 18, 1923, was placed on home plate as captain Derek Jeter approached to lead off for New York.
Jeter picked up the bat and feigned using it in the game, before handing it over to a bat boy.
The shortstop flied out to center-field off Indians starter Cliff Lee, but No. 2 hitter Johnny Damon quickly registered the first hit by poking a single to center.
Yankees catcher Jorge Posada hit the first homer at the new park to tie the game 1-1 in the fifth inning, but it was no happy house-warming for the capacity crowd of 48,271 as the Indians exploded for nine runs in the seventh.
The new stadium has many touches from the “House that Ruth Built,” with the same field dimensions and look, topped by the familiar facade circling the upper deck.
Jeter, 34, praised the facilities, especially the spacious clubhouse.
“I haven’t even seen all the rooms yet,” he told reporters.
The 83-year-old Berra also liked what he saw.
“It’s a beautiful park. Everybody that sits here gets their money’s worth,” Berra said. “They can see everything.”
Berra and Jeter said they would miss the old park where the likes of Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle helped register 26 World Series championships.
“I played all my games there. That was like home,” Berra said.
“I’m going to miss everything about the stadium,” Jeter said. “It’s what I called home for 14 years. I hope we’ll make some new memories here.”
Fans also had mixed feelings.
“We grew up being Yankee fans and to be here is an honor. It’s very overwhelming,” video distributor John Gainfort, 43, said. “It definitely pays tribute, but nothing will replace the old Yankee Stadium. They’ve done their best. It’s a new one, a new chapter in Yankee history.”
Berra had one quibble.
“The clubhouse is very big. I think they’ve got too much room,” he said. “If you want to talk to a guy, you’ve got to walk half a mile.”
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