David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
BOSTON — With Fenway Park in the spotlight for Friday’s 100th anniversary celebration, one couldn’t help but think of old Yankee Stadium, now dead and buried, gone but not forgotten.
The two ballparks were as much a part of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry as the players themselves, and the new building in the Bronx just doesn’t bring the same reverence as The House That Ruth Built.
With so much talk about Fenway Park’s place in baseball history, new Yankee Stadium, which opened in 2009, can’t even crack the conversation. It’s a modern replica of its predecessor, constructed with similar specifications, but there’s no duplicating the same patch of Earth that Mantle, Maris and Gehrig once roamed. For those who fondly remember the original Yankee Stadium, Friday’s ceremony on Yawkey Way brought that longing back.
“I do miss it,” Joe Girardi said. “I grew up on Wrigley Field, so at some point, that place will not be Wrigley Field, and it just will feel different. It felt different when we didn’t walk into the old Yankee Stadium, and now you look next door, and it’s a beautiful park. It’s different.”
The Yankees own the Red Sox in just about every measurable way. They have many more championships, a greater history and even the Babe on their side. But the one advantage they conceded was ballpark superiority, trading in baseball’s equivalent of the Roman Coliseum for more luxury boxes and greater revenue streams. Chalk it up to the cost of doing business with a $200-million payroll, but as Fenway again showed Friday, it’s impossible to put a price tag on hallowed ground.
“I think our sport is better because we’ve taken those kind of ballparks and kept them,” commissioner Bud Selig said. “And there aren’t many. Call them what you want — cathedrals. The sport is better off for keeping them and having them. But how long? Nothing lasts forever.”
Not even the original Yankee Stadium, which was renovated three times before it was ultimately replaced. When asked Friday about the appeal of Fenway Park, Girardi could have been talking about his former Bronx home. “It’s like walking down memory lane,” Girardi said. “You can think about when you were a kid again. It’s the same place. It’s the same feel. I think people like going back in time, especially if they’re fond memories.”
But once that place is gone, it’s gone forever, which explains why Fenway remains so important and why there will always be a void left by the demolished Bronx cathedral.
La Russa: All in or all out
Given their close relationship, it’s not surprising that Tony La Russa would support Mark McGwire’s candidacy for the Hall of Fame. After all, La Russa managed him with the Athletics and Cardinals before adding him to his staff as the hitting coach in St. Louis. But when it comes to performance-enhancing drugs, La Russa — now working in an advisory role with commissioner Bud Selig — believes it’s somewhat hypocritical to be prejudiced against McGwire while others from that era are not scrutinized as closely.
To La Russa, testing positive or even admitting guilt in this case, before MLB’s drug policy came into effect for the 2005 season, is beside the point.
“It’s all in or all out,” La Russa said Thursday at MLB’s Park Avenue headquarters. “If there’s some evidence you used, and if guys like Mark are out, then they’re all out. And if there have been questions raised, when I hear this guy is going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, it’s like, ‘OK, that’s fine with me, but why are you picking and choosing?’ I don’t understand that. Either all in or all out.”
McGwire has been the most recent candidate penalized by BBWAA voters for his admitted use of steroids, but the same questions will be raised about upcoming classes, especially the 2013 ballot, which features debuts of Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa. What about even further in the future, when Alex Rodriguez — another admitted user — becomes eligible?
In the interest of full disclosure, as a Hall of Fame voter myself for the past seven years, I’ve maintained the policy of not voting for players who have admitted PED use or tested positive for it. But over time, if evidence of even more widespread use surfaces, I believe future candidates could be looked at differently, as La Russa says.
Bud Selig, unplugged
At this week’s annual Associated Press Sports Editors meetings, the MLB commissioner addressed a number of topics in roundtable format, literally, as Bud Selig circled the long conference table during his answers. Here are a few quick hits:
- On the Ozzie Guillen suspension, in which MLB had an “active” role, Selig said he was satisfied with the manager’s apology. “I expect people in the sport to act responsibly. But future actions will speak the loudest. We’ll see what the future holds, and I mean that very aggressively.”
- On the increasing use of Toradol, a prescribed painkiller that is becoming more a part of pitchers’ routines. The NFL is currently facing lawsuits from former players over side effects. “We spend a lot of time educating the clubs. I meet with professional athletic trainers, and we talk about that all the time – new drugs. We have our experts continuing to monitor those things very closely.”
- On next year’s World Baseball Classic: “I know some people were not happy about it, worrying about players getting hurt. I’m very sensitive about that. But I noted in spring training this year there were a lot of players hurt and there was no World Baseball Classic, I think it serves as a great centerpiece of what we’re trying to do internationally. My great dream now is to have an opening in Europe somewhere.”
Amount, in dollars, that the Indians’ Chris Perez was fined for what MLB determined was a “reckless” tweet that said “You hit us, we hit you” after a beanball fight with the Royals. After an inquiry, Perez discovers any tweet including a Kardashian carries a $1,000 fine.
Returning Red Sox players who showed up for Friday’s 100th anniversary celebration at Fenway Park. When told that’s also the area code for Manhattan, the Sox hastily disqualify Bill Lee, who then blames the screwup on Don Zimmer.
At-bats without a home run for Albert Pujols, the longest opening drought of his career. “I’m not going to go out there and try to hit the ball out of the park,” Pujols tells reporters. Heck, maybe it’s worth a shot at this point.
Age of Jose Canseco, who this week agreed to a one-year deal with the Worcester Tornadoes of the independent Canadian-American Association. In case you were wondering, no, the Can-Am Association does not have a drug-testing policy.
Years since the Blue Jays had turned a triple play; also the last time the Royals had hit into one before Friday’s rarity at Kauffman Stadium. Liking the symmetry of all those 3s, teams have handshake agreement to do it again in 2033.
Consecutive wins for Phillies at Petco Park, home of the Padres, where they also are 24-4 since stadium opened in 2004. Padres decide to stop showing up for Philly visits. If they’re going to lose, anyway, might as well do it while at beach, eating fish tacos.