By Sarah Beth Costello
This article was featured on the Elon University Web site: click here
For Chris Jones ’80, baseball is more than just a sport.
“Baseball,” says Jones, “is the concept of sacrifice put into action on the field — giving yourself up for the good of the team. Baseball represents what America could be.”
The retired history teacher and diehard New York Yankees fan is on a mission to preserve the historical architecture of the 1923 Yankee Stadium, known as “The House that Ruth Built.” Specifically, Jones is trying to save Gate 2, the only remaining architecture from the original stadium, which was renovated in 1973.
The Yankees opened a new stadium in April, and Jones wants to make sure that historic portions of the original edifice aren’t demolished. Hall of Fame greats such as Babe Ruth, Yogi Berra, Lou Gehrig and Tony Lazzeri hit home runs, stole bases and set records in the original stadium, located in The Bronx.
No decisions have been made concerning the fate of the original stadium. Plans include demolishing the majority of the structure, including Gate 2. Currently, Jones says there are no plans to preserve the gate despite its historical significance.
“This is more than a Yankees issue and it’s more than a baseball issue, it goes a lot deeper than that,” Jones says. “Even though I’m a Yankees fan, I would be just as disappointed if I knew Fenway Park or Wrigley Field would be torn down.”
In March, Jones began talking with other Yankee fans on the Web site baseballfever.com, where members blog and talk about baseball. They were disappointed by the proposal to demolish The House That Ruth Built and decided something needed to be done. They launched the SAVE THE GATE 2 campaign and have been lobbying local and team officials to leave the gate in its original position and have it serve as the entrance to a park.
“(The stadium) was built for Babe Ruth, so why wouldn’t someone want to save a ballpark that represents the greatest ball player that ever lived?” says Jones.
Yankee Stadium has three gates: 2, 4 and 6. Gates 4 and 6 were renovated in 1973. Gate 2 faces the new stadium, which Jones says makes it ideal for saving. The stadium has not only served as the home of the Yankees since 1923, but also has sentimental value for many New Yorkers.
“We’ve had three popes appear there,” Jones says. “We’ve had Billy Graham crusades. We’ve had Joe Louis defeat Max Schmeling during Hitler’s climb to power.”
The stadium also was the site of the 1958 Baltimore Colts sudden death overtime win against the N.Y. Giants, in what would later be called “The greatest game ever played.” Following 9/11, Yankee Stadium served as a gathering place for thousands after the terrorist attacks.
“We’ve got all of these elements woven into this tapestry, which is Yankees Stadium,” Jones says.
Jones says the SAVE THE GATE 2 campaign “has really caught fire.” Since its launch last spring, the core committee of volunteers has expanded from three to 10 people. Contractors, architects, engineers, artists, retired Yankee players and everyday New Yorkers have offered to help. In addition, stories about the campaign have appeared in newspapers in the New York area as well as USA Today.
“We’ve found out that a lot of other people feel that same way we do,” Jones says.
Jones’ wife, Cindy, and other committee volunteers have made presentations to parks and recreation officials. Cindy also helped her husband plan a rally outside the original stadium. Ultimately, Jones says, the decision rests with parks and recreation officials and the Yankees.
Jones has watched the Yankees play in the new stadium and loves it. He calls the stadium “a 21st century impression of a 1920s stadium.”
Yet he still misses the original Yankee home, which he first visited as a teenager. Says Jones, “Yankee Stadium is the Roman Coliseum of America.”
For more information on the Gate 2 campaign, go to www.savetheyankeegate2.com.