Tribe Pounds Yankees In Stadium Opener

By: AP Email
By: AP Email

NEW YORK (AP) — The Yankees opened baseball's fanciest and priciest ballpark Thursday with a performance that would have embarrassed Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and other stars from their famous pinstriped past.

After an 85-year run in a stadium that produced 26 World Series titles, New York saw its hitters fizzle and its bullpen come apart on a sunny afternoon in a 10-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians.

Jhonny Peralta broke a seventh-inning tie with a two-run double off Jose Veras, and Grady Sizemore hit a grand slam into the right-field seats off Damaso Marte.

"To come in here and do what we did is something we'll always remember," Sizemore said.

By the time Victor Martinez's solo homer capped the nine-run burst, just as the shadow of the famous frieze was about to creep past home plate, angry fans who paid up to $2,625 list per ticket taunted the Yankees with chants of, "We want Swisher!"

That was a reference to the Yankees right fielder who pitched during a blowout loss at Tampa Bay earlier in the week.

"It felt like we disappointed quite a few people today," Johnny Damon said.

On April 18, 1923, Ruth homered as New York opened the original Yankee Stadium with a 4-1 win over the Boston Red Sox, and the ballpark quickly was dubbed "The House that Ruth Built."

The opening of the new $1.5 billion house for baseball's most storied team wound up being much less memorable. Yankees batters stranded 10 runners in the first five innings, going 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. The primary cheers were for Jorge Posada, who hit the first home run in the ballpark's history, a fifth-inning drive off Cliff Lee that that landed in Monument Park behind center field.

"I'm going to remember the home run, no question about it, but right now it's a little disappointing," Posada said.

CC Sabathia, pitching in pinstripes for the first time since signing a $161 million, seven-year contract, allowed an RBI double to Kelly Shoppach in the fourth. But he left after 122 pitches and 5 2-3 innings in his first start against his former team.

While Edwar Ramirez and Phil Coke finished the inning, Veras (0-1) failed to retire anyone in the seventh, walking Mark DeRosa and allowing a double to Martinez before Peralta's double into the right-field corner.

"I feel bad. Better to happen now than later in the season. I know I can be better than that," Veras said.

Marte hit Shin-soo Shoo with a pitch, loaded the bases when he fielded Ben Francisco's sacrifice and threw too late to third, then gave up an RBI single to Shoppach and walked Trevor Crowe one out later with the bases loaded, making it 5-1.

"I didn't throw the ball inside or outside. I threw it down the middle and I paid for it," Marte said.

Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who watched the first five innings from an outdoor seat in his luxury suite, quickly went inside. Steinbrenner, who attends few games since becoming increasingly frail, watched from his box to the left of home plate, with baseball commissioner Bud Selig and developer Donald Trump among his guests.

Current and former New York City Mayors Michael Bloomberg and Rudolph Giuliani watched from the first row to the plate side of the Yankees dugout in some of the most expensive seats, while former Yankee David Wells sat in the bleachers. New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan was on hand, as was the rapper Jay-Z.

Coming off two poor outings, Lee (1-2) allowed one run and seven hits in six innings in a matchup of the last two AL Cy Young Award winners. Rafael Perez allowed an RBI single to Robinson Cano in the bottom half of the seventh, by which time the sellout crowd of 48,271 had started to empty out.

"It's not how you want to start a new stadium, but one game is not going to make the history of this Yankee Stadium," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

It was the second ballpark opening in New York in a four-day span, following the Mets' 6-5 loss to San Diego on Monday night in the first game at $800 million Citi Field.

Fans were entertained at the start of hourlong pregame ceremonies by the West Point Marching Band, which played the "Washington Post March" and "Stars and Stripes Forever" by John Philip Sousa, who led the Seventh Regiment Band before the first game at the old stadium, a 4-1 win over Boston on April 18, 1923.

John Fogerty followed by playing "Centerfield," and former Yankees center fielder Bernie Williams strummed an acoustic guitar version of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." A group of about 45 former Yankees, all wearing special jackets commemorating the new stadium, came out and lined the back of the infield dirt, among them Hall of Famers Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Rich Gossage, Reggie Jackson and Dave Winfield, plus fan favorites Ron Guidry, Don Larsen, Tino Martinez, Paul O'Neill, Mel Stottlemyre and Williams.

Fans cheered Posada, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, and loudly booed Cleveland's Carl Pavano, a flop during four seasons in New York. After Grammy Award winner Kelly Clarkson sang the national anthem and Berra threw out the ceremonial first pitch, the Bleacher Creatures chanted their Roll Call, as they did at the old stadium for many years.

With more than a dozen restaurants and lounges, many of them exclusive for the pricey seats, the ballpark is 63 percent larger than its predecessor. Dozens of blue-vested waiters and waitresses filled the aisles to attend to the first nine rows wrapping the infield, where the seats start at $500 and a season ticket costs up to $202,500. That's a far cry from the opener of the original Yankee Stadium, where grandstand seats cost $1.10.

Berra joked that the clubhouse complex, which includes a two-lane batting cage, video room, weight room and two swimming pools, is too big.

"To me, if you want to talk to a guy, you got to walk for a half-mile," he said.

Since the exhibition games against the Chicago Cubs on April 3-4, numbers of retired players were posted on a wall behind the left-field bleachers, years of the 26 World Series titles were put on a wall behind the right-field bleachers and colorful flags for each major league team were hoisted on poles above famous frieze that lines the roof.

Balls from Sabathia's first pitch and the first hit, by Johnny Damon, were removed from the game. Before Jeter led off the bottom of the first, the bat Ruth used to hit a three-run homer in the 1923 opener was laid across home plate. Jeter picked it up and playfully tried to give his own wood to the bat boy instead of Ruth's before surrounding the historic model, which was loaned by a collector for the day.

Jeter, who made the last Yankees out in the old ballpark, flied out as New York's first batter in the new stadium.


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