King Kaufman's Sports Daily

The financially savvy Yankees quit begging for public money and announce they'll build their own new stadium. Plus: Rooting for laundry at the College World Series.

By Salon Staff
Published June 16, 2005 7:00PM (EDT)

The Yankees announced plans Wednesday to build a new ballpark in the Bronx next to the current House That Ruth Built. The $800 million park will be the most expensive stadium in the United States, with a price tag over $1 billion including surrounding infrastructure work.

The team will pay to build the stadium itself, the city will kick in $135 million to prepare the land and the state will pay $70 million to build parking garages and improve roads, according to plans revealed at Wednesday's press conference.

Here's my question: If, as team owners are constantly trying to tell us, new stadiums and arenas aren't feasible unless the taxpayers foot the bill, why are the Yankees, easily the most economically savvy sports franchise in America, willing to pay for their own building?

Now, I know, George Steinbrenner spent the better part of 20 years stomping his loafers and demanding that someone build him a ballpark. He was going to move to Jersey, to Manhattan, to, oh, anywhere some politician was willing to hand over a few hundred million taxpayer dollars.

But he could never make that gift basket appear, so what do you know. He shrugged his shoulders and said, "OK, we'll do it ourselves."

The Mets are also doing it themselves, announcing the other day plans to build a new park in the parking lot of their current home, Shea Stadium in Queens. With no design yet, the price tag is unknown, but Mets owner Fred Wilpon guessed about $600 million.

All of these estimates should be considered lowball, since stadiums almost always have cost overruns.

The city will kick in $105 million and the state $75 million for planning and infrastructure for the new Mets stadium, which would also open in 2009, and more if New York wins the 2012 Olympics, in which case the stadium would be converted for use as the main venue.

Obviously, the Yankees and Mets are still getting governmental help in the neighborhood of $200 million each, which not too long ago would have been enough to build a stadium. But even combined that's a far cry from the $600 million the New York Jets wanted for their Manhattan stadium, which was killed last week.

The Yanks and Mets are also getting help from the other teams, since they can deduct their stadium debt from revenue-sharing payments they make to their poorer brethren.

Yankees president Randy Levine said at the press conference that profits the new ballpark would generate might be enough that the Yankees would end up paying more into revenue sharing than they do now.

Think about that. Teams that are bending the taxpayers' arms always say that the new ballpark will create such huge profits that the government will make its money back and then some. The logical reply to that is "If the damn thing's such a cash cow, why not finance it yourself and keep all the profits?"

The real answer is "Because we think we can talk you rubes into financing it and still letting us keep the profits," though of course that never gets said out loud. What they always talk about is crushing debt. But here's Levine saying profits will overpower the debt -- on the most expensive stadium ever proposed.

Clip and save. Wherever you live, you won't have to wait long for some area team owner to start talking about how the taxpayers need to pony up to build his team a new place to play.

Good riddance, "Yankee Stadium" [PERMALINK]

Another nice thing about the proposed new Yankee Stadium, or whatever it will be called, is that it will mimic the design of the old Yankee Stadium.

It will have the same field dimensions as the current, remodeled park and will restore the old stadium's most famous feature, the copper rooftop frieze -- often mislabeled a "facade" -- which was removed in the 1974-75 remodeling. That was but one of many astounding aesthetic mistakes made in baseball around that time.

So in other words, the new Yankee Stadium will look more like the old Yankee Stadium than the current Yankee Stadium does.

The reconfigured park has some echoes of the House That Ruth Built, and in three decades it's built up its own share of memories as the Yanks have won 10 pennants and six World Series. But when you sit in it, it feels more like an artifact from the '60s-'70s era of faceless concrete slabs than like an old-time park that predates night baseball and exploding scoreboards.

It would be sad to see even this Yankee Stadium go if the Yankees were going to build another Bank One Ballpark or Miller Park across the yard there. But a modern replica of the old place should be an improvement on the remodeled version of the old place.

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College World Series [PERMALINK]

The College World Series gets underway Friday in Omaha, Neb. Seven of the eight teams in the tournament didn't make it last year. That's pretty good turnover. Yay, parity.

Texas is the only returnee. The other teams are Arizona State, Baylor, Florida, Nebraska, Oregon State, Tennessee and Tulane. Texas has been to the College World Series 32 times, Arizona State 19 and all the others combined 19. Oregon State hasn't been since 1952.

The only school that makes even a slight appearance in the Complicated Calculus of Teams I Root For is Tulane, because I'm the proud owner of a Tulane Green Wave baseball cap, purchased at a New Orleans supermarket while I was on tour playing music. It is well-worn and stained with sweat salt, thus allowing me to root for the No. 1 seed without feeling like a bandwagon jumper. They don't strike me as a prohibitive favorite anyway.

I'm also rooting for Nebraska -- three words I've never spoken or typed consecutively before -- because of their socks.

That's right. I said their socks.

One of the worst aesthetic trends in baseball has been the death of the stirrup sock. When I was a kid, I was obsessed with stirrup socks. The best thing about reaching the second level of Little League -- called "the majors" at North Venice, where I played -- was that you got to wear a full uniform, not just a jersey. That meant you got to wear stirrup socks.

Stirrup socks were the one part of a baseball uniform that a player could individualize. He could pull them way up high, leaving only what looked like two colored stripes going up the sides of his lower legs, or he could leave them low, showing just a small oval of white just above the shoetops.

It fascinated me how the fashions had changed. From the '20s through the '50s, everyone wore their stirrups low and their pants legs high. Picture Babe Ruth. My dad told me that when he was a kid, he thought the players glued little half circles of white paper on the front and back of their ankles.

Stirrup socks were also unique to baseball. Even more than the cap, stirrup socks said "baseball uniform." You saw baseball caps everywhere. You never saw stirrup socks outside of baseball, with the single exception of football referees.

In the late '50s the stirrups started getting pulled higher and higher, until by the '80s the standard look was stretched so high up that you couldn't see the stirrup, only the side stripes. Picture Vince Coleman.

In the '90s players started wearing their pants longer, until finally the socks disappeared. Picture Manny Ramirez. They've reappeared on some players in the last few years, but without the stirrups. The look is to wear the pants knickers style, ending at the knees, and show solid-colored socks down to the shoetops. It's terrible. Picture Marquis Grissom, who I think started the trend.

A very few players -- I've noticed Juan Pierre and Mark Prior -- still wear down-low stirrups. Those little patches of white make all the difference. Otherwise you're just looking at an unsightly stretch of solid-colored sock that makes even the most sturdy of men look like he has chicken legs.

In the old days, when most of the sock was revealed, many teams had horizontal stripes at mid-calf. It broke up that stretch of solid color. Check out the 1946 Boston Braves, for example, or the 1955 St. Louis Cardinals or Boston Red Sox or Detroit Tigers.

But even though colored stockings have made a comeback, the horizontal stripes have not.

Which brings me back to Nebraska. The Cornhuskers don't wear stirrup socks, but they have three horizontal white stripes on their red stockings. It's a start. I want them to go deep in the College World Series so pictures of their striped socks will be beamed nationwide.

Jerry Seinfeld famously pointed out that since players change but we keep rooting for the same home team, we're basically rooting for laundry. I really do root for laundry. Go green hats! Go striped socks!

Previous column: NBA Finals Game 3; Phil Jackson

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