Saturday, July 29, 2006

Yankee Stadium: Monument Park

The following personalities are honored with monuments or plaques in Monument Park, located behind the left-center field fence at Yankee Stadium, between the bullpens. Monuments, rather than plaques, are generally awarded only to the greatest of the great, and then only after their deaths. Many of these figures also had their uniform numbers retired. Such ceremonies often take place either at home openers or on Old Timers' Day. Figures are listed in the order in which their plaques were dedicated:

Miller Huggins, manager 1918-29, monument dedicated May 30, 1932. This monument was originally placed on the field of play, in front of the center-field flagpole. Huggins never wore a number on his uniform, and so no number is retired for him.
Jacob Ruppert, owner 1915-39, plaque dedicated April 19, 1940. This plaque was placed on the outfield wall, to the right of the flagpole.
Lou Gehrig, first baseman 1923-39, number 4 retired July 4, 1939, monument dedicated July 6, 1941. This monument was placed to the left of the Huggins monument. Gehrig was the first Major League Baseball player to have his uniform number retired.
Babe Ruth, right fielder 1920-34, number 3 retired June 13, 1948, monument dedicated April 19, 1949. This monument was placed to the right of the Huggins monument. The three monuments together were about 450 feet from home plate, but a ball would occasionally get back there. In the 1992 book The Gospel According to Casey, by Ira Berkow and Jim Kaplan, it is reported that Yankee manager Casey Stengel was watching his center fielder fumbling with the ball in the vicinity of the monuments, while the batter-runner circled the bases. Stengel yelled out, "Ruth, Gehrig, Huggins, somebody get that ball back to the infield!"
Ed Barrow, general manager 1921-46, plaque dedicated April 15, 1954. The plaque was placed on the wall, to the left of the flagpole.
Joe DiMaggio, center fielder 1936-51, number 5 retired April 18, 1952, plaque dedicated June 8, 1969, replaced by a monument April 25, 1999.
Mickey Mantle, center fielder 1951-68, number 7 retired and plaque dedicated June 8, 1969, replaced by a monument August 25, 1996. Mantle was awarded his plaque on Mickey Mantle Day, handed to him by DiMaggio. Mantle then handed DiMaggio his plaque, saying, "His oughta be just a little bit higher than mine." Instead, they were placed side-by-side on the wall. These were the last plaques to be placed in play. Following the 1974-75 renovation of Yankee Stadium, the monuments and plaques were moved to the new Monument Park.
Joe McCarthy, manager 1931-46, plaque dedicated April 29, 1976. Although the Yankees adopted uniform numbers in 1929, McCarthy never wore a number as Yankee manager, and so no number has been retired for him.
Casey Stengel, manager 1949-60, number 37 retired August 8, 1970, plaque dedicated July 30, 1976.
Thurman Munson, catcher 1969-79, number 15 retired August 2, 1979, plaque dedicated September 20, 1980.
Elston Howard, outfielder and catcher 1955-67, coach 1969-80, number 32 retired and plaque dedicated July 21, 1984.
Roger Maris, outfielder 1960-66, number 9 retired and plaque dedicated July 21, 1984, in the same ceremony as Howard's.
Phil Rizzuto, shortstop 1941-56 and broadcaster 1957-96, number 10 retired and plaque dedicated August 4, 1985.
Billy Martin, second baseman 1950-57, manager 1975-78, 1979, 1983, 1985 and 1988, number 1 retired and plaque dedicated August 10, 1986.
Lefty Gomez, pitcher 1930-42, plaque dedicated August 1, 1987. His number 11 has not been retired.
Whitey Ford, pitcher 1950-67, number 16 retired April 6, 1974, plaque dedicated August 1, 1987, in the same ceremony as Gomez's.
Bill Dickey, catcher 1928-46, manager 1946, coach 1949-60, number 8 retired April 18, 1972, plaque dedicated August 21, 1988.
Yogi Berra, catcher and outfielder 1946-63, manager 1964 and 1984-85, coach 1975-83, number 8 retired April 18, 1972, plaque dedicated August 21, 1988 -- in each case, in the same ceremony as Dickey's.
Allie Reynolds, pitcher 1947-54, plaque dedicated August 27, 1989. His number 22 has not been retired.
Don Mattingly, first baseman 1982-95, coach since 2004, number 23 retired and plaque dedicated August 31, 1997.
Mel Allen, broadcaster 1939-64 and 1976-89, plaque dedicated July 25, 1998.
Bob Sheppard, public address announcer since 1951, plaque dedicated May 7, 2000.
Reggie Jackson, right fielder 1977-81, number 44 retired August 14, 1993, plaque dedicated July 6, 2002.
Ron Guidry, pitcher 1975-88, coach 2006, number 49 retired and plaque dedicated August 23, 2003.
Red Ruffing, pitcher 1930-46, plaque dedicated July 10, 2004. His number 15 had already been retired for Munson.
Huggins, Gehrig, Ruth, Barrow, DiMaggio, Mantle, McCarthy, Stengel, Rizzuto, Gomez, Ford, Dickey, Berra, Jackson and Ruffing are also members of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Allen received the Hall's Ford Frick Award, the broadcasters' equivalent of Hall of Fame election.

In addition, the Knights of Columbus donated plaques to the Yankees in honor of the masses delivered at Yankee Stadium by Pope Paul VI on October 4, 1965 and Pope John Paul II on October 2, 1979.

This led to a joke: "Who are the two former Cardinals who have plaques at Yankee Stadium?" It should be noted, however, that Huggins and Maris played for the St. Louis Cardinals, so there is a real answer to the joke's question. Joe Torre also played for (and managed) the Cardinals, and will likely receive a plaque shortly after his retirement, which would end the joke, unless Pope Benedict XVI or a successor visits the United States and delivers a Mass at Yankee Stadium or the planned successor ballpark, making it, "Who are the three former Cardinals..."

The Yankees dedicated a plaque to the victims and rescue workers of the 9/11 attacks on September 11, 2002, the first anniversary of the attacks. Although usually referred to as a "monument," it is simply a plaque resting in a corner of Monument Park, rather than a plaque mounted on a granite slab as the "monuments" are.

Although Paul O'Neill (outfielder 1993-2001) has not been honored with the retirement of his number 21 or with the dedication of a Monument Park plaque, the number has not been reissued following his retirement.

Although Major League Baseball retired number 42 leaguewide for Jackie Robinson in 1997, the Yankees remain the only team not to list 42 along with their team's retired numbers. Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera is the only current player to wear the number as the number was grandfathered for all players wearing the number at the time, but all the other teams retired #42 while they had players wearing the number.

The monuments are located more than 450 feet from home plate. It is an achievement for a home run in the "new" Stadium to go into the monuments on the fly. Among those who have done so are Thurman Munson (in Game 3 of the 1978 American League Championship Series) and Alex Rodriguez (in August 2005).

Since the mid-1980s, the rear fence lining the walkway from the grandstand to the monuments -- the barrier that was the outfield fence from 1976 to 1984 -- has borne the Yankees' retired numbers. Under those numbers are small stands with short biographies of the players that were honored.

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