Will we ever get back to watching baseball at Yankee Stadium? It is a fair and frustrating question. Perhaps, as therapy, it helps to go back in time before Yankee Stadium (either the original or the newer one) was even there.
We get this view from the Subway Construction Photograph Collection, and some parts of this massive trove of about 72,500 prints are now available to view in the New-York Historical Society’s Shelby White & Leon Levy Digital Library.
Before the Interborough Rapid Transit line could be built to extend into the western Bronx, the area had to be documented in detail, hence our extensive photograph collection that freezes it in time in late 1913. The future site of Yankee Stadium proved to be the southernmost stop on the line that would extend, mainly along Jerome Avenue, to Woodlawn.
Frequenters to the stadium know that today’s Number 4 subway line will take you directly to the 161st Street River Avenue stop in the Bronx. And, even those who do not take this train cannot escape watching the subway’s escapade in the “Great New York Subway Race” displayed during each game on the scoreboard. (For those who have not witnessed this absurd spectacle, graphics of the B, D, and 4 Lines are shown racing through Manhattan to the Yankee Stadium stop, while fans cheer for their favorite subway, one that is randomly chosen to win.)
There is no guessing, however, that now-called Number 4 was indeed the first to get there in 1918 (it wasn’t until 1933 that the now D and B trains joined in) and was likely the reason that the vaunted Yankee Stadium was built at its iconic spot in 1923.
That Opening Day is also well documented in the New-York Historical Society’s collections by this program:
Fortunately, the program’s original owner, teenaged fan Stanford C. Mallory, kept score. The filled-in diamond across from “Ruth” is sure evidence that “The House That Ruth Built” was indeed christened with the Babe’s home run in the third inning.
These 1915 subway construction pictures help us imagine the elevated platform from which thousands, and eventually millions, of fans would descend in future years to the old stadium (1923-2008) or to the new one on the north side of 161st Street.
Additional connections needed to be made linking the new subway through the Grand Concourse to the Lexington Avenue Line in Manhattan. The other link, more vital to sports fans, ran slightly to the north across the Harlem River over the (now demolished) Putnam Railroad Bridge and connected to the 9th Avenue Elevated stop at the Polo Grounds in upper Manhattan. This spur lived on as the Polo Grounds Shuttle until 1958.
In the meantime, we will let the seeming desolation of these Bronx photographs match that of our hearts until baseball returns.
This post is by Mariam Touba, Reference Librarian for Printed Collections.