I've been a Mets fan all my life, always carrying some of the Yankee Resentment that goes with that. Having never been to a Yankee game, I've never gotten to know the Yankee Stadium area of the Bronx.
It was time to change that, so this past weekend I explored five parks in walking distance of the stadium. The first is an extravagant exception to my blog rule disqualifying parks that exist only for athletics. Macombs Dam Park, on the site of the old Yankee Stadium, merits coverage twice over: for its history and for its aesthetics.
Just across 161st Street from the new Yankee Stadium, Macombs Dam Park is named after an actual dam built across the Harlem River in 1814. I'd always wondered why the nearby Macombs Dam Bridge was named thus. Dams are not the first thing one thinks of in reference to New York City's waterways. But gristmill operator Robert Macomb managed to get the city's approval to build one two centuries ago.
Years later concerned citizens protested the blockage of the river by attacking the dam both rhetorically and physically. It was gone by 1858. In 1890 the accompanying bridge was replaced with the current Macombs Dam Bridge, described in this Forgotten New York post dating from before the creation of the park.
The bridge was already 13 years old when the New York Highlanders (later renamed the Yankees) came into being in 1903. Ten years later the team moved across the river from the Polo Grounds in Manhattan to the newly built Yankee Stadium in The Bronx. One of the baseball fields in Macombs Dam Park is situated exactly over the diamond of that original Yankee Stadium, so you can stand (and even play ball) where Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Mickey Rivers, and Derek Jeter once batted.
Grassy landscaping and markers of the history of the Yankees and the stadium ring the baseball fields.
No doubt the fields are bustling with baseball on weekends. But on this weekday afternoon, as beautiful a day as it was, only a few people had come out.
One forlorn-looking young man sat alone in a dugout. Was he dreaming of the big leagues? Or just early for a practice or a friendly game?
From the baseball fields you can ascend via stairs or a ramp to the Joseph Yancey track and field area, which was much busier.
Driving? Park in the Ruppert Plaza Garage, named for Colonel Jacob Ruppert, onetime Yankees co-owner, and builder of the original Yankee Stadium. Ruppert has a park named for him too, in upper Manhattan.
Eye-pleasing design makes this big athletic facility parklike and just plain nice to walk around in. I'll close with some aesthetics. Here's a view showing some of the landscaping. The curved shape on the far right is the Yankees - East 153 St. Metro-North train station, which opened in 2009. I'm sure Yankee fans from the northern suburbs appreciate its utility. This Mets fan appreciates its architecture.
Good job on this one, MTA.