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Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm Barbara Klein.
And I'm Steve Ember. Another baseball season is here. This will be the final season for one of the best-known ballparks in America. This week on our program, we tell you the story of the House That Ruth Built.
The House That Ruth Built is the popular name for Yankee Stadium, the home of the New York Yankees. Ruth was Babe Ruth. His playing made the Yankees so popular, they built the stadium.
Yankee Stadium is in the Bronx area of New York City. Babe Ruth hit the first home run in the stadium on the day it opened: April eighteenth, nineteen twenty-three. That day, the Yankees defeated the Boston Red Sox, four to one.
Babe Ruth had played for Boston. But the Red Sox traded him to the Yankees after the nineteen nineteen season. It was a decision the Red Sox would soon regret. In nineteen twenty Babe Ruth hit more than fifty home runs.
Over the years, the Babe set many baseball records. Tradition says he also changed history for the Yankees and the Red Sox.
The Yankees had not played in a World Series until he joined the team. Since then, they have won a record twenty-six championships.
The Red Sox had been one of the most successful teams in baseball before Babe Ruth left. After that, Boston played in four World Series and lost them all.
Fans in Boston and New York called it "The Curse of the Bambino." Bambino is Italian for baby. It was also another nickname for Babe Ruth, who was born George Herman Ruth.
Finally, in two thousand four, the supposed curse ended after more than eighty years.
The Red Sox defeated the Yankees for the American League championship. Then Boston won the World Series that year against the Saint Louis Cardinals. And the Red Sox are currently the defending major league champions. They defeated the Colorado Rockies four games to none in last year's World Series.
This is the eighty-sixth season the Yankees have played in Yankee Stadium. It was standing-room only as more than fifty-five thousand people watched them defeat the Toronto Blue Jays in the season opener on April first. The game was supposed to be played the day before, but got rained out.
Former Yankee hitter Reggie Jackson threw out the first pitch. He was known as "Mr. October" because that was when he played his best, during championship seasons. Reggie Jackson was a Yankee hero in the nineteen seventy-seven World Series. He hit three home runs in Yankee Stadium during the sixth game of that series.
Eighty-two year old Yogi Berra was also at Yankee Stadium for opening day. He was the Yankees' catcher from nineteen forty-six to nineteen sixty-three. He played in fourteen World Series. He later became a manager and coach for several teams and is in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Today many people know him for his "Yogi-isms" -- statements like "It ain't over till it's over" and "You can observe a lot by watching." But as a player he may be remembered best for catching a perfect game in Yankee Stadium during the nineteen fifty-six World Series. He jumped into the arms of pitcher Don Larsen to celebrate the no-hitter.
An area of the outfield at Yankee Stadium is known as Monument Park. There are stone monuments and plaques honoring players and team officials.
The players include Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. They also include Yogi Berra, Reggie Jackson and Roger Maris. He hit sixty-one home runs in nineteen sixty-one. That broke Babe Ruth's record of sixty home runs in one season.
The first monument in Monument Park dates from nineteen thirty-two. It honors Miller Huggins, manager of the team for eleven seasons. His Yankees won three World Series.
Another manager honored in Monument Park is Casey Stengel. He led the Yankees to seven championships.
A special monument honors the New Yorkers killed in the terrorist attacks on their city on September eleventh, two thousand one.
Yankees radio announcer Mel Allen is also honored in Monument Park. He was the voice of the Yankees for twenty-five years. He was known for his way of calling a home run:
MEL ALLEN: "Swung on and hit, that ball is going, going, gone!"
Baseball's All-Star Game will take place this year at Yankee Stadium in July. Over the years, the ballpark has also been used for other sports as well as religious and political gatherings, concerts and more.
This coming Sunday, Pope Benedict will become the third leader of the world's Roman Catholics to celebrate Mass at Yankee Stadium. The others were Pope John Paul the Second in nineteen seventy-nine and Pope Paul the Sixth in nineteen sixty-five.
In nineteen thirty-eight, one of the most famous boxing matches of all time was held at Yankee Stadium. Joe Louis knocked out Max Schmeling in the first round to win the world heavyweight championship.
The New York Giants of the National Football League played at Yankee Stadium from nineteen fifty-six to nineteen seventy-three. They settled into their own stadium in nineteen seventy-six. They are still called the New York Giants even though they play in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
In nineteen forty-six, lights were added to Yankee Stadium so games could be played at night. In nineteen seventy-three, after its fiftieth anniversary, the stadium was rebuilt. The project took two years. During that time the Yankees played at Shea Stadium, the home of the Mets, New York's other Major League Baseball team.
Some fans liked the nineteen twenty-three Yankee Stadium better. But the rebuilt ballpark was designed to give fans a better view of the field.
The changes reduced the number of seats. The original stadium had sixty-five thousand wooden seats. It was rebuilt with fifty-four thousand wider seats made of plastic.
The new Yankee Stadium is going up across the street from the existing one. It will be almost two-thirds larger, with more space for food, stores, even an art gallery. Yet it will hold fewer people. The new Yankee Stadium will seat about fifty-three thousand people.
Fans are being promised improved sight lines for watching games. The big video screen will be six times larger, and the sound system will also be improved.
The billion-dollar ballpark is to open next year at this time. Yankee officials say it will continue to honor team history but will provide what they call a modern fan experience.
The New York Yankees play in the American League; the New York Mets play in the National League. From time to time they play each other. The cross-town rivals met in the World Series in two thousand. The Yankees won the major league championship.
That was the last time the Yankees have won a World Series. They returned to the series twice more, but lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Florida Marlins.
This year, the Yankees have a new manager, Joe Girardi, a former Yankee player. And they are getting ready to say goodbye to the House That Ruth Built. But the Yankees are not the only players in New York who will be moving.
The Mets will also play on a new field next year. This is their final season in Shea Stadium which will also be torn down. It was built in the nineteen sixties and was designed for baseball and football.
The new home of the Yankees will still be called Yankee Stadium. But the new home of the Mets will be called Citi Field. Citibank will pay twenty million dollars a year for naming rights. The new ballpark is being built next to the existing one in the Queens part of the city.
New stadiums these days offer expanded services for people with more money to spend. This will be true for the new ballparks in New York. But the teams say games will not be priced out of reach of average fans.
When the Yankees lose a game, they play the version of the song "New York, New York" sung by Liza Minnelli over the loudspeakers. And when they win? They play the version sung by Frank Sinatra.
Our program was written by Nancy Steinbach and produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Steve Ember. And I'm Barbara Klein. For transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our programs, go to voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.