Extremely Rare 1923 Yankee Stadium Opening Day Program

Sold For: $14,100

Auction Year: 2010 spring

Lot: 1263

Item Year: 1923

Category: Post-1900 Baseball Memorabilia

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Exceedingly rare program from the first game ever played at Yankee Stadium, on April 18, 1923. This is considered by many to be the single most significant regular-season program in existence, and for good reason. Yankee Stadium is the most famous sports venue in America and its opening in 1923 heralded the start of baseball's greatest dynasty. Over 74,200 fans jammed the stadium on April 18th to witness the game between the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, and it was reported that another 25,000 people were turned away at the gates. (Ironically, the Yankees were the opponents for Boston during the first game at Fenway Park in 1912.) One of the main reasons for all of the excitement was the fact that the Yankees would finally have a home park to call their own. Since 1913 the Yankees had been playing their home games at the Polo Grounds, where they were simply tenants of the New York Giants. When Ruth joined the Yankees in 1920 the Giants found themselves in an embarrassing position: the Yankees were outdrawing them. Finding such a situation intolerable, the Giants basically evicted the Yankees after the 1922 season. Not a man to cross, Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert purposely built Yankee Stadium just a quarter mile south of the Polo Grounds and demanded that it be built in record time: 185 working days. At the time of its construction, Yankee Stadium, which was the first ballpark to be called a stadium, was double the size of any existing ballpark. Prior to the opening game, Babe Ruth was quoted as saying "I'd give a year of my life if I can hit a home run in this first game in this new park." The baseball gods must have been looking kindly upon Ruth that day, for in the third inning he got his wish, blasting a towering three-run homer into the right-field bleachers off pitcher Howard Ehmke. With Bob Shawkey limiting the Red Sox to just one run, Ruth's home run proved the difference in the Yankees historic 4-1 victory that afternoon. Following the game, legendary sports writer Fred Lieb, writing in the Evening Telegram , dubbed the Yankees' new home "The House That Ruth Built," and it has remained so in the hearts and minds of fans ever since.

In addition to its enormous historical significance, and obvious extraordinary display value, the Opening Day program for Yankee Stadium is incredibly rare. In fact, this is the very first example REA has ever presented at auction. Over the years we have seen literally only a few examples, and we don't think it is an exaggeration to say that its rarity actually rivals that of a 1903 World Series program. This is no doubt related to the fact that this program was produced for sale for only one day, and cost fifteen cents; but even so, it is almost unfathomable that so few have survived when one considers that over 74,000 people attended the game!

The sixteen-page program (9.25 x 11 inches) pictures portrait images of both Yankee owner Colonel Jacob Ruppert and Vice President Colonel Tillinghast Huston on the cover, with the preprinted text proudly proclaiming its historical provenance: "Yankee Stadium - Opening Day - April 18-1923." The pages include a photo of the new stadium, as well brief biographies of Ruppert, Huston, general manager Ed Barrow, and manager Miller Huggins. Also featured is a composite team photo of the Yankees picturing individual portrait images of twenty-three players, including Ruth. The interior scorecard section has not been filled in. A partial separation of the front and back covers at the spine has been professionally restored (such restorative work is common to programs of this vintage), and there is a small half-inch vertical tear along the top border that affects both covers and each of the interior pages. Minor handling wear and a few areas of light age toning are evident throughout, most noticeably on the back cover. The front cover is remarkable free of any significant flaws and presents exceptionally well. In Very Good to Excellent condition overall. This highly prized program has a significance that transcends program collecting, and is perhaps the most substantial, desirable, and ideal-for-display of all items relating to the historic opening of Yankee Stadium. Reserve $2,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $14,100

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