The history is encapsulated in Monument Park, just past the outfield wall - and the question for architects, city planners, and Yankees officials is whether a new building with a similar look built across the street can inspire the same feelings of awe and majesty that the current stadium does. The monuments will be moved to the new stadium, but no one knows for certain whether the magic will come along as well.
Yankees manager Joe Torre questions whether the new park can capture the glory of the old. But he says the Yankees had no choice because of the worsening condition of the existing stadium, which was extensively (and unsympathetically) renovated in the 1970s and is today badly out of date.
"I don't think you can just move it over," Torre says of the existing stadium's fabled aura. "You erect a new stadium out of necessity. This ballpark has held up, but it's in need of repair. I'm certain that with the way they are designing stadiums today, the people are going to really enjoy the new stadium. It will have a touch of the inside of this stadium and a touch of the old outside of the stadium, which to me was a classic look."
Sitting in the Yankees dugout - where so much drama has unfolded - Torre at first says he does not mind the fact that the original Yankee Stadium will be demolished to make way for smaller, public playing fields when the new stadium is completed. But then he admits that he will not be happy when the wrecking ball takes down the old stadium. He can't even bring himself to use the word demolish.
"I think there will always be sadness at the time when they finally do what they're going to do to it," he says, "because you realize who was playing on these fields. I don't think that will ever leave you. But I think it was time to do it."
The new Yankee Stadium will have a remade version of the old 1923 facade - to give fans a reassuring link to past glories - and the designers of the new Mets stadium have also looked to days gone by for inspiration. The New York clubs' decisions to evoke the past continues a trend of nostalgic, retro-style ballparks that began in earnest with the 1992 opening of the Baltimore Orioles' Camden Yards.
In the Mets' case, no one would dare propose copying the unintentionally kitschy design of Shea Stadium - a bland 1960s bowl. So planners, perhaps influenced by the Brooklyn roots of Mets chairman Fred Wilpon, looked instead to the Brooklyn Dodgers' Ebbets Field, which was torn down in 1960, three years after the beloved Dodgers broke the borough's heart by departing for Los Angeles. The new park will not be an exact replica of the stadium where Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Gil Hodges, and the other boys of summer brought Brooklyn its only world championship in 1955, but its facade and its rotunda intentionally pay homage to Ebbets Field. The exterior of the new park will be made of brick, limestone, granite, and cast stone, and the brick will be the same color and texture as the brick that was used on the outside of Ebbets Field. Architects hope its interior design will also capture the intimacy of the original. Fans will be closer to the field than they are at Shea Stadium, and a higher proportion of the seats will be in the lowest level.