In Which I Defend the Steinbrenner Memorial

I think some of this comes down to not quite knowing just what it is. Rob calls it a “plaque,” and that’s true enough in a literal sense, but in terms of the symbolic meaning of Monument Park, it’s not really accurate. That is to say, it’s not meant to be a plaque in the way that Reggie Jackson and Phil Rizzuto and Whitey Ford and Bob Sheppard have plaques. It’s much closer to the stone monuments reserved for the greatest Yankees, and dedicated only after that person’s passing. Of course, it’s bigger than those too. It’s also different than those, and while it wasn’t what I was expecting, I think I’m ok with that. The bottom line is that Steinbrenner was different than those guys, in that he wasn’t a player or a manager. So giving him his own monument, in a distinct style, is a sort of fitting tribute. And at the end of the day, that’s probably what this is; not really a monument, certainly not a plaque, but a tribute. It’s ok if you don’t like it, but it would be nice if some of the national “debate” over it would acknowledge a bit more that there are people, Yankees fans, that do like it.

And that’s what is sort of getting under my skin a little bit. At this point, just about every team has some variation on their own centric Hall of Fame, and I’m sure that if I went through them all, they’ve probably all got one or two members who don’t objectively belong there, and I’d probably get a good laugh at the thought that someone thought they deserved that recognition. But I’m not at all compelled to go looking for any examples of that, because those honors and those memories aren’t about me. They’re about the fans of those teams.

I realize that Monument Park is more high profile than the Rangers Hall of Fame, and certainly more prominent in baseball lore, but to a very large degree, Monument Park is still primarily a place for fans of the New York Yankees baseball club. A place for us to remember the former players we loved to watch, the players we didn’t watch but have heard so much about, and to immortalize the best, most beloved members in the history of (in our opinion) the greatest franchise in the history of professional sports. It’s certainly ok for non-Yankee fans to have opinions about Monument Park, I just wish there was a little bit more respect paid to the fact that those people are outsiders, such as it were, and that, while they’re certainly entitled to whatever opinion they may hold, it’s not their place.

Born in Southwestern Ohio and currently residing on the Chesapeake Bay, Brien is a former editor-in-chief of IIATMS who now spends most of his time sitting on his deck watching his tomatoes ripen and consuming far more MLB Network programming than is safe for one's health or sanity.

17 thoughts on “In Which I Defend the Steinbrenner Memorial

  1. Brian R.

    Put more bluntly, while the Steinbrenners may own the stadium, my tax dollars helped pay for it.  I'd say that gives me the right to have an opinion.

  2. Larry@IIATMS

    Brian, two thoughts.  First, if you think the Yanks raped NYC, you don't know what a team can do to a city.  I mean, the Yanks ARE paying for the stadium, even if it is at a tax-exempt interest rate.  I don't think the Twins paid a dime for their stadium, or the Pirates, or the Brewers, and the Marlins are paying 25% of the cost of their new stadiums.  I guess we could post a series on the worst stadium deals from the standpoint of the taxpayer.  Cincinnati increased their sales tax to pay for stadiums.  Also, it appears that the Yankees will at least repay their debt (the debt incurred for new parking structures around the stadium — that looks a little shaky).  That's not the case everywhere.

     

    Second, you get to have an opinion on every other conceivable topic.  We spend PAGES here telling Cashman how to evaluate talent, and Girardi how to manage his bullpen.  We tell Posada how to throw, Javy how to pitch, and Grandy how to hit.  We tell Jeter how much money he should make.  I'm the worst of all, as I presume to tell the Steinbrenners how they should approach topics like salary caps and revenue sharing.  I do not believe that we are denying anyone their God-given right as a New Yorker (or ex-NYer, in my case) to express an opinion.

     

    In this particular case, though, the criticism has struck a nerve with me.  I think that the family that owns the stadium and the team can mourn their patriarch any way they want.  Whatever that monument might mean to you and me, it means more to them.

  3. Larry@IIATMS

    One other quick thought, Brian.  There's no "rape" involved in ANY stadium deal. The municipalities around the country know what they are doing, or if they don't, it's because they choose not to know.  Yes, I agree, these deals are terrible deals for the municipalities involved.  But the unfortunate truth is that the people who run New York City made the deal they made with the Yankees out of POLITICAL considerations — the deal served the interests of an elite with political clout, plus the politicians feared the wrath of voters who would not want to see their team cross the Hudson and play in New Jersey.  I doubt that the Yankees broke any laws in securing their deal for the new stadium — they just played the political system, and the good people of New York either did not do enough to protect their own interests or else they did not feel particularly burdened by the deal negotiated by their elected officials.

     

    Oh, and of course, the city did not negotiate any rights to approve new monuments in Monument Park.

  4. The memorial is not what I, as one individual Yankees fan, would have wanted, and I won't be paying it any pilgrimages.

    But for largely the reasons stated by Larry above, I agree that I ought to leave my opinion at that, and respect the Yankees' decision to honor GMS in the manner of their choice.

  5. To be clear, I'm not endorsing the idea that people can't, or shouldn't, have an opinion. The thing is a work of art for all intents and purposes, and I don't mind people having an opinion of the visual appeal and so on. Frankly I'm not a big fan of the other monuments, which are a bit stoic for my taste. I just wanted to voice my defense of it, with all the criticism that's out there, and the observation that most (or much) of the criticism was coming from non-Yankee fans was grating just a wee bit.

  6. Dave

    Can we get a Howie Spira monument to put next to Big Stein's? I mean, he probably had about as much to do with the Yankee resurgence of mid to late 90's as Steinbrenner did :)

  7. E-6

    I don’t think the Twins paid a dime for their stadium…

     

    Au contraire, sir. The Pohlad family (Twins) paid approximately 150 million of the 500 million cost of Target Field. It's not all that hard to look this stuff up, you know.

  8. So happy you wrote about this. I’ve been waiting for a response the second I saw it on Neyer’s blog. Agree with the post 100%.

  9. JP

    @Brien, in some sense, this does just come down to taste, and you how can argue with taste.  But if some one IS going to critique the plaque, or monument, or whatever, the validity of his critique has NOTHING to do with what team he roots for.

     

    For whatever it's worth (which is, not much), I don't think the plaque was tasteful.  Two generations from now, baseball fans everywhere will still know Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, and Joe Dimaggio.  People will ask, "who is this dude with the huge plaque??"

     

    I went to U.S. Cellular field this season and admired the bronze statutes of Carlton Fisk, Nellie Fox, Luis Aparicio, etc.  There was also one of Charles Comisky, who was a MUCH more influential owner than ol' George.  Had his statue been three times as tall, I would've scoffed at that too, and deservedly so.

     

     

     

     

  10. Larry@IIATMS

    Brien, someone should mark the date and time.  Because I agree with you, 100%.
     
    My take on the criticism is that, and I know it sounds strange to say this, I think the criticism is in bad taste.  This is a memorial, after all.  It is the expression of the feelings of those who commissioned it, paid for it and put it up.  In this case, the memorial is an expression of love and respect by members of the Steinbrenner family for a man they called “Dad” or “Granddad”, or “husband” or “uncle”.  The Steinbrenner family own the team and the stadium. Who am I or anyone else to tell them how to mourn?
     
    I’ve been in more than my share of cemeteries, and I have seen gravestones of every shape and size.  Some struck me as being in bad taste, but I always had the good taste to keep my thoughts to myself.  I have now helped design the tombstones for both of my parents, and I would have taken great offense if anyone else had thought to give me advice after the fact about the job I did.
     
    Since when do the size of gravestones matter?  If person A has a bigger gravestone than person B, that signifies nothing about the importance of either person.  I mean, who walks through a cemetery with the idea of resizing tombstones based on the relative importance of the people buried underneath?
     
    We seem to live in age where everyone is entitled to an opinion on every subject under the sun.  But I don’t think I’m entitled to an opinion on this one, except that if this particular monument expresses the feelings of the Steinbrenner family at this moment, then the monument is perfect in every way that matters to me.

  11. Brian R.

    I’d feel a lot better about the whole thing if the Steinbrenner family didn’t work in cohoots with the Mayor to rape the taxpayers to build the stadium.
     
    I know most cities give the sports team sweet heart deals at the expense of the little people (like you and me)… but in this economy it really rubs me the wrong way
     

  12. Brian R.

    Larry – I did agree with the gist of the article as well as your added comment…
     
    But the revisionist history surrounding Steinbrenner is just getting tough to take.  And I say that as someone who has ALWAYS had the rule that you focus on the positives when someone passes.
     

  13. Larry@IIATMS

    Brian, thanks, and of course you don’t have to agree with me.  I like people who disagree with me, as they come to remind me of members of my family.
     
    I don’t think we’ve engaged in any revisionist history here.  I remember too well the soap opera with Billy Martin, not to mention the series of truly terrible teams throughout the 1980s.  But I also remember the CBS years.

  14. Babe Ruth saved baseball. He was larger than life and not only do the Yankees owe a huge debt to him, so does all of baseball.
    Having a plague three times the size of Ruth’s seems wrong and really creepy.

  15. Larry@IIATMS

    E-6, I stand corrected (though by saying “I think” I was trying to indicate that I hadn’t had time to do the research).  Actually, the cost of Target Field is $544.4 MM, so the public is paying about 72% of the cost of this ballpark, reportedly with a sales tax increase. The public owns the ballpark, but the Twins have a sweetheart lease (looks like rent of around a million dollars a year).  That’s a pretty nice public subsidy for the Twins, even if I neglected the $150 million paid by the Twins.

  16. “@Brien, in some sense, this does just come down to taste, and you how can argue with taste.  But if some one IS going to critique the plaque, or monument, or whatever, the validity of his critique has NOTHING to do with what team he roots for.”
     
    Well then put another way: I think it’s in bad taste to criticize the way a team handles its historical remembrances if you’re not a fan of that team.

  17. blueon462

    Im not sure you can accurately call the teams asking/forcing the municipalities to pay for stadium construction "rape".  People seem to forget the jobs that building and operating the stadium create and the revenue that they generate for said municipality (these people pay taxes).  Not to mention the presence of the stadium encourages others to invest (who by the way, also pay taxes) in the area around the stadium which in turn drives up the value of the land (which the municipality taxes.  All things taken into account, many times these municipalities just might make out.

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