A Time Travel Trip to 1931 Yankee Stadium

Yankee Stadium, 1931 ~ Timely site photos are great, but you have to see and hear the people in motion to feel the times. This film clip with sound helps get us there.

Before you immediately click the link, please give us a moment to try and put in perspective what we are about to see. It’s quite rare for the era, but what’s in store is a fresh, raw look a long ago Opening Day of the early Depression period, but one that comes in the form of a 14-minute motion picture with the actual sound of what is going on at Yankee Stadium from prior to the Yankees hosting the Red Sox on April 14, 1931.

It’s mostly pre-game stuff, with great shots of Ruth and Gehrig taking batting practice, the field announcer setting things up for the mammoth crowd with little more than great voice projection, superb articulation,  and a hand-held megaphone.

Everybody in the house is in full dress ~ everybody whose adult is wearing a hat (and none of these express “NY” in the loving-letters position) ~ and practically everybody, including the ladies, smokes from wherever they happen to be sitting.

New York playboy Mayor Jimmy Walker is shown throwing out the first pitch from his field box front row seat to, most likely, Bill Dickey, the Yankee catcher, and a uniformed band shows up to escort the raising of the American flag on a tall pole down the left side as they move right into a nice job of playing Our National Anthem without anyone in sight taking a knee.

The Yankee black pinstripe on white with bold numbers on the back of all jerseys looks pretty much as it does today, but the players of 1931 and not yet forgotten that the socks are part of the uniform too. There was no effort back then made to pull the pants down to cover the sox to ankle descent depth. The 1931 Yankees displayed the “NY” letter party on their caps, but did not yet show them at all on the heart-side of their uniform blouses. – Did I mention that the uniforms were far blousier in 1931 than they are now? – That one’s pretty obvious.

We were still wearing those blousy and heavy wool uniforms when I was playing CYO League summer ball in the mid-1950s. By the time we finished a game in the Houston summer heat from all the sweat our clothing had absorbed, it felt like we had gained about twenty pounds playing ball. The big leaguers of 1931 got to feel that way pretty much every day.

As for what we can see about the ’31 Red Sox player uniforms, on the other hand, these displayed a long presumably red stocking on the body face of their caps. Their uniforms were blousy “light wool” too, of course.

Managers Joe McCarthy of the Yankees and Shane Collins of the Red Sox were filmed and recorded extending each other a few good sport wishes prior to the first game start, but the season would soon show that neither club had what it took to stop the pennant roar of the 1931 Philadelphia Athletics. The Yankees fished second to the A’s, 13.5 games back; the Red Sox would get lost in the second division dungeon that year, and end up a whopping 45 games behind the Men of Mr. Mack.

To actually see a pan of the Yankee Stadium outfield from 1931 is to invite amazement. The left field stands seem to jut out early, creating an avenue for short homers down the line. Then, as the field moves further to center, the stands disappear, turning the left-center-to-center outfield area into the “death valley” it came to be for so many home run fly ball outs.

The Wisdom of the Bleacher Fans Story.  The 1931 recorded announcer also made a comment that inferred that the people in the outfield bleachers probably know more about baseball than the people seated in the prime seats. – I didn’t realize that this impression as such had been around as long as it obviously has. It is, however,  not surprising at all. I think it’s tied to a larger social lesson about the fruits of class warfare: “The poor man gets the lesson ~ and the rich man gets the land.”

Finally, here are three more facts to help personalize your trip to the April 14, 1931 game:

(1) The Box Score of the Game below comes to us courtesy of Baseball Almanac.Com. That’s right. The Yankees won 6-3 behind the pitching of future Hall of Fame right hander Red Ruffing. And yes, Babe Ruth did homer in the game.

(2) Make sure you have your sound turned on before you click the link. It makes for an almost surreal landing to arrive, seeing and hearing the world as it was that long ago day in the Bronx.

(3) On this same date, living just a few blocks away from Yankee Stadium, our own favorite native of the Bronx and most venerable member of our Larry Dierker SABR Chapter, Mr. Larry Miggins was then only a 5-year old Irish street kid. ~ Well, our wonderful Larry Miggins is gearing up to turn age 93 next month on August 20th. ~ Expect to hear more from us on that moment for celebration as the time draws even nearer.

Thanks to Patrick Callahan, another of my Eagle brothers from the St. Thomas HS Class of 1956, for calling my attention to the best 14-minute time travel experience that you too are about to see and enjoy. – It’s a beautiful world when we have people like Pat Callahan doing all he can to spread all the good and true joys that are out there.

The Box Score

April 14, 1931 Game Link: Boston Red Sox @ New York Yankees

 

Please comment. We’d love to know how this experience registered with you. Can you imagine how this crowd might have reacted to a few contemporary fans walking into the stadium in 1931 wearing Yankees caps and jerseys from that era? Who knows? A uniform with # “3” on the back might have produced an earlier birthdate for the phrase “new revenue stream.”

********************

Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

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2 Responses to “A Time Travel Trip to 1931 Yankee Stadium”

  1. bhick6 Says:

    A couple of comments:

    1. In addition to the formality of the clothing worn by the fan, it fascinated me how formal the uniforms of the ushers and the food/drink vendors were. I don’t think I’d ever seen their garb in photos before, at least not that I’d noticed.

    2. Wilcy Moore’s windmill windup made me wonder what the reaction of today’s pitching coach would be if a hurler tried something like that in our modern era.

    Bill Hickman

  2. Tom Hunter Says:

    Time travel and trips in the “Wayback Machine” are especially engaging when they’re mostly un-staged and give us a candid glimpse of people just being themselves in 1931.

    Thanks, Bill. I really enjoyed this video.

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