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ecuscino | Created: 19 Dec 2023 | Updated: 19 Dec 2023
Deep Foundations
Shallow Foundations
Geotechnical History blog

Review of Foundations, Abutments, and Footings (Hool and Kinne, Eds., 1923), Section 3: Foundations (Part A), featuring Yankee Stadium as a case study

By Michael Bennett, P.E., M.ASCE (A.G.E.S., Inc., King of Prussia, PA)

Section 3 of Foundations, Abutments, and Footings covered the design and construction of different types of foundations.  The section, at 119 pages, was longer than Sections 1 and 2 combined.  Accordingly, the opening part of Section 3 is reviewed here, while the remainder will be discussed in a combined entry with Section 4.

The first half of Section 3 reviewed several types of shallow and deep foundations – wells, pretest elements, cofferdams, and open and pneumatic caissons.  One of its three co-authors, Lazarus White, was the president of Spencer, White & Prentis, a Manhattan-based foundation design firm, as of 1923.  He and his colleague Edmund Prentis would later write the notable geotechnical books Underpinning and Cofferdams, and White would be among Karl Terzaghi’s first American backers and friends when Terzaghi brought soil mechanics to the USA in 1925.  Another co-author, James Meem, was then the chief engineer and vice-president of Brooklyn-based contractor Frederick L. Cranford, Inc.  The firm had worked extensively on the New York City subway system, as had Spencer, White & Prentis, and Meem was renowned as an expert on support of excavations.  The final co-author, J.C. Sanderson, was a structural engineer with the firm of Sargent and Lundy in Chicago in 1923.  This company, unlike Meem’s or White’s, survives and is a top design firm for energy structures such as nuclear reactors and wind turbines (AGC 2023, Goodman 1999, NYT 1936, Sargent and Lundy 2023).


Brochure cover, with a teal background. Most of the cover is taken up with a black-and-white photograph of cranes at a construction site. Four holes are punched down the left edge. The title, in bold black lettering, is "Foundations Underpinning". The words "Spencer, White, and Prentis Inc." are superimposed in teal script across the middle of the photo.
IMAGE 1: Brochure from Spencer, White & Prentis, c. 1938.
Source: Collection of M. Bennett.



James Meem wrote the portions of Section 3, Part A that dealt with well foundations, which were rebar-less forerunners of drilled shafts, and cofferdams.  Time has shown some of his statements to be erroneous, such as, “Skin friction is a non-appreciable factor [which] should not be relied upon.”  Yet Meem came closer to the truth elsewhere, most notably when discussing lateral earth pressures.  “It is not correct,” Meem wrote, “to assume that the full [lateral] pressure of the water is exerted plus the full [lateral] pressure of the soil measured by its weight in water – nor is it correct to assume that [it] is due to that of an aqueous mass of a specific gravity equal to the weight of a volume of the sand and water together.”  A professor teaching an introductory geotechnical course today might use such a statement to introduce the concept of effective stress.  Ultimately, though, Meem missed the mark, concluding, “The presence of the water does not change [soil’s] pressure effort, except to a relatively small degree.”  Similarly, he proposed a five-category, consistency-based system for classifying soils which fell short of modern geotechnical standards – for instance, by including both “solid rock” and “hard clay” within the category of “cohesive soils” (Meem 1923 A, 1923 B).

J.C. Sanderson authored portions of Section 3, Part A on the design of pneumatic and open caissons. (Pneumatic caissons had formerly been used for piers on major bridges, such as the Brooklyn Bridge, but had largely been abandoned by 1923 due to the threat of decompression sickness.)  Sanderson was a structural engineer by profession and understandably focused on the structural, not geotechnical, concerns of caisson design.  In some ways, his framework reminds modern geo-professionals to consider soil-structure interaction in their designs.  Yet Sanderson’s detailed attention to the structural design of caissons contrasted starkly with the rudimentary guidance he provided for their geotechnical design, although he, unlike Meem, did note that skin friction significantly impacted foundation capacity.  The other five titles in Hool and Kinne’s six-volume series, which included Structural Members and Connections and Movable and Long-span Steel Bridges, underscored the split between where structural and geotechnical engineering – as the latter discipline would soon be named – stood in 1923 (Hool and Kinne 1923; Sanderson 1923 A, 1923 B, 1923 C).

Line diagram for Pier 4 of the McKinley Bridge, St Louis, Missouri.
IMAGE 2: Construction and installation diagram for Pier No. 4 of the McKinley Bridge, opened in 1910 to cross the Mississippi River at St. Louis, MO.  The bridge and Pier No. 4 still carry automotive traffic today. 
Source: Meem (1923 B).


Overall, Meem’s and Sanderson’s portions of Section 3, Part 1 of Foundations, Abutments, and Footings consisted mostly of jumbles of rules of thumb and technical anecdotes.  Both authors’ work was a far cry from the organized discussions, equations, and tables of modern geotechnical references.  This chaotic set-up further illustrates how little the engineering behavior of soils was understood in 1923.  Most civil engineers who worked on geotechnical problems back then solved them either with experience alone, as Meem and Sanderson did, or purely using theory, as did many of their peers.  Each camp generally dismissed the views of the other, and not until Karl Terzaghi published Erdbaumechanik in 1925 would the case first be made for solving geotechnical problems by combining the two approaches to use both their strengths (Meem 1923 A, 1923 B; Sanderson 1923 A, 1923 B, 1923 C).

Lazarus White’s part of Section 3, Part A, which introduced the subject of foundation design overall, was shorter but also more technically rigorous than his co-authors’ writings.  White’s note that “assigning bearing values merely by [soil] name is very dangerous” was perceptive at a time when the practice was so widespread that Section 1 of Foundations, Abutments, and Footings included such a table.  Fortunately, tabulated bearing values were on their way out by 1923, although White and his colleagues may not yet have known it.  Prandtl had introduced his boundary solution for the failure surface between two solid bodies in contact in 1920, and Reissner would get his analogous solution for soil bearing capacity published in 1924 (Van Baars 2016, White 1923).

Line diagram illustrating failure surface for two solid bodies
IMAGE 3: Failure surface for two solid bodies in contact as diagrammed by Prandtl in 1920.
Source: Van Baars (2016).


White did clearly, albeit perhaps unwittingly, reference the basis of modern theories of bearing capacity when he discussed designing foundations in soils which were neither strong enough for spread footings nor deep enough for driving piles or drilling shafts to bedrock.  His solution in such cases was a system of pre-test foundations, and he and Edmund Prentis later elaborated on these in their 1931 book Underpinning.  Prentis and White had observed early in their careers that using a hydraulic jack to run a load test on a driven pile created a “bulb of pressure” beneath the bottom of the pile which was critical to its load capacity.  Modern geo-professionals recognize this “bulb” as representing both the conical portion of a soil’s failure surface for bearing capacity and the pattern of load distribution beneath a foundation element.  Accordingly, White and Prentis had used their many projects underpinning existing foundations during the construction of New York City’s subway system to develop a procedure for pretesting a foundation before placing it in service (Prentis and White 1931).

Originally, Prentis and White’s procedure involved: driving a pipe pile or excavating and pouring a drilled shaft beneath an extant footing; using a jack to apply a test load, typically 1.5 times the design load, to the foundation element; removing the jack; and inserting steel shims and/or a short I-beam section between the extant footing and the tested element to wedge them together.  An updated version of this procedure still forms the essence of modern testing for foundations in rock, such as micropiles.  However, White and Prentis soon realized that their method needed further refinement for pretested foundations.  Per their field notes, foundation elements terminated in soil frequently rebounded after testing, then settled as much as three-quarters of an inch under service loads.  They concluded in short order that releasing the pretest load was destroying the conical bearing capacity surface, or “bulb of pressure,” beneath the foundation element.  Today’s geo-professionals appreciate that this additional settlement occurs as the peak shear strength of the soil beneath the element is slowly remobilized (Prentis and White 1931).

White and Prentis ultimately solved the problem by refining their pretest underpinning technique.  Per their revised method, engineers first applied the test load to a foundation element using jacks, then wedged the element against the existing foundation using I-beams and shims before removing the jacks.  Prentis and White observed that the improved method reduced settlement “from ½ or ¾ or an inch to perhaps 1/32 of an inch” (Prentis and White 1931).  It was about this method, which Lazarus White eventually patented, that White wrote in Foundations, Abutments, and Footings.  “In this operation,” he pointed out in Section 3, “every cylinder is tested, thus providing a known factor of safety to the entire building.”  Modern tieback testing is analogous to this adjusted procedure (Prentis and White 1931, White 1923).


Book page with three photographs illustrating pretest underpinning technique
IMAGE 4: Stages of White & Prentis’s revised pretest underpinning technique.
Source: Prentis and White (1931).


Spencer, White & Prentis had successfully employed its pretest underpinning system on many high-profile projects throughout New York City, both new construction and retrofits, by 1923.  The most imposing of them, though, may have been Yankee Stadium, which opened in the Bronx that April.  The Stadium’s opening heralded a sea change in the hierarchy of Big Apple baseball.  In the early 1900s, the national pastime in New York had been the province of two of the National League’s top teams, the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants.  Few New Yorkers had seemed to care in 1903 when two insiders from the city’s Tammany Hall political ring had purchased the American League’s Baltimore team, moved it to Manhattan, and renamed it the Highlanders.  The Tammany duo had coveted the perks of owning the franchise more than having a competitive line-up, and the Highlanders quickly entrenched themselves as the city’s third-string baseball club.  The Giants looked down on the newcomers so much that they charged the American League team only peanuts (and, perhaps, Cracker Jack) to share their stadium below Coogan’s Bluff in upper Manhattan.  New York sportswriters noticed the Highlanders only insofar as their name barely fit into headlines, and the scribes saved space – and honored the club’s American League affiliation – by dubbing the team the “Yanks” or “Yankees.”  The franchise officially adopted the moniker in 1913, along with a new logo of an interlocked N and Y.  One of the owners had repurposed the letters’ styling from a police medal he had awarded during his flagrantly corrupt tenure as Manhattan’s top cop (Buiso 2012, Swanson 2004).

Black-and-white photograph of an NYPD Medal of Honor, circa 1877
IMAGE 5: NYPD Medal of Valor, dated 1877, which the Yankees adapted for use as their logo in 1913.
Source: Buiso (2012).


The Yankees’ fortunes only began to improve in 1915 when Jacob Ruppert and Tillinghast Huston, both millionaires and colonels, purchased the franchise.  Their personalities often clashed – Ruppert was reserved and businesslike, while Huston was outgoing and freewheeling – but both wanted to win, and they got to work bolstering the team through careful trades and signings.  The Yankees improved significantly over the next few seasons, finishing third in the American League in 1919.  They also led the League’s eight teams that season with 45 home runs, a formidable output in an age when pitchers held the balance of power in baseball and hitters focused on base-stealing, sacrifice hitting, and advancing runners.  Yet 24-year-old pitcher George Herman Ruth of the Boston Red Sox, nicknamed “Babe” for his childish nature, had recently begun showing a possible new path forward for the game.  Ruth, allowed to play the outfield between starts in 1918, had hit 11 home runs that year to tie for the American League title.  Then, focusing mostly on the outfield in 1919, the Babe had walloped 29 home runs to both lead the league and set a new single-season record for Major League Baseball, aka MLB (BR 2023 A, 2023 B, Swanson 2004).

Ruppert and Huston had a hunch that more long balls might be forthcoming from Ruth and decided that the slugger was likely the missing piece the Yankees needed to get to the top.  That offseason, they paid the Red Sox $100,000 in cash and loaned them another $300,000 in exchange for Ruth’s contract.  Ruppert and Huston turned out to be right.  The Babe, playing the outfield full-time in 1920, belted an astounding 54 home runs for the Yankees.  His moonshots upended the old order of baseball, cemented his new team’s transformation into a contender, and helped MLB weather the “Black Sox” scandal that erupted later in the season.  The sour taste of eight Chicago White Sox players having taken bribes from organized crime figures to lose the 1919 World Series dissipated a bit with every baseball Ruth launched over an outfield fence (BR 2023 B, Swanson 2004).

Black-and-white photograph of Babe Ruth. He wears a white uniform with narrow wide-striped stripes and knee pants and carries a bat in his left hand.
IMAGE 6: Yankee star Babe Ruth strides to the plate, 1920. 
Source: Ballard (2020).


Ruth also made baseball far more lucrative for Jacob Ruppert and Till Huston.  The 1920 Yankees became the first MLB team to attract one million fans in a season and had drawn over 350,000 more tickets than the Giants.  Ruppert and Huston no longer wanted to pay the rent the Giants charged them and decided that the Yankees needed their own park.  The colonels looked at several sites, most notably one at 137th Street and Amsterdam Avenue in upper Manhattan, before choosing a South Bronx tract, one owned by the Astor estate, in early 1921.  The ten-acre farm property was only a 15-minute subway ride from midtown Manhattan and, ironically, sat directly across the Harlem River from the Giants’ park.  Ruppert and Huston closed the purchase in May 1921 for $625,000.  Permitting headaches delayed the project for another year, but Yankee fans scarcely minded.  Babe Ruth once again set a new single-season home run record in 1921 by launching 59 long balls and propelled the Yankees to their first American League title, or pennant.  The fans’ jubilation hardly dimmed when the Yankees lost the World Series to the Giants (Hamilton 2023, NYT 1921, Swanson 2004).

Ruppert and Huston finally got construction rolling on their ballpark, which they had decided to christen Yankee Stadium, in the spring of 1922.  The owners hired the White Construction Company to manage the project, and White set out to transform the Osborn Engineering Company’s blueprints for the stadium into reality.  White quickly found that the subsurface conditions at the South Bronx site were among the most severe challenges the job presented.  Employees at White, at Osborn, and at Osborn’s foundation subconsultant, Spencer, White & Prentis, were painfully aware as laborers trucked in and placed 45,000 yd3 of soil to grade the Stadium site that it consisted of marshy alluvial soils into which previous owners had haphazardly dumped innumerable cobbles and boulders.  Historical documents indicate little more about the project team’s understanding of subsurface conditions at the site.  Fortunately, geotechnical engineers at Meuser Rutledge, who designed the foundations for the current Yankee Stadium which opened in 2009 across the street from the 1923 Stadium, left a clearer paper trail.  No two sites – even adjacent ones – are geotechnically identical, of course, but the findings from the 2009 Stadium site shed some light on the subsurface conditions Spencer, White & Prentis probably faced next door in helping design the 1923 Yankee Stadium (NYT 1922, Prentis and White 1931, Swanson 2004, Wisniewski et al. 2011).

Earthwork diagram
IMAGE 7: Earthwork diagram for Yankee Stadium, prepared in 1922 by Osborn Engineering Co., showing the massive scope of the fills needed to level the site prior to construction of the Stadium.
Source: Collection of M. Baker.


The Meuser Rutledge team reported that the site of the 2009 Stadium, like that of the 1923 Stadium, had originally lain partially adjacent to and partially in a bay of the Harlem River.  Both sites had once been bisected by Cromwell Creek, a tributary of the river.  Meuser Rutledge elaborated that the 2009 Stadium site consisted of 25 to 45 feet of debris-laden fill which had been used to fill in and raise the bay, the creek, and the surrounding marshy swamps.  Meuser Rutledge found evidence of the creek and swampland in the 10 to 15 feet of compressible, somewhat organic silty clay which underlay the fill over much of the site.  The fill and clay layers were underlain by 10 to 30 feet of varved silt and clays left by an ancient glacial lake.  These varves, in turn, lay atop 30 to 60 feet of sand deposited by glacial melt waters.  Finally, a contact between two types of bedrock, the Inwood Formation’s dolomitic marble and the Fordham Gneiss Formation’s gneiss and schist, lay beneath the 2009 Stadium site.  Meuser Rutledge’s engineers found that the depth to intact rock varied wildly.  Across most of the site, borings reaching up to 150 feet deep never penetrated strata of decomposed and weathered rock.  Yet some outcrops of the Fordham Gneiss Formation surfaced in the southwest corner of the property (Wisniewski et al. 2011).

Computer-rendered line diagram of the site of the 2009 Yankee Stadium.
IMAGE 8: Computer rendering of the site of the 2009 Yankee Stadium showing the historical shorelines of Cromwell Creek and the Harlem River as well as the locations of bedrock outcrops and the 1923 Yankee Stadium.
Source: Wisniewski et al. (2011).


Whatever Spencer, White & Prentis’s engineers knew in 1922 about the specifics of subsurface conditions at the Yankee Stadium site, they knew from experience that removing or excavating drilled shafts through marshy alluvium dotted with boulders and cobbles would be prohibitively time-consuming and costly.  Instead, they opted to use large spread footings loaded with a modified pretesting procedure.  The engineers likely worked hand in hand with their Osborn and White counterparts in developing their simple yet ingenious plan.  First, field crews poured the footings late that spring.  Next, structural contractors building the park’s steel and concrete superstructure cut carefully located holes in the beams, columns, and walls around each footing.  Workers then threaded non-structural beams, colloquially called “needles,” through the holes and used them to brace pretesting jacks against the footings.  Finally, as the superstructure was built and the loads on the footings gradually increased, Spencer, White & Prentis engineers ran multiple pretests on each one.  Ultimately, the process created spread footings capable of bearing Yankee Stadium’s gargantuan weight – which included 30,000 cubic yards of concrete and 3,500 tons of structural and reinforcing steel – plus that of the 50,000-plus fans the team’s co-owners expected to draw to big games.  The feat represented such a cutting-edge geotechnical achievement for 1923 that the firm touted its accomplishment in its commercial literature for the next half-century (NYT 1923 A, Prentis and White 1931, SW&P 1969).

Line diagram of foundation plan for Yankee Stadium bleachers
IMAGE 9: Foundation plan for Yankee Stadium bleachers, prepared in 1922 by Osborn Engineering Co., most likely showing the stands near the left-field foul pole.  Osborn engineers annotated the plans during the subsequent expansion of the Stadium.
Source: Collection of M. Baker.


Black and white photo of construction of foundations of Yankee Stadium
IMAGE 10: Construction progress on the foundations for Yankee Stadium, June 13, 1922.
Source: Plaine (2014).



Workers under White’s watchful eye toiled feverishly to build Yankee Stadium all summer long in 1922, and most of its superstructure was complete by the time the Yankees won their second straight American League pennant early that fall.  White had hoped to finish the project in time for the World Series, but the Stadium was not quite ready when the Fall Classic began in early October.  Neither were the Yankees themselves, as the Giants beat them in five games.  Only a tie saved the Yankees – and Babe Ruth, whose hitting in the Series was woeful – from a clean sweep.  However, Cols. Ruppert and Huston, whose marriage of convenience was fraying by then, were at least spared from watching the Yankees inaugurate their new Stadium with a humiliating World Series defeat.  White’s crews labored throughout the fall of 1922 and the winter of the new year and finished the Stadium just in time for Opening Day in 1923.  The project ended up costing roughly $2,500,000, or about $44.9M in 2023 USD (Durant 1963, NYT 1923B, Swanson 2004, Webster 2023).

Black and white photo of Yankee Stadium. In the foreground is a line of cars of the period, including a Model T
IMAGE 11: A Model T, a taxicab, and other automobiles take fans over the still-unpaved roads of the South Bronx to Opening Day at Yankee Stadium, April 18, 1923.
Source: Maciborski (2023).



Around 60,000 fans turned out on April 18th, 1923, to watch Babe Ruth and his teammates open Yankee Stadium with a game against his former team, the Boston Red Sox.  New York City police had to turn away roughly 25,000 more would-be attendees.  The crowd at the game included MLB Commissioner Kenesaw Landis, New York Governor and future presidential nominee Al Smith, and march king John Philip Sousa, whose band entertained the crowd before gametime.  John Durant, a sophomore at Yale and later a Sports Illustrated writer, also attended, and felt his excitement cool when he reached his seat in the uppermost of the park’s three decks. (The City had restricted Ruppert and Huston from building a full triple-deck grandstand, but the colonels had gotten permission to construct the Stadium with two decks and a mezzanine level.) “The players on the infield were tiny,” he recalled thinking, “about a third the size they looked” at the Giants’ park.  Yet Durant, his fellow fans, and the players must have taken note of Yankee Stadium’s grandeur.  From the field, the Yankees and Red Sox looked up at a roaring three-tiered sea of humanity capped by a bright white copper frieze.  Generations of baseball fans and players would eventually grow used to the Stadium’s scale, but its size was a novelty in 1923.  It was, perhaps, among the first times since the days of gladiators at the Coliseum that athletes had performed on a stage so large that they themselves appeared small (Durant 1963, Newcomb 2015, NYT 1923 B, Swanson 2004).

A black-and-white photo of the 1923 New York Yankees taking the field. Babe Ruth is in the lead. Their warm-up jackets are heavy cardigans with the Yankees monogram on the left chest.

IMAGE 12: The Yankees, led by Babe Ruth and clad in warmup jackets, march onto the field for Opening Day ceremonies at Yankee Stadium, 1923.  Source: MP (2013).


One athlete who everyone expected to come up big on Opening Day at Yankee Stadium, though, was Babe Ruth.  John Durant remembered that the crowd crackled with tension when the Bambino came to bat in the third inning with two men on base.  “A showman to the core,” Durant recounted, “Ruth was almost always at his best in a situation like this, and everyone in the park knew it and felt it.”  The Babe worked the pitcher to a 2-and-2 count, got a pitch that was slightly too slow and too high, and swung and connected.  “The ball streaked over the infield on a line,” John Durant noted, “and landed in the right field bleachers.”  The throng of fans roared their approval, and Ruth acknowledged them and his home run by tipping his cap as he rounded the bases and sealed the Yankees’ 4-1 triumph.  One New York City sportswriter referred to the Stadium the next day as “The House that Ruth Built,” and the nickname stuck (Durant 1963, Verducci 2008).  

The Yankees celebrated their new Stadium all season long with a barrage of winning, and the club eventually took home its third consecutive American League pennant.  Babe Ruth celebrated with another powerful offensive season and earned his lone MVP award.  Jacob Ruppert celebrated by buying out Till Huston’s share of the Yankees in May 1923; he would fully own the team until he passed away in 1939.  Lastly, that fall, the Yankees celebrated once more, and gained sweet revenge in the process, by beating the Giants 4 games to 2 for their first World Series title.  The championship netted each Yankee a Series winners’ share for $6,143 and a 14-karat gold pocket watch (World Series rings had not yet come into vogue).  The hefty check came from success at the turnstiles; the 1923 Fall Classic had been the first Series to draw 300,000 fans and gross over $1,000,000 (AP 2014, BA 2023, BR 2023 C, Levitt 2023).

 The New York Yankees spent the next four decades as the undisputed kings of Major League Baseball as they wore their caps like crowns and wielded their baseballs and bats like orbs and scepters.  During that time, Yankee Stadium hosted more than its share of amazing achievements in baseball, such as Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series, and in many other sports, such as US boxer Joe Louis’s two-minute knockout of the Third Reich’s Max Schmeling in 1938.  Yet the most powerful moment there may have been one centered around matters far more important than sports.  On Independence Day, 1939, a packed Stadium crowd applauded stalwart Yankee first baseman Lou Gehrig as he retired after being diagnosed with ALS.  The terminal illness, which now bears Gehrig’s name, would take his life within two years.  The future Hall of Famer initially felt too overwhelmed to speak when given the chance that day, but eventually said a few words.  “For the past two weeks, you have been reading about a bad break,” Gehrig told the fans, referring to his diagnosis.  “Yet today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.”  His remarks still rank among the most poignant ever in sports, and – in an era when men typically kept a stiff upper lip in public – Gehrig moved many in the crowd to tears (ALSA 2023).

Famous black-and-white photograph of Lou Gehrig.  Gehrig stands at home plate in the left foreground, head bowed, cap in hand. At his feet is a trophy and some other objects. A man in a suit and a cluster of wooden tripods are in the right foreground. The Yankees are lined up behind them. In the background, Yankee Stadium is full.
IMAGE 13: Yankee legend Lou Gehrig is visibly touched as a Yankee Stadium crowd roars in support of him during his retirement ceremony, July 4, 1939.
Source: ALSA (2023).


Ultimately, from 1921 to 1964, the Yankees won 29 American League pennants and 20 World Series titles in 44 seasons.  The years marched on, and the lineups changed, but the team’s basic formula for success stayed the same.  Robust networks of talent scouts and farm teams recruited and cultivated the top baseball talents in the country until they made it to the Bronx.  There, marquee superstars and future baseball legends such as Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, and Mickey Mantle headed a talented ensemble of position players and an unsung yet unhittable pitching corps.  The Yankees came through under pressure with a mix of clutch hitting, nifty fielding, and a pinch of luck which chagrined opponents came to call “Yankee magic.”  Seemingly every autumn, the team faced, and usually foiled, their National League competition in the World Series.  Yankee Stadium served as a majestic backdrop to it all, and eventually gained a near-mythic ambience as somewhat of a cathedral of the game.  Many American League players, Yankees and opponents alike, had their baseball cards pictures taken at the Stadium each year by Topps Chewing Gum photographers who made the swift trip uptown from the firm’s Manhattan headquarters (Verducci 2008).

Baseball Card for Yogi Berra. Berra poses holding a bat over his left shoulder. The card is captioned Yogi Berra, Catcher-Outfield, New York Yankees
IMAGE 14: Yankee great Yogi Berra, winner of a record 10 World Series as a player, grins on his 1961 Topps card in a photo taken at Yankee Stadium.
Source: ALSA (2023).


Alas, no palace or dynasty can endure forever, and Yankee Stadium and its tenants ultimately fell from their lofty perches.  The sun finally set on the Yankee Empire in the mid-1960s as age, injuries, and a shamefully late start to integration brought the franchise crashing down into mediocrity.  The Stadium was also deteriorating by then due to the swampy, corrosive soil beneath it and the salt-laden winds which whipped along the brackish Harlem River.  Shipping magnate George Steinbrenner found when he purchased the franchise in early 1973 that both the team and its park needed serious investment.  Accordingly, the Yankees celebrated the Stadium’s 50th birthday that season, then decamped to Queens and shared Shea Stadium with the Mets for the next two seasons.  Meanwhile, contractors gave the House that Ruth Built a $100M overhaul (roughly $540M in 2023 USD), most notably by cantilevering the Stadium’s upper decks and removing the support columns which had obstructed many fans’ views for half a century.  The Bronx Bombers returned home in 1976 to Stadium with a new look and feel, as well as a new roster; Steinbrenner’s front office had restocked the club during its years at Shea.  The revamped Yankees rang in the renovated Stadium with three straight American League pennants and two World Series trophies (Perry 2023, Webster 2023).

The Yankees’ resurgence in the late 1970s marked the dawn of a new run of success for the team.  Over the next three decades, the franchise won another 10 American League pennants and 6 World Series titles behind the heroics of Hall of Famers such as Reggie Jackson, Derek Jeter, and Mariano Rivera.  The Yankees’ new titles came amid massive changes to baseball, including MLB’s expansion from 16 to 30 clubs, the introduction of multi-round postseasons, and the explosive growth of player salaries due to free agency.  Yet the renovation of Yankee Stadium in the 1970s proved less successful.  The rebuild had bypassed much of the Stadium’s original superstructure, including the 1923 concrete, which contractors hadn’t even touched.  Engineers knew even as the Yankees returned there that the two-year fix had only postponed the Stadium’s deterioration, and its time eventually began running short.  In 1998, a 500-pound chunk of concrete from a rocker beam spalled onto seats in the mezzanine deck along the left-field foul line just hours before a night game.  No one was injured, but the Yankees had to temporarily return to Queens while New York City building inspectors carefully assessed Yankee Stadium.  The Yankees were cleared to return home two weeks later, but the public now clearly saw that the House that Ruth Built was in its ninth inning (CBS 2023, Verducci 2008).

Color photograph of blue stadium seats, taken from overhead. One of the seats has been destroyed, with a hole ripped in the floor underneath where it stood. The culprit is a rectangular piece of concrete with strips of metal attached, resting on the floor by the seat to the left. A man is taking a photo of the ruined seat.
IMAGE 15: An onlooker photographs the remnants of a Yankee Stadium mezzanine seat smashed by a falling section of a rocker beam, April 1998.
Source: Griffin (2023).


As the 2000s got underway, George Steinbrenner and his management team began warming up Yankee Stadium’s replacement in the proverbial bullpen.  The Yankees and their project team unveiled plans for a replacement Yankee Stadium directly across 161st Street from the original in June 2005 and broke ground for the new park in August 2006.  The new Yankee Stadium benefitted from the outset from a 21st-century program geotechnical site investigation program, as well as modern techniques for foundation design and construction.  Ultimately, Meuser Rutledge geotechnical engineers founded most of the new Stadium on driven piles backfilled with concrete.  The designers accommodated the vibration-sensitive transit lines around the Stadium by using micropiles instead of driven piles adjacent to them and avoided the expense of excavating gneissic schist outcrops from the Fordham Gneiss Formation by utilizing spread footings near them (Perry 2023, Wisniewski et al. 2011).

Aerial color photograph of the new Yankee Stadium
IMAGE 16: Construction nears completion on the 2009 Yankee Stadium, which dwarfs its 1923 predecessor despite seating fewer fans.
Source: LiRo Group (2023).


Over the next two seasons, the project team kept the construction of the new Stadium moving on schedule toward its targeted completion date of Opening Day in 2009.  The Yankees thus spent the 2008 season giving their longtime home a grand sendoff, including hosting the All-Star Game and winning the 1923 Yankee Stadium’s finale, 7-3, over the Baltimore Orioles. (Despite a solid record, the Yankees missed the 2008 postseason.) Then, in 2009, the Yankees inaugurated the new Stadium by winning their 40th American League pennant and 27th World Series title.  Contractors began painstakingly deconstructing the House that Ruth Built the day after the team’s victory parade that November.  Like many Yankee hitters, the old Stadium made for a tough out, and demolition was not completed until May 2010.  Ironically, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who had long been ailing, died just two months later (CBS News 2009, Perry 2023, Verducci 2008).

View of the interior of 1923 stadium as it is being demolished.
IMAGE 17: Demolition carefully progresses on the 1923 Yankee Stadium.
Source: Thornton Tomasetti (2023).


Since then, the Yankees have played their signature brand of quality baseball year in and year out.  The club clinched its 31st consecutive winning season in 2023, the longest active streak in MLB and the second-longest MLB streak ever behind only the Yankees’ 39 straight winning seasons from 1926 to 1964.  The team also continues to seek its second American League pennant at the 2009 Yankee Stadium.  Opposite the 2009 Stadium, the former site of the 1923 Stadium now hosts a city park with a variety of sports amenities, including a running track, a soccer field, basketball courts, and – in an homage to the land’s previous use – three baseball fields.  The site on which Spencer, White & Prentis once erected the physical foundations for a baseball dynasty now quite appropriately houses diamonds where young players hone their skills in hopes of becoming the athletic foundations of future such dynasties (MLB 2023).



Mitch Baker (Antique Village; West Creek, NJ), owner of most of the surviving blueprints for the 1923 Yankee Stadium, graciously allowed the author to view and photograph them.  Others who helped search for the plans included: Brian Richards (New York Yankees: Bronx, NY); Jack Krebs, PE (Osborn Engineering; Cleveland, OH); Chris Ivy (Heritage Auctions; Dallas, TX); Jocelyn Wilk (Columbia University Archives; New York, NY); and Marty Appel (Marty Appel Public Relations; New York, NY).  Sebastian Lobo-Guerrero, Ph.D., P.E., BC.GE. (A.G.E.S. Inc., Canonsburg, PA), the author’s colleague, reviewed the entry’s technical content.  Thomas Kennedy (Geopier: Davidson, NC), the author’s Virginia Tech classmate, co-authored a previous version of the entry posted in 2021 on an independent webpage.  Finally, Michael “Gigi” Fanok, the author’s late and beloved grandfather, gave the author his passion for baseball and made him a lifelong fan of the New York Yankees.

Baseball ticket to Yankee Stadium for Sunday, September 7, 2003 at 1:05 PM, versus the Boston Red Sox. The ticket is printed with a background image of a sepia-toned historic photograph of Yankees players.
IMAGE 18: Ticket stub from a 2003 Yankees – Red Sox game at Yankee Stadium.  The author, then age 8, enjoyed watching with his father and grandfather that afternoon as the Yankees won.
Source: Collection of M. Bennett.



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