In the vein of the Bucky Dent interview I posted yesterday, here's the transcript from an interview I did with Bill "Moose" Skowron, the Yankees' first baseman from 1954-62. Of course, the subject again was Yankee Stadium's final season. At age 77, Moose, who lives in Illinois, seems like he still has a lot of spunk.
What do you think of the plans for the new Yankee Stadium?
“They should build the park the same way as I had it because I want to see these guys hit those home runs in the bleachers -- 457, 461 feet to dead center.”
Do you remember your first game as a player at Yankee Stadium?
“Opening day , I hit a triple and a home run.”
What were you thinking when you ran out on the field for the first time? Were you nervous?
“I was always nervous prior to the first out. Once the first out was made, then you just forget; everything’s out of your mind.”
What do you think makes Yankee Stadium such a special place?
“Fans. Beautiful fans. They were always great. Win or lose, they were always nice. You don’t forget things like that. They treated me well. In nine years, we won seven pennants. Sure, when I was lousy, they booed me. They had every right to boo me. When I was good, they gave me accolades, and that’s the way it should be.”
“We used to call it Death Valley. We couldn’t wait to go on a road trip because the fences were closer on the road. I hit some balls to left center, and they’d catch ‘em. Then I’d come to the dugout and moan a little bit, and [manager] Casey [Stengel] says, ‘If you don’t like it here, we can get you somewhere else.’ What are you going to say when you win World Series and pennants? The pitchers loved the ballpark because they’d throw it out there and say, ‘Hit the damn thing.’ ”
As a player, did you feel the history of the place, like, for example, Babe Ruth’s ghost?
“I never felt that.”
“I wish I would have met Lou Gehrig, but I met Babe Ruth when I was like 17 years old at the Polo Grounds. … I had Wally Pipp come up to me at an old-timers game. He said, ‘Moose, sit over here; I want to talk to you.’ He said, ‘Don’t ever get a headache or stay out late.’ He said, ‘I stayed out late, and the next day I went up to the manager, Miller Huggins, and I asked him for a day off, and Lou Gehrig took my place, and I never played again.’ I never forgot that. After that, no matter what, I played.”
Do you think the new stadium can capture the same essence that people feel when they enter the current Yankee Stadium?
“I think so because they have a helluva ballclub. They get 50,000 to 60,000 every game."
So you think it’s mostly about the fans than the stadium?
“The fans. The fans and the media, they want to win. Mr. Steinbrenner wants to spend money and win.”