Tuesday, 23 September 2008

New York's Night Of Nights

So, it's farewell Yankee Stadium. Whatever. But this article from ESPN highlights some of the great 'lesser' moments of the stadium. Plenty of food for thought for would-be promoters here..

The Greater New York Free-For-All: June 17, 1933
In an age when marathon dancing gave desperate couples a chance to earn big money, it should come as no surprise that someone would stage a contest in which 1,000 men were placed on the field at Yankee Stadium and told to fight until only one of them was left standing. That lucky fellow would receive a check for $500, as well as free medical attention. Those who tried to save themselves by not fighting were taken down by a team of enforcers who roamed the field making sure every contestant was giving his all. (For the record, the winner was an unemployed stockbroker named R.K. Vincent.) The "mass melee," as it was called, drew a decent crowd of 35,000, although the event was marred by much fighting in the stands.

The Marble Championships of America: Oct. 9-11, 1925
In the time before the NBA existed and before the NFL and NHL were firmly established, plenty of games tried to lay claim to being the second-most popular sport in the country behind baseball. Among them was marbles, the playground pastime that peaked in popularity in post-World War I America. Its promoters booked Yankee Stadium for the biggest tourney ever held. Ticket sales for the first day were brisk. But by the third day, when only 300 people showed up, it had become all too obvious that marbles as a stadium spectacle was never going to take off. "Picture, if you will," wrote Grantland Rice, "sitting in the upper deck behind what is normally home plate, watching two boys playing a game with tiny glass spheres. It strains the eyes and all credulity."

The Coffin Derby National Championships: Aug. 23-24, 1947
It's hard to believe in this age of video games, but the Soap Box Derby was once one of the most popular sporting events in America. Hoping to cash in on this phenomenon, wherein children race unpowered homemade cars down a slope, an entrepreneurial Bronx mortician named Buddy Slobith booked Yankee Stadium for two days and created his own copycat tournament. The trick here was for children to refashion pine coffins into vehicles. Also, the slope was higher than in the original -- much higher. Slobith built an elaborate ramp which placed the starting line at the very top of the upper deck in right field. It swooped down at an extreme angle, with the finish line right around second base. Momentum was slowed by a pile of pillows placed in the third-base dugout. (Plans for an extra loop were abandoned owing to a disagreement with the carpenters' union.) Speeds were breathtaking, and there were many injuries. Most parents pulled their children from the race upon viewing the track, but Slobith quickly replaced them with locally-recruited orphans, whom he deemed expendable. A good time was had by all (save the participants), but do-gooders made certain there would be no subsequent competitions.

I'm suggesting we bring back the free for all, but turn it into a competition ONLY for corporate mascots. The Armor-All Viking trying to snap the neck of the Nandos chicken would be the best thing ever.

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