Monument Park is an open-air museum located in Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York City, containing a collection of monuments, plaques, and retired numbers honoring distinguished members of the New York Yankees. When Red Ruffing's plaque was dedicated in 2004, his son called it "the second-greatest honor you can have in baseball, in my opinion" trailing only induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
The history of the original Monument Park can be traced to the old Yankee Stadium in 1932, when the team posthumously dedicated an on-field monument to manager Miller Huggins in center field. Additional team members were honored with monuments and plaques in the area over the years. During the stadium's renovation in the mid-1970s, the center field fence was moved in 44 feet (13 m), enclosing prior monuments, plaques, and a flag pole beyond the field of play. Over time, additional plaques were added to the area and "Monument Park" became formalized; in 1985, the park was opened for public access. When the Yankees moved to their new ballpark in 2009, a replica Monument Park was built beyond the center-field fences and the contents of the old one transported over.
Thirty-seven members of the Yankee organization have been honored in Monument Park, while 22 have had their uniform numbers retired. Plaques in Monument Park are a great honor for players so distinguished. The monuments mounted posthumously on five large red granite blocks are the highest honor of all. Only six Yankees have been so recognized: manager Miller Huggins, players Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, and Joe DiMaggio, and owner George Steinbrenner.
The original Yankee Stadium was built in 1923. As with many other so-called Jewel Box ballparks of the era the flag pole was placed in play. With a generous center field dimension of 500 feet (150 m) to straightaway center field, there was plenty of room for it without materially interfering in play. In 1929, Yankees manager Miller Huggins died suddenly, and in his honor the team erected a free-standing monument in front of the flag pole consisting of a bronze plaque mounted on an upright block of red granite resembling a headstone. This, in turn, led many Yankee fans over the years, particularly children, to believe that the players honored were also buried there upon their death.
The Huggins monument was later joined by similar memorials to Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth, which were erected upon their deaths. Over time, a number of plaques were mounted behind them on the outfield wall. Placing monuments in the field of play was not so unusual at the time, as there had been in-play stones and plaques at the Polo Grounds and Forbes Field. In 1969, Mickey Mantle was given a plaque by Joe DiMaggio to hang on the center field wall, who in turn gave Joe DiMaggio a plaque of his own which, in Mickey's words, had to be hung a little bit higher than his.
From 1936 through 1973, the distance from home plate to the center field fence was 461 feet (141 m). Despite the distance, a batted ball still sometimes made it back there. In the 1992 book The Gospel According to Casey, by Ira Berkow and Jim Kaplan, it is reported that on one occasion a Yankees outfielder had let the ball get by him and was fumbling for it among the monuments. Manager Casey Stengel hollered to the field, "Ruth, Gehrig, Huggins, somebody get that ball back to the infield!"
When Yankee Stadium was remodeled from 1974 to 1975, the center field fence was moved in to 417 feet (127 m) from its previous 457 feet (139 m); a subsequent reduction brought the fence in again to 410 feet (120 m) in 1985, but was reduced 2 feet in 1988. This enclosed the area, formerly in play, containing the flag pole and monuments. As this fenced-in area between the two bullpens gathered additional plaques on the original wall, it began to be referred to as "Monument Park".
With the formalization of the area as an official Monument Park, the Mantle and DiMaggio plaques were removed from the wall upon their deaths and mounted on red granite blocks matching the original three of Huggins, Gehrig, and Ruth.
Monument Park was inaccessible to fans until 1985. After the center field fence was moved in, the Yankees enabled fans to visit Monument Park prior to most games at Yankee Stadium. Monument Park was also part of the public tour of the venue.
When the Yankees moved to their new ballpark, the Yankees established a new Monument Park in the new stadium. An area was built behind the fence in straightaway center field, below the Center Field Sports Bar that serves as the batter's eye. Built of pearl blue granite from Finland, this new monument park features the five Yankee monuments in a central area around a black marble Yankees logo. This is flanked by two short stone walls which hold the retired numbers. The plaques are mounted on the back wall and the September 11 monument is on one end of the park.
In contrast to the old stadium, the new Monument Park is not readily visible from the field, and its relatively drab appearance and inconspicuous placement have led some to derisively nickname it "Monument Cave". Spectators can visit Monument Park prior to the beginning of each game. It closes 45 minutes before first pitch.
The following players and other Yankees personnel are honored with monuments or plaques in Monument Park. Monuments are considered a greater honor than plaques, and are only awarded posthumously. Often, the uniform number of the player being honored is retired in the same ceremony. Such events historically often took place either at home openers or on Old-Timers' Day, but have lately been scheduled on separate weekend home games. Figures are listed in the order in which their plaques were dedicated:
|Honoree||Name of the honoree|
|Position(s)||Fielding position(s) or role in the organization|
|Yankee career||Years with the Yankee organization|
|Number retired (x)||Date number retired (and number), if applicable|
|Plaque||Date plaque dedicated, if applicable|
|Monument||Date monument dedicated, if applicable|
|Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame|
|Recipient of the Hall of Fame's Ford C. Frick Award|
|Honoree||Position(s)||Yankee career||Number retired||Plaque||Monument||Ref|
|Miller Huggins||Manager||1918-1929||--||May 30, 1932||May 30, 1932|||
|Lou Gehrig||First baseman||1923-1939||July 4, 1939 (#4)||July 6, 1941||July 6, 1941|||
|Jacob Ruppert||Owner||1915-1939||--||April 19, 1940||--|||
|Babe Ruth||Outfielder||1920-1934||June 13, 1948 (#3)||April 19, 1949||April 19, 1949|||
|Ed Barrow||General manager||1921-1946||--||April 15, 1954||--|||
|Joe DiMaggio||Outfielder||1936-1951||April 18, 1952 (#5)||June 8, 1969||April 25, 1999|||
|Mickey Mantle||Outfielder||1951-1968||June 8, 1969 (#7)||June 8, 1969||August 25, 1996|||
|Joe McCarthy||Manager||1931-1946||--||April 29, 1976||--|||
|Casey Stengel||Manager||1949-1960||August 8, 1970 (#37)||July 30, 1976||--|||
|Thurman Munson||Catcher||1969-1979||August 2, 1979 (#15)||September 20, 1980||--|||
|Elston Howard||Catcher / Outfielder||1955-1967||July 21, 1984 (#32)||July 21, 1984||--|||
|Roger Maris||Outfielder||1960-1966||July 21, 1984 (#9)||July 21, 1984||--|||
|Phil Rizzuto||Shortstop / Broadcaster||1941-1956, 1957-96||August 4, 1985 (#10)||August 4, 1985||--|||
|Billy Martin||Second baseman / Manager||1950-1957, 1975-1978,
1979, 1983, 1985, 1988
|August 10, 1986 (#1)||August 10, 1986||--|||
|Lefty Gomez||Pitcher||1930-1942||--||August 1, 1987||--|||
|Whitey Ford||Pitcher||1950-1967||August 3, 1974 (#16)||August 1, 1987||--|||
|Bill Dickey||Catcher||1928-1946||July 22, 1972 (#8)||August 21, 1988||--|||
|Yogi Berra||Catcher / Outfielder||1946-1963||July 22, 1972 (#8)||August 21, 1988||--|||
|Allie Reynolds||Pitcher||1947-1954||--||August 27, 1989||--|||
|Don Mattingly||First baseman||1982-1995||August 31, 1997 (#23)||August 31, 1997||--|||
|Mel Allen||Broadcaster||1939-1964, 1976-1989||--||July 25, 1998||--|||
|Bob Sheppard||Public address announcer||1951-2007||--||May 7, 2000||--|||
|Reggie Jackson||Outfielder||1977-1981||August 14, 1993 (#44)||July 6, 2002||--|||
|Ron Guidry||Pitcher||1975-1988||August 23, 2003 (#49)||August 23, 2003||--|||
|Red Ruffing||Pitcher||1930-1946||--||July 10, 2004||--|||
|Jackie Robinson||Second baseman||--||April 15, 1997 (#42)||April 17, 2007[a]||--|||
|George Steinbrenner||Owner||1973-2010||--||September 20, 2010||September 20, 2010|||
|Mariano Rivera||Pitcher||1995-2013||September 22, 2013 (#42)||August 14, 2016||--|||
|Tino Martinez||First baseman||1996-2001, 2005||--||June 21, 2014||--|||
|Goose Gossage||Pitcher||1978-1983, 1989||--||June 22, 2014||--|||
|Paul O'Neill||Outfielder||1993-2001||--||August 9, 2014||--|||
|Joe Torre||Manager||1996-2007||August 23, 2014 (#6)||August 23, 2014||--|||
|Bernie Williams||Outfielder||1991-2006||May 24, 2015 (#51)||May 24, 2015||--|||
|Willie Randolph||Second baseman / Coach||1975-1988, 1994-2004||--||June 20, 2015||--|||
|Mel Stottlemyre||Pitcher / Coach||1964-1974, 1996-2005||--||June 20, 2015||--|||
|Jorge Posada||Catcher||1995-2011||August 22, 2015 (#20)||August 22, 2015||--|||
|Andy Pettitte||Pitcher||1995-2003, 2007-2010, 2012-2013||August 23, 2015 (#46)||August 23, 2015||--|||
|Derek Jeter||Shortstop||1995-2014||May 14, 2017 (#2)||May 14, 2017||--|||
Although the Yankees adopted uniform numbers in 1929, McCarthy never wore a number with the Yankees.
Ruppert's plaque was placed on the outfield wall, to the right of the flagpole. The Lou Gehrig monument was placed to the left of the Huggins monument. Gehrig was the first Major League Baseball player to have his uniform number retired. The Babe Ruth monument was placed to the right of the Huggins monument. The Ed Barrow plaque was placed on the wall, to the left of the flagpole.
In honor of Jackie Robinson's unique place as the first black player of the modern era, his number 42 was retired throughout baseball on April 15, 1997, the 50th anniversary of his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Yankees erected a plaque for Robinson reading: "In becoming the first Major League player to break the color barrier, Jackie will forever be an inspiration with his grace, dignity and perseverance. His story and the stories of those who never had the same opportunity must never be forgotten." 42s were also painted in front of each dugout. Players active at the time of the number's retirement in 1997 were granted a special exemption permitting them to continue wearing the number for the remainder of their careers; the last such active player to wear number 42 was Yankee relief pitcher Mariano Rivera.
The Yankees honored Rivera by retiring his uniform number on September 22, 2013, during his final season, making him the first active player to be enshrined in Monument Park. Mantle wore his #7 when he coached the Yankees in 1970, even though it was retired the previous year, while Berra wore his #8 while he coached the Yankees from 1976 through 1985, though it was retired in 1972. Similarly, when Martin returned to manage the Yankees in 1988, he wore his #1, which had been retired in his honor in 1986. With Jeter's number being retired, no Yankee can wear a single-digit positive number.
In addition to baseball related recognitions, the Knights of Columbus donated plaques in honor of the Masses celebrated at Yankee Stadium by Pope Paul VI on October 4, 1965; Pope John Paul II on October 2, 1979; and Pope Benedict XVI on April 20, 2008. The Yankees also dedicated a monument to the victims and rescue workers of the September 11 attacks on September 11, 2002, the first anniversary of the attacks. The Yankees dedicated a plaque to Nelson Mandela on April 16, 2014, to commemorate his life and 1990 visit to Yankee Stadium.[b] On June 25, 2019, the Yankees dedicated a plaque commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Inn Uprising, which sparked the modern day movement for LGBT rights in the United States.
Miller Huggins's Monument
Lou Gehrig's Monument
Babe Ruth's Monument
Mickey Mantle's Monument
Joe DiMaggio's Monument
Jacob Ruppert's Plaque