Before Yankee Stadium opened in 1923, the Yankees rented from their cross-town rivals, the New York Giants and shared the space at the Polo Grounds. Threatened with eviction, the Yankees were forced to build their own stadium in the Bronx, but this move arguably could not have happened without the fame and popularity of their marquee player, George Herman “Babe” Ruth. Ruth drew large crowds and made the Yankees an astoundingly popular team, and after Yankee Stadium opened, it was known colloquially as The House that Ruth Built as a result of Ruth’s starpower drawing in enough revenue and fan support to build the park.
In Ruth’s first season with the Yankees in 1920, the Yankees were drawing more fans than their cross-town rivals, the Giants, and the Yankees owners decided to take a chance on the popularity of their team. Because both the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers had stronger roots in New York than the relatively young Yankees, building a new park — larger than most ballparks — on the assumption that the Yankees could draw 60,000 fans to their games was quite a gamble. But the Yankees also had Babe Ruth, who was the biggest name in sports at the time. After tenuous relations began developing between Giants and Yankees ownership, the Yankees decided it was time to invest in what would become the House That Ruth Built.
To further reinforce the notion that Yankee Stadium was indeed the House That Ruth Built, Babe Ruth hit the first home run in the new ballpark to beat the Boston Red Sox. The Yankees won the World Series in that first year in the House That Ruth Built, further reinforcing the notion that the stadium owed its success partly to Ruth. Critics of the park, however, played off the moniker The House That Ruth Built and instead called it The House Built For Ruth because of its dimensions that were conducive to the left-handed slugger: originally, the right field fence was less than 300 feet – 90 meters – from home plate, giving Ruth an advantage for hitting home runs.
The House That Ruth Built features many firsts: Yankee Stadium was the first baseball park to be permanently labeled a stadium; it was the first three-tiered sports facility; it featured the first warning track; and it featured the first electronic scoreboard. Intended for multi-sports use, the House That Ruth Built could be used for football games, track and field events, and various other sporting events thanks to its specific, multi-faceted design.