Monument Park transition under way

Monument Park transition under way

NEW YORK -- A glimpse into the old Yankee Stadium on Monday afternoon offered a shocking, albeit inevitable, sight. The various retired numbers that have helped infuse the ballpark with so much of its history lay scattered about on pieces of plywood, ready to ship out of their old home. There was no order, just a jumble of history.

Construction workers officially began to disassemble Monument Park on Monday, in preparation for a move across the street to the new Yankee Stadium. And one of the more symbolic moves is yet to come, when the Yankees transport the monument of Babe Ruth to their new ballpark on Wednesday morning.

The official disassembly came two days after the Yankees invited members of the 1998 World Series championship team, along with two Bronx youth groups, to move home plate, the pitching rubber and pails of dirt from the old Yankee Stadium across the street to the new one.

"It's a great symbolic gesture to be able to take the actual home plate and pitcher's rubber from the old Yankee Stadium and bring it over here," former pitcher David Cone said. "It was a great gesture, and to actually get kids in the Bronx involved with it, I thought was a really good thing to do."

Workers continued Yankee Stadium's disassembly when they began taking down the team's 16 retired numbers and their corresponding placards on Monday, packaging them for safety during their move across the street. The monuments -- statues of Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio and Miller Huggins, along with a memorial to the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, tragedy -- are set to follow, with Ruth's moving to the new park on Wednesday.

The Yankees dedicated Ruth's monument, honoring perhaps the greatest -- and easily the most fabled -- player in Yankees history in 1949. It is inscribed with the words, "A great ballplayer, a great man, a great American," and is among the most popular attractions in the popular ballpark.

Monument Park, once in play in the Yankee Stadium outfield, has since become a tourist attraction before games and during stadium tours. Fenced in since the Yankees completed stadium renovations in 1976, the park will be transported in full to the new Yankee Stadium, set to open in April.

Huggins, a former Yankees manager, was the first to have his monument dedicated back in 1932. The Yankees have since retired 16 numbers -- along with Jackie Robinson's universally retired No. 42 -- and dedicated plaques to players, to various team personnel and to the three Catholic popes who have celebrated mass at Yankee Stadium.

Former pitcher Red Ruffing, whose No. 15 had already been retired in honor of Thurman Munson, was the most recent Yankee to have a plaque dedicated in 2004.

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.