August 19, 2016
When the Yankee Stadium soccer field was far from a perfect pitch
By Michael Lewis
Earlier this year, a scandal erupted in Rochester, N.Y. when the Western New York Flash, used a professional baseball field for a soccer game.
To say the field was narrow would be an understatement.
Because the Flash could not use Rhinos Stadium, a long free kick away, which hosted a 1990s throwback concert, the National Women's Soccer League decided to use Frontier Field as a one-shot deal. Frontier has been home to the Rochester Red Wings of the International League the past 20 years.
The field was 100 yards long by 58 yards wide. Needless to say, the small field angered Seattle Reign head coach Laura Harvey.
ďI was told the field was 110-by-61 [yards]. Thatís 100-by -58,Ē Harvey told the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle's Jeff DiVeronica. ďI got lied to the whole week. Iím not making excuses. We knew what they were going to do but thatís not acceptable. This league is supposed to be professional. Thatís not good enough.Ē
That scenario was bad enough on so many levels for the host team, the baseball team, the soccer league and even the sport itself.
Well, believe it or not, there was even a smaller field used for at least one soccer game way, way, way back in the day.
When the New York Generals roamed the outfield as a North American Soccer League team at Yankee Stadium, the original Yankee Stadium, the baseball team had the first and last words on the soccer field.
In 1967, the field was a healthy 110 by 80 yards. In other words, plenty of elbow space (8,800 square yards).
For the Generals' home opener on April 21, 1968, the field was shortened to 104 by 50 yards (a ridiculous 5,200 square yards).
The Yankees made the change to preserve part of the field around second base.
Not surprisingly, that game between the Generals and Toronto Falcons turned into a farce.
I'll let Gerarld Eskenazi explain it all in his lead in the April 22, 1968 edition of The New York Times:
The New York Generals, confined to a playing area so narrow and inhibiting that their wings constantly fought the chalk line as well as their opponents, opened their home season in frustration, playing to a scoreless tie with the Toronto Falcons.
Generals head coach Freddie Goodwin said the field was the smallest he had ever seen.
After that fiasco, the field was widened to 67 yards for the rest of the season, giving some much-needed elbow room (the length still was a paltry 104 yards for a total of 6,968 square yards).
And to make matters worse, the Yankees called off the Generals' April 24 game against the Oakland Clippers because the field "was a sopping mess," stadium general manager George Stallings told The Times.
The Generals wanted to reschedule the game the next night, but the Yankees used an option in the soccer team's rental contract that forbade the field to be used for soccer within 48 hours of a baseball game. The Yankees were returning from a roadtrip for a weekend series against the Detroit Tigers in two days.
As bad and narrow the field dimensions are today (110 by 70 for 7,700) the smallest in all of Major League Soccer -- it could be worse, incredible as that sounds.
Hopefully, the Yankees, NYC FC and no other soccer professional soccer team in this country will have to go there again.
Unfortunately, I fear will we will hear horror stories from some other venue in the future.