By Ari Kramer
Babe Ruth built it, as they say, and millions of fans filled it.
The old Yankee Stadium was sacred ground to many, and to the dismay of baseball purists, the New York Yankees razed it after the 2008 season, evicting the ghosts of Ruth and Gehrig, DiMaggio and Rizzuto, Mantle and Maris.
"The Stadium: Images and Voices of the Original Yankee Stadium," a book of black-and-white photographs of the park taken by Cinema Department alum Jon Plasse, who graduated from Harpur College in 1972 was published by SUNY Press last August.
In April, Plasse's exhibit featuring 10 photographs taken in the Cathedral of Baseball's final four years of existence opened in The Elsie B. Rosefsky Memorial Art Gallery on Binghamton University's campus.
"It's all about my dream to recreate my experience of when I was a kid going to Yankee games," Plasse said.
Plasse would annually go to games with his father, Herman, making the trip from their home in Long Island. For Plasse, there was something particularly special about the first sight of the Stadium—from afar and from within.
As visitors of the exhibit walk through the gallery's doors, they are greeted by a wall-quote from former American League umpire Bill Valentine: "And there it was, the Stadium, gorgeous, just a palace of baseball."
Plasse's first photograph in the exhibit was taken inside that palace, in a hallway leading to the upper deck. From that vantage point, you see a relatively empty set of upper deck seats. It emits the vibe that you have arrived during batting practice or well before first pitch. Only a glimpse of the field is visible, creating a sense of excitement as to what you'll see next.
"You're just about to come out, and when you come out, I mean it's a black-and-white, but when you come out in real life it was this gorgeous green grass," Plasse said. "And it was enormous, there were thousands of people. It's that moment right before you have that experience."
The rest of the photos ranged from artsy shots of seats taken at a diagonal angle to a wall of graffiti outside the Stadium featuring depictions of Ruth, Gehrig and DiMaggio. Though anyone can appreciate Plasse's work from an artistic standpoint, people who had their own Yankee Stadium experiences could enjoy it even more.
University President Harvey Stenger, who introduced the exhibit, said he used to neglect his ties to the Boston Red Sox and attend Yankee games with his late friend. For him, the simple act of soaking in a game from the stands meant more than the end result.
"You probably don't remember who won or lost that day. It probably didn't matter who won or lost that day," he said. "You had a hot dog, you had something to drink, you probably had some popcorn. I'll bet you were with a very close friend, or you were with your parents. And it was a memorable event because you were at Yankee Stadium."
Though Plasse effectively materialized memories of the old Yankee Stadium, photography is only his hobby—not his occupation. By day, he works as a securities class action lawyer in New York City. He has served as the Chair of the Securities Litigation Committee of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York since 2010.
"About eight or nine years ago, [when] my kids had grown up, I was looking for something different," Plasse said, "so I went back and started focusing on reliving my efforts at being a filmmaker, this time as a photographer."
Plasse's roots in film originated at Binghamton, when he was an undeclared freshman. He was inspired by Ken Jacobs, distinguished professor emeritus of cinema.
"I was taken away like with a hurricane," Plasse said.
Plasse met his wife, Bea, in a film class, and after graduating, he initially looked for work in Vestal.
After spending some time screening films and shooting women's softball games for a local cable station, Plasse decided to pursue law.
Clearly, though, the embers of his passion for art never flickered on the brink of extinguishment.
He said he was hardly proficient with a camera when he first started the Yankee Stadium project, but photography has developed into an important part of his life, liberating him from the plotting and thinking of law.
"To me, the photographs are just totally instinctive. There's no thought," he said. "It's just using the camera to express your emotions and recreate emotional experiences."
And because of Plasse's ability to do so, The House That Ruth Built will live on forever.
Last Updated: 12/10/14