Why do they call it that? George Steinbrenner Field, home stadium for New York Yankees Spring Training in Tampa

8:50 AM, Jul 14, 2010   |    comments
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  • George Steinbrenner Field, formerly Legends Field, is shown in this photo from the New York Yankees.

This isn't about a powerhouse demanding his name be up in lights. Instead, it's the tale of honoring a generous, but reluctant George Steinbrenner with a ballpark bearing his name.

Why do they call it George M. Steinbrenner Field?

When the New York Yankees' Spring Training home opened in 1996 on a rainy day in Tampa, team owner George Steinbrenner was there.

He was even signing autographs.

But his name was not up on the sign.

"When it first opened, it was called Legends Field," said Rodney Kite-Powell, the curator of history at the Tampa Bay History Center.

"That's obviously a nod to the Yankees' past and the legends of past teams: Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, DiMaggio."

All of those Yankees legends had done some Spring Training in St. Petersburg.

But when Steinbrenner bought the team in 1973 -- for less than $10 million, by the way -- the team did its training in Fort Lauderdale.

Steinbrenner soon moved to Tampa and settled down here.

Eventually, "The Boss" as he was called, moved his team's Spring Training to Tampa's brand new Legends Field -- a combination ballpark and baseball shrine.

It's modeled after the team's regular home in the Bronx at the time, the original Yankee Stadium.

"It's a miniature version of the old Yankee Stadium. The dimensions are the same, and the look is very similar," Kite-Powell said.

One key difference? The Tampa park is "a lot cleaner than the old Yankee Stadium -- I can tell you from personal experience," Kite-Powell said with a smile.

City leaders soon pushed to have Legends Field renamed to honor Steinbrenner.

They loved his efforts away from baseball -- supporting countless charities for children.

His family says for a long time, he refused the recognition. Finally, he gave in.

In 2008, one of George Steinbrenner's last public appearances was the unveiling of the stadium's new name.

Now, instead of honoring many legends -- the ballpark's name honors just one.

Why do they call it that? Now you know.

There are a lot more places out there with names that could use explaining. If you want to ask "Why do they call it that?" send an e-mail with a name that has you curious to Grayson Kamm using this link.

We'll be featuring new places and stories each Wednesday on 10 Connects. Watch them on The Morning Show from 5-7 a.m. and on 10 Connects News at 5:30 p.m. on 10 Connects.

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