In April of 2021 Yale Athletics proudly announced that historic Yale Field, which has hosted the likes of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Ted Williams, will be named George H.W. Bush ’48 Field in honor of one its most accomplished alumni, George Herbert Walker Bush, who captained the Yale baseball team in his senior season.
The previously named Yale Field has a proud tradition that has produced legendary figures and historical events. What once was part of an apple orchard and farm, purchased by the school in 1882, is now a baseball field of major league proportions.
The Bulldogs have been playing on this land since the turn of the 20th century, when it was just an open field with a few bleachers. In 1927, Yale began construction on a concrete and steel structure that would cost approximately a half million dollars. There were bleachers along the outfield foul lines that allowed an overall seating capacity of 12,000 at Yale Field. The bleachers were removed when the Yale-Harvard games traditionally held on reunion weekend were discontinued in the 1960s. Most of the grandstand stood in its original form until 1993, when the project to produce the renovated stadium began.
The first game at newly renovated Yale Field was in 1928 and pitted the Bulldogs against the Eastern League New Haven Professionals. The first ball was thrown out by Mayor Tower of New Haven, and the pros blanked the home team, 12-0. This wasn't the only time professional teams played there; Major League teams played games at Yale before and during World War II. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Ted Williams all made appearances.
The pine trees that line the outfield fence gave Yale Field the look of a stadium. The tops of the trees are still visible, but the signage and taller home run fence also provide a stadium-like atmosphere.
The 35-foot, green, metal scoreboard in centerfield was likely built some time after play began at the renovated field in 1928, and it has certainly has seen a few titanic shots since then. Like fish-catching stories, tales of the great home runs clouted at Yale Field are difficult to substantiate, though Dan Thompson '96 did crack one long ball far beyond the scoreboard in the 1995 Ivy League playoffs.
Ruth once remarked that the playing surface at Yale Field was the best he had ever seen, and not much of it changed during the renovation. The only alterations made were the shortening of the right field fence from 340 feet to 315 (since restored) and the reduction of foul territory down the right field line. The dimensions are now (from left to right): 330-375-405-375-330.
The field has been the site of many historic games for the Bulldog nine. The 1981 NCAA Northeast Regionals took place there, and the extra-inning thriller between future Major League Baseball stars Frank Viola of St. John's and Yale's Ron Darling was one of the most famous collegiate contests of all time. It was May 21, 1981, when the Eastern League champions played host to the Redmen, who won the game by a 1-0 count. Darling fired hitless baseball for 11 consecutive and scoreless innings, until the visitors finally broke up the no-hitter in the 12th stanza, which would eventually turn into the game-winning run on a double steal.
This collegiate baseball cathedral has hosted numerous commencement days, high school and American Legion playoff games and other special events. The New Haven Ravens, a Double-A Eastern League team, played at Yale Field from 1994 through 2003 and hosted the 1998 Double-A All-Star game there.
During 2020, a major project was completed at Bush Field to restore and recreate the exterior facade of the building. The goal was to reinstate the original look and intention of the historic stadium while also completing repairs to stabilize the exterior. In addition to the major exterior transformation, interior renovations took place to upgrade team storage areas, stadium signage and restrooms.
But the most talked about afternoon on this land may have been the day Ruth came to town in 1948. The Bambino came to present a copy of his autobiography to captain George Bush '48, the now former United States President, for the Yale Library. It was one of the Babe's last public appearances.
Legends do live at Bush Field, and the current Bulldogs look to perpetuate these legends and encourage new ones.