Anniversary Soundtrack: “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and “Hit the Road, Jack”

The 250-year anniversary of P&S has been celebrated in big and small ways all year. Two of the leading events were an April outing to a Yankees game and an October bike ride to raise money for cancer research.

Batter Up

On April 28, P&S celebrated its 250th anniversary with the New York Yankees during a nail-biting game against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium (the Yankees came from behind to win the game, 14-11). P&S was recognized in honor of its 250th anniversary with an on-field ceremony before the game. Nearly 600 faculty, staff, students, and their family members were randomly chosen to receive free tickets to the game.

The P&S-Yankees connection goes back to the beginnings of the medical center now shared by Columbia University and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. In the early part of the 20th century, the land now occupied by the medical center garden, the chapel, and other facilities was Hilltop Park, the home of the Highlanders, the first American League team in New York. We know them best as the New York Yankees, the name the team took years after leaving Hilltop.

Hilltop Park, located between 165th and 168th Streets and between Broadway and Fort Washington Avenue, was constructed in only six weeks. Left field, facing north to 168th Street, extended 365 feet from home plate; center field, 542 feet; and right field, across from Broadway, 400 feet.

The Highlanders leased its Washington Heights location from the Institute for the Blind, which was located on Fort Washington Avenue at 163rd Street. The team played in Hilltop Park for 10 seasons until its lease expired.

The stadium, officially named New York American League Park, opened April 30, 1903. People called it Hilltop because the field was built on one of the highest elevations in the city. A roofed single-deck wooden grandstand stood along Fort Washington Avenue. Next to it by the foul lines were the open bleachers that were covered in 1911. Along left field at 168th Street were fences about 20 feet high. The center field bleachers, erected in 1912, were on the corner of 168th Street and Broadway. The entrance was at Broadway and 166th Street, with a sign on the east wall that read American League Park.

Ironically, the Highlanders, officially named the New York Americans, began as the Baltimore Orioles—the team the Yankees defeated at the anniversary celebration in 2017. 

Depending on which baseball historian you believe, the team’s nickname was a nod to either the high elevation of Hilltop Park or the Scottish Gordon Highlanders regiment.

In 1912, the Highlanders moved to the Polo Grounds, where they shared the stadium with the Giants until 1923 while Yankee Stadium was being built. Hilltop was demolished in 1914 and replaced by the one-story tabernacle of Billy Sunday, a baseball player turned evangelist. Following the demolition of the tabernacle, groundbreaking ceremonies for Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center took place in 1925.

In 1993, Highlanders pitcher Chet Hoff, then 102 years old, returned to his old stadium grounds to dedicate a bronze plaque from the New York Yankees. The plaque, which was placed in the medical center garden in the approximate spot where home base was located, was dedicated to the medical center and the community of Washington Heights. At the dedication, Mr. Hoff recalled the day 82 years ago that month when he struck out Ty Cobb on three pitches. Mr. Hoff died five years after the dedication at age 107. The plaque was removed during the medical center garden’s recent renovations. A rededication ceremony to return the plaque to the garden is planned for next spring.


Put the Pedal to the Metal

Velocity, an Oct. 7 anniversary event, raised $1.4 million to support cancer research at Columbia’s Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center. The funds were raised through the efforts of 467 riders plus corporate sponsors, volunteers, and friends of the university. The ride is planned as an annual event.

The ride began in Pomona, N.Y., and continued south along the scenic Hudson Valley. Participants rode a range of routes that covered distances of 10, 25, 45, or 62.5 miles (100 kilometers). At each start area, a welcome ceremony led by a Columbia faculty or staff member and a cancer survivor rallied riders.

“I trained to be a physician to cure cancer, but what I’m really passionate about is curing patients and their families,” said Gary Schwartz, MD, professor of medicine, chief of the division of hematology-oncology, and associate director of the cancer center, at the ceremony held at the 62.5-mile start. “And we’re giving our people the flexibility to match their passion, creativity, and artistry to make great discoveries and follow their dreams. I know that my dream is to cure cancer and I need a team with imagination to do it. We’re leading in precision medicine—sequencing DNA and finding drugs that will slow or stop specific cancers—and immunotherapy.”

The riders had different starting points, but all cyclists crossed the George Washington Bridge together to reach the finish line at the medical center for a post-ride celebration. The festivities included a concert by the Spin Doctors.

Fundraising webpages for Velocity participants will be open until Dec. 31 at Bikers also can sign up at the Velocity site for the 2018 ride.