Major League Baseball
2 Step To Plate, Claim Legends Field Moniker
TAMPA - There's a bit of a mystery brewing around Legends Field. Here's what is known: Sometime late next month, the New York Yankees will rename their spring training facility after iconic owner, George Steinbrenner. Here's the conundrum: As the name Legends Fields is retired and becomes part of baseball lore, there's a disagreement over who exactly came up with the moniker. What everyone agrees is that the name spawned from early promotional literature that urged: "Be A Part Of The Legend."From there, two stories have emerged. About 13 years ago, Melissa Twomey sat in a trailer that served as a team office on the site of a former minimum security prison torn down for the Yankees' new spring training facility. Twomey, then the team's marketing director in Tampa, couldn't settle on a suitable name for the ballpark, which was set to open in March 1996. The groundbreaking ceremony had come and gone. City leaders and team officials huddled around what would become home plate to praise the glorious new ballpark with a less-than-grand, albeit temporary name: "New York Yankees Baseball Complex." A Legendary Epiphany Surrounded by the promotional literature hanging in the office, Twomey remembers having an epiphany. The stadium should be called Legends Field. It seemed perfectly fitting for the nation's most fabled baseball team, she said. The name paid homage to all the great players who had worn the pinstripe uniforms. "The moment it ran into my brain, I couldn't think of a better name," Twomey said. "I was flying around the trailer, saying, 'I got it!'" She called a meeting with Steinbrenner, now 77, who reportedly signed off on the name with no fuss. "Naming the stadium is probably the biggest thing I have ever done in my career," said Twomey, who left the team in 2004 and now works for the Heart Gallery of Tampa Bay, which recruits adoptive parents for foster children. Joe Costa has a different recollection. Yankees hired the advertising agency of Ausec & Cheney Group to come up with a promotional campaign for what was called Tampa's Yankees Stadium. Ausec & Cheney asked Costa to help develop a slogan. Everyone instantly loved Costa's idea: "Be A Part Of The Legend." That is not in dispute. The ad agency then asked Costa to come up with a list of possible stadium names. Legends Field was at the top of the list and so strongly favored that others involved can't immediately recall any alternates. They did say Steinbrenner Field was not on the list. Costa said his records indicate he got paid for four hours of work researching and writing stadium names. The bill came to about $400. "As I began doing my research on the Yankees, it was obvious that their storied past was the stuff of legends," he said. Costa couldn't get away from that idea of legends. "My grandfather, who had lived in the Bronx in the 1930s and 40s, was a huge Yankees fan and an even bigger Joe DiMaggio fan." This week, Twomey said she never saw a list of possible names from Costa or Ausec & Cheney. "The name just clicked in my head," she said. "When you thought about it, it really made sense." Back in the mid-1990s, news reports didn't say who came up with the name and nobody from the team took credit. For their part, Yankees officials said they always thought Twomey came up with the name. Ausec & Cheney closed in 1998, but one of its founders, Andrea Cheney, said Costa should get credit for naming Legends Field, or at least for putting it at the top of his list of suggestions. She confirmed that Costa was paid about $400 for coming up with stadium names. "Part of the urban legend has been that the marketing director came up with it," Cheney said Wednesday. But then Cheney struck a more conciliatory tone. "I think it might have been a little bit of both," said Cheney, who is now a consultant. "Maybe Melissa saw it, and it didn't register, but she ended up running with it." Former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco, a longtime friend of Steinbrenner, said he couldn't remember who named the stadium. He always thought Steinbrenner did. "He is Legends Field," Greco said this week. Both Honored About Name Despite varying accounts, Costa and Twomey are honored to have had a role in the ballpark's name and in the initial campaign. "I'm sad to say goodbye to Legends Field," Costa said. "After all, how many times does a copywriter get to name a stadium?" Said Twomey: "I still get so tickled when I am driving on I-275 and I see an exit sign for Legends Field." Of course, the late-inning disagreement won't mean much next month when the ballpark becomes George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Reporter Baird Helgeson can be reached at (813) 259-7668 or [email protected]