Baseball History

Entering the house that Ruth built


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Very few teams have captured the imagination of baseball fans the world over more than the New York Yankees. Their home is the borough of the Bronx in New York. They have won a record 27 World Series and 40 American League (AL) pennants. The Yankees have also been called the Bronx Bombers, The Pinstripers (for their home uniforms) and the Evil Empire by their arch rival the Boston Red Sox. 

Interestingly enough, the Yankees started out in 1901 Baltimore, MD, as the Orioles for two seasons. The team struggled there and was purchased by Frank Ferrell and Bill Devery in 1903 and brought to New York. Their first New York home was Hilltop Park, where they stayed from 1903-1912. They came to be known as the Highlanders for the high point of the stadium in Manhattan. However the name that stuck was Yankees or Yanks that the local sportswriters began to refer to them by.  Finally in 1913 the team moved to the Polo Grounds and they were officially renamed the New York Yankees. The team remained in the Polo Grounds until 1922 when they moved into the famous Yankee Stadium also known as the House that Ruth Built (after the famed slugger Babe Ruth) from 1923-2008. The team today has played in the new Yankee Stadium since 2009.

Even though the team continued to struggle for the first 18 years after moving to New York, things changed when they acquired Babe Ruth. From then on the words dynasty and the New York Yankees were synonymous in baseball. The team won three AL championships from 1921-1923 and their first World Series title in 1923. During the 1920’s and 30’s the New York Yankees forged their dominance winning 11 pennants and eight World Series championships. Included in this incredible run was the 1927 team.Arguably the best baseball team ever assembled. It included Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Bob Meusel, Tony Lazerri and pitcher Waite Hoyt. Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs that year (a record that stood until 1961) and Gehrig batted in 175 runs. The team’s lineup was so formidable that it was nicknamed Murderer’s Row.

The New York Yankees lost Lou Gehrig to disease and Babe Ruth to retirement in the 1940’s. But that did not slow them down. A new star named Joe DiMaggio helped them to three consecutive league pennants from 1941-1943 and two world titles in 1941 and 1943.  Manager Casey Stengal had these players on his roster: Mickey Mantle (center fielder), Yogi Bera (catcher), Phil Rizzuto (shortstop) and Whitey Ford (pitcher).  Stengal was manager of the Yankees for 12 years and won 10 AL pennants and seven World Series. During his tenure the only perfect game was pitched by Don Larson in game five of the 1956 World Series, against their rival Brooklyn Dodgers. He retired all 27 batters without anyone reaching base.

The Yankees continued their dominance in the late 50’s and 60’s winning the 1958, 1961-1962 World Series. Then they entered a great period of drought not winning any major titles until 1977. During this time most of the theatrics were performed off the baseball diamond with the multiple firings and re-hiring’s of manager Billy Martin. His arguments with then controversial owner George Steinbrenner made headlines even out of New York. 

Fireworks returned to the playing field with the acquisition of Reggie Jackson. Jackson had already proved himself an asset with helping the Oakland Athletics win three World Series and was named major league MVP. Reggie Jackson earned the name Mr. October on Oct. 17, 1977, in game six of the World Series. He hit three home runs in the fourth, fifth and eighth innings which led to the Yankees to beating the Los Angelo’s Dodgers. Jackson went onto also contribute in the Yankees winning the 1978 World Series.

When Joe Torre took over the reins of manager in 1996 the Yankees started winning again. Under his leadership and celebrated players like shortstop Derek Jeter, closer Mariano Rivera and pitcher David Cone the team won six AL championships and four World Series titles (1996, 1998-2000).  The Yankees returned to the Fall Classic (another name for the World Series) and won their 27th title in 2009 under manager Joe Girardi.

One of the most interesting items in Yankee history is their rivalry with the Boston Red Sox. It started with the acquisition of Babe Ruth in 1920. No other players were traded the deal was on a strictly cash basis. The manager of the Red Sox said that Boston was making a mistake. Some say it wasn’t just a bad mistake it was a “curse” that has plagued Boston since then. Here are a few facts, you be the judge:

In 1925 the New York Yankees were very anxious to trade a first basemen to the Red Sox for Phil Todt (lifetime .258 hitter with 57 home runs). The Red Sox passed on the deal and kept Todt. The player Boston passed on was Lou Gehrig.

During the last game of the regular season in 1961, Roger Maris hit his 61st home run breaking Babe Ruth’s record. Tracy Stallard threw the pitcher for the Boston Red Sox.

The Red Sox went to the World Series in 1946, 1967, 1975 and 1986. They lost in game seven every time. The most famous or maybe infamous being 1986 when a ground ball dribbled through first baseman Bill Buckner’s legs in game six against the New York Mets. That error cost Boston the game in which they were up 3-2 (one out from a win) in the series forcing a game seven.  

On June 19, 2000, the Red Sox suffered through a 22-1 loss at Fenway Park against the New York Yankees.

Is this evidence of a curse? Probably not, but it is evidence that both teams and their fans rev up the juice when facing each other. And that makes for an even better baseball experience.

What is ahead for the New York Yankees? Most of their players including Mariano Rivera, Curtis Granderson, Hiroki Kuroda and Phil Hughes are ready for free agency next year. Derek Jeter will be eligible after the 2014 season. The Yankees have some up and coming players like Gary Sanchez as catcher, Mark Teixeira for first base and Kevin Youkilis holding third base while Alex Rodriquez is out. Robinson Cano will probably return to second base however he wants a 10-year contract and 30 million a year. The Yankees are hoping to sign him for $200 million deal over eight years (approx. $25 a year). 

With a disappointing season of 85 wins and 77 loses, looking to the future is the best course of action. In 2015, many of their future stars will be ready for the major leagues at bargain prices but until then the Yankees will have to go with what they have. The question is will they go for the gold now and blow that $189 million payroll cap they have set for themselves or go slow and build for the future? It all depends on the plans current owners Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman have in store. They might let 2014, be a rebuilding year and hold out for the youth movement just around the bend. After all, remembering Yankee history the last time they had a youth movement was the mid-nineties. Four World Series wins later one could argue it was worth the wait.

 

More about this author: Yvonne White