The Yankees are without any doubt the most storied and successful franchise in Major League Baseball (MLB) history. From somewhat humble beginnings a team that operated on borrowed space in the Polo Grounds grew to be a $1.3 billion dollar empire with twenty six world championships, the award Winning YES network and perhaps the most globally recognized logo in sports on the global scale. Still the evolution of the Yankess is quite a story full of surprises and firsts with an urban legend or two.
In 1903 Frank Farrel and Bill Devery purchased the defunct Baltimore franchise of the American League for a mere eighteen thousand dollars and set the team up in Manhattan New York. By mid March the league approved the Yankees as a member of the American League (AL) and took the name of the "Highlanders" playing in a hastily and poorly constructed facility known as Hilltop Park. The Highlanders began their history with a 3-2 loss at Washington but pounded there way to a 7-2 win the next day. One week later they picked up their first home win again against Washington. Nine years later the trademark pinstripes were added to the official uniform and in 1913 the team changed their name to the Yankees and moved into the Polo Grounds which they shared with the Giants.
It wasn't until 1915 the Yankees took a turn for the better which was spurred on by the $1.25 million dollar purchase of the team by Col.'s Jacob Ruppert and Tillinghast L'Hommedieu Huston. Not much happened for the Yankees in the standings the next few years and the franchise highlights were limited to the Yankees first no-hitter tossed by George Mogridge. In 1920 however everything changed.
The contract of Babe Ruth was purchased from the Red sox for $125,000 and a $350,000 dollar loan against the mortgage on Fenway Park. One year later the Yankees clinched their first pennant and in the spring of 1922 the construction of Yankee Stadium, "The House that Ruth Built" was underway at a cost of $2.5 million dollars. Within weeks of construction beginning Col. Ruppert buys out Huston's share of the team for $1.5 million dollars making him the sole owner. On Apri; 18th of 1923 Yankee stadium was christened with a 4-1 victory over the Red Sox in which 74,200 fans saw Babe Ruth hit the first homerun in Yankee Stadium. On June first Lou Gherig pinch hit for Pee Wee Wagner beginning a streak of 2,130 consecutive games played. Contrary to popular belief it was not when he entered a game for Wally Pipp.
On September 30th of 1927 the babe hits his 60th homer of the season breaking his previous single season reacord. On April 16th of 1928 the Yank's become the first team to make numbers a permanent part of the uniform. On June 3rd of 1932 Lou Gherig becones the first player ever to hit four home runs in a single game and is the only Yankee to ever do so. The babe swatted his 700th homer off Tommy Bridges July 14th of 1933 at Detroit's navin Field making him the first to ever reach that mark.
The remainder of the tirties were hardly uneventful, In 1934 the contract on Joe DiMaggio was purchased from the San Francisco Seals for $50,000 which may have been the steal of the decade. On May 39th of 1938 the Yankees hosted a record crowd of 81,481 fans who witnessed a double header sweep of the rival Red Sox. By then of course the center field wall was moved in from a cavernous 490 feet to a merely very long 460 feet. One can only wonder how many 470 foot doubles were hit prior to that? Most memorable perhaps was July 4th of 1939 when Lou Gherig Appreciation day was held and he delivered his "Luckiest man on the face of the earth" speech. His uniform nunber 4 was retired, the first ever Yankee to receive that honor. he died the following year on June the 2nd from Amyotrophic lateral Sclerosis which to this day is still commonly known as "Lou Gherig's disease."
The 1940's were no less active for the pinstriped hometown heroes. In 1941 Joe DiMaggio went on his 56 game hitting streak but in the process also managed to hit safely in his next sixteen games to compile a hit in 72 0f 73 games. In 1945 Co;. Ruppert passed and his estate sold the team for a paltry $2.8 million dollars to Dan Topping, Del Wbb and Larry MacPhail. In 1948 lights were added to yankee Stadium and they hosted their first night game on May 28th. It was June 13th of 1948 when Babe Ruth made his final appearance at Yankee Stadium to have his number 3 retired alongside Lou Gherig. He died of cancer in August at the age of fifty three. In 1948 Casey Stengel is hired as manager and a new era begins.
In 1951 Mickey Mantle makes his professional debut and goes 1-4 at the plate. Allie Reynolds throws two no-hitters in one season and Joe DiMaggio officially announces his retirement in December. On October the fifth of 1953 the Yankees win their fifth consecutive World Series setting a mark no team has ever matched. In 1956 Don Larsen throws the only Perfect game in World Series history against the Brooklyn Dodgers in Yankee Stadium.
The 1960's began with a bang but soon fizzled. There was of course Roger Maris' "61 in 61" to surpass babe Ruths single season home run record amid heated debate as to whether it counted as the season had been extended eight games due to league expansion. In 1964 CBS purchased 80% of the Yankees for $11.2 mullion dollars and later picked up the remaining twenty percent. Unwilling to spend momey to keep the organization competitive but rather cash in on the names of fading stars like matnle and Whitey Ford the franchise fell into what is sometimes called the "Horace Clarke era."
In 1973 a limited partnership led by George M. Steinbrenner III purchases the yankees from CBS and a new era begins. In 1974 and 1975 the Yankees play the bulk of their home games at Shea Stadium while Yankee Stadium undergoes remodeling. In 1974 Jim "Catfish" Hunter signs a then record five year multi-million dollar contract. In 1975 Billy Martin becomes the Yankee manager for the first time. In 1976 the Yankees are swept by the Reds in the World Series. George Steinbrenner sets his sights on and signs Reggie Jackson in 1976. Thurman Munson is named the first Yankee captain since Lou Gherig, Reggie hits three consecutive homers in game six of the World Series. A championship was won and a candy bar was born!
1978 was one of the most storied in franchise history taking a second World Series title and a ton of bumps along the way which led to them being known as "The Bronx Zoo." Billy Martin reigns as manager and Bob lemon his polar opposite steps in. The Yankees rally from fourteen games down in the standings to beat the Red Sox in a one game playoff on a Bucky Dent homer. Billy Martin is re-hired for the first time as the "manager in waiting." On August 2nd of 1979 Thurman Munson dies in a plane crash and the yankees do not recover from the loss. They appear in the World Series in 1981 losing to the rival Dodgers.
The 1980's saw the departure of Reggie and the Arrival of Dave Winfield via baseballs richest contract ever. Much of the core team from the 70's moved on to be replaced by high priced free agents that primaril underachieve. Don mattingly makes his debut and a host of future Hall of Fame players pass through the locker room including Rickey Henderson and Gaylord Perry. The eighties bring no world series titles or even a second pennant however in 1989 Billy martin is replaced as manager for the fifth and final time.
The 1990's began slowly but under the guidance of Gene Michael a dynasty was born. In 1995 Mickey mantle dies of lung cancer and youngster Derek jeter makes his debut in pinstripes as a late season call up. In 1996 Derek Jeter took the job of shorstop due to injury and never abandoned it. The Yank's seized their first World Series win in eighteen years in 1996. In 1998 David Wells throws the Yankees first ever regular season perfect game and the Yankees win a record 112 regular season games. In 1999 David Cone tosses a perfect game in which Don larsen threw out the first pitch. The Yankees won the final game of the century beating the Braves in game four of the World Series to bring home theri 25th title, their third in four years.
The winning continued in the new century as the defeat the Met's in five games for their 26th World Series title in the first "Subway Series" since 1956. The rest of the new era has held little magic with a pair of World Series losses and dissapointing post season performances in general, by Yankee standards mind you. There were some highlights as Roger Clemens notched his 300th carrer win in pinstripes as well as his 4,000th strikeout. In 2004 Mike Mussina and Kevin Brown earn their 200th career victories in back to back games, the first and only teammates to ever do so. 2005 saw Alex Rodriguez become the youngest player to hit 400 homers and again in 2007 when he became the youngest to reach 500 career homeruns.
Whether there is more magic in the Yankees remains to be seen. Maybe the ghosts lingering in the halls of Yankee Stadium can will the team to one more World Series win before it is razed and yet anoher new era begins in 2009 when the new Yankee Stadium is open for business. No matter what happens the franchises rich tradition is a model for all organizations to pattern them self after. From humble beginnings truly great achievements did arise.