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Baseball History of the New York Yankees
The New York Yankees is one of the most storied franchises not only in all of baseball, but all of sports. No team has won more championships than the Yankees, and as of 2017 so many players will have had their numbers retired that the only remaining single digit is the number zero. Over the decades, the best players for the Yankees have transcended the sport. From the All-American Mickey Mantle to the classy Derek Jeter, the best of the Yankees has often been held up as the best of all of us. The history of the Yankees has been chronicled countless times, but there is always something new to learn.
In the Beginning…
While everyone knows that they Yankees have called New York their home since the early twentieth century, not everyone knows that their first home was actually Baltimore. At that time, professional baseball was still relatively new, and the Baltimore Orioles was a struggling organization. In 1903, Bill Dewey and Frank Farrell bought the Orioles for a paltry $18,000 and moved the team to Manhattan. Given what the team would become, this is considered by many to be one the greatest sports and business decisions of all time. Considering the players the Yankees would draft, mold, and trade for in the coming century, it was for from the last such deal.
In addition to having started in Baltimore, few people know that the storied Yankee Stadium that would stand for decades as the home of baseball’s most successful team was actually the second stadium they built. The real first Yankee Stadium was not called Yankee Stadium and did not even house the New York Yankees (yet). The Yankees at this time were known as the Highlanders, and their stadium was called Hilltop Park. It was not until 1913 that they Highlanders became the Yankees, and it was at this time that they moved to yet another stadium, though this one had already been built for the New York Giants (which was a baseball, not football, team).
The Great Bambino – When the Yankees Became the Yankees
Between being the Highlanders and not having a true home baseball field, it may surprise even the staunchest Yankee fans that the team was not immediately successful; at least they were not synonymous with success as they are today. It was not until January 3rd, 1920 that the Yankees began to earn their reputation as sporting elite. This was the day Babe Ruth, or the Great Bambino as he was often called, was purchased from the Boston Red Sox.
To this day, Babe Ruth is considered perhaps the greatest baseball player to ever live. By the time he retired, he held nearly every offensive record there was to hold. He became a household name, and he led the Yankees to their first American League pennant in 1921. Ruth, like many athletes who would go on to follow his lead, became a celebrity beyond baseball. He was a god to young boys who dreamed of being just like him. He was a name on the lips of even most indifferent of baseball fans. Ruth’s success was the Yankees’ success and vice versa, and during his career he would see plenty of both.
Yankee Stadium – The House that Ruth Built
In 1922, construction began on Yankee Stadium, or “The House that Ruth Built.” It was called that because, given the success the Yankees had with Ruth as their leader, it was believed by some that they would not have been able to build such a stadium with the daily performance of Ruth. In 1923 Yankee Stadium opened to much fanfare. A reported 74,000 people attended the game to see Ruth hit the first home run ever hit at Yankee Stadium.
During the next eight decades Yankee Stadium would be home to many of baseball’s biggest names. It would become a beacon of success, a national monument to America’s national pastime. The original Yankee Stadium stood from 1923 to 2008, when it was torn down and another Yankee Stadium was built across the street to replace it. Though the original stadium had simply grown too dated to meet the needs of Yankee fans, the new stadium took special care to continue on the tradition of excellence and reverence for history that the old stadium had become known for.
Yankee Stadium saw so many historically great players walk through the doors that they don’t simply have a few jerseys hanging from the rafters (so to speak). The Yankees have retired so many numbers that they had to build an entire park to hold the plaques erected in memoriam of their greatest players. Some of these names include:
Lou Gehrig – If not for Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig might have become the most famous Yankee, at least until Joe DiMaggio came along.
Joe DiMaggio – “Joltin’ Joe” STILL holds the record for most consecutive games with a hit, and the record hasn’t come all that close to being broken.
Mickey Mantle – The 1950s belonged to The Mick. To this day he is still remembered as likely the best switch hitter of all time.
Reggie Jackson – “Mr. October” made a name for himself in the post season, hence the nickname. He is best remembered for hitting three consecutive home runs during the deciding game of the 1977 World Series.
Don Mattingly – “Donnie Baseball” was a nine-time Gold Glover and the 1985 MVP. Despite being easily the best player on the Yankees for over a decade, the team struggled. He is currently the only player to have his number retired by the Yankee organization without having won a title.
Derek Jeter – Known simply as “The Captain,” Derek Jeter is the most recent inductee into Monument Park. For over a decade, his five World Series titles have immortalized Jeter into the annals of Yankee History.
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