Tag Archives: Yankees

April 27-FRAGILE BABE RUTH HONORED

1947 | NEW YORK, NEW YORK – “The only real game in the world, I think, is baseball.” Those are the words Babe Ruth mustered up enough energy to utter on this date in 1947. He appeared at Yankee Stadium on Babe Ruth Day despite the havoc throat cancer wreaked on his body. He’d been diagnosed the previous fall.

A crowd of 58,339 fans could see the Babe in person, millions more heard him from the sound of Yankee Stadium piped into major league and minor league ball parks all over the country. April 27, 1947 was declared Babe Ruth Day in every organized baseball league.

George Herman Ruth was born January 6, 1895 in Baltimore, Maryland, one of eight children, he and a sister the only ones to survive infancy. Young George Herman was sent off to boarding school, St. Mary’s Industrial School, because his parents couldn’t control him. Some believe Ruth’s parents simply abandoned him.

While at St. Mary’s, one of Ruth’s passions became baseball. He could hit from the time he first played, but it was his pitching that attracted the interest of the Baltimore Orioles of the International League. They offered him a contract.

This is where the name “Babe” evolved. Still short of his 19th birthday, Ruth wasn’t a legal adult. Oriole’s owner Jack Dunn adopted Ruth. Not long after, players began referring to him as “Dunn’s baby.” That connection, his child-like features and the fact that he was a rookie made the nickname, “Babe” a natural.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
Babe Ruth: A Biography by Wayne Stewart, 2006
BabeRuth.com
Babe Ruth

April 18-A HOUSE FOR RUTH

1923 | NEW YORK, NEW YORK  ‘The house that Ruth built’ opened on this date in 1923. That’s what Yankee Stadium quickly became known as.

Babe Ruth  came to the Yankees in 1920, the result of an infamous purchase from the Boston Red Sox. He went on to become the biggest drawing card in all of sports.

Yankee Stadium, in effect, disappeared in the mid-1970’s when it was completely overhauled.

Yankee Stadium was baseball’s first triple deck structure. It was also the first baseball venue to be called a “stadium.” Others were usually called “Parks” or “Fields.”

It had some interesting dimensions that changed from time to time. For most of the original stadium’s history the fences down the foul lines were quite inviting: 301 down the left and 296 down the right. Left quickly ballooned out to over 400 feet. Straight-away center-field was 461 feet from home plate. Yankee Stadium, in effect, disappeared in the mid-1970’s when it was completely overhauled.

Before Yankee Stadium, beginning in 1913, the Bronx Bombers were tenants of the New York Giants, but tenant and landlord had a falling out in 1920. The Yankees were told to leave as soon as possible. The discord was partly due to the Yankees Bronx Bombers doubling their attendance that season to almost 1.3 million fans, 100,000 more than the Giants. Babe Ruth, with his prodigious home runs, was the main attraction. So Yankee Stadium was built a quarter mile from the Polo Grounds.

The Yankees won the first of many World Championships in that inaugural year of 1923. The victim – their former landlord, the New York Giants.

April 17-A YOUNG MICKEY MANTLE DISPLAYS HIS POWER

1953 | WASHINGTON, D.C. – Imagine someone hitting a ball the length of almost two football fields! Sportswriters, and others who claim to know, believe 21-year old Mickey Mantle did just that on this date in 1953. The prevailing belief is that the blast traveled an estimated 565 feet out of old Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C. where the old Washington Senators (today’s Minnesota Twins) were hosting the New York Yankees.

Mantle wasn’t a super star yet. At this stage of his career, he was a young, inconsistent ‘can miss’ switch-hitter from Commerce, Oklahoma.

On this day, Mantle was batting right-handed. On a 1 and 0 pitch, he crushed the ball. According to those present, it not only cleared the regular fence, it sailed over a 55 foot wall 70 feet behind the left center field fence! No one had ever done that before. A ten-year old boy reportedly found the ball in a backyard 105 feet further back.

Why Baseball Needs a Pitch-Clock

Almost overlooked in the same game were some of the talents speed helped Mantle bring to his game early in his career. He dragged a bunt for a single and stole a base.

Before a series of nagging injuries, and the toll of many nights on the town, Mantle was clocked at 3.1 seconds from the left-handed batter’s box to first. One of the fastest times ever recorded.

 

April 9-BASEBALL GOES INDOORS

1965 | HOUSTON, TEXAS – Baseball went inside for the first time on this date in 1965. The Houston Colt .45s (today’s Houston Astros) played the New York Yankees in an exhibition game at the Harris County Domed Stadium, the first domed baseball stadium in the world.

The Yankees won 2-1 in 12 innings. Mickey Mantle hit the first-ever indoor home run. President Lyndon Johnson, a Texas native, was among the 47,878 fans at the game. The Harris County Domed Stadium name was soon changed to the Astrodome – the so-called eighth wonder of the world.

An architectural marvel, the Dome presented unanticipated challenges. It was built to allow sunlight to come through a series of clear plastic panels in the roof, thus allowing real grass to be planted. It didn’t work. The grass grew okay, but the players couldn’t see fly balls because of the tremendous glare each panel produced. The panels were painted over to block the sun, but of course the grass wouldn’t grow. Necessity being what it is, artificial grass was invented to put down on the field, hence the name Astroturf.

Astroturf became widespread in baseball and football stadiums for indoor and outdoor sports in the 1970s. Thankfully, many teams have gone back to real grass, including the Houston Astros. Today, those who want artificial turf can at least install something that looks and feels like grass, the most popular being FieldTurf.

Contributing Sources:
The Houston Chronicle, Houston, Texas, April 10, 1965

March 12 in baseball history-‘I DIDN’T KNOW THAT’

1903 | NEW YORK, NEW YORK – The New York Yankees are synonymous with Major League Baseball, especially the American League, but did you know they were not one of the original American League teams (actually they were, but why let the facts stand in the way of a good story?). Let me explain:

This much is true; there was no American League team in New York City when the AL was established in 1901. New York officially got a team on this date in 1903 when the owners approved a franchise move.

The franchise that would become the New York Yankees existed in Baltimore as the Orioles, not the Orioles currently taking up residence by Chesapeake Bay. Those Orioles trace their origins back to Milwaukee as the Brewers, no not the current Brewers, the Brewers of old that became the St. Louis Browns, which then moved to Baltimore and became the current Orioles.

Clear as pine tar?

This list of the charter American League franchises of the inaugural year of 1901 and what became of them may help:

  • Cleveland Blues – name changed to Bronchos in 1902, Naps in 1903 and finally Indians in 1914.
  • Milwaukee Brewers – Franchise moved to St. Louis in 1902 and became the Browns, moved to Baltimore in 1954 and became the Orioles
  • Baltimore Orioles – moved to New York in 1903 and became the Highlanders. Name changed to Yankees in 1913.
  • Chicago White Stockings – officially became the White Sox in 1903
  • Boston Americans – became the Red Sox in 1906.
  • Philadelphia Athletics – moved to Kansas City in 1956. Moved to Oakland in 1968. Named reduced to A’s over time.
  • Washington Senators – moved to Minneapolis/St. Paul in 1961 and became the Minnesota Twins
  • Detroit Tigers – remain in Detroit as the Tigers

It appears the Detroit Tigers are the only charter franchise to neither move nor change its name in the slightest.

Contributing sources:
Baseball-Reference “Leagues”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_League
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_Yankees
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston_Red_Sox#Team_renamed:_Red_Sox

March 5th in baseball history-YANK PITCHERS SWAP WIVES

1973 | FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDANew York Yankee pitchers Fritz Peterson and  Mike Kekich dropped a bombshell on spring training camp on this date in 1973. They announced to the world that they had swapped wives… and kids and a poodle and a terrier. “It wasn’t a wife swap,” they said, “It’s a life swap.”

America had lived through the turbulent, permissive 1960’s, but this was a shock on so many levels, not the least of which was that the swap was announced to the world.

Just like in baseball; you win some, you lose some and some get rained out. Peterson and Kekich had been close friends for years, and said there was nothing sordid about the “affair.” They and their wives began discussing the switch the previous summer and put it in effect in October, 1972.

Fritz Peterson was still living with Susanne Kekich and her two daughters, aged 4 and 2, at the time of the press conference, but Mike Kekich and Marilyn Peterson‘s relationship had already gone south. Their living arrangement with her two sons, aged 5 and 2, had been on-again/off-again. It also became apparent that the two left-handers had had a falling out over one affair working and the other not. Murray Chass wrote in the next day’s New York Times that, “…it was obvious they had bitter feelings toward each other.”

Fritz Peterson and the former Susanne Kekich eventually married and had four children of their own. The last that was heard they were still married and living outside Chicago. Peterson attended a Yankees charity event in Fort Lauderdale in January of 2013. The Mike Kekich and Marilyn Peterson affair was over before it started. Kekich eventually remarried and at last report was living in New Mexico.

Both achieved some success on the mound, but neither saw their careers flourish after the swap. Kekich finished his 12-year major league career with a 39-51 record. Peterson had career record of 133-131 over an 11-year career. He also did better on the domestic front.

Contributing sources:
The New York Times, March 6, 1973, pages 51-52, by Murray Chass
The New York Times, September 9, 2009, Fritz Peterson writes a book
Washington Times, March 7, 2005
The Palm Beach Post, January 26, 2013   
Jackson, MS Clarion Ledger
, by Rick Cleveland, August 29, 2000

March 1 in baseball history-MANTLE RETIRES

1969 | FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA • An American icon of the 1950’s and 60’s retired on this date in 1969. Mickey Mantle made the announcement at the spring training home of the New York Yankees, ending an 18-year career.

It’s remarkable it lasted that long considering “Mick” endured a variety of injuries, mostly to his legs. In announcing his decision, Mantle revealed the frustrations of a proud athlete, he was only 37, whose body would not perform, “I don’t hit the ball when I need to. I can’t steal when I need to, I can’t score from second base when I need to.”

Mantle had superstar numbers, but they could have been better. He was the prototype 5-tool player when he came up to the Yankees at age 19 – run, hit, hit for power, throw and catch.

Early in his career he was described as the fastest player from home to first, but that was before leg injuries turned him into a 4-tool star.

Career statistics:

  • 3-time MVP
  • 16-time all-star
  • On 12 pennant winners
  • On 7 World Series championship teams
  • 536 home runs
  • .298 average
  • .421 on-base percentage
  • .557 slugging percentage

Contributing sources:
New York Times, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, March 2, 1969
More on Mantle

White is the First Black

FEBRUARY 10, 1971 | NEW YORK, NEW YORK – Former New York and San Francisco Giant, St. Louis Cardinal and Philadelphia Phillie Bill White was named the radio play-by-play man for the New York Yankees on this date in 1971.

He became the first Black to be the regular play-by-play guy for any major league team. The Associated Press described the development in the vernacular of the day, “the first Negro to hold such a job in the majors.” White held the play-by-play job for 18 years.

White was a pretty good player too. In a 13-year career, mostly as a first baseman, he was a 5-time all-star and a 7-time Gold Glove winner – as the best in the league at his position. Oh, and I almost forgot, Bill White was president of the National League from 1989 to 1994.

Contributing Source:
Associated Press (AP), February 11, 1971

Never know unless you try

FEBRUARY 1, 1999 | NEW YORK, NEW YORK – The New York Yankees traded a young prospect named Mike Lowell to the Florida Marlins on this date in 1999. They got three minor league pitchers in return; Mark Johnson, Eddie Yarnall and Todd Noel.

With Mike Lowell, and several other quality players, the Marlins won their second World Series in 2003 – beating the Yankees.

Lowell became a 4-time all-star with tw.o World Series rings, one as Most Valuable Player (2007 for the Boston Red Sox). Eddie Yarnall appeared in just seven games for the Yankees and was out of baseball by 2001. Mark Johnson was picked up by the Detroit Tigers after never making it out of the Yankees farm system. He appeared in handful of games for the Tigers in 2000, but he too was also out of baseball by 2001. Todd Noel never made it to the major leagues and is no where to be found.

With Mike Lowell, and several other quality players, the Marlins won their second World Series in 2003 – beating the Yankees. Lowell was traded to the Boston Red Sox after the 2005 season and helped them win the World Series in ’07. They made the playoffs in ’08 winning the American League Division Series but losing to the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL Championship Series.

If the goal of any move a team makes is to get to the post-season, the Yankees succeeded, more often than Lowell’s teams. The Yankees have been to the playoffs nine of the last ten years, appearing in four World Series, winning two of them, but they didn’t accomplish any of that with players from the Lowell trade. The odds are Yankee fans probably do not think the Lowell trade in 1999 was a good one.

Contributing Sources:
Yankees post season
Marlins post season
Red Sox post season

TEAM VALUE$ SKYROCKET

JANUARY 25,1945 | NEW YORK, NEW YORK The New York Yankees were sold today in baseball history for $2.5 million to Larry MacPhail, Dan Topping and Del Webb.

Compare that sale price to the value of MLB teams today. The increases are almost incomprehensible. Even comparing for inflation, they’re way beyond the hikes in costs of every thing else.

The increase in team values over just the last 9 years is staggering, as this list from Forbes Magazine comparing 2007 to 2016 (teams are ranked by their value in 2016):

              2007    2016
 1. Yankees   $1.2B   $3.4B
 2. Dodgers   $632M   $2.5B
 3. Red Sox   $724M   $2.3B
 4. Giants    $459M   $2.25B
 5. Cubs      $592M   $2.2B
 6. Braves    $458M   $1.75B
 7. Mets      $736M   $1.65B
 8. Cardinals $460M   $1.6B
 9. Angels    $431M   $1.34B
 10. Nationals $447M  $1.3B
 11. Phillies  $457M  $1.24B
 12. Rangers  $365M   $1.23B
 13. Mariners $436M   $1.2B
 14. Tigers   $357M   $1.15B
 15. Astros   $442M   $1.1B
 16. White Sox $381M  $1.05B
 17. Orioles  $395M   $1B
 18. Pirates  $274M   $975M
 19. Diamondbacks $339M $925M
 20. Twins    $288M   $910M
 21. Reds     $307M   $905B
 22. Blue Jays $344M  $900M
 23. Padres   $367M   $890M
 24. Brewers  $287M   $875M
 25. Royals   $282M   $865M
 26. Rockies  $317M   $860M
 27. Indians  $364M   $800M
 28. A's      $292M   $725M
 29. Marlins  $244M   $675M
 30. Rays     $267M   $650M

Comparing the cost of living in 1945 with today:

  • The average cost of a new home today ($360,000) is 78 times what it was in 1945 ($4,600).
  • The average cost of a gallon of gas today ($2.33) is 16 times greater than the average gallon in 1945 ($0.15).

The value of the Yankees is 1,360 times greater than it was in 1945.

Contributing Sources:
Forbes Magazine
The New York Times, January 26, 1945
Census Bureau – home prices