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

Jan 3, 1973 – STEINBRENNER ERA BEGINS

NEW YORK, NEW YORK  George Steinbrenner bought the New York Yankees for $10-million on this day in baseball history. He put together a group that bought the team from CBS, but Steinbrenner was clearly the boss.

George Steinbrenner would prove to be the most domineering owner since Connie Mack. Where would the Yankees be without him? Where would Seinfeld be without him? He was more famous, or infamous, than many of his players. He was not one to sit back and let the baseball people run the team, although that’s what he said was his intention in 1973. As time went on he assumed more and more control of the daily operations, and grew more and more impatient, going through a slew of managers in a short time. He was also loyal, he hired former Yankee second baseman Billy Martin as manager five times, which of course means he fired him five times.

George Steinbrenner was born July 4, 1930. He grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland, the son of a Great Lakes shipping tycoon. He did well enough in the family business to have enough money to pursue the Yankees. Despite having little experience in baseball, he made a successful bid on the Yankees at the age of 42.

Prior to purchasing the Yankees, Steinbrenner’s experience was in other sports. He ran track and played football in college. He was an assistant football coach at Northwestern and later at Purdue. Steinbrenner got into sports ownership in 1960 when he bought the Cleveland Pipers of the National Industrial Basketball League.

As owner of the New York Yankees, Steinbrenner found himself in the baseball commissioner’s dog house more than once. He was suspended from baseball for two years in 1974 after making illegal campaign contributions to Richard Nixon’s presidential re-election campaign. He was suspended again in 1990 after making payments to a confessed gambler who had some dirt on one of his former players, Dave Winfield.

But you can’t argue with success. During Steinbrenner’s reign the Yankees went to the World Series ten times and won seven of them. And that $10 Million investment in 1973 is now estimated to be worth over $3 Billion.

George Steinbrenner died in 2010 at the age of 80.

Contributing sources:
More on George Steinbrenner
MLB Team values