Tag Archives: Yankees

June 16-Yankees revisit a peaceful RFK

*2006 | WASHIGTON, D.C. – The New York Yankees returned to RFK Stadium in Washington, D. C. on this date in 2006. They beat the Washington Nationals 7-5 in inter-league play.

The last time the Bronx Bombers played at RFK was September 30, 1971 – the last game played by the old Washington Senators.  The Yankees won that game too, but by a 9-0 forfeit when fans stormed the field in the bottom of the 9th and wouldn’t leave. The fans were upset with the Senators leaving the nation’s capital for the second time in ten years.

Here’s where you need a scorecard to keep track; The Senators left the first time in 1961 and became the Minnesota Twins, but the deal that allowed owner Calvin Griffith to leave Washington for the Twin Cities brought a new franchise to D.C. in 1961 also called the Senators. The new Senators played at old Griffiths Stadium, still owned by the Griffiths’ family, until “District of Columbia Stadium” was ready in 1962. D.C. Stadium became known as RFK Stadium after Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1968.

The new Senators’ attendance reflected their play – dismal. They moved again in 1971, this time to the Dallas where they became, and remain, the Texas Rangers.

To pour salt on the wounds of fans in Washington, D.C., the Minnesota Twins (the original Senators) made it to the World Series four years after leaving the nation’s capital (1965). And they won the World Series in 1987 and 1991.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
Washington Senators

June 16, 2006 box score/play-by-play

May 22 – 620-foot home run?

*1963 | NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK  –  Mickey Mantle himself thought he hit the longest home run of his career on this date in 1963. This from a man who was quite modest about his accomplishments. It was a walk-off home run in the 11th to break a 7-7 tie against the Kansas City A’s (today’s Oakland A’s).

The Baltimore Sun reported the next day that those who saw the mammoth blast are certain that the ball was rising when it hit the façade of Yankee Stadium’s roof in right field. That would be about 115 feet above the ground, 370 feet, at ground level, from home plate.

So how far did the ball travel? Or how far would it have traveled had the façade of the roof not been in the way? Many record books say the ball traveled over 600 feet. That’s more than double the distance from home plate to the right field corner. It’s the length of two football fields.

Is there a little hyperbole here? Could Mickey have been given the benefit of the exaggeration because he was likable, handsome and hit a lot of tape measure home runs?

What cannot be denied are the statistics of a guy who was a speed demon when he broke in at age 19. Look at his on-base percentage. And while Mantle was a great RBI guy, he had more runs scored.

Mickey Mantle Career Stats
Batting average: .298
On base percentage: .421
Home runs: 536
RBI: 1,509
Runs scored: 1,677

Contributing Source:
The Baltimore Sun, May 23, 1963

MAY 2-SHOCKER! GEHRIG NOT IN LINEUP

1939 | DETROIT, MICHIGAN – On this date in 1939 the New York Yankees crushed the Detroit Tigers 22 to 2. But the game was more noteworthy for who didn’t play; Lou Gehrig. The Iron horse first baseman voluntarily decided for the good of the team he couldn’t play. He had played every single game for 14 years – 2,130 games! Gehrig’s record of most consecutive games played would stand until Cal Ripken broke it in 1995.

Something really had to be wrong for Gehrig to keep himself out of the lineup on May 2, 1939. Something was.

Ludwig Heinrich Gehrig was born in New York City in 1903. His name was Americanized to Henry Louis Gehrig. He went to Columbia University in New York on a football scholarship, but also played baseball. Gehrig left Columbia to sign with the Yankees.

As legend has it, early in his career, the Yankees offered Gehrig to the Boston Red Sox for a starting pitcher as kind of re-payment for the Babe Ruth deal a few years earlier. The Red Sox didn’t want Gehrig.

Something really had to be wrong for Gehrig to keep himself out of the lineup on May 2, 1939. Something was. It was Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), which later became known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, had attacked his body. He was too weak to play baseball. His health deteriorated shockingly fast. Henry Louis Gehrig died just two years later.

Contributing sources:
ALS.org
Lou Gehrig.com 

 

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
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