The 26-time World Champion New York Yankees are the most famous baseball franchise on the face of the planet. Based in the Bronx, NY, the Yankees were founded 275 away in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1901 as the Baltimore Orioles. They would move to New York two years later and would change their name to the New York Highlanders. It would take another ten years for the team to become known as the Yankees, which they have been known as ever since.
The Early Days
Before becoming the Yankees, the franchise endured a disappointing start to their history. They had been unable to participate in a World Series, they had moved from Baltimore to New York, and whilst in the city had moved from Hilltop Park to the Pologrounds. Not exactly the history you’d expect from such a storied franchise, but things were to change in 1923. Other teams such as the San Diego Padres wish they had half the success that the New York Yankees have had.
The First of 26 (and counting)
The New York Yankees would open the 1923 season in yet another new stadium. After winning the AL Pennant in 1921 but failing in the World Series, the Yankees were forced out of their current home and went on to build a stadium in the Bronx. On April 18th Babe Ruth greeted the new home of the franchise with a three-run shot to help the Yankees defeat his former team, the Boston Red Sox 4-1.
Babe Ruth had moved to the Yankees from the Sox in 1920 – a move that would become arguably the most famous transfer in the history of world sport. The Red Sox owner sold the player to the Yankees to finance a Broadway play, as legend goes it was No, No, Nanette. However, there was not a production of this play until 1925 on Broadway, but it is clear the move was to pay for a play of sorts.
In 1923 the Yankees reached the World Series for the very first time. They would go to defeat the New York Giants 4-2 in a beat of seven series. The Yankees had five future Hall of Famers involved in this series, manager Miller Huggins, pitchers Waite Hoyt, Herb Pennock, and hitters Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.
In 1927 the Yankees put out a line-up which was to be known as Murderers’ Row, it is widely recognised to be the greatest batting order ever seen in the Major Leagues. The 1927 team was not just a Grade A batting line-up, the pitchers led the league in ERA and they, along with the 1998 Yankees, are the two teams most agree were the best ever.
1927 New York Yankees Batting Line-up:
CF Earle Combs .356, 6 HR, 64 RBI, 231 H
SS Mark Koenig .285, 3 HR, 62 RBI
RF Babe Ruth .356, 60 HR, 164 RBI
1B Lou Gehrig .373, 47 HR, 175 RBI
LF Bob Meusel .337, 8 HR, 103 RBI, 47 2B
2B Tony Lazzeri .309, 18 HR, 102 RBI
3B Joe Dugan .269, 2 HR, 43 RBI
C Pat Collins .275, 7 HR, 36 RBI
The Called Shot
In the 1932 World Series, the Babe was involved in one of the most famous incidents in Major League Baseball history. In game three of the World Series in Wrigley Field, Ruth pointed towards Center Field during an At-Bat. The slugger then proceeded to drill the ball deep into the stands and as he rounded the bases couldn’t control his smile as he led the Yankees past the Cubs to yet another World Series Championship.
To this day there is still some doubt regarding what exactly Ruth was pointing to. The amateur footage of the incident is not conclusive. Some believe the player was pointing at and taunting the opposing pitcher, some think he pointed towards where he had hit a previous Home Run, there are some that even believe that he was pointing at the Chicago Cubs bench who were jawing at him.
Whatever the truth – the legend lives on to this very day.
Babe Ruth would leave the Yankees in in 1934 and another hero would step up to the plate. Center Fielder Joe DiMaggio would become the next great Yankee. Marshalling the big open spaces in Yankee Stadium, he would go on to be yet another Yankee Hall of Famer.
The Yankees would win four consecutive World Series between 1936 and 1939, but in 1939, the Iron Man would finally be forced to hang up with first baseman’s mitt. After 2130 straight starts, Lou Gehrig would leave baseball after being diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a disease that is now commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The Yankee great would give his Luckiest Man speech on July 4th, 1939 and had his number retired. He was the first player ever to have his number retired by a team.
Joe D. – 56 Straight
In 1941 baseball had two terrific chases. Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox was chasing and ultimately achieved the incredible season of having a batting average of .400 or more (.406). For one of the Yankees, they too had history to chase. The Yankee Clipper Joe DiMaggio just kept hitting and hitting and hitting. His streak lasted an astonishing 56 games, and to this day no-one has even come within ten games of matching his achievement.
Casey Stengel Era
Regarded as a bit of a clown when he was brought in, Casey Stengel would go on to to silence all his critics during his tenure as manager. He led the Yankees to five consecutive Championships between 1949 and 1953, with stars such as Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle in the squad.
Stengel would become arguably the most successful manager of the New York Yankees, leading the club to ten World Series and in seven of them the Yankees would end up as Champions. In 1956 Don Larsen would pitch the only Perfect Game in postseason history, when he led the Yankees past the Dodgers 1-0 in Game Five of the World Series.
The M&M Boys
In 1961 the Yankees had two big slugging outfielders, CF Mickey Mantle and RF Roger Maris. Both players were hitting dingers at a frightening pace and were in the race to become the single-season HR leader. Mantle would be forced to pull out of the contest when a serious hip infection caused him to miss playing time, but Maris continued to hit the ball out of the park and on the last day of the regular season, Maris would go yard to record his 61st Home Run of the season, one more than Babe Ruth’s 60 in the 1927 season. 61 is still an AL Record and many still believe it to be the true record following the steroid era of the 1990s and 2000s.
The Yankees would win the World Series in 1961 and 1962 with these players playing a prominent role. In 1963 and 1964 they would go to the World Series but fall short of the big prize. It was then that the Yankees started to fade from prominence as they wouldn’t get back to the World Series for another 12 years.
The CBS television network bought the Yankees in 1964 and they were unable to bring success with them. With the arrival of the amateur player draft, the Yankees could not go out and buy the best young talent anymore. The team got old and star replacement were not brought in and the era became one of the blackest in Yankees history.
The arrival of a Cleveland based shipbuilder in the form of George Steinbrenner in 1973 would change the course of the New York Yankees. Steinbrenner paid $8.7m to CBS for the club, an investment that would go down as one of the best in business history. Known as The Boss – Steinbrenner would go about turning the ship around and steering the Yankees back to the forefront of the American League.
Hiring Billy Martin as manager (something which he would go on to do on no fewer than five occasions) and using free agency to his advantage, Steinbrenner would take the Yankees back to the World Series in 1976, and they would win all in 1977 and 1978.
Bucky Bleeping Dent
That World Series victory in 1978 looked unlikely in early July, when the Yankees looked up at the Boston Red Sox who led the division by 14.5 games. However, the Yankees would go on a tear and when sweep the Red Sox in a four game series at Fenway Park to join them atop of the standings.
The two would then meet in a one-game play-off to decide who advanced to the post-season. The game was played in Fenway and with the home side up 2-0 in the top of the 7th inning, the Yankees got two men on base for light hitting SS Bucky Dent. The right-hander drilled a deep fly ball to left and it just went over the Green Monster, giving the Yankees a 3-2 lead. The game would end up 5-4 to the Yankees and the Curse of the Bambino had struck again.
A Tragedy to End the Decade
Yankees Captain Thurman Munson died during the 1979 season in a tragic plane accident. The catcher had been doing test flights on his new plane when he crashed and died from his injuries. The Yankees all travelled to Canton, Ohio for the funeral despite having a game on that day. The team did make it back in time to take the field and they would win 5-4 on an emotional evening.
Long time friend Bobby Murcer used Munson’s bat throughout the game and would drive in all five runs in a 5-4 victory. The club retired the #15 and Munson’s locker still stands empty as a memorial to the Yankee great.
The 80s and Early 90s
The Yankees led by Don Mattingly would be one of the best offenses of the era, but they were unable win anything due to poor pitching performances. Mattingly would become many Yankee fans favourites and his retirement before the Yankees made it back to a World Series is an issue that still riles with fans.
George Steinbrenner was suspended from day-to-day operations after hiring someone to dig up dirt on Dave Winfield. General Managers Gene Michael and Bob Watson would change the philosophy of the ball club, shifting away from buying talented free agents to developing their own young stars in the farm system, a move that would pay dividends for the next manager who walked in the door, Mr Joe Torre.
The Torre Era
When Joe Torre arrived in the Bronx after the 1995, the NY Post famous dubbed him Clueless Joe. Soon though things changed as Torre’s team made it back to the World Series and after losing the first two games at home to the defending champion Atlanta Braves, the Yankees won four straight matches to win the title.
World Series wins would follow in 1998, 1999 and 2000, with the 1998 team being lauded as one of the best who had ever played the game. During this period the Yankees saw two Perfect Games, with David Wells and David Cone throwing the 27 straight out performances at the Stadium. Wells would later claim that he had a stinking hangover when he tossed his gem.
After the tragedies of September 11th, the Yankees would go about trying to put a smile back on New Yorkers faces. Down by two games in the best of five ALDS against the Oakland Athletics, the Yankees would go cross country to defeat the A’s twice before winning the rubber match in New York.
Game three of that series will go down in history. Leading 1-0 on a solo shot by Jorge Posada, the Athletics had Jeremy Giambi on first with two-out. Terrance Long drilled a long double into the right field corner, Yankees RF Shane Spencer picked the ball up and hurled it in, missing the cut-off men, SS Derek Jeter then came from nowhere to pick the ball up and flick it backhanded to Posada, who made a blind swipe tag on runner Giambi. The runner didn’t slide and was called out by Home Plate umpire Kerwin Danley. The play is known as the Jeter Flip and is one of the most famous of the modern era.
The Yankees would make it to the World Series and would be involved in three all-time classics in the best-of-seven series. Game Four would see the Yankees, down by two with one on and two out in the bottom of the ninth, tie it up on a drilled HR by Tino Martinez. Derek Jeter would win the game in the bottom of the tenth would an opposite field Home Run, at 12:03 AM on the first day of November, to be dubbed Mr November by the fans.
It was the first time that the World Series had ever gone into November, which had happened due to the suspension of all MLB games for a week following the tragedy.
On the very next night, the Yankees found themselves in the same predicament, two down with a man on and two out in the bottom of the ninth. Arizona Diamondback closer Byung-Hyun Kim once again stood one out away from nailing closed the Diamondbacks third victory of the series, but this time it was Scott Brosius who hit a 1-0 moon shot to left field to tie the game up. The Yankees would win in the bottom of the twelve when Alfonso Soriano knocked home Chuck Knoblunch giving the Yankees the series lead.
Game seven was billed as a heavyweight battle, Curt Schilling vs. Roger Clemens in a match-up for the ages and the two right handers didn’t disappoint, trading zeroes through the first five innings. The Diamondbacks scored in the sixth, but the Yankees responded in the seventh. In the top of the eighth Alfonso Soriano drilled a pitch from near enough his shoelaces deep into the desert sky and the Yankees led 2-1.
The greatest closer in post-season history Mariano Rivera came out of the ‘pen to nail down the Yankees fourth straight World Series but it wasn’t to be. A slippery ball on a put-out to second on a bunt put runners on first and second. The next batter bunted but the force-out at third was made. However, Rivera couldn’t complete the deal as Luis Gonzalez blooped a single over the drawn-in infield leading to wild celebrations for the home team.
The Yankees would make the post-season in every year of the Joe Torre era – 2002 would prove to be uneventful but 2003 and 2004 had their moments…
2003 & 2004 ALCS
By now the rivalry was peaking between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. They met in the 2003 ALCS for the AL Pennant and would have two classic encounters, game three and game seven, both of which were Roger Clemens v Pedro Martinez contests.
Game three saw the Sox staking Pedro to an early 2-0 lead, but the Yankees were sitting on the Martinez fastball which was topping out at 92 MPH. The Yankees would hit Pedro hard and go 4-2 up before the Red Sox pitcher threw at Karim Garcia. The benches stirred and words were exchanged but nothing happened. In the bottom of the inning Clemens threw high to Manny Ramirez who charged the mound.
The benches cleared and Pedro Martinez would throw Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer to the floor. It was an ugly scene, but no ejections were made by Crew Chief Tim Mcclelland. Clemens would go on to keep his emotions under control to lead the Yankees to a 4-3 victory.
In game seven though Clemens had nothing and left the game with the Sox 4-0 up. Jason Giambi drilled a couple of solo shots and David Ortiz hit one of his own for the Sox to put the score at 5-2 going into the bottom of the eighth. Nick Johnson was retired but Derek Jeter drilled an opposite field double before being brought home by Bernie Williams on an RBI single to CF.
Red Sox manager Grady Little came out of the dugout to speak to Pedro on the mound and asked him whether he wanted to carry on. The starter convinced his boss to let him continue despite having Alan Embree and Mike Timlin ready and waiting in the ‘pen. The next batter Hideki Matsui drilled a ground rule double to RF before Jorge Posada blooped a two RBI double to short CF tying the game up.
The Yankees would go on to win on the first pitch in the bottom of the eleventh when Aaron Boone launched a shot deep into the night off knuckleballer Tim Wakefield to seal a 6-5 win and to advance to the World Series. The Yankees would go on to lose the World Series to the Florida Marlins in six games.
In 2004 though the curse was officially reversed as the Red Sox came back from a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series, the first time it had happened in the history of the sport.
2005 and Beyond
The New York Yankees kept trying to move forward. Following the 2003 season, the Yankees brought in Alex Rodriguez – who is widely regarded as the best player in the game. However, his struggles in the post-season have been well documented and he has yet to appear in a World Series.
Three straight years of ALDS defeats though left the Yankees in a predicament. Everyone thought that veteran manager Joe Torre was one his way out, but he was offered a new deal by the club but walked away from the job as the offer came with a pay cut. Torre would resurface in Los Angeles with the Dodgers.
Former ML catcher Joe Girardi was named as Joe Torre’s replacement as manager. The former Yankee has had one year of managerial experience, with a season as boss of the Florida Marlins. Down there he managed a young team and took them to a more than credible season, for which he received NL Manager of the Year honours. However, he was sacked by the team for other reasons and spent the 2007 season as a broadcaster for the YES Network and FOX television.
The Yankees still have an excellent looking line-up and an exciting, if unproven rotation.
Predicted Line-up/Rotation for 2008:
DH: Johnny Damon
SS: Derek Jeter
RF: Bobby Abreu
3B: Alex Rodriguez
1B: Jason Giambi
LF: Hideki Matsui
C: Jorge Posada
2B: Robinson Cano
CF: Melky Cabrera
SP: Chien Ming Wang
SP: Andy Pettitte
SP: Philip Hughes
SP: Joba Chamberlain
SP: Mike Mussina
CL: Mariano Rivera
1 Billy Martin
3 Babe Ruth
4 Lou Gehrig
5 Joe DiMaggio
7 Mickey Mantle
8 Billy Dickey
8 Yogi Berra
9 Roger Maris
10 Phil Rizzuto
15 Thurman Munson
16 Whitey Ford
23 Don Mattingly
32 Elston Howard
37 Casey Stengel
44 Reggie Jackson
49 Ron Guidry
The New York Yankees are moving from Yankee Stadium after the 2008 season. However they are staying in the Bronx, building the new stadium just over the way from where the current Yankee Stadium sits. The dimensions are identical to the current venue of the ball club.
Left Field – 318 ft
Left Center – 399 ft
Center Field – 408 ft
Right Center – 385 ft
Right Field – 314 ft