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Ten Things You Need To Know About The New York Yankees
1. The Team Was Founded In Baltimore
The vaunted franchise that is now the New York Yankees didn’t get their start in the Big Apple. No, they began in the city of one of their rivals. In 1900, the newly renamed “American League” wanted to expand to New York City. Their plans were thwarted by the team then playing in Gotham, the New York Giants. Undeterred, the American League put a team in Baltimore and dubbed them the “Orioles.” The New York Yankees began their existence as the Baltimore Orioles.
In 1902, the owner of the Giants gained controlling interest of the Orioles and began raiding it of its best players—the same thing the Yankees do to other teams now. This stopped when the American League intervened and took over the team. Between the 1902 and 1903 seasons, the National League and American League agreed to end their hostilities and coexist. Now that they were partners, Ban Johnson, the president of the AL, wanted to put an American League team in New York City to play alongside the Giants of the National League. His suggestion was put to a vote and passed with only one dissenter (yes, you guessed it, the Giants voted “no”). The Orioles were selected to move to the “City That Never Sleeps” and once there they changed their name to the “New York Highlanders.”
“Highlanders” was a reference to the fact that the franchise played on one of the highest points in Manhattan. At the time, a lot of AL teams were affectionately called “Americans” by the press. And another word for “Americans” is “Yankees” or “Yanks.” Both words were easier to fit into newspaper headlines than either “Highlanders” or “Americans.” In 1913, the franchise moved to the Polo Grounds which was situated on the Harlem River. Now, the name “Highlanders” no longer made any sense. Since the New York media had already been calling the team “Yankees” for years it seemed only logical to make that their new name. The franchise made it official before the start of the 1913 season.
2. Yankees’ Championship Droughts Are No Droughts At All
When most baseball fans say “wait ‘till next year” they are being optimistically hopeful. When the Yankees fans say it they are pretty much being prophetic. The team’s longest championship drought is a mere 22 years. That drought is from their inception in 1901 to their first championship in 1923. After that, it’s 18 years from 1978 to 1996 and then 15 years from 1963 to 1977. There are at least 23 championship droughts in the history of the majors that are a decade longer than the Yankees’ longest dry spell.
Needless to say, several franchises would kill to have their longest championship drought be just 22 years. What’s even more impressive about the Yankees’ dominance is the relatively few losing seasons they’ve had. In their first 111 years, the Yankees suffered just 22 losing campaigns. The franchises longest stretch of below .500 seasons is four from 1989 to 1992. To put that in perspective, the Seattle Mariners, who entered the league in 1977, have 24 losing seasons.
New York Yankees Championship Droughts
22 years (1901 to 1923)
18 years (1978 to 1996)
15 years (1963 to 1977)
9 years (2000 to 2009)
4 years (1943 to 1947)
4 Years (1932 to 1936)
4 years (1923 to 1927)
3 years (1953 to 1956)
2 Years (1996 to 1998)
2 years (1947 to 1949)
2 years and counting (2009 to ????)
3. Babe Ruth Is The Greatest Yankee Of All-Time
This is where we’re supposed to irked long time Yankees fan by writing that the greatest player in franchise history is Derek Jeter. Or we try to impress everyone with our vast knowledge of Yankees baseball and name a player out of left field like Yogi Berra (even though he’s a catcher). We’re not going to do that. In fact, we can’t do that. It may be a cliché, it may be boring, but the greatest Yankee of all-time is Babe Ruth. And it’s not even close.
While wearing the pinstripes, the Bambino was nothing short of dominant. Baseball geeks have this stat called “Wins Above Replacement” or WAR. This stat is supposed to sum up a player’s value in one number. It answers the question “If this player wasn’t on the team, and was replaced by a minor leaguer or a bench player, how many wins would the team be losing?” Well, Ruth’s WAR is 149.6. Only two other Yankees have a WAR over 100, Mickey Mantle (120.2) and Lou Gehrig (118.4), but neither hall of famer comes close to gaudy numbers produced by the great George Herman Ruth.
In the summer of 2011, Ruth and Jeter tied in a poll of 1,500 New Yorkers for the greatest Yankee of all-time although women overwhelmingly picked the 21st century shortstop over the roaring 1920’s slugger. This is probably due to Jeter’s good looks and his standing as a celebrity and Ruth’s reputation for being an out-of-shape glutton. The team tore down the “House That Ruth Built” for the “House that Jeter Built” meaning he’s definitely one of the franchise’s all-time greats but statistically he ranks far behind Ruth, Mantle, Gehrig, and Joe DiMaggio.
Bottom line, as a Yankee Ruth had a batting average of .349, hit 659 home runs, and knocked in 2,213 runs. He’s the one baseball player everyone on the planet can name and his exploits have turned him into a legend—he’s more Paul Bunyan than a ballplayer. How can Ruth not be the greatest Yankee when he’s arguably one of the greatest athletes in the history of North American sports?
4. The Yankees Dominate Their Rivalry With The Boston Red Sox
The rivalry between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox is one of the most popular in all of sports. Their frequent meetings draw national attention from the media. Their heated rivalry is also one of baseball’s oldest. The Yanks and Red Sox first clashed on April 26, 1901. In their first 2,100 meetings (or through the end of the 2011 season), the Yankees won 1,132 of those contests giving them a winning percentage of .542.
That may not sound decisive but it doesn’t tell the entire story. Up until 1919, the Red Sox were one of the American League’s best teams. Then they traded Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees before the start of the 1920 season. From 1920 through 2003, a period known as the “Curse of the Bambino,” the Yanks finished the regular season with a better record than the Red Sox 66 times. Also during this time, the Yankees won 26 World Series titles and 39 AL Pennants; the Red Sox won just four AL Pennants.
For the Red Sox, the curse was broken in 2004 when the team, playing the Yankees, rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win the American League Championship Series in seven games. It was the first time a team has blown a three-games-to-none lead in a best-of-seven series in Major League Baseball history. Of course, that’s nothing more than a statistical anomaly. You play enough games and something like that is bound to happen. What is a far greater collapse was the Red Sox blowing a 14-and-a-half game lead in the 1978 season. The Red Sox’s historic choke resulted in an exciting one-game playoff. During that single game, the Yankees defeated the Red Sox 5-4 to advance to the league championship series. Worse yet, the win came on the heels of a three-run homer by rookie shortstop Bucky Dent. The dinger was only Dent’s fifth of the season.
5. “It's About Syllables, Dick. It's About How Many Beats There Are"
Joe DiMaggio is famously mentioned in the 1968 song by Simon and Garfunkel, “Mrs. Robinson.” It’s one of the most famous pop culture references ever made about a New York Yankee. Interestingly, the song’s composer, Paul Simon, was a huge Mickey Mantle fan. He was once asked by Dick Cavett why he used DiMaggio’s name instead of Mantle’s. Simon replied, “It's about syllables, Dick. It's about how many beats there are.” In other words, “Where have you gone, Mickey Mantle” just didn’t sound right (nor do a lot of words rhyme with “Mantle”).
DiMaggio did not initially like the song which eventually went to number one on the Billboard 200. His response was “I haven’t gone anywhere.” However, "The Yankee Clipper" changed his tune after he met Simon and the diminutive songwriter explained the meaning of his lyrics. Simon wasn’t begrudging the consecutive hits king, but paying tribute to his grace and dignity. The composer was lamenting the loss of heroes in an age of sensationalism and shamelessness. Simon later performed “Mrs. Robinson” at Yankee Stadium shortly after DiMaggio’s death.
6. The Best Way To Reach Yankee Stadium Is By Mass Transit
Of course there’s not a city in a world that doesn’t think the best way to reach to any of their major attractions is by mass transit, but in the case of Yankee Stadium it’s actually true.
From the West Side, fans can take the B and D subway trains while east siders can use the No. 4. Remember that the Yankee Stadium subway stop is located on East 161st and River Avenue. A subway ride only takes 25 minutes (give or take) from Midtown Manhattan. You can also get to Yankee Stadium by train. The stadium is served by the Hudson Line. You’ll want to get off at the Yankees - E. 153rd Street Station. Additionally, Yankee Stadium is a single ticket ride from Harlem and New Haven. For more information on how to get to Yankee Stadium call MTA at (718) 330-1234 or visit http://www.mta.info.
If you really want to drive to the ballpark you can get to the venue from the Major Deegan Expressway (Interstate 87) by taking Exit 3 (Grand Concourse and East 138th Street), Exit 4 (East 149th Street) or Exit 5 (East 161st Street) going northbound. Coming from the south, you’ll want to take Exit 6 (East 153rd Street and River Avenue) or Exit 5 (East 161st Street).
In case you need to find in-depth directions on the internet, Yankee Stadium’s address is One East 161st Street, Bronx, NY 10451.
Yankee Stadium opens its gates two hours before the start of every home game. It’s recommended that you arrive an hour before first pitch to make sure you can a) enjoy the ballpark’s many amenities and b) avoid long lines. You are subject to metal detector searches, pat downs, and inspections of your belongings.
It doesn’t matter what it’s used for, or what’s inside of it, but you can’t bring a bag into Yankee Stadium that’s larger than 16 inches by 16 inches by 8 inches. Yankee Stadium also prohibits briefcases, coolers, hard-sided containers, costumes, masks, beach balls, blow horns, glass bottles, cans, plastic bottles, laser pens, laptop computers, and video cameras. The stadium also has a ban on stuff like iPads and Kindles (so no reading on the subway). What do they do with items they confiscate? It’s anyone’s guess but their official line is there’s no place to store any of the stuff they seize.
The will let you bring in factory-sealed water bottles that are one liter or smaller. But they won’t let you enter if you appear intoxicated. Also, there’s no re-entry in Yankee Stadium.
7. The Greatest Team In Franchise History Is The 1927 Yankees
Once again, we go with a cliché but we care more about the “truth” than being different. No matter how you look at it, the greatest team in Yankees history, and for that matter the history of baseball, is the 1927 Yankees. Known as “Murderers' Row,” the team featured six hall of famers including Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. That year, Ruth hit a then-record 60 home runs and Gehrig had 175 RBI (11 more than the Bambino). The team won 110 games (in a 154-game season) and finished 19 wins ahead of their nearest competitor. They also scored 102 runs more than any other American League club. Oh yeah, the Yanks swept the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series and outscored a rather formidable Bucs team 23 to 10.
The ’27 team’s closest rivals are the 1998 Yankees. That squad, which featured Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, won 114 games in the regular season and then another 11 in the post season. Altogether, they lost just 50 times. Jeter finished the season with a .324 batting average, Rivera had 36 saves, and starting pitcher David Cone collected 20 wins. The Yanks’ team ERA in ‘98 was nearly half-a-run better than any other club in the junior circuit.
One might give the nod to the 1998 Yanks because they were playing in a desegregated league while the 1927 team was not. And who knows, in a few years maybe six players from the 1998 club will be enshrined in the HOF. However, Jeter’s bunch had an unfair advantage over Ruth’s crew. The 1998 Yankees team was fortunate enough to play franchises like the Seattle Mariners and Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Hall Of Famers On 1927 Yankees Team
Miller Huggins (Manager)
8. George Steinbrenner Did Appear On Seinfeld
George Steinbrenner owned the New York Yankees from 1973 through mid-July of 2010. While one of the most famous (and controversial) owners in all of sports, “The Boss” was also a character on one of the most popular sitcoms of all-time, Seinfeld. Steinbrenner the character, voiced by the show’s co-creator Larry David but never seen on camera, appeared in 14 episodes.
At first, Steinbrenner didn’t like the comedy program because they had used a Yankees pennant without his permission. He also thought “George Costanza” was named after him in an effort to besmirch his character. However, the Yankees owner became a fan of the show once he actually watched it.
The real George Steinbrenner never appeared on an episode of Seinfeld that aired during its original run on NBC from 1989 through 1998. He did however film three scenes for the season 7 finale, "The Invitations." Those scenes landed on the cutting room floor and never aired. They are available on DVD (Season 7, Disc 4).
The official line from the show is that Steinbrenner’s scenes were cut due to time. One has to wonder if his scene weren’t cut because he was a really bad actor or because he was difficult to work with. Nonetheless, Steinbrenner had no problem with the decision.
9. The Most Underrated Yankee Of All-Time Is Bill Dickey
The most underrated Yankee of all-time is catcher Bill Dickey. The Louisiana-native played for the Yanks from 1928 through 1946 (he missed two years because of World War II). He was a very good defensive catcher. He had an accurate throwing arm and the savvy to handle a pitching staff. He was a clutch hitter who batted .313, had an on-base percentage of .382, and a WAR of 54.4. He also finished inside the top ten in MVP voting five times. Dickey was an integral part of seven Yankees championship teams and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1954. After he was done playing, he coached his replacement, Yogi Berra, and Yogi’s replacement, Elston Howard.
Honorable mention for most underrated Yankee player of all-time, and following in our tradition of phallic sounding names, is Willie Randolph. He wore pinstripes from 1976 to 1988. He played second baseman on the Yanks’ 1977 and 1978 championship teams and made the All-Star team five times. Although a great defensive player, Randolph never won a Gold Glove. He had the misfortune of playing during the same time as Frank White and Lou Whitaker. He did win the Silver Slugger award at second base in 1980. Randolph was a terrific bunter and very patience at the plate. As a Yankee, Randolph had a WAR of 49.8. That’s a higher WAR than Don Mattingly (39.8), Alex Rodriquez (40.9), and Thurman Munson (43.4).
10. Mariano Rivera Is A Hall Of Famer
It’s one of baseball’s greatest debates. Should relievers, and by extension the Yankees long-time closer Mariano Rivera, be elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame? We’ve also seen people argue that a relief pitcher isn’t a position but a role, the save is a contrived stat (aren’t they all?), and relievers are nothing more than failed starting pitchers. Those arguments and claims are quite interesting and make for great conversations but they’re ultimately moot when it comes to Rivera. There are five relievers in the Baseball Hall of the Fame and Rivera is the greatest reliever of all-time. Ergo, Rivera will be enshrined into Cooperstown.
As of 2011, Rivera is the all-time leader in saves, at 603, and has a career ERA of 2.21. His lifetime WHIP of 1.000 is one of the best marks in the live-ball era. He finished inside the top five in Cy Young voting five times. His postseason numbers are even more impressive. He has 42 saves, one loss (but it was a biggie), and an ERA of 0.70. In 141 innings pitched in the postseason, Rivera allowed just 11 runs. He’s a 12-time All-Star and a 5-time World Series champion.
Regardless of your opinions about a player who participates in 1/9th of the game, Rivera is going to be inducted into the hall of fame. During his era, you couldn’t win a World Series without a dominate reliever and Rivera was just that for the Yankees. He may not have played the entire game, but he made the game shorter. Yankees skippers knew if they had the lead after eight inning they had a “w” in the win column, especially in the postseason, because Rivera was a lock to get the final three outs.
The Yankees Home Field:
Yankee Stadium (2009-present)
East 161st Street and River Avenue
Bronx, New York