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New York Yankees

A professional baseball team in the American League

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They're Strong Enough to Wear the Iconic Pinstripes. Are You? (Redux)

  • Mar 9, 2014
  • by
Rating:
+2
You know them and you HATE them. Well, maybe you don't hate them; maybe you love them. I'm a fan, and therefore, I love them, but the great laws of statistics and probability say you hate them. It's one of the two extremes; there's no in-between. The New York Yankees, more than the Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Lakers, or whomever, are THE Great American Sports Villain. They're not nicknamed The Evil Empire for nothing - on the sports villain scale, only Manchester United FC would rank higher, but they're an English soccer team. It wasn't always that way, though. It was MOSTLY that way, granted; but not always. 

In 1900, there was this baseball league called the Western League. The Western League had a president named Ban Johnson, who wanted to fight with the established National League, so in 1901 he reorganized the Western League, renamed it the American League, and declared the AL a major league. To give the statement that he'd be fighting the senior circuit directly, he placed three teams in cities with NL teams, and three more in cities which used to have NL teams but didn't anymore. One of the latter was Baltimore, which was left for baseball death after the Orioles flew the nest in 1899. They hired John McGraw as manager and finished 68-65 as McGraw and Johnson bitched about discipline. McGraw finally got fed up and left when a position as the manager of the NL New York Giants opened up, but there was a slight problem: He had an ownership stake in the Orioles. So when he left for the Giants, he took his share of Baltimore ownership stakes with him, and when a number of Orioles players followed him, they took along more stock, and suddenly the Giants basically owned the Orioles. The Orioles finally had to forfeit a game due to, you know, not having enough players to actually play the damn game. Johnson grabbed control of the Orioles and ordered them restocked with whatever leftovers happened to be drifting through the league. They had the weakest record in the AL that year. 

Johnson was also fighting to relocate a team to New York City, but the Tammany Hall machine kept blocking his attempts to play at a spot in Manhattan. Finally, a pair of Tammany politicians bought the rights to a New York Team in the AL which immediately took the place of the Orioles, but whether or not the new New York Team was an Orioles relocation or a straight expansion is still unclear. The team that came to play is frequently referred to as the New York Highlanders but baseball history buffs, but the records tell a different story: They had no set name, and so, since the other two New York Teams were in the NL, they were simply called the New York Americans, and their park was just American League Park. Highlanders was nothing more than a distinguishing mark named for a British military unit. In 1903, the team added Willie Keeler and Jack Chesbro and manager Clark Griffith, and finished in fourth. In 1904, Chesbro won the all-time single-season mark of 41 games and fought to the wire with the Boston Americans for the Pennant, but lost. They bounced back and contended again the following year, lot again, and from there they fell into the dregs of New York City baseball as the regal New York Giants captured Pennants and titles and the working-stiff Brooklyn Dodgers captured hearts and imaginations. The Americans seemed destined to live out their days as a basement team. Also, the Highlanders nickname wasn't sitting right with the contingent of Irish fans who hated the British, but that was solved in 1913 when they created a new name, Yankees, which gave the maligned immigrant fan base a satisfying name to hold to. 

There was this team called the Boston Red Sox. They had this gifted pitcher named George Herman Ruth. By 1920, the Red Sox were the supreme rulers of the AL, with five World Series victories and six pennants, including the 1904 pennant where the New York Giants refused to play the World Series. Ruth was bored and wanted to hit, though, and when Boston's manager let him do that, he proved to have a gift for the long ball. Yet, Boston's owner, Harry Frazee, decided he had the urge to sell off the Bambino. Now, there are so many stories floating around about just why he did this that I'm not going to bother trying to straighten them out here, but you should know this: Frazee considered himself a theater guy before all else, so the most popular tale is that he sold Ruth in order to fund a musical. Well, who would be waiting there but the Yankees, who managed to somehow scrounge up the $100,000 price tag for Ruth's giant head? And just like that, one of those great sports presto changos happened, and the Yankees instantly rose to the throne of the AL, where they would occasionally (read: often) journeyed down their Olympus mountain to batter everyone in their path!

The first pennant came in 1921. The first World Series title was in 1923, which was the same year they finally left the Polo Grounds - which they had to share (on positively shitty lease terms, probably) with the Giants - for their fancy new digs in The Bronx, the iconic Yankee Stadium. In 1927, they fielded arguably the greatest team in the history of baseball: They set a new record for wins when they went 110-44 while Babe Ruth set a home run record at 60, which stood until 1961. Recently-signed first baseman Lou Gehrig added another 47 while leading in RBI with an incredible 175. The lineup featured Ruth, Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri, Bob Meusel, Mark Koenig, and Earle Combs and was given one of the coolest names in baseball history: Murderer's Row. 

In 1931, the Yankees hired Joe McCarthy as manager, who fielded a team which now included Bill Dickey, Red Ruffing, and Lefty Gomez. After a multi-year pennant run from the Philadelphia Athletics, McCarthy had the Yankees back in the World Series by 1932, where they swept the Chicago Cubs. In the third game, Babe Ruth made a gesture toward Cubs pitcher Charlie Root. When asked about the gesture, Ruth gave a vague answer which many press guys interpreted as Ruth calling his shot. Most of the onlookers that day, though - including Root, who said he would have drilled Ruth if Ruth actually had that kind of chutzpah - believe Ruth was doing it to mock Root. Ruth was released before the 1935 season and immediately signed by the NL team of his first major league home, the Boston Braves. He played two very undistinguished months for them, but on May 25 that year, he added the final three home runs to his legend to show the kiddies a glance of what he once was. A few days later, he hung it up for good. 

The Yankees, however, didn't slow down. In 1936, they introduced this hot San Francisco prospect named Joe DiMaggio. Ruth had turned Yankee victories into a thing - the Yankees went to seven World Series with him, winning four. DiMaggio turned it into their very essence. He picked up what Ruth started and the Yankees rode him and Lou Gehrig to a World Series, where they beat the Giants. It was the first of four straight titles, but the 1939 season had a dark undertone. Lou Gehrig, who had played in 2130 straight games, took himself out of the lineup because he wasn't feeling very good. He was diagnosed with ALS and retired on June 21. On July 4, he was given a trophy in an appreciation ceremony, where he delivered a very famous speech. "Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about the bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth. I have been in ballparks for 17 years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans… So I close in saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I've got an awful lot to live for. Thank you."

In 1941, DiMaggio hit in 56 straight games, which is the record. That's incredible in itself, but what's less known is that during the streak, DiMaggio hit .408, hit 15 home runs, and batted in 55 runs. After the streak ended, DiMaggio began another streak which ran for 16 straight games! In 72 of 73 games, DiMaggio hit safely. The Yankees went back to the World Series and beat the Dodgers in five games. You know what happened later that year? Pearl Harbor got bombed, and a lot of ballplayers were drafted into the military. The Yankees players proved true to their team name, and many of them went to fight. The Yankees went to the 1942 World Series, lost to the St. Louis Cardinals, and that was it. …. Oh, tell me please that you didn't really think that! They're the Yankees! They had a few down years, but were back in the Series again in 1947, beating the Dodgers. In 1948, the Yankees finished third, and so they fired their manager for a clown. At least, Casey Stengel had the reputation of a clown. He had managed two teams before and sucked hard for both of them. Yet, something about the Yankees just flipped his light on, and from 1949 to 1953, the Yankees became the only team to win the World Series five times in a row. Noteworthy during this streak is that Joe DiMaggio retired in 1951. A man with his success, of course, could never be replicated, so instead of trying to clone DiMaggio, the Yankees merely replaced him. With Mickey Mantle. Also, pitcher Allie Reynolds threw two no-hitters that year. 

Critical theorists give the Yankees a lot of shit for not breaking their color barrier until 1954, but reading between the lines, the team actually had an excuse: They had just won the World Series five years in a row with the guys they had! Also, in an era when most AL teams were signing walk-ons to appease the NAACP (the NL was signing black PLAYERS because their teams wanted to actually fucking WIN), the Yankees were signing a black player to the most important infield position: Catcher. Even though the Yankees still took a couple of years to give him significant playing time, that was only because they were still fielding Yogi Berra, the greatest catcher to ever play the position and who caught the Yankees to ten titles. However, they did gradually get him into the lineup, and Howard was a very worthy replacement to Berra. He was invited to 12 all-star games and four titles. When the Yankees later signed him to first base coach for the Bronx Zoo teams in the 70's, he was the first black coach in the AL. 

Anyway, the Yankees rolled through the 50s, winning the World Series six times, but the 1961 team is another one considered among the greatest teams in history. They won 109 games, set a record for team home runs, Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth's single-season home run record, won the MVP, pitcher Whitey Ford won the Cy Young, and the team had excellent pitching, stellar defense, depth, and power. They won the Series again in 1962, but by then, the baseball landscape was a lot different. The New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers were now the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers. The new NL team in New York City was called the Mets, and the Dodgers were in the middle of a dynasty run. The Yankees returned to the World Series in 1963, where the Dodgers swept them. An odd shift was taking place - the Yankees had lost the World Series before (hard to believe, I know), but they had never been SWEPT. They went back in 1964 too, but lost to the Cardinals. The times were a-changin'. 1964 was the last postseason play the Yankees saw for over a decade.

After 1964, CBS bought the Yankees. In 1965, they finished in the second division for the first time in 40 years. In 1966, they finished in last. The draft was instated, and the Yankees had a difficult time dealing with that because it meant they weren't able to just outbid everyone else for talent anymore. They lost sponsors and broadcasters, but they did develop an odd relationship with the Kansas City Athletics: The Athletics were basically being used as the Yankees' major league personal pet farm. The Yankees would find a player, and trade him to Kansas City, then trade back for him when he improved to their standards. Roger Maris was turned into a top flight player that way. The CBS ownership never went to the World Series or even made the playoffs when the playoff system was installed in 1969. Relief finally came in 1973, when a man by the name of George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees and vowed to spend, Spend, SPEND! to get them back to their rightful place on top. 

Steinbrenner was against free agency at first, but he later became the one who exhibited its real value when, in 1974, he bought pitcher Catfish Hunter when a judge ruled that Hunter was a free agent. He also hired former Yankee Billy Martin to manage, and the team returned to the World Series in 1976, where it was swept by the Cincinnati Reds. In 1977, the Yankees bought Reggie Jackson and Sparky Lyle and won the World Series. In 1978, their big acquisition was Goose Gossage, and they won the Series again. 1978 was special to fans because Lyle wrote a memoir which is now considered one of the greatest sports books ever written, The Bronx Zoo. The Yankees also chased down the Boston Red Sox, who led by 14 games halfway through the season, and faced them in a single-game playoff. The next year, catcher and team captain Thurman Munson was killed in a plane crash. That tragic moment sort of killed the era, and save for the 1981 pennant - they lost the World Series to the Dodgers - they entered another extended postseason drought. 

At least they had Don Mattingly. That much you can grant. Oh, yeah, there's also the little deal where they still had the most wins of any major league team during the decade. While Mattingly and Dave Winfield thrilled fans, though, the Yankees went the whole decade without winning the World Series, the first time they had done so since the 10s. In the meantime, the Mets captured the hearts of many New York City fans with a high-flying all-time team that pulled in a title in 1986, winning 108 games along the way. By the 90s, the Yankees just plain sucked. In 1990, they finished in last, and their pitcher Andy Hawkins symbolized what they had turned into by then when he managed to LOSE a no-hitter. In 1994, the Yankees looked like they were starting to turn…. Then the strike happened! The following year, the Yankees finally returned to the postseason, where they played a legendary ALDS against the Seattle Mariners where they came up on the losing end. Mattingly retired afterward.

Poor Mattingly. His terrible timing. He first played for the Yankees in 1982, the year after they lost the World Series to the Dodgers. He retired the year before the Yankees made their grand return to dominance. While the Yankees still had baseball's highest payroll, they weren't running away with it that year, and most of their talent was home grown. Their new youngsters included guys like Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, and the immortal Derek Jeter. They also had the services of Joe Tore, doubted by everyone as a failed manager of three teams. Yet, the Yankees returned to the World Series once more, beating the Atlanta Braves. Then they returned in 1998, 1999, and 2000, beating the San Diego Padres, the Braves again, and in a seminal series, the New York Mets, respectively, opening the new millennium. Afterward, they returned to the Series in 2001 and 2003, playing a classic and emotional Series (because of 9-11 that year) against the Arizona Diamondbacks, which they lost in seven games on a bloop single. In 2003, they lost to the Florida Marlins. 

The Yankees since have NOW turned into the place where free agents go to fail, hoping the pinstripes are a good replacement for a work ethic. They grabbed Alex Rodriguez, who's been just plain awesome but somehow not appreciated. They grabbed Randy Johnson; Gary Sheffield; Jason Giambi; Mike Mussina; Johnny Damon; Nick Swisher; CC Sabathia; and Mark Teixeira. The results have generally been mixed, even though the Yankees did win their 27 - and most recent - World Series just back in 2009. Just in January of this year, the Yankees threw $155 million at Japanese sensation Masahiro Tanaka. I hope he's worth it. 

The Yankees have retired 17 numbers, more than any other team. Jackie Robinson's 42 is retired across the league, but in the case of the Yankees, it's valid. When MLB retired 42, they said anyone wearing it at the time could keep it, but would have to switch upon switching teams, and teams would take it out of circulation if the players wearing it retired. In 2013, pitcher Mariano Rivera retired, and since he wore 42, the number is now never going to be worn again. Rivera's number was retired on September 22, 2013. It goes with the retired numbers of Billy Martin, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra, Roger Maris, Phil Rizzuto, Thurman Munson, Whitey Ford, Don Mattingly, Elston Howard, Casey Stengel, Reggie Jackson, and Ron Guidry. Derek Jeter's number will inevitably follow. (Oh, hey, did you know it was the Yankees who created the entire idea of putting numbers on players' backs? It was a way to keep track of the batting lineup.) There aren't many pitchers on that list; the Yankees created their reputation on the long ball, so most of those guys are sluggers. Ford is one of baseball's great pitchers, and Guidry is a beloved Yankee who, one year, put up a performance worthy of Sandy Koufax. Phil Rizzuto is a reason the Hall of Fame is a joke; the man had a .273 career batting average to go with 1588 hits and 563 RBI, while Reggie Jackson's postseason nickname of "Mr. October" really isn't warranted. He got it for hitting three home runs in a row in one game, but other than that, he was lousy in the postseason. 

The Yankees have a nasty rivalry with the Boston Red Sox. The purchase of Babe Ruth is said to have cursed the Red Sox, who went through an 86-year World Series drought after 1918 until finally winning their sixth title in 2004. (They've since won it another two times, including last season.) Longtime Boston fans mostly insist that there was never a curse, though, and the idea didn't take hold until author Dan Shaughnessy wrote a book titled The Curse of the Bambino - and in updated editions of that, Shaughnessy himself even seems bemused that the idea took off, because creating a curse was never his intent. Still, these two teams have spoiled everything for one another multiple times. Every other team in baseball is a rival to the Yankees, but the Red Sox are the only rival the Yankees care about. 

The Yankees are known for big spending. A lot of their stars are actually home grown, including the famed Core Four - Jeter, Pettitte, Posada, and Rivera - of the 90s dynasty and millennium. However, they are known as the rich, regal team, and they have the highest payroll in baseball. They'll pay anything for victory, which is nice, but also THE primary reason I'm bemused about my attachment to the team. They're one of only two teams in MLB that have ever been punished with the luxury tax - the other is the Red Sox - but, believe it or not, George Steinbrenner was actually a lobbyist FOR the luxury tax. 

The Yankees started the idea of numbers on players' backs. They also started the idea of entry music. It can be annoying at times that they depend so much on the long ball, because I like defensive baseball, but even so, they have long traditions in several areas: Fielding, with Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, and Mickey Mantle; catching, with Bill Dickey, Thurman Munson, Elston Howard, Jorge Posada, and Yogi Berra; and closing pitching, with Sparky Lyle, Goose Gossage, and Mariano Rivera. Still though, most teams are lucky to have one player to so much as be in the conversation for the greatest player ever. The Yankees have Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and Yogi Berra in that conversation. I'm personally a Ruth fan myself, because everyone forgets that he was a pitcher at one time, and he wasn't always fat, either - when the Red Sox signed him, he was 214 lbs. of muscle and pure athleticism. He's said to have been fantastic in the field. You can make strong cases for several other Yankees as well. The Yankees as a team have won the pennant 40 times. They've won the World Series 27 times, which is more than any other team has even been there. In the World Series, they've faced every NL team that's ever been to a World Series, with the exceptions on the Houston Astros (who won their only pennant in 2005 and faced the Chicago White Sox in the Series) and the Colorado Rockies (2007; Boston Red Sox). No other team is even close to matching that record.

The Yankees are the most famous baseball team in the world. Their pinstriped uniforms are iconic. However, the team tries to hold on to stodgy old traditions a lot, which is where they falter. They require certain clothes and haircuts, which lends to the idea that they're milk-drinkers from the 50s. Their spending has lately been no substitute for team cohesion and chemistry. They seem to want to present themselves as relics of a nonexistent era. Also, picking the Yankees as a team leaves people lots of room to doubt you. The Yankees know how to win. They do it often. Therefore, taking them means a bandwagon stigma which is virtually impossible to shake. I was lucky enough to inherit them by virtue of my nativity. My hometown of Buffalo, New York, is a staunch Yankee hotbed, in part because the Yankees are a release from the regular pain caused by the Bills and Sabres.

Yes, the winning is a hell of a tradeoff. The Yankees are a marquee team, and baseball is stronger for having them. But you have to be willing to accept some straight up verbal abuse, and you can't be shy in dishing it out, either. I'm not trading my Yankees card anytime soon. But if you pick them as your team and you live in the United States, be prepared to prove yourself.

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March 27
Lots of good Yankee tidbits!
 
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More New York Yankees reviews
review by . March 30, 2011
The New York Yankees teams from the late 70's and 1996 hold special places in the hearts of Yankee fans. That's because the team, in those years, broke the mold that its been traditionally fit into. The 70's team were a gang of angry characters who barely got along with each other, and they produced the classic memoir The Bronx Zoo, by Sparky Lyle. The 1996 team played a brand of exciting, scrappy small ball with a group of people who were no-names at the time. They cooperated, set their egos aside, …
Quick Tip by . November 05, 2009
We are partying in NY! Going to the parade tomorrow! First trip in the Canyon of Heroes for the Yanks since pre 9/11.
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http://newyork.yankees.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/ny...mepage/nyy_homepage.jsp

The New York Yankees are a professional baseball team based in the borough of the Bronx, in New York City, New York and are a member of Major League Baseball's American League East Division. One of the American League's eight charter franchises, the club was founded in Baltimore, Maryland in 1901 as the Baltimore Orioles, and moved to New York City in 1903, becoming known as the New York Highlanders before being officially renamed the "Yankees" in 1913. From 1923 to 2008, the Yankees' home ballpark was Yankee Stadium, one of the world's most famous sports venues. In 2009, they moved into a new stadium, also called "Yankee Stadium".

The franchise leads Major League Baseball in both revenue and titles, with 26 World Series championships and 40 American League Pennants. They have more championships than any other franchise in North American professional sports history, passing the 24 Stanley Cup championships by the Montreal Canadiens in 1999. Throughout the team's history, the franchise has produced some of the most celebrated players in Major League history, including Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and Yogi Berra. The franchise has seen 44 of its players inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, and the Yankees have retired the numbers of 16 of its players.

The Yankees have achieved widespread popularity and a dedicated fanbase, although they ...
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League: American League
Ballpark: Yankee Stadium (II)
Championships: 26

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